My Top 5 Photos on the Student Exchange Program

As she shares her top 5 photos from the Student Exchange Program, Michaela Santalucia reflects on her time abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain. As a first time international traveler, she also shared her insights and benefits of taking the leap of faith to study abroad.

In order to highlight my experiences in a more fun way, I decided to do a little photo journal of my favorite photos, and reflect on the experience I had and where I was!

This photo of me was taken at the Real Jardín Botánico in the heart of Madrid. Some other exchange students and I happened upon the Botanical Gardens between lunch at one of our favorite places (Tinto y Tapas) and a trip to the museums in Madrid. Since the botanical gardens are so large (8 hectares!!), we never made it to the museum but we did see 3 very friendly cats, thousands of plants, and a cool art exhibit! Although this seems like a photo that could be taken anywhere in the world, this experience was extremely important to me because I felt like a true Madrileño (a native inhabitant of Madrid), because I found something completely by myself without advising a travel site and enjoyed my day without regard to time (in true Spanish fashion). This experience was a true turning point of my trip because I realized that I was no longer a tourist and was actually living in Madrid.

This photo was taken of me in Morocco! Only a 10 hour bus ride and a one hour ferry ride away from Madrid, this trip was one of my favorites because the culture was incredibly different than anywhere I had seen in Europe or North America, the food was incredible, Morocco had my favorite architecture, and the company I traveled with was extremely punctual and handled the incoming hurricane well and got us all out safely.

During this trip, I was lucky enough to visit three separate cities, get tours (by locals) in all of them, and stayed in a nice hotel. It was incredibly cool to visit a predominantly Muslim country and see how Morocco has been influenced by French influence. Most places I have visited in Europe or the U.S. do not operate under an incredibly religious government, and generally, Muslims are a minority in the places I have visited. Being exposed to a new style of government, a new way of life and a completely different architectural style had a big impact on my opinions of the area. Although I did not pick up any Arabic, I felt like I learned a little bit more about the world.

I took this photo in a small town about an hour train ride outside of Madrid called Siguenza (which conveniently shares the name of my favorite Spanish bottled water brand). My Professor mentioned that it was an incredible town with rich history, so I Googled it and convinced all my friends to go on a day trip with me that weekend! It just happened that weekend there was a special medieval-themed train you could take to the city to get the “full experience”.

On the train there were magicians, jugglers, and performers all presenting themselves in a traditional medieval fashion as they performed in the various train cars. Upon arriving in the city we were given a guided tour of the city (included in the ticket price), and on that tour, I found this adorable staircase. After the tour, we were free to wander around the city, get lunch, and meet back up later for an optional paid cathedral tour. This experience was one of my favorites because it was cheap, could be done in one day, and how often do you get to enjoy medieval magic shows as a college student? Never.

The university I attended in Madrid, Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Comillas Pontifical University) was a Jesuit school located in the heart of the city. It has been a longstanding institute of Spain but actually got its origins as a seminary in Comillas, a city in northern Spain. Due to its deep history, Comillas offered a trip to its exchange students to see the original university in the city Comillas!

This photo is taken from one of the corridors of the building looking out towards the courtyard and the main atrium/church. It was interesting to learn about why/when the university moved to Madrid and what it is used for today (another university purchased it after being abandoned for many years). This experience gave me a broader scope to how old some European institutions are compared to OSU.

Last, but not least, the experience that destroyed my rainboots, but was somehow the most peaceful I had ever felt while traveling. This photo was taken at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. We did a day trip from Dublin to here one day (left around 6 a.m. via bus with a tour group and returned around 9 p.m.). I still don’t know what it was about this specific place that felt different from all the others, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Something about looking off the cliffs into the ocean was calming and also incredibly scary and filled me with adrenaline. At times the walking/hiking path was small and covered in rocks, puddles, and mud pits (which is why my boots did not make it back to the states with me). After three hours of walking the path, we had to get on the bus to return to Dublin, but I probably could have stayed there forever. Looking back, I could have just been really refreshed from being able to speak English again, but I like to think the cliffs are magical.

Every part of my experience abroad changed me for the better, and now that I have returned to the states I am starting to see those changes in myself. For example, I recently noticed that I adopted the more relaxed Spanish approach to being early/on-time to events. Before going abroad, I was 20 minutes early to almost everything, but now I am more relaxed and prioritize what situations I need to be early in, and show up on time to the rest of my commitments. Before I went abroad, people would always ask me why I was going abroad/how I picked Madrid and I never had a solid answer, but looking back I now know what my ultimate goal of the experience was and that I achieved it.

My major goal of going abroad was getting a deeper understanding of myself and becoming more independent. Since my hometown is only an hour away from OSU, I always felt like if the opportunity arose to live/work in another area of the country, I would be too afraid to take the plunge. Going abroad as the only OSU student at my institution helped me to conquer these fears. Not only am I confident that I can keep myself alive (remembering to eat and other basic things), I can travel and manage myself independently. I funded my entire experience abroad by myself through scholarships and financial aid, made friends and connections in the country by always networking and attending social events, and learned a lot about myself because I was not influenced by anyone who knew me before. Oftentimes, you become who people tell you you are (you grow up around your parents and are influenced by their opinions on your character for example) but being abroad releases you from that. I was able to see who I was in an entirely new environment filled with new people and an opportunity to recreate myself if I so chose.

This trip allowed me to realize that when/if the time comes I will be able to take the plunge and move away from everything I’ve ever known. However, the trip helped me affirm my decision that Columbus is the place for me for a few years after graduation, and that has lifted a major weight off of my shoulders.

For anyone considering going abroad, my advice is always to go and for as long as your life plan allows (a week, a month, or even a year)! However, I understand that it is a major financial burden. My advice is to start early, pick a city that is within your budget, and apply for every single scholarship possible. Doing these things will ensure that you maintain your intended graduation date, do not undergo a huge amount of debt to fund your global experience, and it will prevent problems down the road such as Visa delays, expensive flights, etc. Going abroad seems daunting, but during my trip I kept reminding myself “If other students can do it, I can too” and reminding myself of that got me through the semester.

17 Things I Noticed During My First Month Abroad

While her semester in Spain on the Student Exchange Program, Michaela Santalucia shares the differences she observed in Spanish culture and U.S. Culture, from eating habits, social norms, and daily expectations!

In my first few weeks in Madrid, I noticed some interesting differences between Spanish culture and U.S. Culture. Rather than writing paragraphs, I decided to make it a list so that everyone can reference it easily. All of these are in no particular order of importance or relevance.

  1. Mayonnaise– The mayonnaise in Spain and most of Europe is much different compared to what we have in the United States. Also, Europeans put it on a lot more stuff (for example, many people dip their fries in mayo and ketchup which if you have not tried is magical). At one of the first events of the semester, I watched many Spaniards pass around bottles of ketchup and mayo instead of ketchup and mustard and I knew something was up. I was hoping to be able to bring some Spanish mayo back to the U.S., but my suitcase was already full, so I do not get to keep this delicacy around. However, I think it is better than what we have in the U.S., so I am exploring import options for the good of everyone.
  2. Phones are older– Spaniards are not constantly buying the newest smartphones. While I was there, there was still a decent amount of advertisements for the iPhone 7, and a majority of available cases were for the 6,7 and 8. My guess is that because Spain’s economy is not the strongest, their first priority is not buying the newest smartphones, but it was still an interesting comparison to the United States.
  3. Hiring/firing practices– From my understanding, it is incredibly difficult to get both hired and fired and Spain. This is because the firing process is nearly impossible, so they have to make sure early on that you are not a risk.
  4. Grocery store styles– There are stores every 2-3 blocks that fit different needs. The traditional grocery stores are incredibly small and carry 1-2 brands of every product. However, there are tons of specific stores also. There are an equal number of fresh produce, fish, meat, and bakery stores interspersed between the grocery stores. Spaniards generally shop more frequently than we do in the U.S. because their kitchens have less storage space and they place a higher value on fresh goods.
  5. Pharmacies– There are literally pharmacies on every corner, and medicine is relatively easy to get. However, they give you an entire package of medication instead of just a few pills so that can seem overwhelming.
  6. Spanish Hours– In Madrid, the days start later and go a lot slower than in the U.S. On a Saturday, you won’t see anyone outside walking, or even on a metro until like 10 a.m. Why does that happen you may ask? In Spain, bars and clubs are open until 6 a.m. and many people will stay up that late hanging out with friends no matter their age.
  7. Old people living their best lives– There are more elderly people out and about it Spain than in the U.S. There are entire restaurants, clubs, bars, and parks where the elderly are known to congregate and hang out together. This is just something we don’t see as much in the U.S.
  8. Trash/recycling things– In Madrid since everyone lives in apartments, the trash is done in larger groupings. Every night, the landlord of each building wheels out trash bins for organic waste and normal waste. Then, between the hours of 11 p.m.- 2 a.m. every night (except Saturdays), municipal workers come to collect it. Recycling is done with large dumpster-like containers, generally one per square block, and is separated into glass, paper/cardboard, and metal/aluminum. These are generally also picked up every night.
  9. Always cleaning the streets– Due to the number of people in Madrid on any given day, Madrid has a team of workers who are always cleaning the streets. They walk around with brooms, shovels, and trash cans and clean the streets constantly to ensure that leaves, cigarettes, and other assorted trash does not build up.
  10. American music– When I first came to Madrid, I was hoping to increase my knowledge of Spanish by hopefully learning lots of Spanish pop music. However, the majority of music played is American, which can sometimes be disappointing.
  11. No screens– None of the windows, doors, or any other pathway to the outdoors has a screen to protect you from bugs. There are basically no bugs which makes the lack of screens sensible, but it is still difficult to adjust to.
  12. No air conditioning– I never saw a house or apartment that had air conditioning, and considering it was still upper 80s into October, I could have used air conditioning.
  13. Money is different sizes and different colors– Euros are fun to adjust to.
  14. Taking a two-hour break in the middle of school every day– Most of my classes had a two-hour break in the afternoon so the professors could eat lunch and run home. Which was nice so I could also eat lunch.
  15. Lunch as the biggest meal of the day– In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. This means they prioritize eating good food at this time of the day. Also, this means they invented my favorite thing about Spain: the menu del dia. It is essentially a meal with a first course, second course, dessert, and drink all for a convenient price (usually around 10-15 euros, however, there are more expensive options available). I wish I could have brought the menu del dia back to the states with me because I got to try so many different restaurants.
  16. Ham, ham, ham– There is more ham in Spain than I ever expected. As a vegetarian, it could be a little annoying, but it was cool to see actual butcher’s processing meat.
  17. No dryers– Due to Madrid’s dry climate, most people do not feel the need to have a dryer. This means once you take your clothes out of the washing machine, you get to set it on a drying rack and let it dry for anywhere between a few hours to two days. In my opinion, this is really inconvenient because I was not responsible enough to make time for my laundry to dry.

Tips and Tricks to Maximize your Experience in Spain!

Tips and tricks for studying abroad in Spain! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her Summer Global Internship experience.

It has been a couple weeks since I have been back from my Summer in Spain, and I already miss it! The people, activities, and of course the food, more specifically the 4 for 1∊ croissants you could get at any bakery. I also miss being with the other students in the internship. We were able to get so close to each other, I will at least get to see most of them when I am back on campus. However after reflecting on my trip, and sleeping for two days straight,  I want to give you all a couple tips for when you also go abroad for the summer:

  1. Always find the nearest McDonald’s to your home. It can be a nice reminder of the United States when you get homesick and it tastes way better than it does back in America. McDonald’s also is one of the only places that has public restrooms because sometimes you have to pay to use them in Europe.
  2. Travel! Whether you travel around Spain or to other countries it is a great experience. Just think, when is the next time you will be able to travel to this many places in a short amount of time. It also makes you more global and it a great conversation starter with companies!
  3. Try to speak Spanish as much as possible. Even if you do not know a lick of Spanish, it helps you immerse yourself in the culture. It also let’s your co-workers know you are trying and interested in the culture. Even if you just pick up a few words and phrases it is worth it!
  4. Keep an open mind! This may be one of the only times that you are in an entirely different country. Keep an open mind about the food, people, and culture in general. Be open to trying new things and if you get a chance just talk to random people! Talking to people around your age they can show you the non-touristy things to do and take you to some great restaurants.
  5. Have fun! Yes you are in a new country, meeting new people, and working a new job and it can get monotonous at times. However, you have to make the most of the trip while you are there. Do not be lazy when you are tired after work and someone asks you to go somewhere because you never know when you will be back!

Overall, this trip was worth it! Not only was I able to become a world traveler, but I gained so many friends from the trip, to hang out and study with when I came back to Fisher. There were many scholarships I applied to so I could get the cost down such as the FCOB Global Experience Scholarship the ODI Education Abroad Scholarship, these both helped to fund the trip. I was able to get real world business experience abroad, and not many people can say they have done that. Recruiters have been impressed with my experience, because not only did I work broad but I was able to make a considerable contribution to Fundación Aladina. I also gained many transferable skills, that helped me answer behavioral questions during interviews. As a bonus, the internship abroad also makes a great fun fact for when you come back to campus. I would recommend this trip to anyone and I am sure, if you follow these tips, you will have just as great of a trip as I did!   

Spanish Culture Do’s and Don’ts

Is culture shock real? Junior Alex Jackson explores cultural differences between Spain and the United States, and shares her tips on how to navigate the culture.

There were many cultural norms in Spain that were different in the United States. First, the concept of personal space. In the United States, unless you know someone very well you tend to keep your distance when meeting someone or even just in public spaces. When standing in crowds, you try not to stand too close unless it is absolutely necessary to be on top of each other. Even in a crammed train or bus I am still on the lookout to make sure no one is trying to take my things or read over my shoulder. In Spain the concept of personal space seems almost non-existent. On the metro, there would be plenty of seats open but people would hop on and sit right next to you! This took some getting used to because I did not understand why out of all the seats you would pick mine. This was also alarming because we were warned of getting pick pocketed and I did not want people too close to me who I was not familiar with. Another cultural norm I learned from riding the metro everywhere is that staring was completely normal. I do not know if this is because I was American or if it was just normal for people to stare and talk about someone so blatantly. I do think that some of this probably came from people thinking I did not know how to speak Spanish.

Secondly, there was a lot of public displays of affection. People would hold hands, kiss, and even sit on each others laps in public. People were very touchy with each other, especially those close to my age. When I asked someone why that was, they said  that there is a lot of public affection because young adults tend to live at home until they finish university. This meant that they did not have the same freedoms that we have in college here. Many of us move away from home, get our own apartments, and pay our own bills. There is a big family aspect in Spain and because young adults cannot freely bring their significant other in their house they show a lot of affection in public.

The last difference between American culture and Spanish culture was the fashion. For one, there is no sales tax on clothes, so the price you see on the tag is the price you pay. Also, being in Europe clothes were much cheaper! Being closer to the manufacturers even designer goods were cheaper to buy in Spain. Everyone in Spain seemed to be trendier than those in the United States, including the kids. There were mainstream stores like Zara and H&M but there were also huge discount stores like Primark where you could find anything you wanted, at good quality for a low price. I noticed the difference in fashion because when I went to work, everyone dressed trendy and not necessarily business professional. This gave me a great excuse to go shopping for new, trendy clothes!

The biggest takeaway from living in Spain was that, for me, there was not much of a cultural difference to the United States. It was easy to adjust when it came to personal space and staring, but other than that it was not a huge adjustment. The best advice I received before traveling to Spain, was do not act like a tourist. This is the best advice, act like you belong there and people will not bother you, or single you out!

Sports in Spain: ¡CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ!

Sports in Spain! Hear Junior Alex Jackson’s experience of being in Madrid during the country’s biggest soccer game of the season, while interning on the Summer Global Internship Program.

Sports are a huge part of Spanish culture! One of the first places I went to when I got to Madrid was the soccer Stadium, Santiago Bernabéu. It is a huge stadium that has many great restaurants across from it. There are also tours you can take in the stadium, I never got around to doing that but some of the other students did.

Since soccer, or fútbol, is such a huge part of Spanish culture we were lucky to be here during the Champions League Final game of Real Madrid versus Juventus. This was a huge deal because if Real Madrid won the game they would be named League Champions! There was a lot riding on this game and luckily all of our employers made sure we understood how big of a match this was. To get in the spirit of this momentous game, a huge group of students decided to go to a local bar to watch the game. We wanted to be able to experience a Spanish soccer game just like the fans, and we were not disappointed!

When we first got to the bar, it was already packed and we arrived three hours before the game. The atmosphere was contagious, I even bought a Real Madrid soccer jersey beforehand so I could join in the fun. It was great to see how an entire country could rally behind  one team and how they had so much pride! Although Real Madrid was favored to win, it was still a great game. The fans cheered the entire time and when Real Madrid scored the first goal, the crowd went crazy! Similar to Ohio State football games there was screaming and chanting, friendly taunting to the other team it was definitely a site to see. The crowd also sang different songs and chants throughout the entire game, which is a little different than OSU games. At halftime the fans from both teams trickled into the street and a couple fights almost broke out, both fans were chanting and excited to see the outcome of the game.

The final outcome, Real Madrid won! Everyone stormed the streets and ran to the main square. It was complete chaos but it was so much fun! We were able to meet up with the rest of the internship students and we all danced and chanted ¡‘CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ’! The atmosphere was incredible seeing people hugging, jumping up and down, and being extremely proud to be Spanish! 

The rest of the night we decided to all stay together and take in this huge win! We went to multiple places for food and were able to connect with the people of Spain more by celebrating the streets. Being a part of this soccer celebration showed me the pride Spain had for its team and that everyone could join in the party! However, the celebration was great but we had to be conscious that we were still in another, at the time, unfamiliar country. By staying in a group we were able to watch out for each other and truly enjoy the experience of being CAMPEONES!

Getting the Job Done Right!

After a successful first weekend in Spain, Junior Alex Jackson talks about adjusting to working in an international environment as she participates in the Summer Global Internship Program. She shares her observation on the differences in business norms between Spain and the U.S.

Although my title is as a Marketing and Communications intern, they have me doing much more! It is nice though because some of my other friends on the trip are having trouble staying busy at work. My main function is to work on the website as well as my final marketing project on ways Fundacion Aladina can expand its image and into the community. Although it may not seem like a large task, working on the website and translating it from Spanish to English was helping the organization expand into English speaking markets, mainly the United States, because non-profit organizations are more common here. This is huge for them because a lot of their business runs on donations, so it is important for them to build relationships with as many people as possible.

Although I was mainly working on the website, I was able to see many different parts of the business. I was able to sit in on interviews to fill new positions, pack and ship merchandise to customers, and help plan a movie premier. It was really cool to see how a non-profit functioned and the multiple “hats” my colleagues would put on to accomplish their daily tasks.

Seeing these interactions in the office made me realize a couple of comparisons between business in the United States and in Spain. First, that time was not as important. Many times, meetings would not start on time and no one was offended. My coworkers would continue working until the meeting arrived and sometimes they would even continue working until they were ready to meet. In the United States time is very important, there is even the saying, “If you’re on time you’re late”. Another thing I noticed is that the organization was very friendly with their clients. They would all chat as though they have known each other for a long time and would greet each other with a hug. I do not know if this is because  I am at a nonprofit organization or if it is just how business is conducted in Spain. I also found it interesting that all of the meetings were in the morning before lunch. After I asked some of my co-workers, we came to the conclusion that after lunch people may have other obligations such as family, health, or social. The work life balance in Spain is very important and I even noticed this with my boss when I was sick she told me to take the day off and get checked out. It seemed as though the person came first and the work came second.

These differences in the workplace were refreshing to see, because in the United States it seems like the job comes first and then the person. Or that we are very business oriented and worried about time that we do not get to know those we do business with or the best thing for the employees. The friendly and truly team-oriented culture, made me want to do my job even better because I know my work truly mattered. I also realized that jobs are not always about the money, but you have to fit well with the people and overall culture of the company. When looking for an internship for next summer, I will definitely make sure the company has good values and company culture.  Although I think this idea is changing in U.S. business culture it was heavily a part of the business culture in Spain.

New Country, New City, New Experiences!

After just one week in Madrid, Spain Junior Alex Jackson discusses the excitement of moving to a new country and navigating your way around the city.  

The first week has been full of activities, adjusting to work, and exploring the city! The flight to Madrid was long but it was funny running into other people on the trip when we landed in Madrid because we all looked a little lost with our phones out looking for directions where to go. We were all bussed to the accommodations and they were beautiful and in a perfect location, Moncloa! Moncloa is a part of town with multiple metro stations, popular restaurants, and shopping within walking distance. They were very similar to a dorm but we had dinner included, our rooms were cleaned while we were there, and it was a 5 minute walk from two metro stations.

The partnering agency did a great job at making sure we adjusted well. They planned a welcome reception for us where we were able to meet all the students in the program! They then went over what the 10 weeks would look like for us and how to get our metro cards activated. After this meeting my friends and I decided to settle in and then wander to find the nearest McDonald’s. I know finding a McDonald’s in Spain?! The one thing I have learned from traveling so much is to always find the nearest McDonald’s!! Not to eat at all the time but sometimes it is just good to eat food that reminds you of home!

Day 2 in Spain my roommate and friend bought a 2 day metro pass to go get our month long passes. This was a task! First, we got turned around and walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction. When we finally got on the metro station, we were not paying attention and missed our stop! We had to double back to the metro card office where we waited for a short period of time until they were able to help us. We took our pictures and got home without a problem!

The day before work we traveled to our new work sites to make sure we could get there on Monday morning. I ran into a little trouble, but the partner agency was very helpful and escorted me to my site Monday morning, so I would get there safely! My first day of work was nerve wracking and fun at the same time. My office was so small, but everyone was so nice! They took me on a tour of the office, helped me get situated, and even took me out to lunch! They spoke in Spanish the entire time, but this is what I wanted. It was a little overwhelming but I was able to understand enough to learn about my co-workers and the job. I worked from 9-2 everyday, so I asked them to make a “What to do in Madrid” list that I could do after work! On the first day of work, do not be nervous, dress your best, and ask questions! Remember that they picked you to intern with them for a reason and that first impressions are the most important. Treat the internship as a way to figure out what you like and don’t like, ask questions to get to know the company, employees, and their everyday jobs.

Besides work, the partnering agency had so many activities planned for us the first week! We went to some of the staple places in Madrid like Parque Retiro, Temple Debod, and the Royal Palace of Madrid. These were just the places I went to but it was optional to go. My favorite was Parque Retiro is was huge, beautiful, full of activity! People were walking, running, reading in the grass, and playing music in open areas. The park was peaceful and full of life at the same time. The group had a picnic there and took so many pictures together. My first week was great and if it is a precursor to the rest of my trip I would enjoy it!

T-Minus One Week until Global Immersion…

Who is to say she is ready? With only one week until she embark on a five month exchange to Spain through the Fisher Student Exchange Program, Madi Deignan is beginning to feel the intensity of this life-altering journey. If you feel stressed going abroad, read her blog to help you through this major transition!

This spring I will be traveling to Madrid, Spain, to study through the business school at La Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I would like to say that Ohio State was the only inspiration in me journeying to Madrid, but this dream began many years ago.

I grew up outside of Chicago, in a city with a high population of native Spanish speakers. My parents enrolled me in an elementary school with a bilingual option to aid the students who had yet to learn fluent English; my parents seized the opportunity to enlist their kids in a similar path: to become fluent in Spanish. As I grew and learned basic language, math, history, social science and other topics, in Spanish as well as English, my understanding and appreciation for Spanish culture grew. My parents loved seeing my progress with the language, and my dad lamented on his time abroad during college in Madrid. I knew I wanted to follow a similar path, and aspired to study abroad in Madrid during my college experience as well.

The sunset on the Guadalquivir, the river running through the city, and the fifth longest in the Iberian Peninsula
My friend Macie and I while visiting El Alcázar de Sevilla

My interest in Spanish did not decrease despite leaving elementary school and moving to Cleveland. I traveled to Spain and studied in Sevilla and Cádiz the summer after my Junior year. One month of exploring was not nearly enough, but it did reignite my dream of studying in Madrid during college. I knew then that no matter where I ended up for school I would need to find a university that was able to supply me the means of fulfilling this dream.

Finding the right program was not easy, despite my determination in studying specifically in Madrid. In fact, I almost missed the deadline for the Student Exchange Program! On chance, while visiting with my adviser about my schedule, I mentioned in passing my desire to study abroad, and discovered the deadline for second semester Junior year for this program was within the month, and there was an option to study in Madrid. I quickly applied, and when I met with the Global Education Adviser, emphasized my dream of being in Madrid.

Over Winter break last  year I received the email that I was accepted for the program along with five other students – I was extremely excited, and began to work on preparation. Over the last year I have researched the city, traveled to Chicago to obtain my Student Visa, read multiple travel guides, composed packing lists, secured housing, and locked down my flights. Now, with only one week until my departure, I am beginning to finally feel the anxious nerves hit me; living in this city with such independence and freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. For those who are experiencing a similar nervousness, I have compiled a short list of things to help in this transitionary time.

  • RESEARCH! The more you know about your destination, and the more planning that is done, the more comfortable and confident you will be upon arrival. The world works in similar ways, regardless of your location, and the key characteristic for success is confidence. Don’t be naive – this is a big transition! The best way to feel truly confident and have a strong attitude, is to do ample research. Memorize your new address, check out nearby amenities, plan for weekly trips to the store, figure out your daily walk… Come up with simple ideas to feel more like a native in your new home.
  • RELATE! Think about the similarities between your cultures, and begin to prepare for the emotional and mental journey that is about to begin. Understand that many others are in the same position as you, and think of the exchange students that you have encountered at school. The sooner you can relate to the culture you are immersing into, the more comfortable you will feel.
  • RELAX! Stressing out can be very easy, but more importantly, it can be brutally time-consuming. Stressing out too much is truly a waste of your valuable time before you leave. Easier said than done, try to do some relaxing activities before you leave, and use valuable time with loved ones before you embark on your journey. As the saying goes, let the chips fall where they may; it is no shock that this will be a difficult transition, but it is better to approach it level-headed and relaxed, rather than uptight and stressed out. Come to the table with an open mind and a light heart!
The views of the Atlantic Ocean from Cádiz were incredible

So: Am I ready for this trip? Can anyone truly be ready for such a culture change? What I can say is I feel very prepared, and I definitely feel ready for the semester of a lifetime.

My Global Mindset Journey So Far… and Where to Next!

After going abroad on Student Exchange and participating in the Global Option in Business program, Katelyn Mistele reflects on what she gained and what she recommends/advise to future students who aspires to have a global mindset. She also shares a glimpse of what she plans next to continue to go global!

Over the past year I have experienced so much and reflected a lot on my experiences. I have grown as an individual and in my global mindset. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on my best experiences and ones I suggest you take, as well as determine where I am going next before I officially sign off!

A beautiful view from my trip to Killarney, Ireland!

The best experience in my personal growth and global mindset growth hands down was studying abroad for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. I became a more open-minded person and self aware. Being immersed in a whole new culture and being the minority, forces you to become open-minded and also immediately makes you more self aware. Studying abroad changed my perspective about a lot of things and I would go back and do it again in a heart beat if I could.

A photo from cross country skiing in Helsinki, Finland!

If you have the opportunity to go abroad for a month, summer, semester, or a year I suggest you do it! Fisher has great programs through Student Exchange. Additionally, I never did it but I heard the Global Internships are a great way to get exposed to other cultures as well. If your budget or schedule doesn’t permit education abroad, I would suggest you take a trip and truly immerse yourself in a culture. Stay at Airbnb’s and interact with your host, ask for suggestions, see the sight seeing stuff, but then go to a local restaurant and chat with locals to get an authentic experience (check out my blog post about this if interested). Even if any of these ideas push you out of your comfort zone, I suggest you do it. I was nervous and scared before heading over to Denmark, but it was hands down the best experience I have ever had! Also from an employer standpoint, companies love it if you have this experience. I have talked about my experience in multiple interviews. Companies love to see that you can adapt and immerse yourself into other cultures because that’s what they want to you to do with their company culture at the end of the day.

Picture from my home for five months. I miss it everyday! @Copenhagen, Denmark.

Another great opportunity I suggest everyone doing is get involved in a global club. Ohio State has SO many and I wish I got involved sooner. I am involved in the Exchange Partner Program at Ohio State. Basically I am a mentor and point of contact for an exchange student who is coming to Ohio State for a semester. I have been fortunate enough to provide mentorship to students from Italy and Japan over the past two years. I have learned so much about their cultures and even more about what other cultures think of the United States (I always ask for what their thoughts on Americans are and how these have changed since they’ve been here). I wish I would have gotten involved in more because there is so much that Ohio State offers and everyone is so willing to share their culture with us!

Check out Global Option in Business, if any of the above interests you. It is a certification program through Ohio State that helps foster your global mindset. I am in the process of finishing it out right now. It requires you to take part in a education abroad experience, global club and activities, as well as global courses. So the best of all worlds and you get a certificate to show employers that you have made efforts and have grown in your global mindset.

Berlin Cathedral, in Berlin Germany.

From here I am graduating in May. I am not going into a career that is global right away as I will be working for an American company that has some degree of “globality” to it but I am not going to be sent on global assignments all the time. I am hoping some day that I will find myself traveling globally for work, and even maybe working in a different country! I am going to keep traveling and culture seeking (planning my next trip right now)! I am still keeping in contact and growing my global network. I am hoping that all I have learned and my growth does not plateau after I graduate, but instead increases exponentially as I can apply what I learned through Fisher and Global Option in the real world. I am going to stay “hungry for culture” and I can’t thank Fisher and Ohio State enough for revealing and harvesting one of my new found true passions!

Enjoying sweet treats in Tallinn, Estonia!

Hygge – The Danish Way!

While in Denmark on the Student Exchange Program, Katelyn Mistele discovered a “hygge” way of life, and still carries this with her as she returns from abroad! She attempts to share this feeling of “hygge” in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.

The most fundamentally unique and beautiful aspect of the Danish culture is “hygge”. Hygge cannot be translated into English, but it has been attempted, and most simply it translates to English as “cozy”, but hygge is much more than that. The concept of hygge has stuck with me long after my time in Denmark, and has influenced the way I live my life. I will attempt to describe the feeling of hygge in three parts: light and mood, relationships, and the way of life.

Hygge is commonly describe in Denmark by the lighting and mood of a place. Hygge spaces are dimly lit with tons of candles. Spaces are designed for close seating with your friends and family. Copenhagen is known for its coffee shop scene and many of these coffee shops had a hygge feel to them. This feeling of the space makes it feel extremely cozy and homey which at the end of the day the Danes would describe as hygge. Also when in these spaces it is not common to see the Danes engrossed in their cell phones. Instead you will see groups of people having coffee for upwards of two hours and just taking the time to be present with each other. I had the opportunity to get coffee with a few individuals from Denmark and this was my experience with all of them.

Even some of the Danish cuisine at restaurants had the hygge feel to them. There’s nothing more cozy than eating eggs out of a teacup! Kalaset restaurant Copenhagen, Denmark.
My favorite coffee shop chain in Scandanvia: Coffee Industry Sweden! This coffee shop really sums up the feeling and lighting of hygge for me!

The other part of hygge that is extremely important is the importance of friends and families in ones life. A lot of times Danes and people will describe hygge as spending time with friends and family. The Danish culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of close relationships. This is why at first the Danes can appear cold and not open. Danes would prefer to have a close knit group of friends as opposed to a large network as we commonly see here in the United States. At the end of the day a dinner party with lots of candles and ones family would be a perfect example of hygge.

Lastly hygge at the end of the day is a way of life. The emphasis on creating a cozy environment for one to live in with their close friends and family is a way of life for the Danish people. It is a life that is rooted in the simplicity and act of just being present in the environment with those around you. It is truly hard to explain the way of Danish culture and hygge in words.

Even drinking free coffee samples in the streets of downtown Copenhagen can feel hygge!

For me personally I took all the aspects of hygge I learned and lived and internalized it. There is nothing quiet like this concept anywhere else in the world. Hygge has its core concepts but the part that makes it unique is that it isn’t “translatable” it is at the end of the day a feeling that you can interpret and live any way you want. Personally, I found hygge in placing a close emphasis on relationships but instead of being trapped inside with my candles I found the same feeling when I was in Denmark at one of the many parks in the city. Just taking the time to be in an environment with my close friends made me feel hygge.

A photo my friend captured during our 3 hour coffee stop! Very hygge!

Back in the United State it is hard to find this hygge. I have become a lot more self aware in my personal relationships with my friends and family and placed importance on all of these relationships. Also I do find myself lighting a lot more candles! To me hygge is all about taking time to realize what’s important and blocking out what is not. To you hygge might be something completely different but at the end of the day just remember that hygge should make you feel at home and cozy! Go find your hygge!

To show you all how much I loved and appreciated this aspect of the Danish culture I’ll show you all a photo of a tattoo I received in Denmark. This symbol is from the Danish coin, the korona. To me this symbol means hygge and I want to carry this piece of Danish culture and the Danish way with me always! It’s a powerful thing!!