What Am I Doing Here?

After a question in class “Why are you here?”, Maggie Hobson shares her thoughts and goals on why she is abroad studying at Curtin University in Perth, Australia on the Student Exchange Program, on her very first extensive experience outside of the U.S.

Me with a Kangaroo

Reading the title of this post might be a bit frightening at first.  It may seem like I am questioning my decision to travel alone to a foreign country for five months.  However, I have been “abroad” for exactly three weeks and at my host university for exactly 2 weeks and not once have I questioned my decision of coming here.  However, today was the second day of classes and my first time sitting in on my “Human Structure and Function” course, that I took as last resort to cover my natural science GE credit I still need at OSU.  I was thinking that this class would be another typical Earth Science or Chocolate Science course that I could check off in order to stay on track to graduate next spring.  I was far from wrong.  As a class, we went around the room announcing our majors.  “Nursing.” “Health Science.” “Physical Therapy.”  These were all the responses of each student.  I started to build a nervous sweat as the teacher pointed to me and I announced, “Accounting.”  The teacher continued to point to each of the students to hear their responses.  However, at the very end, she pointed back to me and asked “I just need to point out what we’re all thinking, why are you here?”

That got me thinking.  Why am I here?  I have lived in Columbus, Ohio my entire life, 21 years, and I will be living in Australia for five months.  That’s about 2% of my life that I am able to spend meeting all new people, experiencing a whole new culture, traveling and exploring a multitude of places and taking classes that I would never have stumbled upon back home.  I am here to learn and grow as an individual.  Ultimately, I want to come back with a new perspective on life and other cultures, in hopes that I can influence and relate to others in a more positive way.  So far in my time here, I have met people from, and not limited to, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Canada, Asia, New Zealand and all around the US.  It has been fascinating not only learning about the culture in which I am living but the cultures of these many other exchange students going through similar experiences to mine.

Throughout these past two weeks, I have already gained so much knowledge about myself and other cultures and classes only started yesterday.  For instance, I have learned that it is NEVER too late to learn.  Each of my classes here has someone who is about the age of my parents.  These people differ from the adults in my classes at OSU because they engage with everyone just as if they were our age.  They are enthralled by class discussions and they will join classmates in getting a bite to eat after class.  Additionally, some of my fellow exchange students are five or six years older than me.  It is so much more common in other cultures to take a gap year, or two or three and then return to school when you know what you want out of your education and you are able to fully value what you are learning.  Additionally, I have learned that I am more independent than I once thought.  Going into this time abroad, I truly believed I would regret my decision, be lost and wondering, not make friends and yearn for my friends and family back home.  Fortunately enough, none of this has come true.  I started meeting people on the first plane ride over, when I talked to the two people sitting next to me for the entirety of the four hour flight.  You are never fully alone when traveling  because there are always people to meet and learn from and I have taken advantage of the opportunity to do so.  Lastly, I am eager to see what I learn in these non-accounting classes.  It is awesome to have the opportunity to take elective classes without having the stress of focusing more heavily on the classes for my major.  This way, I am able to really experience each class I take here and gain knowledge on a whole new subject outside of my major.

It has been quite the adventure so far and I am looking forward to the rest of my time here!  Not only am I looking forward to my bigger trips like the ones to Ningaloo Reef, Cairns and Bali but I am looking forward to living my day to day life as a student: playing in my touch rugby league, engaging in my dorms free food nights and enjoying the gorgeous weather while walking through campus.  I’ll check back in with more of my experiences later on but for now, here are a few of my favorite pictures I have taken so far from traveling around Perth, Western Australia!

Looking at the sunset over the city of Perth
Fremantle, an area about 40 minutes from Curtin known for its history and shops
A quokka which is an animal that is part of the kangaroo family but only found on Rottnest Island!

Guide for Attending a Spanish University

From how to dress, how you take your in-between-class breaks, to the best gelato place to go after class, Samantha Ludes guides you how to navigate a Spanish university, as she attends the Universidad Pontificia Comillas for a semester on the Student Exchange Program.

I wish there had been a “How To” guide to attending a university in Spain, but since there is not, I decided to make my own. Everything from the clothes you wear to using graph paper instead of lined paper, there is a laundry list of differences.

I am studying at Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICADE, a business school in the heart of Madrid, Spain on Fisher’s Student Exchange Program. The school itself is beautiful. The Church inside the school and the tiled blue walls make me feel as if I am not at school at all.

I take classes ranging from Planificación y Gestión de Marketing (Marketing Planning and Management) to Spanish Culture Through Visual Arts. Most of my classes are primarily international students except for my Marketing course. It has been very beneficial to take classes with Spanish students since I have learned so much about the culture, the slang, and what university is like in Spain.

The first thing I learned is that students do not eat in classes, that is considered very rude. They do, however, talk during class. At least in my experience, students will talk to friends and be very casual in front of the teachers. Professors here are also more informal, talking about what good places students should go to, and not minding when students show up 20 minutes late to class, especially on Mondays.

Coffee breaks are apart of everyone’s everyday schedule. Before or after class, we will often go grab a coffee at a local cafe near school. My personal favorite is to go to UVEPAN because all of the staff are so friendly and love when I practice my Spanish with them. PRO TIP: If it is Monday then go to McDonald’s (which are a lot nicer in Spain) and get FREE coffee. All you have to do is ask for it!

People stand outside the building and catch up for a while after class with friends. Standing on those steps I have planned weekend trips, dinner plans, and laughed about stories from the previous week. I have met with group project members to discuss our assignments and scheduled our next meetings. In the states, I tend to go to class and then straight to whatever I had planned next. Here they take their time, plan a lot less, and chat a lot more. In my attempt to blend in, I have had to adjust how I present myself in class. I went from dressing very casually, typically in my workout clothes and my backpack, to wearing jeans, a sweater, and boots or sneakers with my purse. People dress as if they are going out to dinner but instead it is just for class. To my surprise, I have actually enjoyed getting ready like that everyday (probably because the shopping is so great here) but nonetheless, it has been an adjustment.

Going to a university in Spain may be very different from going to Ohio State, but different is not always bad. Getting lost in this small (but VERY confusing) building has led me to meet Spanish students who studied at Ohio State for their abroad experience. I approached a group of students in the cafe and asked if one of them could show me where the bookstore was. A few of them offered to walk me there and were telling me about where they studied in the US. It was the craziest coincidence when one of the students told me he studied at Ohio State. We talked about our business classes and football (of course) and how we missed the deep love for all things OSU. Talking with him about being a Buckeye made this new place feel a little more like home.

Another perk of going to Comillas is the gelato shop La Romana right down the street. If you like gelato, you will LOVE this.  The people at the counter will let you try almost every flavor, ranging from the classic Pistachio to Biscotto. I get a new flavor almost every time I go because they’re all so delicious that I can’t even pick a favorite! You must go in there and ask for a “muestra” (sample) and you will understand what I am talking about.

As always, Go Bucks!

A Glimpse into Life at Copenhagen Business School

With a few weeks into the semester, Katelyn Mistele shares her experience studying at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark on the Student Exchange Program. From course selections, class structures, exams, to professors, she shares her experience and some tips and advise to adjust!

Hello from Denmark everyone! I am currently on my third week of classes here at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and I am still learning to adjust to the style of teaching and the general education system over here. I thought it would be beneficial for me to outline the major differences and shed some light onto the Scandinavian style of education. As much as you can read up on these differences, it is very different arriving here and sitting through your classes. I am still adjusting, and quiet honestly starting to love this different style of teaching and learning. As well, I am loving the city of course! I have a few pictures below of the city, but I will write up my next post on more on Danish culture in general and will include more photos with that.

Downtown Copenhagen, specifically the Nørreport Station area!
A beautiful castle right next to my residence!

I am currently studying at Copenhagen Business School as noted before. CBS, for short, is a large strictly business institution. At CBS there are just over 20,000 students either studying their undergraduate degrees or graduate degrees. In addition, there is a large international presence here on campus. Just under 4,000 full time students are international. In my particular exchange semester there are around 500 exchange students, 300 of us being undergraduate students.

The first major difference I realized even before arrival was the variation of courses here. It is a lot different from Fisher. There isn’t just a general business major with 15 specializations to choose from. Instead there are different programs and tracks that correspond with the final undergraduate degree. Examples of these programs are a Bachelors in Business Administration and Philosophy, Bachelors in International Business and Politics, or even Bachelors in Business, Language, and Culture. This original realization made me excited to see what courses I was going to be able to taken once I arrived to CBS.

There are a variety of courses here that are non existent in Fisher. Unfortunately, due to my degree requirements and prospective graduation date I wasn’t able to take many of them, but they have many interesting courses here based in sustainability and innovation which aren’t as common back at home. For example I was looking at taking courses in entrepreneurship, or this course titled: Innovation Management. I am however taking four courses over here and they are as follows: Corporate Finance, Global People Management, Global Supply Chain Management, and Language of Negotiations.

Not only do the types of courses offered here are different but the structure of these courses is very different as well. For starters CBS is actually similar to Fisher in a way that they offer many “session classes” as we call them at Ohio State. Three of my four classes are “Q3” or “Q4” courses which is similar to how Fisher structures their first and second session classes. My other class is a full semester course, so it runs from the end of January through May.

This is where the similarities end however. All courses that I am enrolled in at CBS last around two and a half hours for each class, and each course is primarily lecture based. There are moments in some of my courses for group work, but for courses like Finance it is all lecture based for the entire duration of class. At first when I saw this I panicked as I struggled to stay awake during my 55 minute courses back in Ohio, but these longer courses have grown on me. The professors give you breaks every 45-55 minutes, and the trade off of having long courses also means that you are done with these courses earlier or have less courses during the week. What I mean by this is, I do have finance three times a week right now, but I am done with this course by the end of March! In addition, I only have classes Monday through Wednesday which is fantastic for those who want to travel and explore Denmark as well as Europe! It definitely takes some adjusting to get used to things, but I am growing to like the structure and set up here at CBS.

It took me just over two weeks to fully adjust and assimilate myself into the new system. I am on my third week of classes now and I feel absolutely integrated into the life of a student at CBS. Some tips I have for those who are planning on attending CBS or other European countries that have the same style are, first and foremost, really listen to your professors and go to class. It may seem tempting that there aren’t participation grades and that most of the content is posted online, but going to class really helps fully understand the information. Also the professors will help you understand how to handle the work load and drop hints on what work is really necessary to do in order to succeed, and which work is just purely if you’re interested. For example, a lot of the syllabi here at CBS list a TON of reading. If you think Fisher has a lot of reading CBS is easily 2-3 times more, but that being said the professors shed light on which chapters to skip or merely “skim”, also give tips on how to read the content. I would even go as far to say that by going to class and being fully engaged really decreases your workload! Another tip is that when a professor provides you a break during the class, I would suggest that you get up walk around and even treat yourself to a coffee. Two and a half hours is a really long time, but by truly giving your mind a solid ten minute break and walking around helps me personally regain my focus. Finally, another thing I found that worked well for me is to compile my notes and lecture slides at the end of each week. Also to take the information presented in class one step further by thinking critically about certain articles, for example, and by proposing new ways of thinking or questions regarding the article. Some of my exams here allow me to use notes and by preparing from day one there will be less work when it comes time to the exam, and also by thinking critically from day one, I will be able to provide more insight during the exam rather than just the surface level information that everyone will provide.

The last major difference between school here and back at Fisher is that each class is 100% exam based. Meaning that there are no homework grades, or participation grades. The only grade that is recorded is the final grade at the conclusion of the course. The final exams are different too. They have many different formats from the common sit in closed book exam, to oral exams where you write a paper and get questioned by your professor on your final product, and even some courses have take home week long papers! It is very different and slightly intimidating at first, but the the professors talk about the exams in class and prepare you for them, which definitely gives you a piece of mind.

Now before I conclude my thought, I’d like to include some pictures of this amazing and beautiful university for those of you interested and those of you thinking about coming to CBS. I have really enjoyed this partner university already. There are so many opportunities to take new and exciting courses. The structure of the school system is flexible and this is great if you are looking to travel! Finally, all of my professors I have had so far are fantastic and really focus on you simply learning and how to master the content to best set you up for success in the future. So, if you’re thinking CBS, I say yes!!! The partner university has been amazing so far and has introduced me and integrated me into this Scandinavian style of education smoothly.

One of the main classroom buildings here at CBS.
The main library on campus! This is my favorite building on campus due to the massive amounts of amenities it offers and the sleek modern design. I have some of my courses in here, but I also spend some time in the library which has a vibe similar to Thompson but modernized. You could spend your whole day here as there are many classrooms and even a cafeteria. In fact, all classroom buildings on campus have cafes.  I think Fisher needs more than just Rohr!! In addition, in the basement of this building on campus there is a CrossFit club with it’s own gym that I’ve been going to! It’s a perfect location with everything you need as a student.
A photo of the sky light in one of the classroom buildings. Proving to you that despite common thoughts not everything is just the color black here!

Thanks for reading and tune back in later in the semester to hear more about my adventures in Copenhagen! I am of course looking forward to traveling and have been to many places in Europe already, but I am even more excited to further integrate myself into the Danish culture. In the weeks to come I have some “coffee dates” set up with some Danes, and am also getting involved in a student organization, and I am excited to learn more about the culture over here and especially to see how the Danes perceive America! It will truly be eye opening, and I will discuss this in my next post!

First Week in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp shares some of the differences in being a student in Italy vs. U.S. Hear what her life is like in her first week attending Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program.

It has officially been 1.5 weeks since we arrived here in Milan to study at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, and it certainly has been a whirlwind! I have learned so much about living in Europe and specifically Italy.

Being in Milan, one of the most fashion conscientious cities in the world, the most immediate difference I noticed was the clothing. It is very easy to pick out a native Italian versus an exchange student while walking around Bocconi. Italian students tend to dress up more for class, and their outfits are more trendy, whereas American students tend to dress more business casual when dressing up for classes. I’ve noticed that the shoes tend to be a big hint, as Italians usually wear boots or something with a heel. Shopping in and around Milan has helped a lot though, and has been super fun!

Another major difference is the culture around food. In the United States, we typically eat 3 meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner; whereas in Milan they do 4. They have breakfast and lunch, which are smaller meals, aperitivo, which is a prix fix hour of unlimited appetizers at a restaurant between 6 and 9pm, and then dinner beginning between 8 and 9 typically. Many restaurants are closed between the end of lunch around 2pm and 4, sometimes even being closed until dinner at 7! This can make it hard to find something to eat, especially on Sundays when almost everything is closed. I am learning how to plan ahead and make sure I don’t get caught in one of the in between times though!

The final difference I have noticed between American culture and Italian is the bureaucracy. In the United States, filling out forms is usually a straightforward event. However, in Italy, it has been anything but! From the permit of stay to an Italian SIM card and a monthly metro pass, it seems that every task has come with a wide range of conflicting advice and instructions. I have found that the best way to approach these situations is to have all of your ducks in a row and just go for it! The people processing the paperwork and such have all been very understanding so far.

Although it has definitely been an adjustment, I am loving my time so far in Italy! I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many people and experience so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to in the United States, and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks. As classes start this week, my goals going forward are to ensure that I am keeping up with my schoolwork and finding the perfect balance between school and travelling. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester holds in store!

Not Your Typical Group

With some struggles, Sydney Lapin shares her success expanding her network at Strasbourg, France, as she attends Ecole de Management Strasbourg on the Student Exchange Program. Now she has made friends from Canada, Hungary, Finland, Czech Republic, Columbia, France, Germany, Norway, Ireland, and the U.S!


My Finnish friends, Anna and Emilia, and I at the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

My name is Sydney Lapin, and I am in the Fisher College of Business studying Marketing and minoring in Fashion Retail Studies. Currently, I am  spending my Junior year second semester abroad in Strasbourg, France on the Student Exchange Program! I am taking classes through EM Strasbourg, the business school here.

I have been in Strasbourg for one month, and while I haven’t been too active on blogging yet, I have kept a journal of most of my days here. So far I have had bad days and good days, but overall I am always grateful for this opportunity. Not many people can have the chance to study abroad, and I would like to thank Ohio State and my family for being supportive of my decision to be here.

I’ll start with a bit of background. Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to study abroad. My mom studied at Miami, Ohio, and went abroad to their school in Luxembourg. My parents are probably the people who gave me the travel bug, and I will be thanking them the rest of my life. There is nothing more amazing than traveling to a brand new place and exploring the different things it has to offer: a new culture, a new way of doing things, new foods, the list goes on. I have a lot of friends from other schools around the states who have also planned on studying abroad. However, when it came down to it, our programs are, for the most part, quite different. Fisher’s Office of Global Business made sure that those of us who chose to go through the business school knew that this is a very independent program. While they offered assistance when we came to them with issues, most of getting here and being here is all on us. Luckily for me, another student from Ohio State, Brad, decided to come to Strasbourg last minute as well, making my transition a little bit easier.

Most of the friends I know are on these Student Exchange group trips through their school or other schools. For them, they were placed in Facebook groups, given contacts for roommates, and are dropped in a different country with a support group of what sounds like 50 other Americans. Brad and I arrived in Strasbourg, and had our “group” of two. On the second night we were here, someone posted in the Facebook group (that we were added to about five days before arriving) about meeting up somewhere. When Brad and I arrived, we sat down to a table of three Canadians, two Finnish girls, a girl from Turkey, a girl from Norway, a girl from Estonia, and a girl from Argentina. It was really cool to meet these people from around the world, and to have Business in common.

After the first week and a half of meeting people from all over the world, I was a little lonely. It was hard to create friendships, there seemed to be some cultural barriers and miscommunication. I was feeling bitter towards other Student Exchange Programs, because they were with all Americans and able to make friends and connect with others in an instant. I was on the phone with a friend, helping her pack for her Student Exchange, and she was telling me all about her roommates (that she hadn’t even met yet) and how they already have four trips planned out together. She asked: “So tell me what the first day was like!” And I responded, “First day? Brad and I were alone the first day, what do you mean?” She expected me to say that we were immersed into this huge group of people to meet and make connections and become best friends with. Well, we did have orientation the week after we arrived, and I can tell you it was nothing like an orientation you would expect in America. No “ice breakers” no name games, just sitting in a room for half an hour at a time and then being released. We did not meet many people at orientation, so we really had to reach out to the Facebook group and see if anyone was making any plans.

Now, I look back on these past few weeks, and forward at the next three months, realizing that I have been given the best opportunity of all. How many people get to not only study abroad, but to create friendships with such culturally different people? I am so grateful that I am on this program, and while it has had its hard days, I finally feel like I am starting to make good friends. These friends are from the United States, from Canada, from Hungary, from Finland, and from Czech Republic. They’re from Columbia, France, and Germany. I have a friend from Norway, friends from Ireland. Yes, it was and is harder to create close friendships with people who aren’t from the same place as us, but it has been a growing experience and it has taught me that sometimes it just takes a little extra time to get to know someone, and get them to open up to you and your culture, just like you have to open up to them and their culture.

I would not trade this experience for any other, and I look forward to more challenges that I can grow from and overcome.


Visiting Team: Differences Between Madrid and the States

Read the observation Danny Rodgers shares as he spends his semester at Universidad Pontificia Comillas on the Student Exchange Program! He touches on the difference in the classroom, sports, to the daily life in Spain.

One of the coolest parts about living abroad is seeing how daily life works in another country. Some differences are minimal, whereas others are quite drastic. Over the past couple of months here in Madrid, I have diligently taken note of key differences and put together this blog featuring some of the more interesting differences between life back home and here in Madrid. With that, let’s dive in!

Daily Routine

Although three days of my school week beginning at 8:00 am, the typical Spanish day starts later than in the US. This became apparent to me rather quickly as I was the only one in the neighborhood awake, walking in darkness to class at 7:30 in the morning; traffic doesn’t really pick up until about 9:00 in the morning when Madrid is commuting to work. Another major difference in regards to the mornings is what is served for breakfast. Here, breakfast consists of strong coffee and maybe a small pastry, usually served and eaten quickly at one of Madrid’s plentiful coffee bars. Given the later start to the day, the rest of the day’s meals also occur at different times. The lunch hour starts around 2:00pm and is the heaviest meal of the day. Many shops and businesses shut down during lunch and people head home to eat with family. The result is a sort of 2-part work day that ends later than the typical US workday. For example, the relocation service I used when searching for accommodation followed office hours of 10:00am-2:00pm and 3:00pm to 7:00pm. Wrapping up the day around 9:00 pm is dinner, a lighter meal in comparison to lunch. At a full 3-4 hours later than the typical US dinner hour, this late meal is arguably one of the biggest adjustments to make when living in Spain.

In regards to studying in Madrid, Ohio State and my university here could not be more different. Here at Comillas, all my classes are under the same roof. The classes are about 20 – 40 students in size and I have multiple classes with the same classmates. Compare this to Ohio State where a brisk 20 minute walk across campus in between classes is not uncommon and a first year economics lecture brings out a crowd that can rival a small concert venue. Here at Comillas, the structure of the classes differs significantly as well. For example, a typical final exam at Ohio State usually accounts for about 20 percent of the final grade whereas here, my final exams currently looming on the horizon are worth a humble 50 percent of my final grade. As is with most aspects of studying abroad, adjusting to a different way of doing things is the norm. Add on a positive outlook and even the most daunting of tasks seem doable.

The Big Game

I am a huge sports fan, so a goal of mine going into the semester was to attend a match at Santiago Bernabéu, home of one of Spain’s top football clubs, Real Madrid. After a stressful morning of ticket shopping, I managed to snag a single ticket to a Champion’s League match between Real Madrid and Tottenham, an English football club. Champions league matches feature two high level international clubs, so I knew I was in for a good game. It felt great to be back in a packed stadium for a prime time game as I didn’t have the usual Buckeye game days throughout the semester.

The differences between Madrid’s marquee sporting event and a comparable event in the US were very interesting. For instance, the entire match was played in under 2 hours. The trade off to a shorter event, however, is that those 2 hours were filled with constant action. Compare this to a typical Sunday NFL game with all its commercial breaks and stoppage of play and you can see why some non-Americans find American football rather boring. Another interesting aspect of the Real Madrid match was how the moment halftime hit, everyone pulled out their pre-packed sandwiches from home to enjoy during the break. Quite the nice alternative to the typical $13.00 hotdog and soda found in US stadiums. Finally, and probably the most impressive difference, would have to be how the fans engaged in the game. From pregame to the final whistle, fans on both sides chanted and sang the entirety of the match. Their dedication to cheering was incredibly impressive and created a high energy atmosphere the whole game. Coming into the match knowing next to nothing about European football (very American of me, I know), the skill of the players, passion of the fans and the overall experience gave me a new appreciation for the sport.

City Life

When considering where I would spend a semester abroad, I only had two requirements. I had studied Spanish for 8 years and am currently working towards a Spanish minor, so studying in a Spanish speaking country was a must. Secondly, I grew up in Naperville, Illinois, so Chicago was always a quick train ride away. Heading to Chicago year after year, I developed a love for exploring cities. With these two desires, Madrid, Spain seemed like the perfect choice. Now several months into the semester, I can say Madrid is exactly where I am supposed to be. Trading towering skyscrapers and our beloved cars for royal palaces and public transportation, the experience of living in a European metropolis has been an incredible experience.

As a capital city with over 3 million people, Madrid is an exciting place to live. Here, one can find everything from maze-like neighborhoods hailing from the 17th century to streets like Gran Vía, bustling with activity 24 hours a day. Madrid is also a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and impressive lineup of restaurants, night life, and shops. Outside of main thoroughfares, chain restaurants and businesses are not very common. This allows local businesses to take center stage, each providing a completely unique experience to the next. I’ve often wondered how so many of these little shops can stay in business, and I think it speaks volumes to the benefits of high density, walkable neighborhoods. This is a far cry from the car-centric towns we have in the US—outside of a select few urban areas. Only having to walk 5 minutes or less for fresh baked bread, a grocery store or coffee shop will be something I miss dearly.

Madrid has also provided the perfect setting for practicing Spanish. In these aforementioned coffee bars and little restaurants, English is hardly common. It is with this real world practice that I now feel more confident than ever in my language abilities. I can only image how proud my high school Spanish teachers would be, knowing I can successfully fight my way to the counter of a packed tapas bar and order without issues; this is why I studied Spanish. But in all seriousness, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in a city where I must speak Spanish daily. I strongly suggest to anyone studying a language to pursue an exchange in a country that speaks the language you are studying. It is far and away the best way to develop confidence in using the language, which is something that cannot be easily gained in a class that only meets twice a week. While it was certainly a challenge learning the ins and outs of new city, Madrid has become a place I’ve grown to love.

Although my semester abroad is coming to a close, there are still more stories to tell! Check back next time to hear about a global business experience I had here in Madrid. Later on, look out for my advice for outgoing study abroad students as the next semester rolls around.

As always thanks for reading!

Experiencing Cultural/Business Difference in Latin America

Phil Koch discusses how professional and classroom interactions are different in Latin America, as he studies as he studies at the University of Chile on the Student Exchange Program in Santiago, Chile.

By distance, I do not mean any sort of easily quantifiable form of distance that can be measured in miles or kilometers. No, I mean the intangible distance between people in power and those who are not within Latin America. Although Chile is over five thousand miles away from my home in Cleveland, it is not the sheer geographic distance that defines our differences in culture. Many may qualify five thousand miles as being extremely far away, but in my opinion it’s really not. When compared with a nine thousand mile journey to India or a seven thousand mile flight to China, a ten hour flight to Chile seems quite manageable, if not short. As someone who has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and visited dozens of cities around the world, I can say that the tangible difference between two points although real, is unimportant in understanding the world. What is more valuable is understanding that distance (defined as the amount of difference between different cultures) is abstract but very real. The culture of the United States and Chile are distinctly different in more ways than one but in this blog I will discuss what I have learned about Chilean culture when it comes to their perceptions of power and accessibility to those who are in a position of authority be it bosses or professors.

PDI or the Power Distance Index defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally is a good place to begin the analysis. The Power Distance Index is one of the six “cultural dimensions” that define a culture and was originally developed by Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede. As an International Business student I am all too familiar with these six definers of cultures as Hofstede is included in every International Management class and probably every single IM text book out there. However, before living abroad for such an extended period, first time being in India, I infrequently saw them in practice and was not able to contrast them with what I experience in the U.S. What I have learned at FEN and through my personal experience I have seen that there is a great divide between acceptance of inequality in power between Chile and the U.S. Chile scores highly on the Power Distance Index while the U.S. scores much lower meaning Chile is generally more accepting of inequality and is less prone to challenge authority. I have seen this to be extremely true based on my time at FEN. In the classroom it is extremely uncommon and even rude to challenge what a teacher states or interrupt them in any way. In one of my classes a number of other exchange students from the Nordic countries, who are egalitarian and open to discussion, challenged the ayudante (Chilean version of a TA) saying that a number of his facts were incorrect. Although I thought nothing of it, as a class we received an informal lecture describing how open disagreement with the professor is downright disrespectful in Chile, because it causes the person to lose credibility with the rest of the group. This credibility or the idea of always “saving face” is extremely important in Chilean and more broadly, Latin American culture. It helps to foster trust within a group whether business or personal. I also found that professors, especially those who are very traditional, do not make themselves as available for extra help as they do in the United States. It is not expected of them because they are in a place of authority at a much higher societal position than the student.

While I did learn firsthand about the differing dynamic of power in the Chilean academic environment when compared with that of the U.S., I learned in my classes how it applies to the Chilean business environment. Many of the themes I just discussed are true in this realm as well. Open disagreement with the boss or any superior rarely happens, if ever. Subordinates are expected to follow instructions and not challenge the direction of their superiors. I also learned that Chilean (and Latin American) employees tend to have less autonomy over their work than those in the U.S. or other Anglo founded countries. Part of the Power Distance in the business environment is that the boss accepts full responsibility for any successes or failures. For this reason, Chilean employees defer almost all decision making of any importance to their boss and will wait for their direct go ahead before moving forward. This is generally the opposite of what happens in the U.S. where independent problem solving and autonomy among subordinates is highly valued and encouraged. Lastly, I realized that similarly to what occurs in the Chilean academic realm, the negative attitude in the Chilean business community towards open confrontation is due to the high power distance found in Chilean society. A subordinate should not challenge a superior regardless of their education or personal achievements because it causes the superior to lose credibility among their colleagues and employees as well as have their power undermined.

In closing, Chileans tend to have a much higher acceptance of inequality within organizations than Americans which was difficult for me to adapt to. In a classroom setting I learned that direct disagreement is disrespectful and can cause a loss of trust and credibility between students and the teacher. Stemming from my experiences in the classroom the same is true of the business culture in Chile and Latin America. Large differences (distance) in power is widely accepted as normal and is the status-quo in Latin America meaning those who lack power or a position of authority are not as envious of those who do when compared with the United States. Missteps here as an American manager will kill your chances of having success while in Chile. Whether negotiating a deal with a Chilean customer or leading an international team here, always know who is in charge and who will be the final decision maker. Do not send a low or mid-level employee to negotiate a deal for you. Always send a high ranking executive to meet with Latin American customers so that they know you take their business seriously. Expanding on that point, if you find yourself leading a team of Chilean employees, remember that you must be assertive with your authority and give them the guidance they expect from a superior. Failure to do this will cause you to lose credibility as a boss or result in you losing an important deal. Truly understanding cultural distance and adapting to it in a meaningful way is the best way to ensure success when dealing with people from a culture that is different than your own, Chile included.

Life as a Thammasat University Student

Studying in Thailand, Talia Bhaiji shares her experience of a different education system and culture, while she attends Thammasat University on the Student Exchange Program.

The university that I’m studying at in Thailand is called Thammasat University, and it’s located in Bangkok, Thailand. The location of the school is really unique; it’s right near the Grand Palace and all of the oldest temples in Bangkok. It is a bit far from the center of the city, which can sometimes make it difficult to experience all that Bangkok has to offer without paying for a 200 baht taxi ($6- as of November 2017).

As a BBA student, we’re all required to wear uniforms. They’re short-sleeve white blouses and long black skirts with a belt and buttons and black shoes (usually optional). The girls are lucky though; the boys have to wear long white shirts and long black dress pants which are an absolute killer in the heat. Some people wear different clothes to school and change and some people play around with the dress code and test the boundaries. You do have to wear your uniform every single day to class, otherwise they won’t let you sign in at the beginning.

Required to wear these every time for class, BBA students only

Which leads me to: absences and sign ins! At Thammasat, as a BBA student, you’re only allowed to miss 4 classes per subject, and if you miss more than that you need to get dean’s permission to take the final exam, so basically you run the risk of failing. You have to sign in at the beginning of the class which is the first 15 minutes of class and they are very strict about it. Don’t miss this time! After that time, you’re considered late and it’s 1/2 an absence.

Now to my classes. Between Fisher and Thammasat, there are only 3 approved classes to take, so I’m in those 3 and I’m also in another class as well. The system over here for education is a lot different from the US, so if you’re studying abroad here I hope you’re really ready for a big challenge. I came in with expectations that I shouldn’t have and it gave me some challenges.

I’m currently in:

  • Marketing 201: An interesting class with a really cool professor. Very engaged and loves to talk about the United States and marketing campaigns around the world.
  • International Business 311: Interesting class, outspoken professor who challenges you.
  • Operations Management 211: Very difficult class. I struggled really hard with this one and found I had to study much more than in the United States to get a good grade.
  • Entrepreneurship 211:  Good class, doesn’t teach you too much about how to be an entrepreneur, rather studying previous entrepreneurs and their methods.

The way that Thammasat Business School works is very much on a group based system. The school really advocates for group projects which means leadership skills are tested and so are teamwork skills. I’ve done group projects in the past, but they were no comparison to the projects I did here. It’s not necessarily that the content is more difficult because it’s not, rather you’re dealing with students from around the world, many of whom are not native English speakers, and who also have different systems of doing work. For example, many of my teachers have informed me that it is typical of Thai students to do assignments right before they’re due, which is different from how a lot of students in the United States do work. Another thing is that the size of group projects is generally a lot larger, and I found many of my projects ranging from 7 people – 13 people in a group. This was one of my biggest challenges; unfortunately I enjoy being a leader, so I put myself in positions of leading groups a lot and this was a challenge I wasn’t entirely prepared for. If you’re coming here for exchange be ready for group projects.

Another intercultural challenge is the concept of “Thai Time” that doesn’t just extend to time. It follows through with communication, assignments, and the accomplishment of most tasks. In the United States, we have a culture of doing things almost instantaneously, and while I usually thrive in that culture, it’s not always the least stressful way of doing things. Thai culture is an extreme opposite. Professors rarely email back, our exchange coordinator rarely emailed back, class cancellations and reschedulings were posted days before, and anything under the sun you can think of. An example: it’s currently November 26th, and I have 2 weeks left of school here (which is very sad). I have none of my grades for any of my classes yet, which would be an atrocity not to see any of my grades on Canvas. At home I usually check them all the time, and calculate my grades on excel so I can get a rough estimate of my GPA. Here, that’s impossible in Thailand. I asked for my grades and was told I would receive them “maybe in the next month or so?” and when I asked for my grade I was told “you’re doing above average!” That’s just how things are here and you have to evolve to adjust to the difference in the culture. Call on all the skills you learned at home to manage your time, your groups, and assignments, but also learn to relax a little otherwise you won’t make it!

I won’t say Thammasat was an easy school because it wasn’t. I enjoyed my classes (except for Operations, yikes) and it was really cool to experience a different style of school. Our uniforms show the rest of Thailand that we’re students of an incredible institution and it’s gotten me much respect (and many taxi discounts) by being a Thammasat student. I will say that I have encountered some difficult times, just because of the intercultural boundaries and the lack of immediate (or any) responses like we expect in the US. That being said, you should understand this before you go, have no expectations, and be prepared with an open mind. Either way you’ll have a great time and you’ll meet some amazing people!

Life in Bangkok – A Typical Week

Live through a typical week in Bangkok, Thailand with Talia Bhaiji, as she shares her week as a student at Thammasat University on the Student Exchange Program.

There’s no typical week in Bangkok, but I’ll do my best to try and describe what I do here, and how a week here goes.

Monday: I usually head to the school library or the cafe next to Amarin to get some work done. I prefer to get my work done early in the week, so that I can have the opportunity to enjoy my weekends with my friends or on a trip. Sometimes, if I am on a trip, I’ll fly home/take a bus home this morning, so that I can have a full day before school; lots of my friends have class on Mondays, so it’s cool for me to go shopping or go to a museum I missed out on earlier.

Tuesday: Class 9-12, Class 1-4. I’ll stay on campus all day, breakfast at 7/11, and lunch at the canteen. At the end of the day, I’ll usually head home, get a quick nap in (the heat takes it out of your body) and usually do some homework at night or spend time with my friends.

Wednesday: Class 9-12. Sometimes I’ll stay on campus and get lunch at the canteen (it’s so cheap, food is on average 30 baht=$0.90) and maybe go to the library for some work. Sometimes we’ll go do something after school, a couple days ago we went and did laser tag after class which was so much fun! At night, we usually all hang out on the rooftop or play cards in someone’s room. Sometimes we’ll go check out a live band, or hang around at an event around Bangkok; there’s always lots of concerts and lots to do in the area. If you have a Facebook, start RSVPing to a bunch of events and you’ll see the hundreds of things to do in Bangkok all the time.

Thursday: Class 9-12, and after class I usually always head home after an exhausting week of class and take a nap. If we’re going on a trip, we usually always leave at night, or if my friends have already gone, I’ll usually leave right after my class and head out. If not, we’ll enjoy a nice night in Bangkok, maybe staying in and watching a movie or walking around a nice new neighborhood.

Friday: If I’m not on a trip, I’m spending a lot of time with my friends. Since the majority of people have class Monday-Thursday, Fridays are usually off for everyone. We usually go somewhere and do something fun, or take the time to explore somewhere new in Bangkok. There’s so many places to get lost in the city and so much to do, minus the pricey taxi rides.

Saturday: We’ve used Saturdays as a day to start exploring new restaurants all around Bangkok. Unfortunately there’s almost no restaurants around Amarin, so we’re usually forced to go outside of our neighborhood, but there’s a ton of nice restaurants in Khao San. If you’re on the road, check out Ethos Vegetarian Restaurant, May Kaidee, and Taste of India! Even Burger King, their veggie burger is absolute amazing. They’re some of my favorites that I’ve been able to find just by wandering around and exploring.

Sunday: Many times Sunday is the day we’re getting back from a trip so it’s filled with lots of laundry, cleaning, and showers. I know that doesn’t sound glamorous but not all of Student Exchange is. If we’re not traveling I’m usually still doing homework and getting ahead for the weeks that I am traveling since it’s nearly impossible to get homework done while you’re backpacking. We also go to Yimsoo Cafe and hang out and do homework!

I hope you enjoyed a week in Bangkok!

November Photos in Austria

Ohio State Senior Peyton Bykowsk shares some of her favorite moments while abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Vienna this November. Including Christmas Markets, travel to Italy, visiting the Museumquarter, and end of term classes at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU).

Greetings from Vienna! This November has been one to remember. Classes have been busy and full of fun projects, Museumquartier has opened some amazing exhibits, the legendary Christmas Markets have opened, and a trip to Italy topped it all off! Here are some photos of the month.

Christmas Market at Rathausplatz

Friends and I at the Rathausplatz Christmas Market just a few days ago. Christmas markets are my absolute favorite, this is just one of many in Vienna! They are incredibly festive, fun, and full of great gifts and treats.

Rathaus is is the City Hall building of Vienna and it is one of the most spectacular buildings in the city (especially when lit up with Christmas lights). For more information regarding the different Viennese Christmas markets, here is a link.

Travel to Italy

This November I traveled to Italy where I spent 2 days in Rome, 2 days in Florence, and 1 day in Milan. The trip was incredible, filled with good food, amazing history and incredible beauty. Below are a few pictures from Rome and Florence.

The Museumquarter 

Museumquarter is one of the most interesting parts of Vienna with several large museums in the area, and it is directly across from Hofburg Palace. They have some incredible exhibits, and you could last for hours in just one of the massive museums in the platz. Here is a glimpse inside the Fine Arts museum, its incredible interior, and a link to their webpage!

End of Term Classes

As the semester is nearing towards the last month, classes are certainly  busier. Here is a picture of a typical classroom set up at WU. This day was a study session for an exam where many peers got together to study and quiz one another in preparation.

Vienna has  been a spectacular choice for my study abroad experience. It is hard to believe I am nearing on my last month in this amazing country. From the interesting history, incredible beauty, amazing people and peers, and all of the fun culture that I got to dive into, Vienna was certainly the best choice for what I wanted to gain from the entirety of this experience. I look forward to a December filled with more Christmas Markets, continuing to build relationships with peers, and, most importantly, one of a kind experiences.