You Should Probably Go Abroad

Closing up her semester abroad in Spain, Lindsay Lieber shares why student should go abroad, and some consideration points for those who are looking to go abroad!

Granada

I finally relate to the stereotype of the people who start their sentences with “When I was abroad…”. My semester in Madrid has been my best semester yet, and honestly, I hope I can share it with anyone who will listen and help anyone else who wants to have the best semester of their lives. This semester also felt like the quickest semester to date, however when I think back to first getting out of the taxi and stepping into my apartment, it seems so long ago. And when I think back to all that I did and all that I learned during these past 5 months, it seems even longer. 24 cities, 14 countries, 11 hostels, 4 airports slept in, and 4 overnight buses taken. Studying abroad definitely had its frustrating moments (especially in the beginning), but it has also been the most rewarding experience I have been a part of.

Sevilla

And for anyone questioning whether they should do it, all I have to say is: 100% Go. For. It. Whether it’s a week, month, semester, or year, I encourage you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and let yourself grow. Speaking from the semester long point of view it was entirely worth it. If you are thinking about doing the semester program you should do your research and be warned that Fisher’s program relies on you to be very independent and a good planner. But if you think you can handle this well, you will create an unforgettable experience and gain another city to call home.

For those who are looking to do a semester long program, when looking into a city there are a few initial things to keep in mind:

  • How many classes will transfer back to OSU? The earlier you can plan this the better. Not all host institutions have the same amount of pre-approved classes, and keep in mind the process to get classes not on the pre-approved list can be difficult.
  • What is the cost of living? This is something I didn’t even think of when picking my program and I lucked out in that Madrid has a very low cost of living. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, try comparing costs of living between cities.
  • How can I fund this? I believe doing semester long programs allows you to get more bang for your buck, and thankfully, OSU has so many resources for study abroad scholarships. Consider STEP funds, the Office of Global Business, and OIA for lots of study abroad scholarship opportunities.


Finally, I know I keep saying this and you probably get the point, but spending a semester abroad was truly an enriching experience inside and outside the classroom that has allowed me to meet people and create memories I will never forget. If you have any questions about the Fisher Exchange Program or general exchange advice, feel free to reach out to me. So if you are ready to go all in and reach outside of your comfort zone- pack your bags, the world awaits.

(Sidenote: I also included some photos from cities around Spain to hopefully convince you further)

Madrid

An Interview with Professor Gomez

Lindsay Lieber sits down with her marketing class instructor, Professor Gomez, while studying abroad at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. Drawing from his experience working with Mondelez, Safilo, and other partnerships, they discuss the difference in business culture between U.S. and Spain, as well as skills that are valuable in the business world today.

 Front of Universidad Pontificia Comillas

The other week I had the pleasure of interviewing my marketing teacher, professor Gomez, about his experiences teaching, in the business world, and the differences between the culture in Spain and the US. Professor Gomez graduated from Universidad Pontificia Comillas studying under the general business E2 track with a focus in marketing and research. He worked at the international food company Mondelez from 1999 until 2017, which houses recognizable snack brands, from Oreo to Nabisco to Ritz,  where he gained extensive experience in the marketing field. He stayed with Mondelez for such a long period, because it was fast growing and there was always something new to do. He held 10 different positions over the 18 years taking on projects in trade marketing, sales strategy, a Hello Joy campaign which required work in sharing market space, and more. He worked a lot with coffee and collaborated with other companies such as Tassimo, Bosch, Corte Ingles, and Carrefour. He greatly enjoyed working with a wide range of people and learned a lot over the nearly 20 years working at the company. After leaving Mondelez he wanted a change in projects and sectors and joined Safilo, an eyewear company in 2017, and left the company in December to teach.

Since, he has jumpstarted his teaching career with an opening at his alma mater, Universidad Pontificia Comillas. He loves teaching because it has given him the opportunity to talk to more people and he really enjoys training, explaining, and making things easier to understand for his students. Engaging his students is fundamental in his teaching method, and he aims to always make the content more interesting. And while he loves teaching, he also loves drawing and illustrating too. Outside of the classroom he takes art classes and mentioned he would really like to find a way to combine illustration with teaching.

Now, with extensive experience at Mondelez, an international company, when asked about differences he’s noticed between business culture in the US versus Spain he said he didn’t notice too many. He mentions that generally, the US has many commonalities with the Mediterranean culture, but he did point out the great enthusiasm many of his US colleagues seemed to have. Professor Gomez elaborates that they are quite good at communicating and motivating as Spanish coworkers tend to be less direct than their US counterparts. There is more nonverbal or unwritten communication and dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty more than in the US. Further, he compliments that American workers tend to be better at building their personal brand and selling themselves, mentioning that he thinks it reflects a higher level of competitive and individualistic tendencies. Meanwhile, Spaniards will tend to emphasize collaboration and the need for a stronger relationship between coworkers. For example, he indicates that business lunches happen frequently, and it is not uncommon for them to last two hours. Professor Gomez acknowledges this can make working in Spain less efficient, and they generally work a 9:30-7:30 day instead of the 9-5 that is typical in America. Things happen later, but he expresses that a healthy emotional link between coworkers is extremely important and supports a collaborative work environment.

When asked about the importance of internships for university students, he answered that most Spanish students start looking their last two years of uni, which is pretty similar to the US. Nonetheless, he admits that there doesn’t seem to be as much anxiety about finding one and that sometimes he wishes his students would be more driven in finding one. Being that the majority of my classes are in English, I also asked him about the importance of learning a second language. He said that it was very common for students to be able to speak more than one language, and that he didn’t start learning English until he was 12 which is considered late (don’t worry, his English is still quite good despite his “late” start). Knowing another language will undoubtedly give you a leg up in the business world he claims, especially as we are becoming more globalized and many large companies are now international.

Finally, for those that are considering working in Spain, Professor Gomez shares his advice. He reiterates that collectivism is very important in the office, and it is good to be open to conversation and making new friends. Reflecting at his time at Safilo, he reminds new hires to have fun because you will feel closer to your coworkers, and a positive environment helps to get things done. Be ready for teamwork, good spirits, and to be a part of the group.

Dealing with Homesickness and Strategies to Cope

“Even the worst days abroad are some of the best of your life” as a motto, Nate Hazen shares his experience with homesickness while abroad in the U.K. on the Student Exchange Program, and shares some strategies to help future students to cope with it.

Although most of my time abroad has been a blast, I’d be lying to say that I haven’t had some homesick days. As an out-of-state student at Ohio State, I have dealt with homesickness before, however, while being abroad it feels quite different. There are different cultural aspects that make it far more difficult being abroad than I experience while at Ohio State. It can be a bit harder here, as I am homesick of Ohio State and my friends in Columbus and my family and friends in Minnesota. Experiencing ‘double homesickness,’ as I like to call it, can be challenging, however, I have developed my own strategies to work through it and build my own success.

This is one of my favorite photos I have taken abroad. Studying abroad has given me endless opportunities to explore different cultures and visit places I had never thought I would have a chance to visit, such as Interlaken, Switzerland. While I work on homework, study, and write up final papers, I try to take study breaks and reflect on my experiences through photos and journaling. I have kept a travel journal since high school and love to keep my experiences close.

One of the most difficult parts of being abroad is the time difference. In Ohio, I am only one hour different from my parents, while in England, I am 5 hours different of Ohio and 6 of my family. This can make communicating with friends and family difficult as they are often at work or in class while I am able to talk, and when they finish, I am getting ready to call it a night. If I am busy with homework or class on a specific day, it makes it even more doffing to make a phone call. Throughout the semester, I have often tried to keep up with people even if it is just through a brief conversation. I also try to set aside some time for social media to communicate with people back home. This can be dangerous occasionally, as it can cause FOMO (fear of missing out) if I spend too much time looking at other people’s posts. I also have occasionally been willing to stay up later in order to communicate with those back home, as it is usually easier for me to be up at 1 am than it is to make someone start their day early.

Surrounding myself with good friends is very helpful when I am struggling as it takes my mind away from feeling homesick. Here is an image of two of my friends and I in Prague, Czech Republic on a weekend trip. Kelsey (middle) is from Maryland and Emily (right) is from Canada.

Another stressor that brings on homesickness is culture and language. Although the British speak English just like us, the Northern English accent can be very difficult to understand, as it is far stronger and thicker than the typical London accent many Americans are used to hearing in the media. I often find myself asking people to repeat themselves, sometimes multiple times. I am sure this can be much more exhausting and stressful in a country that does not have English as their first language. Culturally, I often think about American food. British food tends to not be seasoned nearly as strong and tends to be less flavorful. The US also tends to have many different styles of cuisine available. In Manchester it can be difficult to find any food other than English, Chinese, and Indian. I like trying new foods and discovering new things, but I also miss some of my American favorites like Hot Chicken Takeover or the hole in the wall Mexican gem in my hometown. I also really enjoy cooking and have not cooked since being abroad as my residence is catered.

When I am stressed on campus I often go to a coffee shop and order myself a pot of tea. It helps to calm me down and allows me to focus on my work. A pot of tea usually fills 3 cups and costs just £1.50 or about $2.

Some strategies that I have used to deal with homesick are old strategies that I have used in the past, while some are strategies I have picked up here. I have always used working out as a coping strategy, however the University of Manchester does not provide us with a gym membership, so I went and bought a yoga mat and have begun practicing yoga. I have found that this helps me calm down but also stay in shape. It feels soothing and allows me to take my mind off whatever may be bothering me. I also have begun practicing meditation occasionally. One of my classes is a Mental Health course, in which we have learned about strategies for helping patients and different conditions people face, but we have also learned the importance of taking care of yourself. I have found that meditation while stressed provided me head space I need and is refreshing to my mind. Just five minutes of focusing on my own breathing patterns can do me wonders. Finally, I have found that alone time can be both the best and worst strategy. When I am alone, my mind tends to wander off which can lead to worsening homesickness, but it often feels necessary to provide myself alone time, as I spend a significant portion of my time around my friends or in class while abroad. Being able to lay in my bed at the end of the day with a hot cup of tea and Netflix can be one of the most relaxing things I can do.

I have had a blast here at the University of Manchester and am so incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity to be here. Enjoy this picture of me at one of the gates to Campus.

My time abroad has been incredible, and I would not trade it for the world. I have been honored to represent The Ohio State University in the United Kingdom and am beyond grateful for the opportunity to do so. That said, I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I said that I haven’t had bad days. As the semester begins to wind down and I reflect on my experiences, I now realize that I will likely experience many of my homesick emotions toward the UK when I return Stateside. Before leaving, a friend told me “Even the worst days abroad are some of the best of your life.” I often think about when she told me that and remember that all will be okay.

Networking and Making Connections While Abroad

Everyone knows the value of professional networking, but how about student networking? Nate Hazen realizes the importance to network with fellow students, as he was abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Manchester, U.K. While abroad for the semester, he expanded his student network to Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and every corner of the US! Read how he expanded his global network and how he benefited.

When most university students think of networking, they likely are thinking of career fairs and other professional events that their campus offers. Often students forget about the importance of networking with other students. We tend to get into a rhythm of spending time with the same people, get comfortable with our friends, and reduce our effort in making meaningful connections with the other couple thousand students on campus. I, like most students had fallen into that trap.

Coming to Manchester was a great opportunity to meet people that are my age from all over the world. I did not know anyone when I arrived here, but that would quickly change. The International Programs Society at Alliance Manchester Business School offers many great networking events such as hosting a Super Bowl party and hosting a mini golf event to connect us with students that will be attending our home institutions in the future. They also organized a scavenger hunt for us to take part in during our orientation, which was a massive help in connecting with other students. Another great organization is the University of Manchester International Society. This is a group that is not specific to business students. Through this group I attended afternoon tea along with having the opportunity to go on day or weekend trips around the UK. They also ran most of the orientation week events to help us get settled in. Through both of these organizations, I have made friends and connected with people from Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and every corner of the US.

I had the chance to go to Edinburgh, Scotland with the International Society. This picture includes (from left to right) students from Toronto, a fellow Buckeye, Southern California, and Maryland!
This is one of my favorite pictures that I took on the Edinburgh trip. I love a pretty sunset.

I have also had various opportunities to make friends in my residence hall and in class. My Sustainable Business course had a group project very early in the semester, which allowed me to work with local students and get to know them. In our seminars, we often have group discussions which can be very helpful for connecting with other students. I also have found that some of my closest friends are the ones I live around. My residence is the only one on campus that has formal dinners on every weeknight. We begin promptly at 6:30 and are served a three-course meal. The dress is casual; however, we are required to wear a black robe. These formal dinners have helped me to connect with people that live in the same building as me. I have been able to befriend people from across Europe. Our residence hall also hosts social events many nights that all helped me to network with students across all majors.

A few of my British friends enjoy veggie lasagna in their dinner gowns!

I haven’t had many opportunities to network with local professionals, but I have been keeping my eye out for events hosted by the Business School and the Student Union. Being able to network and make new friends from all over the world has already provided me with so many cultural opportunities. Whether someone is showing me around Manchester or giving me recommendations of things to do while I travel on my spring break, I have been able to learn so much about everyone around me. I look forward to having more of these opportunities in the future. I also look forward to networking with other students when I return to Ohio State.

In the UK, football is the most popular sport. My friends and I found cheap tickets in the 7th row to watch the defending Premier League Champions Manchester City defeat West Ham United   1-0! Manchester is a city divided as both Manchester City and Manchester United are perennial title contenders.

Although the opportunity to network with professionals in your career field is extremely valuable, students often forget the importance of networking with other students. We tend to join our student organizations, make some friends, and stick with those people, while underestimating the opportunities that other connections can bring. My entire semester has been filled with great opportunities to meet and spend time with people that I never would have had the chance to meet, had I not come abroad. I see many of my friendships lasting for years to come. Whether I am visiting Melbourne, Australia and need a place to sleep, searching for a job in Washington DC, or even just need a restaurant recommendation while in Los Angeles, I will always have a friend that can help me out.

Milan Fashion Week and Sustainability

Angela Adams, studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program at Università Bocconi in Italy, shares her experience seeing Milan’s Fashion Week and volunteering for a sustainability workshop held by Bocconi’s fashion professors. She encourages students to get outside of their comfort zone, as doing so herself, she has been inspired to take her life in a different direction.

One of my favorite moments while being in Milan has been Fashion Week. I am majoring in marketing and minoring in fashion retail studies so I am a little biased, but I highly recommend it for anyone studying here in the Spring because the energy in the atmosphere is awesome! Also, fashion is a big part of Italian culture.
I wish I could say I took this pic above, but I was right above looking through the glass down at this! The Max Mara runway was held right on Bocconi University’s campus which was amazing to see. I got there right when it was starting, so I did not have the best spot, but I still got to see a lot. Honestly, my favorite part was seeing people walk into the show because everyone was dressed to impress. I started to take pictures whenever the photographers started to swarm someone or if I thought their outfits were cool. The shows go quickly, so it is worth hanging around to see everyone come out.

The other show I attended was Moschino. That one I could not see anything, but there were people walking in and out. I still highly recommend even standing outside of the venues, because it is just fun to be around all the excitement. If you want to see a schedule of when the events are I used this website: https://www.cameramoda.it/en/milano-moda-donna/

 

The website gave times and locations which was nice. Some of the shows say “LIVE” next to their listing and I originally thought that meant the companies were streaming them on a TV, but it means they are happening in person. There are numerous shows every day of the fashion week, so you can definitely fit a few in with class and if you are traveling.

Since you are reading this, I am assuming you’re interested in fashion and I want to take a moment to talk about what I have noticed while taking a fashion course at Bocconi. I am taking the “Management of Fashion Companies” class and it has been good so far. It is a pretty basic class, but the professors are very competent and have an impressive work history. One big difference with Bocconi and OSU is how often sustainability is discussed. OSU does talk a little about it in the business and fashion classes I’ve taken, but not like how it is in Italy, or the whole world for that matter. I think it needs to be a bigger topic for discussion at OSU.

I volunteered to participate in a sustainability workshop that one of the fashion professors helped organized and it was truly eye opening. The main topic was about circularity, which is how clothes can be continuously reused and not be thrown away (cradle to cradle not cradle to grave). Or if they end up being thrown away, they are totally biodegradable. There was a lot of group work involved and interesting guest speakers. Since the workshop, I have been very inspired to read and research more about sustainability. It has even made me question what I want to do for a career.

The main thing to take away from this is step outside your comfort zone and go experience things you thought you would never be interested in. Chances are you either learn something or you get inspired to take your life in a different direction.

Arriving in the UK and Trying to Adjust

Nate Hazen studying abroad in Manchester, England on the Student Exchange Program, shares his insights, tips, and advice on the first month in the country. To the difference in culture and classes, to the weird restaurants!

As winter break came to a close, and the Student Exchange Program came closer, my emotions were all over the place. All of my friends were back in Columbus starting classes, while I still had three weeks until I began my semester in Manchester, England. I was so excited, but also horrified. I kept thinking about the worst-case scenarios. The “What if I hate it there?” and “What if I don’t make friends?” type of things. It almost felt like the beginning of freshman year happening all over again, except this time I was a little more confident, thinking that it would be easier the second time around. I was wrong.

Moving across the world for a semester was more difficult than the transition into university, even for an out-of-state student like myself, who didn’t know a single person when I first arrived at Ohio State. This time around, there were so many more factors in play. I completely underestimated how jet lag would affect me. I thought I was prepared, but it took me nearly two weeks to fully readjust my sleep schedule. Forcing yourself to wake up and fall asleep at certain times can be a lot harder than it sounds! I also had a hard time meeting people at first. I moved into my hall a week early, figuring it would be a great time to meet some people and make friends. I quickly realized that the students in the UK were still in their first semester exams and not many students wanted to be social. I hung out alone and with the few people that had finished exams for my first week until orientation came the following Friday. I was never made aware of many of the orientation events, but I would recommend asking about/going to any event that the school offers. We had a business exchange orientation that was super helpful to connect with and befriend other students. I made most of my friends at this event and in my classes.

A few of my friends from the Business Exchange took a weekend trip to London. Students are on exchange from all over the world. I now have friends in Maryland, Southern California, Toronto, and many more places. As you can see, Big Ben was sadly under construction.

It was nice that the Alliance Manchester Business School had an orientation program solely for business exchanges. We got more specified information and were able to connect with other students that we would be in classes with. This event also allowed me to meet quite a few lasting friends. Although they had activities planned for the entire day, most of the day was spent with all the students socializing and trying to get to know one another, along with making plans for the evening. At the end of orientation, the International Society told us that they were all going to a pub nearby and invited us to join, along with informing us of other good events to connect with more international students.

Moving to a different country on your own is scary. Even in an English-speaking nation, there are a lot of cultural differences. For starters, in my short time here so far, I have almost been hit by three cars, as they drive on the opposite side of the road. Many of the stores here also close very early, around 5 or 6pm. There are not as many large grocery stores, as many of the urban locations are more similar to a gas station or convenience store. Public transportation is used heavily, and you can often catch a bus every 2 minutes on the busiest streets. Another difference I noticed early on was the use of coins for the 1 and 2 pound rather than paper bills. I have also picked up that British cuisine relies heavily on potatoes, red meats, and a strong connection to Indian food. They also have way too many restaurants with strange varieties of food, such as fried chicken places that also selling pizza?? I love food and could talk about it for days.

Adapting to many of these differences was not super difficult, however I still get very confused with traffic and continue to have close calls. I get bored of the blandness of the food, but I try to find creative ways to add flavor such as adding hot sauce or spices. Stores closing early can make things difficult, especially since I have class going into the evening, but you are usually able to find something similar that is open late or 24 hours. Sunday business hours are very short, so I try to avoid shopping on Sundays. Many other differences are pretty helpful. I really enjoy how accessible public transit is and the use of coin money. For students studying in Europe, especially England, I would recommend using Apple Pay, as contactless payment is commonly used and some places will not accept foreign chip-cards that need a signature. This is also handy when travelling, as you do not have to worry about carrying a card and potentially getting pick-pocketed.

The coursework here is also quite different. I am enrolled in a Sustainability in Business course, along with a Team Management & Personnel Selection and Mental Health courses. I am most looking forward to the sustainability course, as I think it will present exciting material regarding the future of business. Many of my lectures only meet once per week, which leads to a lot of independent study. This allows a lot of flexibility to students, but it also makes students accountable for their own studies. The overall teaching style seems similar, but the assessment format is different. In the States there is a significant portion of most courses that includes homework or weekly tasks. In the UK most of the assessment comes down to either one final exam or final paper. One of my courses has a small portion that is marked on a group presentation, but the rest of my grades come from final assessments. This puts a lot of pressure on just a few assignments for the term. I enjoy this a bit because it makes every assignment feel like it has a purpose. I often feel that homework in the US is given and doesn’t always have much effect on learning. It often feels like busy work. Here, it is easier to focus and give your all on assignments because they are more infrequent.

Some of my favorite things about my time here include the ease of traveling, the friendliness of the people, and the historic aspects of the UK. The UK and Europe are both super accessible and cheap to travel. I have been to Leeds, London, and Edinburgh in the UK, along with Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Nuremburg, Germany abroad. Being able to fly cheap and take trains most anywhere in the UK is very exciting and allows us to see so much more of the landscape and culture. The people here are also very friendly and often go out of their way to help out if you are lost or struggling with nearly anything. This seems to be a Northern England trend, as those in London were much more to themselves. The UK has so much to offer for history. London, a 2 hour train from Manchester, is a global, multicultural city that has endless museums and historic museums. Manchester itself was the home of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and created veganism. The buildings here are also very old and there are many beautiful historic government buildings and churches. I know very little about architecture, but there are so many impressive structures to take in.

As the semester kicks into full gear, I look forward to exploring Manchester and the United Kingdom more, along with seeing how the different style of education alters my learning ability. I am excited to see what material is presented in my courses, as well. The semester is young, but I’m sure it will fly by faster than I expect. I can’t wait to see what is at store.

This photo was taken at an old abbey called Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds, UK. Now a ruins, it was originally built in the 1100s!
This is the Manchester City Hall. The architecture of many of the government buildings is extremely intricate and impressive.
The view from our Airbnb in London was especially incredible. I caught this during sunset!

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.

Tips Before Arriving in Strasbourg

Ling Shao shares her tips and advise on pre-departure preparations for studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program to France. Covering topic on accommodation search, to visa process, to traveling!

This is not my first-time studying abroad but the only difference is that I am doing this independently this time. I used to go abroad with a friend and or have somebody picking me up at the destination, so I had concern and had to plan for all the circumstances that I might confront ahead of time. I have had two biggest challenges:

Finding Accommodations

Preparing the accommodation is very complex. Luckily, I was able to find my accommodation through the website my host institution gave me. For France, there are several websites that you can use: leboncoin / housing anywhere / airbnb. If you really cannot find a place before you arrive, an option may be to find a cheap hostel and try to communicate with your host institution. Strasbourg is a really safe place comparing to other places in Europe, but still be careful of the location of the hostels, and definitely do some researches on the destination that you are going to!

Visa Process

My visa process was really challenging and tough. I am an international student and I had to transfer my academic status from the US to my home country to get a French Student Visa. However, after all of the challenges that I dealt through this application, I now feel confident that I am able to deal with any visa application in the future. Just to start early and do not hesitate to ask questions to the embassy in your country.

Traveling 

I googled and searched a lot of tips about traveling to Europe (useful website can be TripAdvisor and youtube videos, and there is a channel that I really love named “DamonandJo”), but the one I stress is: PACK LESS! You can buy everything you need in Europe, especially in Strasbourg.

Safety

BE SMART! Just be aware of your surrounding and avoid going to higher risk places in the cities you visit. Ask! Most people in Europe can speak English, even if you cannot communicate with them in the local language.

How Traveling Develops Better Leadership

On the Student Exchange Program at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, Emma Goilo describes how she developed her leadership skills and global citizen mindset abroad.

Since I was little, I dreamed of living abroad. I wanted to live in a glamorous and architectural city, with rich history. And last semester I achieved that dream. I spent four months living in Dublin, Ireland and attending Trinity College. I studied, made life-long friends from around the globe and got to travel. What I didn’t realize about education abroad is how much I grew, the challenging academic environment and diverse social situations made me a better leader. I came back from Dublin more self-aware, a truly global citizen and with the ability to work with and empower diverse groups of people – all factors I consider vital in leadership. I went abroad to travel, to study and to make friends but came back to the USA a more developed leader.

I believe that to be a true leader one must be self-aware, have the ability to empower others and be a global citizen. Being self-aware means to know not just your strengths but your weaknesses. I believe that addressing weaknesses and compensating for them is even more important than flexing your strengths. The biggest strength that I encountered within myself is adaptability. I was able to quickly adapt to my environment: a new country, a new university, and a new group of friends. This adaptability will serve me well in my career, I will be able to quickly adapt to new work teams and to new work locations. I think I was adaptable prior to my semester abroad but this exchange experience gave me a chance to practice and further develop that strength. One weakness I encountered while abroad is that I require structure and at Trinity College there was a lack of structure I am used to in the USA. Classes don’t have weekly assignment, exams or even structured class. I quickly learned that I had to adopt the classes to my strength. I had to make small weekly assignments for myself or come exam time I would flounder. This experience made me realize that I must adjust situations to play to my strengths, rather than to my weaknesses. Another key component of leadership is having the ability to empower others. While abroad I was able to empower my friends to face their fears and to speak up to things they didn’t agree with. I believe that being a true leader isn’t about making yourself look good but making whatever team you work on look good as a whole. Finally, being a leader means being a global citizen.

This doesn’t mean that you have to travel to be the most traveled, it means that you have an appreciation for cultures different than your own and you value the perspectives that come along with those diverse cultures. I believe those are some of the key components to successful leadership and that my time abroad pushed me to work on being self-aware, on empowering others and on being a global citizen.

Coming Back from Australia

Maggie Hobson counts the many blessing from the semester abroad as she returns to the U.S. from Australia, after completing her semester at Curtin University on the Student Exchange Program.

My last day in Australia:

8-10am: Enjoyed my final $10 black coffee and raspberry muffin at my favorite on-campus cafe as I did some last minute studying

10-11:10am: Psychology exam

11:10am-2pm: Made my last meal of pasta using the one pan, one bowl and one fork that I bought for the entire semester and ate it while doing more last minute studying

2-4:10pm: Human Structure and Function exam

4:10-6pm: Packed my things, cleaned my room and had it inspected by the RA

6-9:30pm: Said my goodbyes with the amazing friends I made during the semester over one final group dinner

A few of my friends outside the car, saying goodbye

9:30-11:55pm: Went to the airport and checked in

From that time on, I traveled 32 hours to be greeted by my parents in the Chicago airport where my audit internship with EY started the next morning.

My parents greeting me at the airport with a sign

To some, this may seem like a “day” (it was only a day since I gained 12 hours) they would dread, but to me this is a day to be so thankful for.  First of all, I had the opportunity to study in Australia and take classes a regular accounting major at OSU would not normally take.  Not to mention, my professors were able to move my exams early so that I could get back to Chicago in time for my internship.  Secondly, I made amazing friendships and lasting memories that I will never forget.  Thirdly, I was greeted by two very supportive parents who were able to meet me away from home (Ohio) in order to move my things into an apartment in Chicago for the summer.  Lastly, I am humbled to start an internship with EY where I am able to gain experience working for a big four accounting firm.

OSU has provided me with so many great opportunities and for that I am forever thankful.  Studying abroad in Australia has been hands down my favorite college experience and I would do nothing to change my experience there.  I am satisfied with the time I spent there: the places I was able to explore, the people I met and the things I was able to accomplish.  Now, I am looking forward to continuing my internship with EY.  My fellow interns have already been so enthralled by the fact that I was living in Australia for five months.  I plan to share my experiences in a beneficial way.  The knowledge I learned about different cultures through becoming friends with so many exchange students from all around the world, will only benefit me in the workplace.  Therefore, overall I am thankful for this experience because it did not only influence me personally, but professionally as well.