Operations Global Lab – 中国站,14日小结

2017年5月俄亥俄州立大学三年级的学生孔钰参与了Operations Global Lab 项目,并深入感受了中国商业文化。

如果你和我一样,在美国学习但又希望在不久的将来回到自己的家乡工作,那么Operations Global Lab应该会是你的不二选择。在这个项目里,我们来到中国各地,例如香港,上海;我们还会参观各式各样的公司和工厂,也有和政府深入对话的机会。我们看到了那些出现在我们课堂里的概念和策略,其结合了中国特色的文化,生动的在这里展现。

我们首先去了香港。在香港,我们穿梭在各个高楼大厦之间,参观不同领域的公司;也来到港口,感受这个国际大都市是如何操作它的每天货物流通;我们还去了美国驻香港领事馆,了解美国与香港在商业操作上的差异与相似之处。

让我印象最深刻的是TAL公司。TAL是一家服装生产公司,今年刚好是他们成立的70周年。他们热情得接待了我们,并且邀请各个部门的领导,用一天的时间给我们讲解他们的战略策略和操作理念。我在学校也辅修了服装零售专业,并且希望能够将我在这两个领域学习到的知识很好的运用到我之后的工作中。TAL员工们传递给我们的信息弥足珍贵,是无法仅仅通过课堂或实习能得到的。

之后我们又花了一天的时间,跨过海峡,来到对岸的深圳,参观了俄州大校友王先生的工厂。作为一个供应链管理专业的学生,这是我第一次参观车间,第一次切实看到在课堂上被反复提及的5s, Kanban等操作在实际工作场合上的应用。

结束香港的行程后,我们又来到了中国江浙一带:上海,杭州和苏州。在这些地方,我又有感受到了与香港不一样的体验。相较于香港,这些城市里的公司或工厂显得比较没有那么快节奏了。尤其是参观到太太乐,这个中国本土品牌的时,这些对比变得更加明显。太太乐是一个在中国家喻户晓的品牌。我们参观了其在上海的工厂,并与它的总裁共通参加一个亲密的座谈会。在座谈会上,我们了解到虽然太太乐被雀巢收购,但它依旧有一个独立的自我操作系统。而且在座谈会上,总裁也一直谈起“一带一路”政策对公司的影响。这一点是我们在之前的公司里没有听到过的。

这个项目对我而言受益匪浅。在这个项目里,我认识了很多来自不同专业的同学。我们虽然有着不同的文化背景,但却都被这个国际化的经济社会所吸引。在这14天的旅程中,我们相互交流,相互学习。而且,在参观完这些公司后,我更加坚定了学习供应链管理的决心。

Introducing Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU) in Vienna, Austria

On her very first time outside of the U.S. traveling to Vienna, Austria, senior student Peyton Bykowski finds out that WU is worlds away from Ohio State. She shares her exciting times on the Students Exchange Program attendning Vienna University of Economics and Business Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU) during fall semester of 2017, and the cultural differences she has discovered so far.

I have never traveled outside of the United States before hopping on a massive plain to Vienna for 4 months. Was I nervous? Absolutely. No matter how much reassurance I had received from research and personal stories, I was still scared to fly across the ocean in to an unknown experience. I was nervous I would get lost and lose my way. I was worried about the language barrier, since I do not speak German. I was also scared of traveling alone, as I had never done so for a long journey or period of time. But, I had done my research on Vienna and the university, WU, and had a basic idea of its layout and modern feel as well as what the city would be like. In regards to WU, the new WU campus was built in 2013, but the Vienna University of Economics and Business was founded in 1898. The campus contains only 6 main buildings in 25 acres and is only 10 minutes walking distance from one end to the other. In total, the WU campus is about the same size as the Fisher College of Business alone (WU is a bit bigger in terms of ground covered but not by much). Considering that Ohio State is one of the largest universities in the U.S., WU’s size in total was a bit of a change.

As mentioned, the new campus was built in 2013, so it is extremely new and up to date (pictures below). The campus had many architects, but was primarily designed by the famous modern architects Zaha Hadid and Laura Spinadel. As a result, the campus is extremely innovative; with a spaceship-looking library, a rainbow building, and other edgy buildings. It is extremely clean with a lot of coffee shops and eateries for those gaps between classes. However, because it is so small and tuition is free in Europe due to high taxes, the campus doesn’t contain the kinds of facilities expected in the U.S. For example, the campus does not have a free gym, so you must make your accommodations elsewhere (i.e. McFit). To make up for it, the campus is extremely friendly and easy to navigate. It has all of the latest technology and is truly meant to foster educational experiences, not just facilitate lectures.

There are also some different practices I have noticed on campus before my arrival and during my stay here. At Ohio State we have regulated schedules, with your week looking pretty much the same as the week prior and the week to come. At WU, that is not the case. Classes tend to be longer (2-4 hours on average) with classroom changes every week and irregular times. Some classes will be regulated (same time, same day every week) but classrooms may change weekly. It is vital to check every week to ensure you have an understanding of which rooms you are to be in, at what time, and for which classes. Going through the syllabus early for each class is important, as it can help prepare you for your stay here in Vienna and allow you to make proper travel arrangements.

Another noticed difference is the typical dress code, not only at WU, but in most of Europe. While there is no actual “dress code,” students tend to have a more dressed-up wardrobe when attending classes. This can be from jeans and a sweater to a skirt and blazer. I have never seen sweatpants or athletic-wear on campus, as you do not come to class to lounge or work out later on campus. It can be seen as disrespectful to professors to dress poorly, so knowing that “looking good” was a quick tip I was glad to learn early. There is also no “school spirit.” I rarely see students sporting WU apparel, which is the opposite at Ohio State.

Leather and Jean jackets are common among all. Boots/booties are a staple, some women will wear skirts and blazers while most wear jeans and a nice top. Men dress similarly with nice jeans, shoes, and sweaters in general. Vienna is very fashion forward. Here is an article on “dressing like Europeans”: https://thesavvybackpacker.com/how-to-dress-avoid-looking-like-an-american-tourist-in-europe/

Some other practices and administrative differences are in the grading scale and post-lecture ritual. The grading scale at WU is 1-5, with 1 being an A and a 5 an F. In regards to post-lecture ritual, is it customary to knock on the table once the class is finished. This is seen as a “thank you” and is a sign of respect to the lecturer. In my first class the knocking occurred and I wasn’t sure what was happening. It wasn’t until my German language course later that week that I learned about the knocking after our class went over classroom customs.

Being on another part of the world has being a new, and exciting, experience for me. In some regards I knew what to expect, and in many others I didn’t know. Overall, while there are a lot of differences between Ohio State and WU, I am thrilled to have chosen Vienna. While the campus and classes are extremely different to what I am accustomed to, WU was the perfect campus to have that experience of something completely different. The professors are kind and helpful. They are extremely accommodating and, most importantly, want you to enjoy your time here and will help in whatever ways they can. This is a very international school, and the professors understand the challenges of being either from another country or being an exchange student. The students themselves were extremely inviting and aided in getting me situated around the campus and in my classes. The campus is friendly, fresh, and a wonderful place to be. When coming to a new continent, let alone a new country, WU- Vienna was the perfect choice in finding the right combination of a new experience mixed with a place I could easily call home.

Campus Pictures:

WU Library
TC Building – Main Building for Undergrad Classes
D3 Building – Main Building for Graduate and Finance/Accounting Classes & Anker Coffee House
Main Walkway and WU Library and Other Buildings
WU Campus Main Walkway with TC Building and Other Academic Buildings

Go, Experience, Live Abroad!

A message from Anastasia Cook to future student who are considering a semester abroad on the Student Exchange Program: Go, Experience, Live! She shares her heart filling memories and the reasons why you should go abroad to Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Italy.

GO. If you are considering it, but not sure if you will feel home sick, if you will make friends, you won’t like the location, or whatever reason: YOU WILL BE FINE! Exchange was seriously the BEST 5 months of my entire life. I never wanted it to end. No, this is not because I choose a blow off course load, and just partied the whole time. I went to “the Harvard of Europe” AKA Bocconi, a program only available through Fisher. This was so much better than a regular program because it was useful classes, and the professors are world recognized lecturers whom have a deep passion for their subject.

I decided to take Corporate Finance, even though it is a known “difficult” class even for full time Bocconi Students. After about a week, I found myself reading the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times in my free time, not only because it helped me during our open discussions in class, but also because I was shocked that I could actually fully understand what the articles were saying. Not only this, but we were given two case studies throughout the semester that were from Harvard and Stanford. These studies also brought real life situations into the classroom, thus showing us the applicability of finance in everyday business life. Some classes were harder than others, but now this is a school I am going to apply to, for my MBA; pretty cool.

Besides the school, THE PEOPLE. All I can say is: my best friends are Swedish, Norwegian, German, and Italian after this short time period. I have already booked a flight back to Europe during the summer to visit my friends that I have made. When you combine many people from all over the world, its not a lonely feeling. People are so keen on meeting as many people as they can, and genuinely want to get to know you. We started out attending international student events that Italian students held, to throwing our own events that the Italians then came to. It was so cool to see how you find your “group”. Trust me, you will never be alone.

I have to mention the Erasmus student group here, because they truly got me out of my shell. I went to speed dating, social nights, and weekend trips to Tuscany with this group. From this, I ended up planning a 2 week long spring break in the South of Italy with some of the people I had meet through this group. My favorite memory that I had from one of my trips was going to Morocco, four wheeling in the Sahara Desert and then spending the night at a desert camp.

If you couldn’t tell already, I studied in Italy. Milan to be exact. Many people at first were shocked that this was not “so quaint” and filled with cobble stone streets, but it was SO MUCH MORE. One of the least touristy cities in Italy, thus filled with actual Italian culture, and hidden secrets that one would only know of if they actually went to school there. I HIGHLY recommend this city and this program. I took friends from home around to some of my new favorite places and although it was not the Colosseum, I swear they liked it way better than the tourist traps.

I am tearing up writing this, because I would give anything in the world to go back even just for one more week. GO, EXPERIENCE, LIVE!!! It goes by so fast, so really try to soak up every single moment…. You’ll never get a chance like this again.

Anxiety to Excitement: A Life Changing Experience in Hong Kong

From anxiety, discovery, to excitement, John Xu shares his emotionally enlightening journey of studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Hong Kong Science and Technology, Hong Kong.

Looking over the Hong Kong skyline

Studying abroad for a semester in Hong Kong was not only the best decision I’ve made in college, it was the best decision I’ve made in LIFE. I remember when I first decided I was going to commit to a semester abroad, I almost wasn’t able to because I signed up too late. Every week that led up to leaving the country I’d get more anxious, just because of the fact that I’d never spent an extended amount of time out of the country. I knew I was pushing my comfort zone and that it would help broaden my horizons on a global scale and give me more diverse career opportunities, but it was still nerve wrecking anticipating the process I was going to put myself through.

However, as soon as I stepped off the plane in Hong Kong and hopped into a taxi to my university, I realized I had made a great decision. From the moment you arrive, you begin to realize the difference in culture and environment of the country you’re studying abroad in compared to back home. Those difference were exciting for me; from the food to the city life, to the university environment, everything I did was exciting because it felt so fresh and unique. It seemed like every other day I was experiencing a “once in a lifetime” moment that I had to document and cherish to the fullest extent. I was able to extend these moments by traveling to 7 other countries in Southeast Asia during my semester, allowing me to experience the differences in all of the Asian cultures. By the end of the semester, I had made friends with so many people all around the world who had also chosen to study abroad and gained not only the perspectives of people in Hong Kong but everywhere around the world. I truly feel like I built something special with the group of people I became friends with there and that we would always stay in touch.
 

Coming back home, I realized how much I had changed and grown as a person. I now feel confident in myself to tackle problems ahead of me and create unique solutions to tasks at hand (I backpacked across 9 cities in Thailand and Myanmar for 17 days straight!!). Before leaving for Hong Kong I couldn’t have even dreamed of doing such a thing. Returning from abroad I feel a deeper appreciation for the comforts of life that America provides and I’m thankful for things that I had always took for granted in my daily life. Biggest of all, I’m happy that I now have a global attitude for my career after college, my goal is to be able to make a difference in the people and places, not just around me but in the world. I’m already planning out my next trip abroad, and I can’t wait for you to get started on your journey too. Don’t pass up the opportunity to make the best decision of your life!

Finally! Our Prince Came!

Fisher undergraduates Hanna Atiyeh, Roni Groebner, Elizabeth Navarre, Adela Pang and Joe Wimer share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Jaisalmer, India.

When we arrived in India, the team believed that the scope of our project was to come up with a way to preserve the fort as a historical and cultural monument while increasing tourism and helping the multiple bodies of fort’s management to better communicate with one another. However, after interview multiple locals, we realized that the problems facing the city of Jaisalmer are more complicated and engineering based. The most prominent issue is the water seepage throughout the fort’s walls that is breaking down the infrastructure. The team identified this slow erosion and destruction as the most pressing issue. Essentially, if this problem is not fixed, the Jaisalmer Fort will slowly crumble away; and, without the fort, the main attraction of Jaisalmer for tourism will be gone. Furthermore, the residents living inside the fort are adamant on staying within the Fort because of their familial connections to the history of the fort. Their homes have been passed down within families for centuries. How they identify culturally and religiously is based on living inside the Fort;  it means everything to them to stay.

Global Projects Program India team

After hearing the locals’ concerns, researching possible solutions, and touring the Fort to see all the problem areas regarding the water seepage and sewage system, we devised a tentative solution: find the best, non-biased group of engineers to come and evaluate the condition of the sewage and draining system and apply for grants or find a source of funding for the infrastructure study. While we thought our tentative plan was feasible, we needed to wait on our meetings with our client, Crown Prince Chaitanya Raj Singh, to hear his feedback.

We met Prince Chaitanya the last week of our time in Jaisalmer. After a dinner where we got to know each other a little bit better, we were able to understand his situation more fully. We met multiple times over the next few days and began to work through how we could offer value-add deliverables.   After much discussion and brainstorming with the Prince, we propsed that the team:  1. Create a persuasive argument and presentation for Prince Chaitanya to use for future awareness and fund sourcing presentations; 2. Generate a strategic partnership analysis that outlines all of the possible sources of funding, engineering groups, and a timeline for the project; 3. Draw a map of key players/stakeholders and their relationships concerning the Fort and outlining roles and duties as well as suggesting ways to improve and clarify roles.

Global Projects Program India team

After returning to the USA, we will continue to communicate with Prince Chaitanya to further focus our plan. Through our class with Professory Tansky in the upcoming fall semester and with the help of our project Faculty Advisor, Heidi Eldred, we hope to create something of value for Prince Chaitanya and the city of Jaisalmer.

Train, Plane, Automobile… Elephant?

Fisher undergraduates Hanna Atiyeh, Roni Groebner, Elizabeth Navarre, Adela Pang and Joe Wimer share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Jaisalmer, India.

Jaisalmer to Jodhpur to Delhi to Jaipur to Agra and back to Delhi. The second half of our time in India proved to be quite the road trip. Throughout the first two weeks of the Global Projects Program, the India Team was lucky enough to have amazing cultural experiences, shown in the first blog. We all thought it would be hard to top the generosity, history, and culture of Jaisalmer; however, I think we all fell in love with every city we visited.

We arrived in Jodhpur by train – a cultural experience itself. Traveling across India by train, watching the various towns pass by and interacting with domestic and foreign passengers, was certainly an unforgettable adventure. When we arrived in Jodhpur, we were welcomed by the most interesting couple who offered up their gorgeous haveli to us. The Canadian wife and Italian husband showed us another side to life in India as they had met in the city and lived there for over 20 years.

View of "Blue City"

The fort within the city of Jodhpur was well maintained and beautiful to any tourist who visited. Our group, however, received a top of the line experience with a tour given by the curator of the museum. He was able to explain, in depth, history, cultural significance, and even take us to various areas of the fort that were restricted to the general public. The “Blue City”, aptly named due to the blue hue of houses around the city, was a stunning site to see from the top of the fort. Our time in Jodhpur was short, but special.

After some unexpected delays in Delhi, we were able to hit the road to Jaipur – the “Pink City”. This time the Nepal team was with us. Driving through Jaipur showed great contrast to our time in Jaisalmer. The city was massive, monkeys were swinging from shop to shop, and the pink glow of the bustling city illuminated its beauty. In Jaipur, we also stayed at an amazing haveli. During our stay, we were able to watch traditional Indian dancing and even got an amusing puppet show.

Roni and Hanna riding an elephant

While the city was beautiful, I think almost all of us agreed that our favorite part was the elephant ride up the Amber fort. Yes, elephants! These gentle giants carried us up to the top of the Amber fort where our tour guide showed us another stunning piece of history. Not only did we get to see the Amber fort, we also were able to see an old-fashioned textile shop with hand blocking and looming. The shop created intricate works of art and offered us all more background on how they came to be. The adventures of Jaipur wore us all out enough to make the five-hour drive to Agra pass quickly.

About an hour outside of the city of Agra, we had time to stop by the Sufi Shrine. Recommended to us by Prince Chaitanya Raj Sing, we made sure to add this stop to our list – and we are lucky we did because it was another rich and diverse part of Indian culture. Our tour guide took us into the shrine and around the palace. From the pandering children to the emanate worshipping, this visit allowed us another glimpse into Indian culture. We all headed to bed shortly after arriving in Agra due to an early morning ahead of us. A departure time of 5 am seemed cruel, but proved to be a wise decision made by our tour guide. The early morning allowed us to visit the Taj Mahal during the sunrise and with minimal crowds; indeed, standing in one of the new Seven Wonders of the World among so few people in one of the most populated countries in the world was an enigma.

Taj Mahal

The beauty of the Taj Mahal was not exaggerated. From the blue pools to the detailed white marble on the Taj Mahal, our jaws were permanently dropped. The Taj Mahal truly wrapped up our trip to India in the most beautiful way. I know our experiences, the people we’ve met, the cultures we’ve grown to love (definitely including chai at every meal), and all the places we’ve visited will stay with the Global Projects Program teams forever.

Go Bucks!

Screeeeech…. Project Pivot

Fisher undergraduates Hanna Atiyeh, Roni Groebner, Elizabeth Navarre, Adela Pang and Joe Wimer share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Jaisalmer, India.

Upon arrival in Jaisalmer, the team quickly learned that India is entirely different from the US in every way, shape, and form. Adjusting to these differences and finalizing our project scope at the same time was tough work. While we weren’t exactly sure where to start, we knew from our class with our Faculty Adviser, Heidi Eldred, that all good consultants start by asking lots of questions. Therefore, the first couple days were heavily based on tours, interviews, and learning about the fort, its issues, and how it functioned. We also began to develop our network in Jaisalmer through help from the Ohio State India Global Gateway, our tour guide, hotel manager, etc. We asked everyone we met for more introductions and, in this way, leveraged our initial connections.

The Jaisalmer team eating breakfast at "KB" with Lalu, Bhanu and Vimal
The Jaisalmer team eating breakfast at “KB” with Lalu, Bhanu and Vimal

Through various interviews and collaborations with locals, municipal boards, and NGO’s such as I Love Jaisalmer, the team began to see that the scope of our project was quickly evolving from what we originally thought it would be. It wasn’t “scope creep”; it was “scope pivot”!  We came into the project understanding that our task was to hold onto the “UNESCO World Heritage Site” designation and increase tourism in order to raise money to sustain the fort. In reality, we learned that the real need was not tourism; it was preserving the Fort in order to have any tourism at all by addressing the Fort’s water systems- primarily the sewage system.

the Fort’s water tank
The Fort’s water tank that has been leaking for the past seven years

The sewage and water supply systems are the biggest problems immediately facing the fort. There are breakdown issues with the sewage system and maintenance occurs frequently. Basically, the sewage chambers that help move sewage from homes to the sewer evacuation pipes often get blocked and are hard to access; there is a lack of proper drainage, which causes flooding; and the system itself was not installed properly. And sadly, a major overhaul that was completed last year is already in need of multiple fixes and repars. Though these problems are burdensome, it’s not merely about inconvenience. Flooding due to a lack of drainage causes slow water seepage into the Fort’s hilltop foundation and is taking its toll on the integrity of the hill and structural wellbeing of the Fort.

cast iron sewage chamber cover
This cast iron sewage chamber cover was made to accommodate easy access to the sewage chamber for repair. While practical, this cover is illegal. Most covers are cut-to-fit stone slabs cemented in place for aesthetic reasons as dictated by Archaeological Survey of India officials and present a huge obstacle to repair and maintenance.

Realizing that our project scope had shifted and the key question we needed to answer had changed, we sat down together as a group, brainstormed a list of water systems related questions, and then tried to find the best people to talk to about these questions. The manager of our hotel, Bhanu, was very kind and helped us connect with the right people, and from there we were able to get a good understanding of what we could to do or at least influence. Through Bhanu, we made three friends (Lalu, Gapu, and Vimal) who significantly aided in our research efforts as they were members of the NGO I Love Jaisalmer.

The next week was again heavily based on interviews, meeting up with the right people, and even taking a few tours to understand the breadth of the sewage and water systems problems. After this, we spent time figuring out how to finance such a large project with little to no money, and in a country affected by institutional corruption. As we continue to research these possibilities, we are awaiting news from Prince Chaitanya, our client, to get a cost estimate to fix or even overhaul the sewage system inside the fort.

Prince Chaitanya Raj Singh with Joe Wimer
A photo with Prince Chaitanya Raj Singh

 

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Fisher undergraduates Hanna Atiyeh, Roni Groebner, Elizabeth Navarre, Adela Pang and Joe Wimer share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Jaisalmer, India.

We can all remember the classic Dr. Seuss book read to us as youngsters by our beloved mothers, fathers, and teachers. However, if you asked any of our parents where in the world we would be, come summer of 2017, India would be close to the last place they would guess. Even two months ago, not one of our group members knew that May 2017 would be spent in the beautiful and culturally rich city of Jaisalmer. We use Dr. Seuss’s story as comparison because just like in the book, our journey has been one of excitement, adventure, frustration, and admiration. The time has come where we are on our own in a foreign place taking with us only the knowledge provided by our schooling and loving parents, and our physical bodies with their limitations that we would find soon enough.

[We] have brains in [our] head[s].
[We] have feet in [our] shoes.
[We] can steer [ourselves] any
direction [we] choose.
[We]’re on [our] own.
And [we] know what [we] know.

That being said, we would not ask for a different set of students for this trip. Our team is composed of five bright, intelligent Buckeyes with the common characteristics of adaptability and compassion. Adela Pang is a soft-spoken, inquisitive, food-courageous young woman. Elizabeth Navarre keeps things animated with her enthusiastic attitude and never-ending desire to understand culture, history, and personal narratives especially when interviewing new people. Joe Wimer can be described in one word: surprising. Joe is a man of many hidden talents and the rest of us often find ourselves taken aback by his unforeseen hobbies, interests, and stories. As for the two of us, Hanna and Roni, we honestly still have no idea how we made it this far.

After four flights and one bumpy car ride we finally arrived in Jaisalmer, the Golden City, home to the world’s oldest living fort. We not only have had the opportunity to see this amazing fort, but to reside in a hotel within the fort. The first few days were spent following our Ohio State contact, Priya Kurle, around the city like little ducklings. Truth be told, the five of us are enormously grateful for Priya’s help and guidance the first couple of days; indeed, we might not have made it without her. Our first thoughts of the city were hot, very hot, and extremely hot, but as we opened our eyes and ears we started to notice how colorful and full of life the city is. We can hear nightly Jain worship chants from our hotel balcony, the constant honks and beeps of motorbikes and rickshaws in the city below, the barks of dogs in the streets, and the hymns of school children in the morning. Each day we take in the infinite colors that the women wear, the gold sandstone repeated throughout the fort and surrounding city, and the kindness each person shows not only to each other, but to every living thing. Everyone told us that when we get here there would be cows – but did we truly understand what they were saying? No! All of us were intrigued by how many cows are in the streets. We estimate the cow to dog to person ratio to be about 1:2:8.

Anyone in Jaisalmer will tell you that tourists come for the fort and the desert; however, we have come to find that even though this is true, tourists stay for the people. Everyone has been very welcoming of our arrival, and not a fake or surface-level attitude. They authentically want us to be comfortable and experience their culture. We have spent many of our afternoons here talking with the most interesting locals in a backroom of a handicraft shop. These guys have looked out for us during our time here and conversed with us about topics ranging from our project to Indian history to American politics to Tom Hanks films. Where some  Americans may be more reserved to open up right away, our Indian family was able to joke around and make us feel comfortable from day one. Everywhere we go we are offered Chai Tea. Unlike the United States, where it is customary for a guest to either refuse or accept a beverage, in Jaisalmer you accept the beverage. Although we initially were hesitant about hot chai tea in 115 degree weather, we politely accepted. This hospitable practice has now become one of our favorite parts of this city.

We cannot begin to express how grateful we are for this experience. The things we have learned, the relationships we have built, and the memories we have made will all stay with us for the rest of our lives. One day, we will be telling our grandkids about the time we woke up to the biggest sand storm we had experienced, the time we saw some locals in Jaisalmer splinting the broken leg of a stray dog, or even the time we were escorted through the street by the Crown Prince of Jaisalmer. We appreciate all the efforts that got us here that have allowed us to experience all of the above. Our trip is still ongoing and we are all excited to see what else India has to offer – although, it will be hard to beat Jaisalmer!

Go Bucks!

From a Broken Phone to Having an Audience With The King Of Spain: Part I

Grant Buehrer, participating in the Student Exchange Program in Spain, tells his story of how a broken phone turned into a meeting with the King of Spain! He shares the strategies and learned lessons from leveraging the most good out of a bad situation while abroad.

Students and staff from the the exchange university delegation to meet the King of Spain listen to a speech prior to engaging in a Q&A Discussion with the King. From Left: Universidad Pontificia Comillas Rector Julio Luis Martínez. King of Spain Felipe VI De Bourbon y Grecia, Universidad Pontificia Comillas Staff and Students with Exchange Student Grant Buehrer center with navy suit and blue tie.

I was just two weeks fresh into my semester exchange in Madrid, Spain at Universidad Pontificia Comillas and I woke up to some concerning news. My communication lifeline, a Samsung Galaxy 7 smartphone, had died while I was sleeping. Although this might seem as a first-world complaint, when one finds themselves in an unfamiliar and foreign country the GPS and Maps capability of a smartphone alone are priceless. As the price of purchasing a new phone while I was in a foreign country was too high, I was relieved to hear from my U.S. based cell-phone insurance company that there was no problem in having a replacement phone shipped internationally. Excitedly I waited till the next week for delivery, anxiously checking the tracking information daily as the package traveled over land and ocean. On the day of expected arrival one of the worst sentences one can hear when shipping internationally flashed across my internet browser, your package has been held in customs.

As I quickly learned, living abroad requires one to quickly adapt to a given situation. As the news came in I raced to the internet to research what I would have to do – after nearly 10 days without a functioning phone – to retrieve the package. Over the course of the next seven days, I visited 3 separate government agencies on 5 total occasions while spending 10 hours of my life in mind-numbing government queues. I had made no progress whatsoever.

When living abroad, there are times when you realize that you are in over your head and need the support and advocacy of a trusted party, requiring you to think critically and accordingly as to who that might be. As such, I turned immediately to my exchange university academic advisor for help. After pointing me towards an International Relations office housed within my exchange university, I had a dream-team of two of the nicest and caring Spanish women I think I have met in all of my 6 months in the country helping me. Through broken Spanish we began to discuss what the issue was and began the process of correctly retrieving the necessary government documents to get my phone back.

A critical point must be made here, my ability to make it this far into the process of retrieving my phone falls back on one huge factor, learning Spanish prior to coming to Spain to a high enough level, so that I could communicate through these events albeit at the level of a fourth-grader. One of the worst attributes of the ugly American tourist stereotype is the inability to understand that not everyone speaks English in the world. That is okay, in fact citizens in foreign countries have every right to speak exclusively in their native tongue and you have to adjust accordingly to this reality rather than letting it bog you down.

As the next week passed I paid daily visits to my government-bureaucracy savior, Marta. This rekindled how much I have realized the importance of building relationships are, during this time I learned about Marta’s family amongst other things as I shared photos of my dog back home and stories. Not only from hearing others experiences can you learn lessons about the world that you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise, but it also opens dialogue between yourself and another that allows you to share your dreams, interests and goals with others.

This part is critical, as it is the bridge to the rest of the story and why I have found myself in some incredible experiences on the Student Exchange Program, and in life. At some point in our many interactions and through my intermediate Spanish, I shared my interested in the developing world and that I had previously visited Washington D.C. due to interests in International Finance. Marta immediately lit up, from what I could understand from our conversation in Spanish she had a friend that worked in D.C. that would be coming back to Madrid very soon and that I should meet him.

More time passes and I forget about the prior conversation we had regarding Marta’s D.C. connection. With luck, 21 days after my phone dying I had finally gotten my replacement phone out of customs. In my own eyes I realized that words of gratitude would not be sufficient for Marta and the other woman that had helped me. Sometimes another’s action is great enough that it requires a gift. I opted for flowers.

Thanks to the gift of gratitude I found myself once again in the International Relations office. After expressing my gratitude deeply, I remembered the conversation that I had with Marta and asked her about her D.C. connection. To my surprise he wasn’t a friend of her’s, he was actually the manager of a study/work abroad program at the University and was back in Madrid just an office away.

We immediately hit it off, as it turned out Jose was not only a long-time resident of the U.S.A. but his study abroad programs were incredibly successful at the university. As we continued to discuss U.S. politics and global affairs, Jose informed me of a few events and conferences that he was coordinating at the university. After learning a little more about me he asked if I might be able to speak at a few of the conferences regarding the U.S.A. and its culture.

I really credit the time that I spent at Ohio State for preparing me for this request. Thanks to the many opportunities I have had to present in front of professionals and fellow students through student organizations, I was prepared. Over the next couple weeks I spoke on several occasions at his scheduled events.

This is where things come full circle, as I have found through the many opportunities that I have had in my life the old adage “luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” After my final speaking engagement, Jose shocked me with the information that he was requesting that I be allowed to join a delegation from the university to meet with His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain. The delegation visits the King annually as a sign of support from the Royal Family towards globally-minded university programs. After a decade of visiting delegations to King Felipe VI, Jose said it was time for a foreign-exchange student to join the delegation, and thanks to my rapid involvement on campus he believed I was a good fit.

Forward-thinking really came in handy when preparing for Spain, I thought that I might find myself wanting to attend a formal event while in Spain. Therefore I made the effort to make enough room in my luggage for my suit, tie and dress shoes. Never did I know that I would be using my suit to meet the King of Spain!

With the event a week away, I decided to take a step back and prepare myself for meeting with the King of Spain. I had been honored to have been blessed with the possibility.

Want to know how it went meeting the King? Stay tuned for my next blog post about the meeting with the King!

Returning Home: It’s Not the Country That’s Changed, It’s Me

Now finished with her time studying for a semester at WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management on the Student Exchange Program, Colleen Sauer reflects on her last weeks abroad. From her last European adventures, bittersweet partings with friends made abroad, reverse culture shock in the U.S., to the discovery of how much she has grown and changed from her experiences going abroad. She shares her message to students considering going global: “Just do it!”

When I planned to spend the semester in Germany and realized that I would be there for seventeen weeks it seemed like the time would pass slowly, and I would be so ready to return to the States at the end.  Well, if you talk to anyone who’s been abroad for an extended period of time, I’m sure they’ll agree that the time flies by, and before you know it’s time to leave.  During my last weeks I had countless fun, bittersweet moments with my friends and started to notice how much I’d learned and grown.

I am now officially back at OSU in the States, and it’s been so fun reflecting about my time and reminiscing to willing parties!  I definitely underestimated the existence of reverse culture shock though, I can now say that it is in fact quite a real thing! As strange as it may sound, given I can usually only understand portions of what’s said in German, I miss hearing German spoken around me.  Everything also felt oddly different, it was a bit odd.  I soon realized that the US hadn’t changed–I had.  But in my first few weeks when I’ve found myself surrounded by my family and friends and having as much fun as old times, I’m reminded how much I missed them and why I came back to the US! (Granted, I had already purchased my plane ticket and my German residency permit expired the day that I left.)

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The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France

I’ll talk a bit more about my recent post-abroad reflections later of this post. For now, I’d like to catch you up on the fun experiences I had in Germany since I last posted! My last major trip after London was to Paris over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a bit odd to not be with my family but from previous years of being with them as we excitedly called a family member that wasn’t able to attend, it was fun to be on the receiving end of that as the phone was passed around the table allowing everyone to talk to me.  My favorite part of Paris was visiting The Louvre and the Sainte-Chappelle, a highlight of those two events was spotting the Winged Victory statue at The Louvre.  An interesting fact that I often tell prospective students on my tour (I’m a university Ambassador at Ohio State, so I give tours of the university to high school students and their parents) is that what originally prompted me to visit Ohio State was the fact that they had a replica of Winged Victory at their library, and here I was a little less than four years later seeing the real thing!  That moment was so surreal.

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I nearly started hyperventilate when I spotted Winged Victory…

Another day trip I went on was to Heidelberg, Germany where I met up with my friend Troy Weider (find his exchange blog posts here!).  Troy was actually studying in Strasbourg, France at the same time that I was in Germany and we were both on exchange through the Fisher Student Exchange Program.  Two weeks before he left Europe to return home we realized that for how close we were to each other, we never met up while in Europe, so since Heidelberg was a midpoint destination we both wanted to explore we decided to take advantage of a free day and meet there.  It was much more of an exotic location for catching up than at the Union Market at OSU!  That was a fun day because not only were we able to see a beautiful town, but also relate to each other in so many ways about our adventures in Europe.

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Visiting with Troy in Heidelberg, Germany

In the final weeks of my time in Germany I stuck around Vallendar, partly due to the fact that I needed to study for exams, but also to make sure I was taking advantage of the time I had left with the friends I met at WHU.  I realized that I could come back and see Austria, Italy, and the other places on my list that I didn’t make it to, but it would be much more of a rare occasion to have all my friends from my time abroad together again.  Therefore my friends and I planned game nights complete with mini-golf courses organized around my Swedish friend John’s flat, trips to the nearby city of Koblenz to enjoy the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) there, and plenty of meals together at our favorite restaurant in Vallendar called the Goldene Ente.

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Game night with some of my closes friends

It was so hard to leave Germany, especially not knowing which of my friends I’d see again.  I’d say being the only Ohio State student at WHU was such a wonderfully independent experience, but I soon realized that no one would be returning with me to Ohio!  But of course as the tauschies said their final goodbyes we all  invited each other to our various countries, so I now have people to visit and places to stay when I come back to Europe.

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The gang during our last Dancing@WHU Dance Class

When I came back to the States I had plenty of time to reflect on my time abroad, between making a photo book for myself of my semester and telling people about my time there.  Two big takeaways from my time abroad came from these reflections, the first of them was realizing how much I coddled myself when I first arrived, and how this could have potentially hindered my experience the first few weeks.  Before even arriving to Germany I imagined myself completely freaked out the first few weeks, and to combat that I told myself that I probably won’t feel comfortable travelling until the third weekend, and that it was perfectly fine not to.  Then here I was my first Friday in Germany, being invited to join a trip to Frankfurt the following day.  Looking back going to Frankfurt for a day isn’t at all intimidating, but going would essentially be taking away that comfort blanket of the “third weekend rule” I’d previously given myself.  With encouragement from my friends I eventually decided to go and had a great time.  If I hadn’t gone, I have no idea if I would have had the courage to leave Germany for Luxembourg the following weekend, or travel alone to Marburg to visit my friend Nora during my third weekend.  In all this, I learned to appreciate the value of having people around you to push you past your comfort zone, and the importance of being able to put aside “your plan” when a better idea presents itself.

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Köln, Germany

Secondly, I can remember a point during my first week when I was having a hard day in Germany and thought about my life at Ohio State.  I wondered what I was thinking leaving OSU, where I had lots of friends, was involved on campus, and generally felt comfortable. This is a point that I strived and longed for as a first year student.  Meanwhile, here I was in Germany not knowing anyone, not being proficient in German, and generally not fully understanding how things worked here.  Later in the semester I realized how much I had grown, learned, and faced my fears.  I started to think critically about how I had previously described my life at Ohio State as “comfortable”.  As a college student, I’m at a point in my life where I should be growing, making mistakes, anything but comfortable!  If I could impart any advice to someone after what I’ve learned last semester, I’d say they should face their fears, try something new, have an adventure, be challenged, just be anything but stagnant.

Somehow living abroad changes you in so many aspects, makes you think critically about your home country and life there, and teaches you in countless ways.  When talking with students who are thinking about studying abroad I am now a huge supporter of long-term study abroad programs, because I believe that the degree of independence and submersion into a different culture is where real growth and change of perspective occurs.  In the wise words of Shia Lebeouf’s hilarious motivational speech, “Just do it!”

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