It’s totally worth it! – Go Abroad

Ending her studies in Japan on the Student Exchange Program, Phuong Tran shares her final thoughts living and studying in Tokyo. The challenges, the struggles, but also the new unforeseen opportunities that these brought and the better experiences she gained as a result.

I have just returned home and have some time to reflect on my experiences in Japan, I realize that I have failed to accomplish about half of the things I had planned. Am I disappointed? Only a little, because I have gained something else, which is even greater.

My student exchange, of courses, did not include only pleasant experiences. The first upsetting thing occurred to me even before I left the U.S. I was told that the dorm was full, and I had to find accommodation somewhere else. Finding another apartment was not that hard, but the total cost was almost doubled. More importantly, it had made it hard to communicate and hang out with other students who were staying at the dorm. There were times when I could not go to some events because the time and location were not convenient for me. I really wished that I had been accepted into the dorm so that I could have built a stronger bond with other international students.

My second disappointment was about school. When I did my interview for the program, the interviewer asked me what I would do if I could not take all the classes I had planned to take. I said I had another list of classes to substitute. However, that was easier being said that done. During the school orientation, I was kind of panic when being told I could not sign up for the two most-looking-forwarded-to classes, Business Communicating and Business Project, because of the schedule conflicts, my early-return request, and the class’s capacity. I pulled out my substitute list, but again, most of them could not fit into my schedule or not being offered this semester. I ended up taking two random business courses in order to fulfill the credit requirement.

With all those being said, I felt clueless and frustrated in the beginning of the program. Now that I think back, my problem was that I got fixated on a few objectives. Actually, after school started I soon realized I should not have been too worried. I did not have to look hard, new opportunities to learn and adventure came to me one after another. And all of these unforeseen invitations were what made my exchange’s experiences so wonderful.

As I mentioned earlier, I failed to get into my preferred business courses and thought that I could not be able to learn the “business culture” anywhere else. Fortunately, the other courses I got into also emphasized on group work and interactions between cultures. I appreciated that my professors assigned students into groups that had both international and Japanese students. We could not choose to work only with friends, but also new people, especially the ones from completely different cultures. Also, I was able to got a part-time job at school, which taught me the basic Japanese business etiquettes. Furthermore, there were many career events offered to international students either on or off campus. My most favorite one was the visit to Oak Lawn Marketing’s office, during which I could see an actual workplace and even participate in creating the marketing plan for a new product.

My Japanese teacher and classmate. We came from all around the world (France, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, America, etc)
My Japanese teacher and classmates. We came from all around the world (France, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, America, etc)

I had to admit that sometimes I felt lonely for staying in an apartment apart from others. However, I have met people whom I want to befriend for life. Also, the International Office at Rikkyo did a wonderful job on keeping us busy. They offered us many opportunities to experience tea ceremony, Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), Christmas parties, city tours, etc. After experiencing all of these exciting activities together, it was hard not becoming friends. When I first came to Japan, it took me a long time to get to my apartment carrying a big suitcase by myself, but when I left, my new friends helped me carry my luggage, which had been doubled in size, up to the gate. Just thinking of that made me feel so happy.

A trip to Asakusa with other international students. (The trip was organized by Rikkyo's COBBY group)
A trip to Asakusa with other international students. (The trip was organized by Rikkyo’s COBBY group)

Beside that, staying in an apartment has not only taught me many things about living in Japan but also helped me improve my language skills. In fact, except at school, I only communicated with people in Japanese. If I had stayed at the dorm, there should have been someone I could ask for help, but living alone, I had to deal with all issues by myself. Actually, Rikkyo’s International Office provided many resources to support my life there. However, they were not always available and it took time to arrange a Japanese student to assist me. Thus, I had to go to the city office, bank, etc. by myself to complete all necessary paperwork. My thought was “Lets go see if I can handle this. If I can’t get things done, then I will ask for help later.” I was so worried at first but then I gained more and more confidence in using Japanese. Also, never once I felt I was treated unfairly for not speaking Japanese well. Japanese people are very very friendly and helpful, I can assure you that!

I still think having a clear objective for going abroad is a good thing, but now I believe that keeping an adventurous spirit and being open-minded is more important. In the end, we cannot predict our days in a foreign environment as accurate as when we are home. No need to be obsessed with the plan. My stay in Japan has taught me so, and now I appreciate all the experiences I had over in Japan, even for the unpleasant ones. If I had to talk about the study aboard experiences in only a few words, I would say, “It’s totally worth it.”

About the Author: Phuong Tran, Senior, Accounting and Japanese. Student Exchange Program- Japan.

The End in a Blink of an Eye

Brad Schulze reflects back on the wonderful four months in Italy on the Students Exchange Program. It was challenging, inspiring, eye-opening, adventurous, but a life changing experience that he learned more about himself then ever before. 

They say time flies when your having fun and that couldn’t be more true than this past semester. Here I am, sitting in the Baltimore airport, eating Chipotle for the first time in quite some time, waiting for one more connecting flight to head home. Finals are over, the packing is done but it still hasn’t hit me that it has come to an end. It is weird to think that exactly four months ago I sat in the same airport but headed in the opposite direction with a sense of uncertainty on what to expect. What would Italy be like? Would I make new friends? Would I have fun? Well now I can say I sit here with nothing but certainty. Certainty that I had the best four months of my life. Certainty that I have made friends for life. Certainty I learned more about myself in four months than in 21 years of life and certainty that Italy and Europe treated me well and that I certainly will be back.

If you had asked me about a year ago from today where I saw myself in a year; the answer would have been finishing up finals at OSU and headed home for the holidays. Instead, in reality I was headed home from an experience of a lifetime. I had spent four months in a foreign continent traveling and experiencing different cultures, gaining worldwide friends, learning from teachers across the globe and learning more about myself than ever before.

How many 21 years old are lucky enough to experience the things that I did?  I got to bike across the Netherlands countryside, biked through Barcelona, ate Belgian waffles in Brussels, sipped on a few Guinesse’s and listened to live local bands in Dublin, took a trip back to the Roman Empire and visited the colleseum, visited two of the worlds most famous churches, La Sagrada Familia and Milan Duomo and of enjoy a nice Roman sunset. During the week I got to go to dinner and hang out with kids from around the world. Learn some deutch, spanish and italian. Plan a thanksgiving potluck for 30 people and have a Turkey Bowl. I got to pick up a job tutoring two young Italian kids in English and grab coffee once a week with my italian language partner. The list goes on and on and on.

Netherlands
Netherlands

An experience like this really put things in perspective and teaches you so much. Really makes you realize just how big the world is and just how many awesome places and awesome people there are. Makes you realize just how small, in reality, Ohio State is. Made me realize that while living in a foreign country is a scary thought, it is quite possible. Hard to describe but being alone in a country, planning classes, studying for exams, requesting Airbnb’s and just being on your own really is an accomplished feeling. Makes other daunting tasks not seem so hard. Really just teaches you that the world is big and the opportunities are out there, and with some motivation, are very doable.

It felt like a blink of an eye and was very hard to say good bye to my “temporary” life in Milan and hard to say good bye to all the great people I met. So many thanks to go around to so many people for such a great four months. To all my friends; especially my parents for all their support and of course The Fisher Student Exchange Program. Studying abroad had to be the best experience of my life up until this point and I hope an opportunity to return presents itself in the very near future. I never would have thought the experience would have been this great. It fullfilled and surpassed every expectation I had. From traveling to making new friends and learning a new language it was an A++. Made friendships that will last a lifetime and a part of me will always be in Milan, Italy. To a great four months and until next time.

Thanks Europe for the time of my life.

Barcelona Beach Chilling
Barcelona Beach Chilling
Florence with the Italians and Spanish
Florence with the Italians and Spanish
Rome Sunset
Rome Sunset

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy

Professional Interactions in Manchester

With the fortunate opportunity Kevin McGann had meeting with business professionals at Manchester on the Student Exchange Program, he shares his observation on how business is different in England compared to the U.S.

While living in Manchester, I have had the opportunity to further understand the English business culture.  Beyond learning about business practices in my classes, I have had the opportunity to network with English business professionals.  My first chance came when I attended a banquet for North American students this past October.  I arrived with other American exchange students who I had met during my first month in Manchester.  None of us knew what to expect before attending the event, and only knew that food would be provided.  When we arrived, we started conversing with other exchange students from all over the U.S. and Canada.  We talked about how we had been enjoying our time in Manchester so far, but were still getting used to the culture.  All of us missed home to a small extent, but were eager to make travel plans.  It was refreshing to find that a lot of the other American exchange students felt the same way I did after being away for a month.

During this banquet, I was able to speak with a couple of University of Manchester recruiters who gave me some insight into English business culture.  A couple of other American exchange students and I started asking them basic questions about restaurants and other attractions in Manchester.  After this basic small talk about things to do in Manchester, one of the recruiters talked about his business trips to America, and about the differences that he sees in the two cultures.  He mentioned that business professionals in England are more reserved than those in America.  He found the young professionals in America to be more outgoing and more likely to strike up a conversation with someone they don’t know.  I think this observation extends beyond business people and is an accurate distinction between the English and Americans in general.  Despite this difference, he mentioned that he believes that business is conducted in a similar fashion in both countries.

I was also able to speak with one of the generous benefactors who makes exchange at the University of Manchester possible.  I did not know this when I had first approached her and was surprised to find out that she wasn’t a professor.  Speaking with her gave me insight into her reasons for donating to the exchange program specifically.  One of the main reasons that she gave was that she believed that global experiences drastically enhance a student’s education.  She came across as very genuine and interested in hearing about my reasons for choosing to study in Manchester.  Although we only spoke briefly, I am glad that I was able to meet one of the people in Manchester who has allowed me to have the best three months of my life.

My business classes provided insight into how important America is to international business.  I realized this when every single one of my business professors mentioned the U.S. during lecture in a positive business context.  What I concluded from this is that the U.S is an extremely powerful force in the business world.  This could be due to the fact that there are many American corporations are operating abroad.  England is not nearly as relevant in my Fisher classes, but it is difficult to say whether this is due to a lack of large companies in England or a more U.S. focused curriculum.  One way in which I was able to see how business is conducted in England is through shopping. Every grocery store that I shopped at charged people for grocery bags.  This encouraged people to bring their own.  Although this is minor, I think that it demonstrates the environmental awareness in England’s business community.  Another small difference that I noticed was that British stores are much smaller.  There are less one stop shop places in England, which made weekly grocery shopping more challenging.

Adapting to English Culture and Travel Advice

Experience navigating though England, Kevin McGann give tips on how to survive in a different culture and country while on the Student Exchange Program.

The first difference I noticed when I first arrived at the University of Manchester was that Manchester’s campus is much more sprawled out.  I am about a 25 minute bus ride away from campus, and I am still considered to live in campus halls.  This says something about English culture because the reason that the college’s administration can justify having student living located so far from campus is due to the fact that public transportation in England is phenomenal.  Although the buses are dependable and arrive at most bus stops every 5 minutes, relying solely on public transportation was a tough change for me.  This is mainly because I had a hard time figuring out exactly when I had to leave my hall to be able to make it to class on time.  It turned out that there was no answer to this question because there is a ton of variety in bus travel time.

Getting acclimated to public transportation was not as big a challenge as adapting to language differences.  A common greeting in England is “you ok?” and for the first two weeks of being here, I thought that my flatmates were asking me this because I was a foreigner.  Although this is a trivial example, there are several phrases that are used that I had a difficult time understanding.  Beyond picking up on common phrases, understanding certain accents was difficult at first.  For example, I could not understand about a third of what one of my flat mates was saying for the first couple weeks. This is partially due to the fact that she is from Newcastle, which has a particularly thick English accent, and that she speaks really quickly. Some people have trouble understanding me as well, so the accent barrier goes both ways.

My English peers are friendly and are for the most part accepting of Americans. This is not to say that America, as a country, is well received in England because there are parts of American culture that the English despise. For example, when my flat mates think of America, gun violence, lack of health coverage, and pollution first enter their minds. This can get irritating when these topics are brought up in conversation because there is much more to America than a few policies.  This negative view of America has affected how I am treated to a small degree.  When these situations would arise at the beginning of the semester, I would usually stay silent.  As time went on and I became more comfortable with my flat mates, I would usually point out that England isn’t without its flaws either, and that they shouldn’t act like you know everything about America if they haven’t even been there.  My advice to future exchange students would be to handle this situation however you see fit, but that it helps to be prepared.

I have 3 pieces of advice for exchange students who want to travel during their time abroad:

1.) Find other exchange students to travel with. Before I went abroad, I thought that I would be able to meet English people to travel with.  This was not the case because English students don’t have the incentive to travel around Europe because that is always an option for them. Instead, start talking to other exchange students to see if they have similar travel plans.

2.) Book flights in advance. Prices for the airlines that you will be using have been known to skyrocket within days.  This is why exchange students should try to book trips as soon as they find people to travel with. This not only cuts down on prices, but it also allows students to focus on studying without feeling bad about not having enough trips planned.

3.) Be adventurous. Exchange students should not be discouraged if they can’t find people to do some of the things that they want to do whether travel or activities. For example, I traveled to Amsterdam by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with, and it was one of the best trips that I’ve taken during my time over here.  The sense of accomplishment and independence that I felt after returning to Manchester is unmatched by anything else I’ve ever done.

Life at Manchester Business School

Kevin McGann sheds light on the university experience at Manchester Business School in England, and shares his top three reasons to attend Manchester Business School.

I am now over half way through my time here at the University of Manchester and have noticed that the classes at the Manchester Business School (MBS) are extremely similar to classes in the Fisher College of Business.  I think that the main reason for this is that these schools are similar in size.  To deal with the large amount of students, Manchester Business School incorporates a lecture and seminar structure that is similar to that of Ohio State’s. There are however, a couple slight differences in the way class schedules are structured. The first being that most lectures in MBS are two hours instead of one.  Fortunately, lectures allow students a 5-10 minute break halfway through lecture to relax and prepare for the second half. Another slight difference is that the seminars in MBS courses occur every other week instead of every week. With both of these differences in mind, it definitely seems like there is less in person class time as compared to Fisher.

Student assessments are a major point of difference that one needs to consider when choosing to do exchange at the University of Manchester. In all of the business courses that I am taking, there is a special exchange student assessment. These assessments have required that I submit a 2,000 to 3,000 word essay by the end of the semester that counts for 100% of my overall grade.  This style of assessment definitely does not benefit procrastinators.

The most interesting course that I’m taking abroad is called Leadership in Action. This class focuses on leadership theory and what exactly makes an effective leader. Probably the best facet of the Leadership in Action lectures is that there is a new speaker every week. Each speaker has his or her own specific cause or topic that they talk about for the entire lecture. A couple examples of the topics that the lecturers have touched on include human trafficking, access to higher education, and climate change. My favorite topic that we covered was climate change because of how relevant it is currently. Students are encouraged to provide their opinions on the lecture topics which makes class time more engaging.  A wide range of nationalities are represented in this course, so class discussions give insight into cultural backgrounds. It was interesting, but also disappointing to hear what British students think of the large percentage of Americans who don’t believe that global warming is occurring. A large part of the student’s grade is based on a group E-Poster project which requires students to work together in a groups of five to create an essay about a wicked problem that is impacting the world right now and what key leaders are doing about it. Every member of my group is from a different country which makes collaboration challenging but interesting. Each of us had a different idea of how the overall poster should be portrayed, so there need to be compromises to adhere to everyone’s preferences. I would definitely recommend Leadership in Action for anyone who is attending the University of Manchester, because of the way it provides students with a more global perspective.

I would encourage students who are thinking about going on exchange to strongly consider attending the University of Manchester for the following three reasons:

  1. Campus Housing: This immediately immerses exchange students in English culture. I live in a flat with 7 other people and we share a kitchen and two bathrooms. This setup is fairly common in England and has been a great way to make close friends with English students. My flatmates have become my biggest support network throughout my time here and have made me feel at home. Not all university accommodation contains the same layout as mine; in fact, many of my American friends are in halls that are very similar to campus dorms back home. Students should keep this in mind when they are considering different accommodation options.
  2. Location: Manchester’s central location makes travelling simple. I have been able to travel to other European destinations including Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Amsterdam, and Berlin for relatively cheap prices.
  3. The International Society: The last major reason why Fisher students need to make Manchester their top choice is because the international society at MBS makes it easy to meet other exchange students who want to plan events. I have met most of my friends here through international society events. These events enable exchange students to meet peers who are just as excited to travel throughout Europe.

About the Author: Kevin McGann, Rank, Major, Student Exchange Program- England.

Welcome to Bocconi’s Education System

Let Brad Schulze help you navigate the educational system in Italy and share his tips of being a successful student at Bocconi University, as he spends his semester on the Student Exchange Program. 

Imagine having a class scheduled for an entire semester at a certain place and a certain time; for example, at 10 am on Thursdays. Now imagine having another class that is canceled and rescheduled to the exact same time as your 10 am Thursday class and you have to miss the rescheduled class BUT are unable to get the absence excused by your teacher or by the university. Welcome to Italy. Welcome to Milan; and welcome to Bocconi Univeristy. A complete 360 from what you are used to; but an experience of a lifetime.

Just a quick background on the university in which I am spending my semester. It’s called Bocconi University and is highly regarded as one of the top business and overall university’s in Italy and in all of Europe. It consists of 2 main classroom buildings, 3 or 4 other buildings, a cafeteria, a gym, dorms and a bank. THAT IS IT. It is small, no question. It was a complete 360 from Ohio State and where I had spent the last 2 years of my college career studying. There are three huge differences that I can see and those are university lifestyle, classroom and school structure and self-study and self preparation for exams. Understanding the 3 and how to adapt has been crucial for me to succeed in my classes.

First, the university lifestyle. I hate to break it to you Buckeyes but there is no college football and in that case any college sports at the universities here in Italy. You won’t see your fellow Bocconian’s traveling down the street on a Friday afternoon repping their gear for Saturday’s big game. Just won’t find it. There aren’t nearly as many clubs and organizations to get involved in and you most certainly won’t see hundreds of your classmates tossing the Frisbee or lying out studying on your way to class; as I mentioned above there really is no campus quad, etc. I definitely was not anticipating the usual US college lifestyle when preparing to attend Bocconi but I can definitely say I was very shocked at just how different the two are. Of course I am bias and believe the Buckeyes and campus lifestyle at Ohio State trumps that of Bocconi but it most certainly has not taken away from the experience at Bocconi. Here you get to work and learn with kids from all over the world; more so than Ohio State. Instead of paying $7 for lunch on high street their are many local pizzerias where you can snag lunch for less than $3. Completely different and un-comparable. A different experience to say the least.

Main Classroom Building Lobby
Main Classroom Building Lobby

Moving on from the lifestyle, imagine yourself sitting in a lecture on Portfolio Management; with a professor who you may not find the most interesting for three hours every Friday morning with only one five-minute break that is denote as “the smoke break”. If you have never been blessed with this experience, I am here to tell you; you are not missing out. This is quite common at Bocconi. They only offer classes in either blocks of 1.5 hours, in which you have class twice a week, and 3 hour in which you have class once a week. Aside from that each class, from my knowledge, is only offered around 3 or 4 times a week so there is very little flexibility in creating your “ideal schedule.” Finally, as far as structure goes, and what I wish I had been a little better prepared for, is the idea that your grade completely falls on the shoulders of your final exam. Most classes here have very little, if any, homework and there is no such thing as participation points. With the different structure and all the traveling I wanted to do, I really had to adapt my studying and learning habits in order to succeed here at Bocconi. There was a learning curve but I think I have finally come up with my studying techniques (which I share at the end of this post) that will help me do well on my finals coming up in November.

Marketing Lecture
Marketing Lecture

The first thing I learned is that buying the textbook is a must. Unlike Ohio State where for a majority of the classes the textbook is a recommended learning material; it is the learning material. Being proactive and reading the chapters and doing some practice problems ahead of class is a huge advantage. The teachers here don’t take the time to make sure you understand the material and go at a very fast pace. The fast pace also makes office hours a must but the only problem is there are very few and they change a lot. I have learned it is much better to just send the teacher an email and set up a meeting. This way you know he/she will be there and won’t waste valuable time. Lastly, and maybe the most important is just to be kind and patient with the teacher. It is a different culture here and if you show an understanding of that and are patient they are way more willing to work with you through any problems you may have.

Looking back on this; it makes me realize that had I known all this before my semester begun it would have been way smoother; but to be honest I am glad I didn’t. It really has pushed me to academic levels I would have never thought possible. It has been one of the best parts of studying abroad and as I sit here describing my experiences and giving my advice it will be different for everyone and the best advice I can give is just be ready for change. There is no right or wrong answer or right or wrong way of doing certain things; you just need to figure out what works for you. And I believe if you can do the following things you will have a great and successful semester, academically and culturally, abroad even through the highs and lows.

  • Be patient. You won’t have the answer for every problem on Day 1. It takes some time.
  • Be adaptable. The way things are done here will cause some differences in what you are use to on a day to day basis. Be ready to adapt to those in order to make the most out of your abroad experience.
  • Take Initiative. Even more so than back home. Be on top of things. Office hours are not encouraged as much and most teachers only have them on an appointment basis. It is up to you to take advantage of these things.
  • Stay on Top of Things and Find a Balance. This may be the most important tip I can give. Yes, you are a student first but studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience. You will want to travel to all the top places on your bucket list, hang out with all your new worldwide friends and enjoy events hosted by your university. To be able to do all these awesome things it is very important that you do not fall behind. Create a schedule and find the right balance for you.

So even though, 2 months later, I still have not been able to get that 10 am Thursday Class absence excused; I am still here and still a student at Bocconi. Even though there are fewer office hours and teachers are less involved I am still doing just fine in all of my classes. Just because something is different doesn’t make it easier or harder or right or wrong. It just requires a little change. If studying abroad is something that interests you but the differences scare you; I promise that if you can be patient, be adaptable, take some initiative and find your balance, you will be just fine and better for it.

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy.

Student Life at Rikkyo University

Peak into Phuong Tran’s student life at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan. Join her as she dives into the unique and fascinating culture of Japan as she studies there for the semester.

My name is Phuong Tran, and I am currently an exchange student in Tokyo at Rikkyo University. I share in this post of my first month here in Japan on the Student Exchange Program.

This is my first time in Tokyo, and every day I find myself enjoying new and exciting experiences. My days have been unexpectedly busy with school, but there are still many thing I want to participate in but do not have enough time to do.

Currently, I am taking 8 courses at Rikkyo, including 2 business courses, 2 Culture and Literature courses, and 4 Japanese language courses. Each class worth 1.5-2 credits, and  there is only 1 class (1.5 hour) per week for each courses. So far, I enjoy the two Culture and Literature courses the most because of the fun activities we do in class. For example, last week we were divided into groups of two students and performed a short “manzai” (a Japanese traditional style of stand-up comedy) in Kansai dialect.  We wrote the script in Japanese by ourselves first, then the instructor helped us with making the conversation sound more natural in Japanese. Then we performed the script in both Japanese and English in front of the class.

I personally did not think I was very good at doing comedy but it was a very interesting experience. We had people coming from different countries in my class, and I realized we all have different ideas about what makes a comedy “funny.” For examples, my teacher explains that in Japanese “manzai,” the jokes revolve around mutual misunderstandings, double talks, etc. This may be hard for foreigners to understand because we do not know much about the background. However, my European friends created a normal daily conversation script, which did not have any puns at all. I did not think it would be funny at all when I read it on the paper, but the way they performed, it made us all laugh.

I also enjoy the two business courses in a different way. The two classes are offered in English, and the content is not very difficult comparing to a typical course at OSU. However, doing group-work with Japanese students has taught me many things about their culture. For example, the international students are very active during class discussion, while the Japanese students tend to remain silent event when being asked. I find it hard to discuss case problem with them at first, because they keep saying “yes,” “maybe,” or “I think so, too.” However, after we became friends and more open to each other, working in group was a breeze. A tip, I think, is to talk with them about things other than the course work, become friends, then go back to work. It seems to me that my Japanese teammates did not want to share their ideas with people they do not know well. But after they feel comfortable with sharing their opinions, they work very hard and contributed a lot to our project.

The four Japanese language courses are the most time-consuming ones. I am placed in level 5 (out of 8) based on the result of my placement test. Each of the four focuses in a specific skill, including Reading, Grammar, Writing, and Speaking & Listening. The hardest part for me is Kanji, Chinese characters in Japanese. Even though I have finished 4 years of Japanese back at OSU, I only know about 5-600 Kanji, so it takes me a lot of time to do the reading assignments. Since there is no class for Kanji, I applied for the Language Center’s Kanji test at the end of this month and was given extra assignments in order to study for the test. The test is optional and won’t affect my grades, but I have to study really hard for it.

However, I love Japanese language and this is one of the main reason I am here at Rikkyo, so I am trying my best every day. I love the Japanese pronunciation, and being in Japan is ideal for improving my pronunciation. Recently, I find myself often “eavesdropping” on other peoples’ conversations on the train. It is really hard to follow the conversations between native speakers but I hope I would be able to understand more in the end of my stay here.

Every day, I leave home around 9am and won’t return until after 9pm. Even though most of my classes are in the afternoon, I still want to stay at school in order to join other students at Rikkyo’s Global Lounge, which is a wonderful place to make new friends, either Japanese or international students. The Global Lounge is basically a free space with many tables, where Japanese and international students are welcomed to come and leave at any time. Occasionally, we have special intercultural events such as Study Abroad Fair, students’s presentations on their home countries, oversea experiences, and job opportunities after studying abroad, etc.

Global Lounge at Rikkyo University
The Global Lounge at Rikkyo University

Personally, I feel it’s easier to make friend with Japanese students at the Global Lounge than at any other place at school because they are more open and willing to talk to foreigners. At first, I brought my homework with me to the Global Lounge, but then I realized that talking to new friends is more worthwhile there. I applied to be an discussion leader at Global Lounge’s English table and now I am looking forward to my first day doing this job next week.

In general, I find classes are not very hard, but the amount of homework is more than I had expected. However, between the 8 courses I am taking, I find time to join my friends in their course field activities such as a trip to some oldest temples in Tokyo. I feel very comfortable at school and do not feel much pressure about grades. The only thing that makes me upset is that I have to return early in December so I won’t be able to celebrate the end of this semester with my new friends. I have also applied for some extracurricular activities at school (such as taking a Japanese class with a volunteer from Rikkyo Women’s Alumni Association). I am excited for these upcoming events and hoping to share in my next post! 

About the Author: Phuong Tran, Senior, Accounting and Japanese. Student Exchange Program- Japan.

Unexpected Friendships

From a campus network to a global network. Join Brad Schulze’s journey in Italy on the Student Exchange Program as he expands his circle of connections from OSU to the world!

Go Bucks Lake Como, Italy
Go Bucks                      Lake Como, Italy

Buongiorno! Come sta? Mi chiamo Brad e Io sono Americano. Adesso, Io abito in Milano. Io studio a la Universida Bocconi. Mi piace il cibo d’Italian. En il future Io vorrei un unomo di affair per mi lavoro. Mi italiano e no buona ma Io sono practicare.

Hope you enjoyed reading my awful Italian, but I am practicing and I hope I can spice things up a bit in my next post. Let me translate that for you: “Good day! How are you? My name is Brad and I am American. Now I am living in Milano. I am studying at the University of Bocconi. I like Italian food. In the future I hope to be a business man.” My Italian is awful but I am practicing.

A little more about myself, that I do not yet know how to say in Italian. My name is Brad Schulze.I am a fourth year Finance major at The Fisher College of Business with an anticipated graduation date of December 2016. I am a member of Pi Sigma Epsilon Business Fraternity and  a Freshman Basketball Coach. In my free time I enjoy rooting on my beloved Buckeyes and anything and everything sports. As far as choosing to do a Student Exchange Program; I have always loved to travel;  but I won’t lie to you, spending a whole semester abroad and missing out on a lot of Ohio State things was definitely a thought that crossed my mind. In the end I decided to go all in and take advantage of the opportunity that I was blessed to come across and have absolutely no regrets. If anything my Student Exchange experience has been better than anticipated and I really fret it coming to an end in December.

It has officially been one month since my arrival in Milan, Italy and looking back I think it is safe to say it has been one of the fastest months, if not the fastest of my life. It has been jam packed with so many fun things like staying with an Italian family, traveling, meeting new people, learning some Italian and taking classes that are really challenging me. To say it has all been good would be a lie, as some of the processes I had to do when first getting here really tested my patience, which I plan to touch on in a later post, but for now I want to keep everyone in high spirits.

Milan Derby
Milan Derby

So first, let me get it out of the way, and please the audience by telling everyone what they are expecting. Yes, the food is great and surprisingly, it’s not all pizza and pasta. I would have to say Milanese (a veal dish typical to Milan) is my favorite and the gelato has lived up to all expectations. I have traveled to Florence, Lake Como, Cinque Terre, and have Verona this coming weekend, Rome the weekend after and was also lucky enough to attend The Milan Derby. Every place has a unique, different feature and not one is exactly the same which is something that has really impressed me. But from the blogs that I have seen and read; most every one is about the traveling and I  can’t say that is the best part thus far of my study abroad experience. Rather, I want to touch on a hidden aspect of study abroad that I don’t think gets the recognition it should. That is the the amount of people I have met from all over the world and the networking connections that I have made for the rest of my life. I have met kids from all over the world and now know them on a personal scale. Though, I don’t know what will happen in the future I can only imagine these connections will pay dividends beyond what the classroom will; Professionally but more importantly on a personal basis, friendships that will last a lifetime.

To start, on August 24th I arrived in Milan (Milano as it’s called here) and was picked up and greeted my friend Davide at the airport where we then traveled to his home in a small town called Malnate, Italy. Davide was a friend of mine that I met when I traveled to Italy in 2011 for an international basketball tournament. Davide and I now message and talk daily and I know I always have a place to stay in Italy and the same to him in Ohio. His family was super welcoming and I got to experience Italian culture for a few days before moving to the dorms. Got to eat some awesome meals made by him and his mom, drink some special Italian wine and attempt to learn a little bit of Italian with him. To top off these first few days he was kind enough to show me around Florence and Lake Como, two of the top places to see in Italy. The 3 days flew by and by Thursday I had to move in the dorm but plan to visit him at his school hear in the near future.

Davide and I taking a selfie in Florence
Davide and I taking a selfie in Florence

So, now to the dorm. Where I have made the most connections by far.  Though the dorm is not the nicest and about 20 minutes from the University, I would not change the experience of living here for anything. I don’t know the exact numbers but I believe there are 6 continents (no Antarctica) and around 15 countries represented in this small five story dormitory. I basically have been around the world in 4 weeks. (Not Literally) I have met and become very good friends with three kids from Chile, one from Brazil, four from Canada, two from Australia, one from Netherlands, and the list goes on. I can’t really pin point the exact numbers but I would imagine that is a multiple thousand-mile network I have created and friends that I have for the rest of my life. On top of that, Bocconi itself has students across 50 different countries. In the dorms, almost every night we cook together, hang out together and just learn about so many different cultures. For example, if you ever hear an Australian say “Thanks Heaps” it means thanks a ton and if you ask a kid from Europe what his/her major is be ready to be stared at by a very confused face; because in Europe and elsewhere around the world it is simply “What do you study?” Every day a group of us play basketball outside the dorm, we all study together, travel together, etc. It really has opened so many gates and taught me so much that will be beneficial in my future, whatever I decide to do. It makes you leave your comfort zone, figuring out how to communicate with kids whose first language isn’t English, and gives you so many different views and aspects on the world that are second to none. Makes your tool kit that much bigger and experiences that much better.

I don’t want to dive into classes here too much since it only has been 3 weeks but I have already been lucky enough to have a very well known business man here in Italy speak to my class. My professor, who studied at Yale, knew him from work. His name was Gianluca Manca and he is The Head of Sustainability at Eurizon Capital. He went into a lot of depth about the issues in our environment and how it relates to investors and their decisions. It was a really cool talk and now I have an Italian connection for business who said if I can become fluent in the language he would be happy to give me connections and help me network here. My teacher has 3 or 4 more speakers scheduled through the semester so I will be sure to keep everyone updated on that.

Alright last thing I promise, I appreciate it if you have made it thus far, I will make it quick. I enrolled in a two week, 40 hour Italian language Crash Course in which we learned some very basic Italian Language. All I received was a certificate and will get no credit for it but I made a very good connection with the teacher which made it well worth it. We now exchange emails a few times a week in which I respond and talk to her in Italian, she corrects me and then responds in English and I do the same. Really has helped my Italian immensely and I now plan to take the follow up course through the semester and have an Exchange Language Partner that I will start meeting with regularly next week to practice my Italian and help her with her English. Again, a huge, huge tool that I can use and friends that will last a lifetime.

My Italian Language Teacher and I after my exam
My Italian Language Teacher and I after my exam

It really is awesome to see just how different parts of the world are. It really makes you appreciate the world more and even the USA. It has opened up a whole new perspective on everything for me and I wish everyone had the opportunity that I have been blessed with. The world is shrinking and the Student Exchange Program gives you a step ahead and helps you create an invaluable network. I think if I can become fluent in other languages (Italian and Spanish are the first two!) these friends I have made would be more than willing to help me out with jobs and the same for me to them. The classroom doesn’t give you this opportunity. I have created so many different friends through so many activities in only my first month here. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of my time here.

Hope you enjoyed my post and I really hope you at least consider the possibility of going abroad. So much world out there and so many people to meet.

Chile, Ohio, Chile, Australia, UNC
Chile, Ohio (Me), Chile, Australia, UNC

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy.

Ready, Set, Bike!

Listen to Kelley Jiang’s advice as she starts her life in Copenhagen, Denmark and experience her first steps in the city studying and living abroad on the Student Exchange Program. 

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kelley Jiang and I will be starting off my third year fall semester studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) on the Student Exchange Program.

My highly anticipated European experience began before stepping foot on European soil. As soon as I boarded the Norwegian airplane, I immediately felt like a foreigner. I was no longer in a cramped and uncomfortable Delta or United Airlines plane, but flying in a seat that I could actually fall (almost) comfortably asleep in and with a ceiling that was so high I could not reach it with my arm fully extended.

My biggest fear upon landing in Copenhagen was that all the signs would be in Danish and I would have no idea where to go. Although I have traveled to Europe before, it was one of those trips you sign up with 70 of your closest friends (and chaperones) through an international touring company, in my case we booked through EF Tours. Anyways, as my “Buddy” assigned to me from CBS picked me up and took me to my housing accommodation via the Metro my first thoughts can be summarized in 3 words: Pretty, quiet, and bikes. The Scandinavian people are breathtakingly gorgeous—but they all look very similar—, the city was very quiet/quaint for a city, and there are so many bikes that the city has a separate raised lane and traffic lights to direct bike traffic. There is even “bike rush hour”.

In just my first days exploring some of Copenhagen I have learned a lot. First and most importantly, everyone bikes. Although everyone here might be able to speak English well, everything is written in Danish. After successfully ordering my first meal here I thought, “This isn’t so hard! Everyone speaks English. No problem”. But going to the grocery store is a different story. I should have known things would be different when my roommate accidently bought yogurt instead of milk on the first day because it came in a carton identical to what milk comes in. Although I didn’t mix up any foods on my first trip, I didn’t realize after checking out with several items that in most stores you have to pay for a grocery bag. After my items were scanned I stood at the end of the cashier table for a good minute while looking for the grocery bags and then finally realized that people had brought bags with them to put their items in. Just when I thought I had got away with no one trying to speak Danish to me or noticing that I was a complete foreigner, I not only drew attention to myself by having to get back in line to purchase the grocery bag but I also had to speak up in English to ask the cashier about the bags. Instant perspiration inducing moment. My next few trips to the grocery store were definitely still very rocky. The trips take me triple the time it would normally take in America because I have to carefully decipher what the item is by its context clues (there are no English translations on the food labels). And even after I am confident I have chosen what I wanted, I will open a fruit smoothie juice to find the oddest tasting fruit flavor ever or pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth and find out that I had bought chocolate covered licorice (EW).

The biggest immediate struggle so far is definitely finding foods that I like and that are affordable. After several trips to the grocery store and I have learned that it’s worth swallowing your pride and asking someone for help if you need finding something or translating a label. Also, you must learn to accept the fact that there will be many things you purchase in the beginning that you absolutely hate and mistakingly bought thinking it was something else. You will lose some money to buying then immediately tossing grocery items, but it will happen to every exchange student. Other than that the people, I have noticed, are also different but not in a way that would make it hard for someone visiting to fit in. People are nice and don’t treat you like a tourist when they find out you can’t speak Danish. The weather, despite many warnings, has been gorgeous every day so far. The city center is breathtaking and definitely worth many visits.

Some other observations after 2 and a half weeks are:

Official procedures: One of the first things you have to do as an exchange student is register for your CPR number. This stands for “Det Centrale Personregister” in Danish and is the American equivalent to a social security number and how you receive all the free services provided by the socialistic Danish government like free healthcare. If I were in America I could easily look up a straightforward set up directions with details on how to do this. But in Denmark everything and everyone is extremely vague. One person will tell you one thing and another person will tell you another. The website that has the instructions is in Danish and there is not much help provided, so you will have to be ready to attack it trial and error style.

Fashion: Black, black, and more black. Scandinavians are minimalistic—wearing mostly neutrals. Instead of wearing stylish shoes to match a great outfit they seem to wear sneakers with everything, even when getting dressed up. Also, leather is definitely in.

Buildings: Reflects the fashion here, minimalistic as well.

First Impressions: The stereotype is that Scandinavians are known to be cold and without feelings. But the reason why Scandinavians might come off this way at first is because most of them are brutally honest and therefore do not do fake interest in someone like some Americans are known to do when they are actually disinterested in meeting someone. Although they might not make the first move to begin a conversation, once you break the silence (and my own fears of judgement) and begin talking to a Scandinavian they are actually quite friendly. Don’t be afraid to start up conversations with locals! Especially in Denmark where almost everyone can speak English.

America: A place where everything is super-sized. My perspective of America while living in Copenhagen has been realigned. Everything here is smaller. The buildings, the roads, the cars, meal portions, grocery stores, etc. At first I thought that everything in Copenhagen is just smaller, but now I am beginning to feel like everything in America is enlarged.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you got a little taste of Copenhagen!

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Selfie with one of many bike racks.
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Nyhavn, Copenhagen. Typical touristy area.

About the Author: Kelley Jiang, Junior, Marketing, Student Exchange Program- Denmark

Last day in Bangkok

I can’t believe our GAP experience is almost over. The last three weeks have been such a great experience. I have learned a lot about team work and professionalism, as well as Thai people, Thai culture and why they are so much better off than Vietnam economically.

Now heading back to my internship, I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from this trip will help me in my new position. Thank you Fisher for this wonderful opportunity, thank my friend for helping me during the project, and to Thailand: แล้วพบกันใหม่ (see you again).

Some random memories:

Most professional photo
Most professional photo
Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.
Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.
Free live music in a shopping center
Free live music in a shopping center

 

This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.
This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.

 

Last meal in Bangkok, cooked by my girlfriend, taste like home. So delicious.
Last meal in Bangkok, cooked at home. So delicious.