Kakehashi Project 6: What’s a Fork?

The big day has come to present in front of the Foreign Ministry of Japan! The students suite up and show OSU style business presentation. After, they head out to Tokyo to see the city, as one student sums it “This is the coolest city ever, it has everything! Once we get back to Columbus, we’re going to miss Tokyo so much.”

On the morning of day five, we woke up and got dressed in our best clothes, ready to represent Ohio State University in the ending meeting with Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Evan sat down on the bus wearing a half-windsor knot on his necktie, and was quickly verbally accosted by the other males on the trip as well as Dr. Prud’homme. One of his peers tied Evan’s necktie with a full-windsor knot, and then we were ready to go. Our bus took us to the Oita airport and we had a short flight back into Tokyo. This was our fourth flight of the trip, so the excitement and nerves that typically come with flying had completely left us. Jacob and Cindy were both fixated on their phones throughout the entire flight, looking at the presentation making sure it would be perfect. As soon as we landed back in Tokyo, we went to lunch at an ‘American’ restaurant downtown. The meal was baked fish, potatoes, vegetables, rice, and some sort of corn chowder. We were all stunned to find silverware on our tables instead of chopsticks; it seemed sacrilegious to use forks and knives on a culturally immersive trip to Japan, and we actually started to enjoy using chopsticks by this point.

Austin showing off his chopstick skills back in Oita

We headed to the JICE reporting session and rejoined with the groups from University of Kentucky, Rutgers, and UNC – Chapel Hill. Our group presented third after Rutgers and UNC. These first two presentations were very well done and offered a lot of insight into what their takeaways were. Instead of going to Oita, Rutgers and UNC traveled to Tochigi, a prefecture very near to Tokyo, so it was interesting to hear how their experience differed from ours. For instance, they met with the Tochigi prefectural government for a lecture on local industry and trade, and they made a visit to a local farm for strawberry picking. The UNC group put together a short video of small clips from their experience, which had a very thoughtful and professional feel to it.

Conversely, the OSU presentation focused on sincerity, authenticity, and gratitude towards JICE for giving us the opportunity to travel to Japan and have such a wonderful experience. They stressed how we came into the trip with very limited knowledge on Japan, and how much we had learned about the Japanese economy (including the jobs Japan were creating in the United States), the cleanliness of Japan, the regional diversity we saw through our time in Tokyo and Oita, Japanese hospitality, and the concept of ichi-go ichi-e (“Once in a lifetime”, taught to us by the tea master in Oita). They also outlined our action plan to continue learning the Japanese language, maintain communication with the people we met on our trip, post content about our trip on social media and the Fisher website (e.g. this blog), presenting to the investment clubs on campus about Japanese markets, and share our experiences with our friends and families. They closed with quotes from two members of our group that we thought had really taken in the experience and made the most of the trip. First, they talked about how Dennis had been learning the language in school, and how rewarding it was for him to be able to come to Japan and get to apply his knowledge of the language. Second, they outlined Lily’s reflection on how she was able to make a significant amount of authentic connections in Japan without sharing a common language. The larger OSU group, Lorraine, Dr. Prud’homme, and Miho were all extremely proud of how they represented us, Fisher, and Ohio State University.

Presentation Team representing OSU in front of the three other school as well as JICE. From left to right: Evan, Casey, Makayla, Cindy, Jacob, Judson

After Kentucky gave their presentation, two representatives from JICE spoke expressing their thanks for our participation in the Kakehashi Project and hope that this would encourage and strengthen the ties between Japan and the United States. Then, one representative from each school went to the front of the room to receive a certificate. We had chosen Austin to represent us and receive the certificate; he was all smiles and gave a very deep bow to the JICE representatives.

After the session concluded, we went to Odaiba, a very large mall just outside of downtown Tokyo. We were given a significant amount of free time to shop and explore. Most of the stores were western brand stores, such as Adidas and Nike. We found the equivalent of a dollar store (which Kevin aptly called “the Yen store”) called Daiso. A good amount of the products they carried had some element representative of the culture of Japan, so it made for a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts inexpensively. Each item cost ¥108 (roughly $1), so we appreciated it as college students with little disposable income. In addition to a lot of snacks, we were able to find carp-streamers (called koinobori), hand fans, and training chopsticks for children (which we thought would be funny to buy and give to our roommates back in Columbus). Outside, there were several great spots to take pictures of downtown Tokyo, which we all took advantage of.

Tokyo skyline, taken from Odaiba
Ethan, Pat, Alex, and Dennis giving the O-H-I-O

For dinner, we were told to meet outside of a restaurant in the mall called “The Oven” which we found out was an American-style buffet. We joked that the previous night we went to the Japanese Golden Corral, and now we were at the actual Golden Corral. It was more or less what we had expected, offering fried chicken, tacos, macaroni and cheese, meatballs, and a large chocolate fountain.

After dinner as we started to walk to meet the bus, we noticed that Jacob was carrying a bag that had been torn, so Christine D kindly offered him a plastic bag to use. Jacob explained that he had bought a shirt from the mall and then went outside to take pictures of Tokyo. While outside, he went to show some friends from the group his new shirt, and he accidentally dropped it into a muddy spot on the ground, so he took the shirt back inside and tried his best to wash the mud out in the bathroom of the mall. Thus, the shirt was wet, which made the bag disintegrate in the corners. After he was finished explaining what happened, someone asked if it was ruining his usual happy mood. His answer was so positive that it made us all take a minute to reflect: “I mean, we’re in Tokyo! This is the coolest city ever, it has everything! Evan and I are going to Chicago next weekend, and it won’t have half of the cool stuff Tokyo has. Once we get back to Columbus, we’re going to miss Tokyo so much.” His phenomenal attitude and focus on the positive really made an impression on us; some of the people on this trip were excellent picks to go on the Kakehashi Project because of how much it meant to them and how much they appreciated it. The students on the trip like Jacob who made the most of this trip through their openness to the experience and great attitudes are the heart of Fisher and make us all proud to attend Ohio State University. We went back to the hotel ready to take on Tokyo for sightseeing the next day.

Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 7:  Big Day Out in Tokyo

Or read from the start! Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day

Kakehashi Project 5: Ittekimasu or Sayonara?

On the forth day on the Kakehashi Project, the group is confronted with some difficult goodbyes with their host families as they get ready to depart from Oita, Japan. They also finished and practiced their final preparation on the action plan presentation they will give to the Foreign Ministry of the Japan.

On day four, all of the students and home stay families regrouped at the Saiki City Hall. We went up to a large conference room inside and sat down for a talk from the mayor. Most of the host families sat in the back of the room, but Shouko (Joe’s home stay mother – read his blog post to hear more about it!) sat up towards the front next to Miho, the staff from Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE),  who was translating; after the mayor was done speaking, they handed the microphone to Shouko who talked about how much she, Mitsuo, and Soto looked forward to us visiting, and how much they enjoyed hosting us. After Shouko was done speaking, we cleared the chairs from the room to do our group presentations; Cindy led the Ohio State group in singing Carmen Ohio, and the Kentucky group had a few people swing dance and a 4th-year PhD student play a guitar riff.

Shouko speaking to the group at city hall

After the presentations, we left city hall for lunch. Each group sat with their host family, which was nice because they were able to guide us through what each food item was and how to eat it.

Pat, Alex, Jacob, and Lewis with their homestay mother
Christine, Lily, and Amber with their homestay parents

After we were done, we went outside to say our final goodbyes. Even though we were going to be back with Miho, we didn’t want to leave our host families. There are several accounts of what happened next, but Kevin would say that it was extremely dusty outside of the restaurant and he was thus ‘sweating profusely’ from his eyes. We got back on the bus and waved goodbye.

Kevin fighting through an extreme case of eyeball sweating while waving goodbye to Shouko

During our orientation sessions with Kozue, the program coordinator,  we learned two phrases for departing: sayonara, essentially meaning ‘goodbye’ with the connotation that you will not be returning, and ittekimasu, which directly translates as ‘I will go and I will come back.’ This seemed too nuanced for us to try to remember a month before the trip, but it became extremely important as we started having to say our goodbyes. Leaving our homestay families was our first go-around with saying goodbye to some of the people we bonded with during the trip, and it was much harder than we had expected; these people had invited us into their homes and treated us like family. They showed us a true kindness that we couldn’t repay, and we really appreciated it, which really catalyzed the bonds developed during the homestays. In the back of our heads, we knew that we were getting into the back-half of the trip, and in a few short days, we would have to say goodbye to Miho and the country of Japan. Miho kept reminding us not to say ‘goodbye’ to anyone, but ‘see you later.’

We went back to the building where the  Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) representative spoke to us to work on our dissemination plans; prior to the trip, we had been split into ‘social media team,’ ‘video team,’ ‘presentation team,’ and ‘blog team’. Each group had been working on different dissemination methods throughout the trip; social media team had been posting on the Fisher OGB Instagram account, video team had been taking short videos throughout the trip and is planning to edit them into a larger string of videos, blog team had been writing what happened on the trip to be posted in blog form after the trip, and presentation team had to give a presentation in the closing meeting with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). This time gave us an opportunity to regroup and evaluate how we were doing. After quick discussions, the social media team, video team, and blog team took some time to go outside and enjoy the sunny day, as we had spent most of our time either inside buildings or on the bus. Meanwhile, Cindy whipped the presentation team into shape and got the ball rolling on a rough draft of the PowerPoint they would be showing the next day.

Dr. Prud’homme taking a selfie at the dissemination planning session

We left for our hotel to get changed, and then went out to dinner at Stamina Taro, which could best be described as the Japanese equivalent of Golden Corral. Another ‘cook your own meal’ restaurant, raw meat and uncooked vegetables were set up in a buffet, and you cooked your food at a grill at your table. It was extremely tough to correctly time out how long each item should cook for, so most of the meat ended up very overcooked. There was also sushi and desserts available, so after we tried and failed to enjoy the meat and vegetables, we deferred to the shrimp sushi and ice cream (separately but interestingly, we have been suspecting that Miho only likes dessert. It has become a habit for us to ask Miho if she will eat when we go into a restaurant, to which she normally responds “ehhhh, I’m not really hungry, but maybe there’ll be ice cream”). Most of us thought this was most ‘average’ meal of the trip, but Kelly said it was the most enjoyable.

We returned to the hotel so that the presentation team could continue working, while the rest of the group started to decompress in their rooms. About an hour later, we all met in the lobby of the hotel so that the presentation team could go through a trial run. Casey wasn’t feeling well, but she was very determined to give a great presentation. Afterwards, a few people gave some very fiery feedback comments to the presenters, effectively ending the meeting and the night.

Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 6: What’s a Fork?

Or read from the start! Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day

Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day

Read about the start of the Kakehashi Project! How the program started, what the preparation was like, and how the group embarked on their journey to Japan.

Konnichiwa (“Hello” in Japanese) from the bloggers on the Kakehashi Project in Japan! We’re so excited to be able to recount our journey across Japan on the Fisher platform. This will be our introductory blog post, offering some background information on the trip and a hint at what is to come.

In the fall of 2017, the Office of Global Business (OGB) sent out an email to Fisher students inviting them to apply for the Kakehashi project. There wasn’t a lot of details on what it entailed, but the teaser looked very interesting, and the bottom line was that the government of Japan would be sponsoring a trip for a group of students to visit Japan over spring break to learn about the culture, economy, and history of Japan. After a thorough application and interview process,the participants were selected; 23 students and two Resident Directors (Dr. Andrea Prud’homme and Lorraine Pennyman) would be traveling. The OGB program coordinator, Kozue Isozaki, presented two orientation sessions to the group, preparing us on the societal norms of Japan and general lessons for travel; the program even arranged a lunch for us at Akai Hana in Columbus to try out Japanese cuisine and practice our chopstick skills. Since the group is a mixture of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, these orientation sessions were a good way for us to get to know each other. In terms of travel logistics, Kozue recommended that we not check bags for the flight, and instead use smaller bags as carry-ons, since we would be moving with our luggage for a good deal of the trip. Thus, we had a lot of fun practicing packing our suits and dress shirts without wrinkling them.

On the day of our departure, we met at the Columbus airport at 5:45 a.m. U.S. eastern time for a connecting flight to Dallas. After a short layover in Dallas, we boarded our thirteen-hour flight to Tokyo.

In the Dallas airport getting ready for the big flight to Tokyo

The plane was either a 777 or 787, but the takeaway is that we were packed into the plane with an ample supply of movies to watch during the flight. Some of the blog team members were seated together on the flight, which helped pass the time. We arrived in Tokyo at about 5:00 p.m. Japanese time, which is 4:00 a.m. U.S. eastern. After going through customs, we were met by a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) named Miho, who took us to our bus. JICE was the organization that prepared for the in-country logistics of the program. The transition over into the new culture hit us pretty quickly; as we got off the plane and went further through the airport, the signs and conversations around us started to shift from English to Japanese, and once we cleared customs, we were completely thrown into a new land with no knowledge of the language beyond konnichiwa.

Checking out the airport after getting past customs – the only English words are ‘No Entry’

The ride to our hotel took about 90 minutes, and we arrived at about 8:00 pm Japanese time, so we had effectively been awake for roughly 26 hours by this point. Upon arrival, JICE representatives gave us detailed itineraries for the trip as well as dinner, a bento box that heated up after a string was pulled out of the side.

Despite our excitation about arriving in Japan, we were all very worn out, so we went to bed immediately, thus ending our long day of travel.

Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 2: The Undergrads and The PhDs

The Difference in University Culture in Italy

Although questioning if he wanted to leave his comfort zone in the U.S., Chandler Ross took the leap to go abroad for a semester. Now, one month at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program, he shares what it was like starting in a new country and the differences he sees in university culture in Milan,Italy.

So, it’s officially been one month since I started school here at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Before departing on this trip, I’m going to be honest and say that I was very worried and had doubts how this whole experience was going to be. There was comfort in being a third year at OSU, with all my friends and loved ones around me. Why leave that comfort behind for something very unknown? I thought about this for a long time, but I realized that’s exactly why I decided to leave for a semester abroad. The unknown of what this journey would bring, who I would meet, or the new culture I would get to see. I’ve always been adventurous, but have my moments of just playing it safe and going the easy route. Overall, I put aside all of that and went into this journey with an open mind.

When I got to Italy, after a two full days of traveling and some very serious jet lag, it of course felt surreal and yet very scary. I was fully on my own, away from my friends and family in a brand new country. The first week was a mix of being a little homesick, but excitement of exploring a new city with new friends. Milan is a very interesting city. It’s a very metropolitan city filled with TONS of shopping, but turn a corner and you can get transported to an old Italian town, with small streets and beautiful buildings. Some of my favorite parts in town would be Navigli, which has some great apertivo spots, with a very young crowd in the area. Another thing I discovered about Milan is that it’s not a huge touristy town. Before I came here, I thought it would have been tourist after tourist in the city, but Milan’s majority of people here are just people who live here. It makes this city feel more authentic, as you’re meeting real Italians living and working here.

When school started at Bocconi, I honestly had no idea how it was going to be. After one month, it’s very interesting to see the comparisons between a school like Bocconi and OSU. First, Bocconi has this policy called “non-attending student” for classes. This simply means you can tell your professor that you will not be coming to class and that you will just take the final for that class based on the professor’s textbook. That was such a foreign concept due to the fact that you can be upfront about your schedule and decide to still be in the class. I didn’t really like this because I didn’t want only ONE exam to decide whether or not I passed the class. However, another difference is that most classes I’m taking have no midterm. Your grade is simply determined by a final and a group project.

Bocconi’s culture is of course VERY different from OSU. Smoke breaks are very popular here and you can guarantee to see a good amount of Bocconi students outside the buildings chatting and having a cigarette. This is uncommon for OSU, as the campus promotes students to not smoke and be tobacco-free. I had an idea that this was maybe common, I just didn’t understand it was this common where a good portion of the students partake in it. The school itself is really only comprised of a few buildings. My classes are only in 2 buildings, which is of course different from OSU, due to the fact that we have such a huge campus. Bocconi is on the south side of Milan located within the city, so it’s very much a city school.

A huge difference between Bocconi and OSU has to be the clothing between the students. At OSU, a typical student might wear sweatpants or leggings to class and this is just the norm. At Bocconi, you don’t really see anyone wearing sweatpants or leggings. School could be compared to a fashion show with people dressing to impress. Girls in long, luxurious coats and guys in nice shoes is what you see here on campus. It’s an interesting difference because one day I wore sweatpants to class and did get some interesting looks from the students.

Expanding upon Milan, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to travel to new cities. I’ve been able to see Venice, Switzerland and Germany. Each brought their different aspects about what makes them so great. Venice had this high energy spirit for their Carnival celebration. Switzerland had this mountain charm, with a bit of a price tag as it is an expensive country. Germany had this rich history of its town with some great food.

Knowing what I know now, if I had to say anything to myself before I came on this trip, I would say that just truly everything does work out. No matter what the reservations you have or how scary it might be, everything really does work out in the end. I’m just getting started in this journey, but so far it’s been an incredible experience and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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!

Networking at Rikkyo and Job Hunting

Through one of his classes at Rikkyo University, Cayhil Grubbs had the opportunity to visit Adidas Japan! Hear about his experience interacting with business people in Japan on the Student Exchange Program.

My interactions with Japanese business professionals were fairly limited in number, but significant, especially in a class I took called Business Project. In this class, Adidas Japan came in and presented us with a marketing related problem that they are currently facing. We were tasked with finding the best way to measure Net Promoter Score (NPS), and where we could measure it best. We formed groups to solve this problem, and in mid-October and early December we went to Adidas Japan’s headquarters to present our research and solutions.

During my two visits to Adidas Japan’s HQ, I had several opportunities to network with current employees and Rikkyo alumni at Adidas. The employees were more than willing to talk about what it’s like to work in Japan and their experiences with Adidas Japan. I also met several senior executives and mid-level managers that were happy to talk about their career paths, and what they liked or disliked about working in Japan.

I learned a lot about searching for jobs from Japanese students. Looking for a job at a Japanese company in Japan is very different from the United States. Internships differ between the two countries as they usually last one or two days in Japan versus two or three months in the United States. These one day internships are unpaid. Students do most of their network through these internships and career fairs. In Japan, looking for a job once you graduate is called “Job Hunting” as they typically take time off of school to schedule a lot of interviews, do as many one day internships as possible, and go to a lot of career fairs. Japanese workers rarely change companies. As far as networking goes, reach out to your professors and counselors to find out about career fairs and potential job opportunities. Several of the professors at Rikkyo teach part-time and work at various firms. Most networking techniques that work in the U.S. also work in Japan, so put them to use and be persistent.

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!