I’ll Take a Double Shot of Being Uncomfortable Please

A month into her Student Exchange Program in Italy, Angela Adams shares her insights, tips, and advise on living in Milan! From the cultural difference in personal space and way of life, to the wonderfully delicious food in the city, such as cafes, gelato, pizza, and more!

I can’t believe it has already been a month that I’ve been in Milan. It still feels surreal! I have definitely encountered a big learning curve since I’ve been here and I am ready to learn more. There are 5 cultural and environmental elements that have stuck out to me that I would like to share.

1.) Transportation

OSU has the COTA and the inner campus bus system, but to navigate Milan properly, you need to understand the ATM system. This system is responsible for the tram and metro lines. It makes it fairly easy to get into the city and to Bocconi University. The first day I got here, I attempted to take the tram to Bocconi and took the correct tram, but in the complete opposite direction! Took me an hour to get to where I actually needed to go.

In order to ride the tram or metro, you have to buy a ticket to ride the tram or metro every time you ride or you may get fined, because they do random checks. I highly suggest looking into getting an ATM card and paying for it monthly. It took me sometime to adjust to traveling around this way, because I am so used to walking to campus or driving around. It has been interesting learning and adapting to a different mode of transportation for every day life. Another recommendation for future exchange students is downloading the Transit app and ATM app. The Transit app shows you the most efficient travel routes to your destination and gives you the details of which transportation to take. The ATM app is helpful if you need to buy a quick ticket instead of buying one at a ticket office.

2.) Personal Space

I am Greek so I am used to talking close and being affectionate to people I know. But for someone not used to these mannerisms, it can be uncomfortable. Trust me, I have had my fair share of awkward encounters while studying here, but it’s how you learn!

One thing I have noticed that most friends greet each other with kisses on the cheeks. Doesn’t matter if it’s guys or girls greeting each other. The country is a very affectionate country whether it’s friends or couples, it is very apparent. Another thing is that the ATM system can get very busy, so sometimes the tram to school is packed like a sardine can. You just have to be used to standing close to strangers. This is the same for most restaurants too. The spaces and tables are usually small and you feel like you are sitting on top of each other.

3.) Timing

If you’re a type A personality and constantly on the go, you’re going to need to learn to chill in Italy. You can still be a planner and organize your life, but rushing to class, events, or wherever is not a thing. Compared to the US, the people here are much more relaxed. For instance, it’s not really a thing for people to eat while they’re walking, even if they’re late. Eating is a time for relaxation and the Italians believe you should take time to sit and slowly eat your food.

The timing of things is also pushed back later than US timing. Lunch is usually in the late afternoon like 2-3 pm as opposed to US time of 11-1. There are also times for “siesta” or relaxing periods. It is not uncommon for businesses to close after the lunch rush and not reopen until the evening. Most night life and going out for dinner isn’t until at least 8 pm as well.

This has been a bit of a change for me, but I have honestly enjoyed the slowed down pace of life. It makes me analyze how I was living  my life back at Columbus, and most of the things I rushed around to or worried about things that weren’t  important.

4.) Grocery Shopping

When you first arrive in Italy you are overwhelmed by a lot of things. While you are settling into your housing and surroundings, you should definitely go to the grocery store. It can be intimidating at first if you’re concerned about the language barrier, but most people understand some English or they get the gist of what you’re trying to say. Buying groceries also helps you save money instead of going out to eat for everything.

I live in Arcobelano Residence (a university dorm) and there is a grocery store that is less than 5 minutes walking distance. First thing I noticed is that the shopping carts are different. They are basket-like with 4 wheels that you can pull with you or carry if that is what you prefer to do. I also learned later on you are allowed to roll the carts back with you to the residence and leave them outside once you have unloaded your groceries. Another difference is certain fruits and vegetables you have to weigh and label yourself. The first time I went, I brought bananas and apples up to the cashier and they couldn’t scan them because I didn’t know that I had to label them myself. One big difference is when you are checking out, they will ask if you want plastic bags and you have to tell them how many you want because you have to pay for them. They are super inexpensive, but I suggest getting a reusable bag to make things easier. I personally just roll my groceries back with the cart, but almost everyone uses reusable bags.

I can’t speak for other residence halls, but if you end up in Arcobelano, you probably will need to buy cooking materials. I had to buy a fork, a spoon, a plate, a pot, and a pan. If you end up buying pots and pans, you NEED to buy ones that use induction. I accidentally bought the wrong ones, but the workers at the grocery store were nice enough to let me return them. It is a good investment to buy cooking ware because it will help to save money and cook instead of eating out!

5.) Food

If you love pizza and pasta, you are in the right place. My one piece of advice pertaining to food while studying abroad is treat yourself. If you’re a health nut there are ways to eat healthy or workout, but don’t forget to just enjoy yourself. The culture and social aspects of eating is big in Italy.

An important food aspect is apertivo. Almost all restaurants have one in the evening. They usually start around 8 pm and go for a few hours. You pay about 10 euros and you get a drink and unlimited small food plates. It is a buffet style, so you can help yourself to as much as you want. When you first arrive in Italy and start meeting people, apertivos are the thing to go to in the first 1-2 weeks. I strongly recommend going to as many as you can because that is where I met a lot of the other exchange students.

My one true love here has been the coffee. If you’re a coffee fiend, Italy will be heaven for you. Back home, I usually just drink a lot of black coffee. The big difference here is the espresso, or caffes. The first time I ordered a caffe I was really confused because of how small it was. I absolutely love the caffes now, and I don’t know how I am going to go back to black coffee in the states. If you want a larger drink, you should order a cappuccino or order a double caffe (cafe doppio). If you are in dire need of regular black coffee, you can order an caffe americano. I don’t recommend it because it is not as good as a caffe. If you order a cappuccino, it is not really proper to order it after 11 am because it is considered a “heavy” drink. Of course they’ll still serve you if you do, but it’s just a small custom I’ve heard about.

A big thing to note with coffee places is that they are called “bars” so don’t be alarmed if people ask you to go to the bar on the corner at 10 am. People stand at an actual bar and take their time sipping on caffes hence the name. My last comment on coffee in Milan, is that this is where the CEO of Starbucks was inspired to revamp Starbucks, so there is a Starbucks Reserve in the city center. You should definitely go and check it out if you have the chance!

Some places I recommend to go try are Luini (panzerotti) and Cioccolati Italian (gelato). These places are pretty popular, but I honestly have not dined in the city center a lot. However, two apertivo places I recommend are Yguana Cafe and Maya. I have been to a lot of apertivos and I feel that these two offer decent food and drinks for the same price as everywhere else. Around campus, I highly suggest Dahlia’s Lab, Il Fortino Milano, and Napulenga. Dahlia’s Lab is a cool cafe to hang with friends and do some work. It does get very busy around lunch time because a lot of students go there, so sometimes it is difficult to do work there. The pricing is decent and the food is delicious! Il Fortino Milano is where I go to probably twice a week to do work and grab food. It is very inexpensive and a quiet place to work. You can get an “American” breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast, cafe) for 5 euros which is amazing and good if you’re a little homesick. If you love pizza and are starving on campus, Napulenga is the spot. It is a small place, but they are very quick. You can get a good size pizza for 8-10 euro! I have been a few times and love it every time! There are many good places to eat around campus and Milan. You just takes time to taste test them.

There are many more cultural nuances and at times it can be overwhelming, but it’s part of the journey. You’re going to be meeting a lot of people and learning a lot of things when you first arrive. It is all overwhelming, but in a good way. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable because you are going to mess up and there is no way to avoid it. Don’t be like me on my few first days in Italy and being too scared to order food. The Italians are very friendly people and have a beautiful culture. All I can say is get used to being uncomfortable and be able to laugh at yourself because the whole trip is a learning process.

Going Abroad Tips That Are Actually Helpful

Studying on the Student Exchange Program, Lindsay Lieber lists up the 9 things she wish she would have known or have learned since landing in the country. From cloths to plugs to traveling, let her help you get prepared to go to Madrid, Spain!

Image may contain: Beth Dooley Lieber, smiling, standing, sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

You’ve just stepped off the airplane and you already feel jet-lagged and dehydrated. People are rushing around you, they’re not speaking English, and all you want to do is get your bags and get to your accommodation. Studying abroad can be stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be. Below is a list of 9 things I wish I would have known or have learned since landing in Spain.

  1. Bring a change of clothes and some toiletries in your carry on. A few of my friends had their luggage lost on the way to their host country, and the only clothes they had were the ones on their backs. This is especially problematic if your luggage is lost for several days, so to avoid being that smelly newcomer when meeting your new international friends it’s a good idea to pack a spare outfit.
  2. Don’t forget an adapter! If you’re like me, you brought an adapter for a two prong plug but failed to remember that your laptop has a three prong plug and needs charging too. And if you’re even more like me, you ended up buying a $16 one at a store in Spain that still didn’t end up fitting your plug. Moral of the story: it will be cheaper and more convenient to buy an adapter beforehand instead of in your host country or at the airport. And Amazon sells them for very cheap.
  3. Getting Euros at a decent conversion rate. If you arrive and need Euros, I can almost guarantee you that the airport will rip you off in terms of exchange rates. Since I need cash to pay my rent, the best option for me so far has been to use the Santander ATMs and withdraw large sums of Euros at a time at a 5€ ATM fee and a $5 PNC fee . Depending on which bank you have it may be different, but the PNC Virtual Wallet Student reimburses the PNC fee up to 2 times each statement period which is nice, especially if you don’t intend to open a checking account with a Spanish bank.
  4. Know the holidays of your host country. Again, if you’re like me, you flew in on Epiphany which is the equivalent of Spanish Christmas. Therefore, when you were hungry and tried to find food by your apartment, you realized that everywhere was closed. To avoid this situation, make sure you know if there are any holidays when you’re booking your flights.
  5. Siestas are a real thing. The siesta occurs around 2-5pm where many shops will close and there is a block in the day where there are no classes. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is sleeping. People will take leisurely walks to clear their heads, run a couple errands, or eat a big lunch that will hold them over until their dinner at 9-10pm.
  6. Smoking is very popular. Walking on the streets the person in front of you may be smoking, the students before class are outside smoking, it’s likely that you have a roommate that smokes. Coming from the US, this was something that surprised me. You don’t see as many people smoking in public and it has been ingrained since an early age about how harmful it is for your health. Nonetheless, there is a strong social smoking culture in Madrid that you should be aware of.
  7. The truth about traveling around Europe. Yes, it is very inexpensive to travel around Europe, and you have probably heard about buying a round-trip ticket for $40 or less.  But the truth is, if you’re a student with classes during the week, finding that $40 round-trip ticket will be difficult. Most of the best deals for flights are only if you are willing to travel in the middle of the week, with Wednesday usually being the cheapest day. Due to my class schedule I try to book flights Thursday (I have Fridays off) to Sunday or Monday and they usually cost me between $80 and $110.
  8. Not all hostels are created equal. Definitely do your research if you plan to stay in one. Think about location and cleanliness- How close is it to the city center? If it’s not close to the city center, is it close to a metro? Does it seem like they clean it regularly? And girls beware. I chose to stay in a mixed hostel towards the beginning of my trip and was the only female among 4 other guys who snored and farted all night in their sleep.
  9. Don’t  forget to travel around Spain! I know lots of people talk about traveling throughout Europe but don’t forget to travel within your host country as well. Toledo is just a short (and free with your metro card) bus ride away, Salamanca has the third oldest still operating university in the world, Malaga was Picasso’s birthplace, and Valencia is famous for the Falles festival held every March.

I have been in Madrid for about a month now, and while the transition wasn’t always the smoothest, I am having the time of my life. My favorite part has been seeing all of the intricate and unique architecture throughout the cities I have visited. There’s so much to see and do and I am beyond grateful that I get to be a part of it. So get excited about your trip, and get excited about exploring a new culture!

Go Confidently – Overcoming the Challenges of Going Abroad

Angela Adams is about to go abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Italy, and shares her tips, advice, and thoughts as she gets ready to steps onto that airplane taking her abroad!

Waiting.  That is all I feel I can do right now. In less than 3 weeks I will be in a country I have never been to surrounded by other exchange students from around the world I am eager to meet.  I have been planning my trip to Milan for about a year now while constantly asking myself, “is it worth it?”.  I am leaving all of my friends and the comfort of my campus for a semester in an unknown country.  Plus, the worry and stress about securing the correct documentation, living arrangements, and class scheduling has played into my doubt.  Some advice I have for students who are planning to go abroad is to start preparing as soon as possible. Do not wait until the last minute because deadlines always approach quicker than you think. Also, don’t be afraid to ask faculty or other students for help! Use whatever resources and support systems you have. If you prepare well enough, the doubt won’t seem so perpetual and the only thing left to do is to get yourself on the plane.

The one thing that has pushed me through all of my doubt and worry is the regret if I decided not to study abroad.  I know I would be upset myself if I let doubt win me over.  When I think of who I want to be and the life I want to live, I think about doing things that take me out of my comfort zone. I want to be somewhere I have never been and not know the local language.  I want to say yes to spontaneous trips and adventures. I want to say yes to the unknown.  Whenever I am unsure of what I am doing with my life, I often think of this quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined”.

I think the thing I am most excited for is traveling. I definitely want to travel throughout Italy as much as I can, but I also want to visit as many countries as possible. Another thing I look forward to is meeting a lot of new people! Bocconi University is known for having a lot of exchange students from all over the world, so I hope to be meeting a lot of them. My whole mindset for this trip is to go with the flow of everything. I can try to plan out trips and experiences, but sometimes things don’t always go the way you want them to. I am looking forward to all the ups and downs that come with this trip.

Most of us picture how we want to live our lives, but we rarely take action to make our dreams into a reality. The promise I have made to myself is to become more of a doer than a dreamer.  We can dream all day, but eventually we have to wake up.  Might as well wake up to the life you have always imagined.

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.

All the Not-So-Good Things and How to Deal with Them

Michaela Santalucia shares some of her start of semester challenges as she started her life in Madrid, Spain on the Student Exchange Program, to help future students prepare for some things they may confront. At the end, the challenges she faced helped her develop her independence, be a better problem-solver, and grow her resiliency. Skills she plans to use moving forward!

One of my biggest fears doing an exchange program was the level of independence required, especially since it was my first time abroad. Before I left I kept thinking “What if something bad happens and I don’t know how to handle it and I have to come home” or “What if I can’t handle adult problems like dealing with my landlord in Spanish?”. I think these fears are present in many people’s heads when they are heading abroad and/or these fears are holding them back. For these reasons, I made a list of the not-so-great things that happened to me to prove to everyone that you will be okay. Also, I can now laugh at these experiences (at the time I didn’t find them as hilarious).

On my way to Madrid and in my first few days in Spain, I ran into some issues that at the time seemed really inconvenient and I wasn’t sure how to navigate, but that I managed fairly well. Here they are:

  1. On my flight to Madrid, we hit some moderately scary turbulence (my phone and book flew into the air). This was incredibly scary because this one lady wouldn’t stop screaming, and it was only the third time I have ever been on a plane, so I was freaking out for a few minutes. Luckily, the pilot came of the intercom to assure us we would be okay, and that he was going to try to fly around the storm rather than through it. I think I fell back asleep within 15 minutes.
  2. After it taking me 20 minutes inside the Madrid-Barajas Airport to figure out the MyTaxi App (I highly encourage downloading this before you arrive and connecting your credit card in advance to make your airport experience easier, if you don’t want to speak Spanish to a taxi driver), I finally made it to the taxi. However, when I was getting into the car I dropped my phone outside of the car and almost left it. Luckily, I heard something fall and stopped the driver right after he pulled away and ran back for it. Not only was I embarrassed, but I think I saw my actual life flash before my eyes on day one.
  3. The first day I was in the city, I literally just slept the entire day. However, on the second day, I needed to leave to buy groceries and furnishings for my apartment. On my way back home from the grocery store, I could not get my apartment unlocked despite having the key. The key was not a traditional key I was used to because the building was old, and despite turning the key all the way until it stopped, the door would not open. At this point, my roommates were not in the apartment yet, and my landlord’s office was not open and they could not be reached.

With no other solution in sight, I started knocking on doors in my buildings. Person after person rejected the exasperated girl speaking broken Spanish at their door (probably because my Spanish was making no sense). However, I finally found a woman to come and help. She got the door open after many tries and we practiced on the door together. However, when I left again later, the same thing happened, and I could not get the door open. I had to ask another stranger for help. At this point, I was afraid to leave my apartment, so I spent the entire weekend inside until I could get into contact with my landlord because I didn’t want to get locked out, have no one to help me, and have to pay for a locksmith. On Monday I called the landlord probably 5 times to get them to send someone over. When they finally came, they taught me the trick to opening the door (which they probably should have told me when I checked in) and I never got locked out again.

This was by far the scariest part of my entire trip. I called my mom crying (which made her freak out) and I had never wanted to come home more than I did on this day. However, looking back on it, I realized that I was letting my fear get to me, because if I could open the door at any point, I probably could have opened it those first few days, but I let my exhaustion and fear of being in a new country get a hold of me. Additionally, it taught me that I would have to be incredibly persistent with my landlord in comparison to the U.S. Now that I have overcome that though, I feel like I am more resilient.

  1. The last semi-dramatic thing that happened to me abroad was that when I arrived, our toilet was broken for almost two weeks. Upon arriving to the apartment, I noticed that there was water by the toilet, but since it had rained, I thought it had come through the open bathroom window, boy o boy was I incorrect. Turns out, every time we flushed the toilet, some of what we flushed would end up on the bathroom floor minutes later. Generally, Spaniards are a little more relaxed than in the U.S., and the landlords follow suit when answering requests. We had to email them a total of ten times to even get them to come to the apartment. In total, it took 12 days for them to completely fix the toilet, and for most of those, I refused to go into the bathroom because of the smelly health hazard. This experience taught me that those in charge are not as receptive in the U.S. and without resources like Student Legal Services and the Student Advocacy Center, I would constantly need to advocate and push for my needs while abroad.

At the time, all of these experiences seemed like everything I feared before I left was coming true. However, these problems have taught me how to rely on myself for problem-solving, advocate for my needs, and maintain my own safety.

Although these experiences were difficult and should be discussed. They were outweighed by the positive experiences I had. While in Spain, I formed cross-cultural friendships inside and outside the classroom that will last me a lifetime. With my fellow students, I was able to discuss world problems and receive viewpoints and experiences that are not common in the United States. For example, I learned a ton about the Denmark legal system while in Spain, just by comparing business law with another student in my class. This cross-cultural experience was the most valuable part of my trip.

However, learning to manage all of my apartment problems did have some almost immediate real-world applications. While traveling during my time abroad (to England, Ireland, Morocco, Germany, and within Spain) I felt like my problems solving abilities was heightened. I understood that when I experienced a problem or mix up in a different country (language barriers, transportation issues, payment mix-ups), that I need to be conscientious of the culture of the country I was in and how my American mindset would cause me to react to things. This allowed the few mix ups I had while traveling (flight delays, credit card problems, not knowing how to use public transport) to seem like small bumps in the road whereas if they occurred at the beginning of my time abroad it would have seemed world ending. Reflecting on my trip abroad, it has allowed me to realize that I can feel completely comfortable travelling almost anywhere in the world, and that would not have been possible without all the not-so-good things.

Tips and Tricks to Maximize your Experience in Spain!

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

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

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

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

International Travel Tips, from an International Traveler!

Working hard all week, calls for international travel on the weekend! See how Junior Alex Jackson balanced the two and her tips on traveling abroad while abroad on the Summer Global Internship Program in Spain.

The great part about having an internship abroad is that you are abroad! This means you get to travel on the weekend with your friends and see the rest of the world more easily and usually less expensive than you would if you left from the United States. It is also a great opportunity to get to know other students on the trip.

The first weekend I decided it would be best to stay in Madrid and just explore the city I would be calling home for a couple months. I was able to find some great restaurants and hang out at the tallest rooftop in Madrid, Círculo de Bellas Artes. We were able to relax, take pictures, and see how beautiful of a city Madrid really is. Besides Madrid, within Spain I also went to Granada, Barcelona, Valencia, and the island of Mallorca. My favorite out of all these places was Barcelona! It was just like Madrid but with a beach, and we were able to see La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Fun travel tip: If you want to see all the big landmarks of the city book a bike tour, it is a great way to get exercise and see the entire city!

Traveling outside of Spain was a little more expensive for us. I think if we would have booked those weekend while we were still in the United States it would have been cheaper. However, a group of us got together and booked the trips! They were a little expensive but definitely worth it because I was able to explore the world. Outside of Spain I went to Portugal, France, and London. Portugal was a ton of fun because almost everyone from the internship program went on the trip. We all stayed in a hostel together and were able to experience the celebration of Saint John, the patron Saint of Porto, Portugal. At this festival there were food trucks, drinks, and hammers! As part of the tradition, people hit each other over the head with hammers during the event. Originally, you only hit those you wanted to ‘court’ with a hammer, but today it is just fun for everyone to do! It was so much fun to be able to experience another culture! Beside Portugal my favorite place was France, more specifically Disneyland France! It was a great time and was a smaller version of Disney World Florida.

From all this traveling I learned two things: to plan and be flexible. It is important to come in with a plan, but you also have to be flexible with it. It can be hard to be flexible when something goes wrong because you have limited time, but if you worry about what you are missing you will miss the entire trip! However, it is important to plan the excursions like the bike tour or even tickets to a museum. Also, many times the hotel will have pamphlets for you of things to do while in country. If you run out of things to do for the weekend ask a local, they can tell you where the best spots are to eat or visit! 

T-Minus One Week until Global Immersion…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful view from my trip to Killarney, Ireland!

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

A photo from cross country skiing in Helsinki, Finland!

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

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

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

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

Berlin Cathedral, in Berlin Germany.

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

Enjoying sweet treats in Tallinn, Estonia!

Networking…. Globally!

Network, network, network… Katelyn Mistele has heard this at OSU, but felt the need and benefits of networking abroad even more as she was on the Student Exchange Program in Denmark! Read her advise on what she did and wished she have done while abroad on networking with peers and professionals.

“Today it’s all about who you know not what you know.”

“Network, network, network.”

We hear it all the time, and I’ve even experienced it but networking is an essential and integral part of today’s business environment.  I personally have experienced the impacts of networking, and challenged myself when I was abroad to network on a global scale. During my time in Denmark I was able to begin to create my network of global individuals, but there is still a lot of room to grow. In this post I talk about networking on a global scale, and tips for things I didn’t do during my time in Denmark, but wish I did.

Networking with Peers

When studying at a large business university, networking happens naturally. If you get 500 plus exchange students at a university that is 20,000 plus students from all over the world there to solely study business networking occurs naturally. A lot of times I found myself sharing stories about my previous internships with other students and they would do the same. At the end of the day I left Denmark with a lot of new LinkedIn connections, and a new network of individuals who I could potentially connect with again in the future.

I personally have found a lot of my job opportunities through networking. I always ask individuals what they do for a living and share my aspirations and experiences with them at the end of the conversation too. I have found that people love talking about their careers and/or goals, and if you act curious it could result in a connection that could benefit you in the future. This is what I did with a lot of my peers abroad. While the relationships might not benefit me right now in the future, if I decide to make a career change I now have a large network of individuals from all over the world who could possibly assist in this.

A photo of some of my abroad peers.  Students from Michigan, Boston, South Carolina, and Canada!

 

Networking with Professors/Professionals

I wish I would have taken my networking skills to the next level and connected with my professors at my university. At the time I didn’t have aspirations to work abroad but now when I am searching out a full time career this is something that is on my radar that wasn’t before. A lot of the professors at Copenhagen Business School were from all over the world and were expatriates too, so they would have been able to help me navigate if a global career is for me and how to navigate the legalities of making this reality. I suggest to anyone studying abroad to connect with your professors! They could be a powerful resource in the future.

Social Benefits of Networking

Apart from networking from a career standpoint there is a lot of benefits of socially networking as well. I was able to connect with people from all over the world even prior to leaving for Denmark. I also make an effort to get individuals contact information who I meet. I was able to leverage these individuals I met for not only suggestions and recommendations, but potentially to stay with them if I travel to their home country. Prior to leaving for Denmark I met exchange students at Ohio State from the Netherlands and Italy and while I didn’t end up connecting with them in person while I was in Europe, they were able to provide me with travel suggestions and tips for when I visited their country. At the end of the day culture sharing is so important and a part of daily life in Europe, so these individuals want to connect with you (I wrote a post on culture sharing earlier feel free to look for it if you’re interested!). One of my connections I met from the Netherlands even invited me to her home to dine with her family. While I didn’t end up being able to take advantage of this opportunity, it was a powerful feeling knowing that I had made a connection that was this ingrained. All of these connections I made was simply by being curious!

If studying abroad or even just traveling I urge you to network, network, network! Whether socially or professionally, both of these types of relationships can help you in the future. Even if it’s not on your radar yet! So go network abroad and at home!!

A photo from students from schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota!