Ohio State Senior Peyton Bykowsk shares some of her favorite moments while abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Vienna this November. Including Christmas Markets, travel to Italy, visiting the Museumquarter, and end of term classes at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU).
Greetings from Vienna! This November has been one to remember. Classes have been busy and full of fun projects, Museumquartier has opened some amazing exhibits, the legendary Christmas Markets have opened, and a trip to Italy topped it all off! Here are some photos of the month.
Christmas Market at Rathausplatz
Friends and I at the Rathausplatz Christmas Market just a few days ago. Christmas markets are my absolute favorite, this is just one of many in Vienna! They are incredibly festive, fun, and full of great gifts and treats.
Rathaus is is the City Hall building of Vienna and it is one of the most spectacular buildings in the city (especially when lit up with Christmas lights). For more information regarding the different Viennese Christmas markets, here is a link.
Travel to Italy
This November I traveled to Italy where I spent 2 days in Rome, 2 days in Florence, and 1 day in Milan. The trip was incredible, filled with good food, amazing history and incredible beauty. Below are a few pictures from Rome and Florence.
Museumquarter is one of the most interesting parts of Vienna with several large museums in the area, and it is directly across from Hofburg Palace. They have some incredible exhibits, and you could last for hours in just one of the massive museums in the platz. Here is a glimpse inside the Fine Arts museum, its incredible interior, and a link to their webpage!
End of Term Classes
As the semester is nearing towards the last month, classes are certainly busier. Here is a picture of a typical classroom set up at WU. This day was a study session for an exam where many peers got together to study and quiz one another in preparation.
Vienna has been a spectacular choice for my study abroad experience. It is hard to believe I am nearing on my last month in this amazing country. From the interesting history, incredible beauty, amazing people and peers, and all of the fun culture that I got to dive into, Vienna was certainly the best choice for what I wanted to gain from the entirety of this experience. I look forward to a December filled with more Christmas Markets, continuing to build relationships with peers, and, most importantly, one of a kind experiences.
In travels to Vienna, Austria during the fall of 2017 on the Student Exchange Program, senior Peyton Bykowski discovers the importance of understanding business etiquette and professional interactions on a global scale.
The United States has very strict and regulated guidelines on how we conduct business and how businessmen and women interact on a professional level. Austria, based on research and experience, has similar, preset guidelines and standards that are to be met. If anything, there are firmer guidelines in how a student interacts with his or her lecturer, how to act and dress in business situations, and how Vienna itself provides resources for its students to find jobs and careers.
In the classroom at WU (Wirtschaftuniversitat – Vienna University of Economics and Business), it is fairly informal, surprisingly, in terms of business conduct at a business school. During presentations it is not required to dress business formal or business casual as it is at Ohio State. Presentations occur weekly for many classes, so having to consistently dress business professionally can be tedious, so it is not required or even asked of the students to dress up. However, there is more respect in terms of the student-teacher relationship. Students address the lecturer as “Professor” unless told otherwise. At the end of the class, the students knock on the table as a respectful notion to the Professor to thank him/her for teaching them today.
Many students also use the professors as a networking opportunity. As this is a small university, the students often have the same Professors multiple times for different classes. And since the classes are never larger than about 40 people, they tend to get to know them well. Similarly to Ohio State and the U.S., Professors allow insight for students on the business world and potential opportunities or careers to pursue. Many students often keep in contact with their university professors as a means of networking as well.
In terms of career events, Vienna has several for the city, but rarely are they specific to WU students. WU does have an online career and job portal similar to Fisher’s, but for large career fairs Vienna has two main events: Meet Your Job, which requires 1 application submitted to a student who is then matched with different company’s for short interviews at the fair, and Career Calling, which is a large company expo similar to the Fall and Spring Career Fairs at Ohio State. However, these fairs and events are much more relied on in Vienna than they are at Ohio State. Many students need them in order to find their work experience, as connections in the business world are not as utilized in Vienna. In the U.S. it is an unspoken rule that business students need internship experience before graduation, and then need professional work experience before attending grad school. In Austria, and most of Europe, it is not as necessary for students to have undergraduate work experience as they transition directly to grad school post university graduation. This was an interesting difference, as I can see value to both courses of education.
In regards to business etiquette and interactions in Vienna, there are not many differences than the U.S. I think the largest difference is in regard to the blunt nature of Austrians. Professors tend to interrupt during student presentations to offer feedback and thoughts; whereas in the U.S. and at Ohio State, it is more typical for a professor to hear the presentation through before offering feedback. Similarly to the U.S. though, Austrians greatly value punctuality and seriousness. This then relates to the importance of first impressions. First impressions weigh heavily on Austrians and so it is important to know the proper professional interactions before meeting with the individual(s). This would include the proper dress codes, not only for professional interactions but for dinners, the dress codes of certain facilities (i.e. Opera), etc. Overall, Austrians are conservative in terms of business etiquette and in nature when received by others.
Researching and experiencing different business etiquette practices has been really important to my understanding of global business. Understanding different practices and actually practicing them are completely different. I have always known how important it is to do your homework on the people, company, and culture of individuals I am meeting with, whether it be for a collaborative assignment, job interview, etc. However, remembering my homework on Vienna’s professional etiquette has helped me to understand what it is actually like while here. WU offers a lot of incredible resources to aid its students from all over the globe further their careers. Whether that’s the EBN group or Career Fairs for Viennese students, WU students are extremely successful and help new students to a new country learn quickly.
While attending Thammasat University in Thailand on the Student Exchange Program, Talia Bhaiji was also able to visit Vietnam. Join her journey visiting the cities Ninh Binh, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Sapa.
This semester has afforded me a lot of time to travel due to the schedule in Thailand. Unfortunately, the King of Thailand passed away in October last year and the country went into mourning for a full year. The king’s cremation was a week and a half ago, and since Thammasat University is near the Royal Palace, we were awarded a week off from school. During this time, my friends and I decided to travel to Vietnam for 11 days. That’s hardly enough time, and I was only able to see 4 cities and only one region of the country. I know 11 days sounds like a lot, but there are people that travel Vietnam for 2.5 months and say that they still weren’t sure they had enough time. Either way, I had an incredible time and highly recommend Vietnam.
Vietnam was unlike any other country that I’ve seen before. I flew into Hanoi and spent the night there before taking a bus in the morning to the city of Ninh Binh, home of beautiful archipelagos and apparently the filming location for one of the King Kong movies. I traveled here alone and made some friends who I spent my time in Ninh Binh with. It was a small, chill little town and I was able to relax a bit and enjoy my time.
I did a boat tour of Tam Coc, which is one of the main attractions in Ninh Binh, and was absolutely in awe with all of the beauty on the water. Unfortunately, since I was not there in April or May I didn’t get to see the yellow blooming rice fields, but nonetheless it was still breathtaking. After my time in Ninh Binh, I took a train back to Hanoi and met my friends there.
Hanoi was absolutely breathtaking. It was a huge mix of French architecture and tons of French cafes. I didn’t realize how much of Southeast Asia the French owned. They had so many territories and it’s still so present today. Hanoi also had a huge blend of Western and Vietnamese food. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of vegetarian food there. My first day I walked around, accidentally stumbled upon a local market, ate some authentic Vietnamese pho, and went to a rooftop cafe. We were able to look out over the entire city and witness a really cool festival going on.
Afterwards, we went down and joined in on the fair and it was so magical. The streets were filled with people, music was playing everywhere, snacks were being sold on the street, and everywhere I turned people were dancing and having a good time. The weather in Vietnam was much more mild than in Thailand, so it was really pleasant to be outside. We sat down with some locals and enjoyed some drinks as well as we people-watched.
The next day we went to the Temple of Literature, which is Vietnam’s first university, and it is one of the universities dedicated to Confucius. I also hadn’t realized the influence that China had over Vietnam, so this really opened my eyes to that as well. It was also really exciting to learn about how education had started in Vietnam and how the principles of their society had been built around this university.
After the temple, we made our way over to a cafe and hung around the city. We then walked over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and tried to go to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, except it was closed. (If you are in Hanoi, please go, I’ve heard it’s well worth it!) Afterwards, we booked our tour for Ha Long Bay and were on our way!
I only spent one day in Ha Long Bay, and I’m not really a beach/boat person, so it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, and it also cost me $30 for a day tour, which I thought was a rip off, but you can’t travel there on your own. The town around Ha Long Bay has nothing to do, and you have to pay to get out on the water. Ha Long Bay was absolutely stunning though and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archipelagos here are also absolutely stunning, and we got to kayak around them which was an absolutely amazing experience. Afterwards, we ate on the boat, and headed back to Hanoi for our overnight bus to Sapa.
The sleeper buses in Vietnam are really nice and we were able to recline and enjoy the night. Unfortunately the drivers in Vietnam are a bit more reckless than in the U.S. and the roads are bumpy. Also the differences on the buses in Asia is that they will stop and pick up people in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had buses stop on the side of the highway and randomly pick up people, who then slept on the floor. Asia is so different!
Sapa is a small mountain town known for trekking, and it was absolutely breathtaking; it may be one of my favorite places I’ve visited in all of Asia. It was also 48 degrees Fahrenheit, so be prepared for it to be very cold. We got off the night bus at 5:30am and got some really good pancakes for breakfast; Vietnam is really into pancakes for breakfast. Afterwards, we headed over to our homestay and stayed with local people in the city. The first day, after a quick nap, we did some trekking around the town up to the Hua Thao Village. Maps.me saved my life here! We were able to follow the path on the map and trek. Unfortunately, it had rained a lot and it was quite slippery. I really worried about falling (and I definitely did a lot) but it was very cool to learn that the treks were made for the village people not for tourists to trek. It made the experience feel more authentic and it was so cool to meet the local people from the villages along the way. We got to stop into a couple houses and seeing how people lived was amazing. Of course, they all have phones, but they’re very self-sufficient in how they live. They produce all their own food, manage their own animals, and provide for themselves. It’s amazing! After a couple hours, we finally made it to the top of the mountain and it was breathtaking!
We went to sleep that night in our mosquito nets in our homestay overlooking the mountains. In the morning, we woke up to the sounds of roosters and crying babies (the homestay family had a new baby) and went down to get some pancakes with honey and chocolate and condensed milk. Afterwards, we met our tour guide, who was a local girl in the Lao Cai village and was 20 years old, which was the same age as me and my friend Hannah. She talked to us about her life in the village and it was very different from ours. She is 20, with two children, and told us how common it is for people in her village to marry at 15 and have children shortly after. She told me about how they don’t have electricity and how different their lives are. She has never traveled outside of her village as well. It’s so crazy! We started our trek in the morning and along the way 3 village women decided to join us. It was a scary trek so it was nice to have 4 guides helping us around. I truly think they carried me up the mountain. All my clothes were super muddy but it was so much fun. When we made it to the top, we got to see and trek through the rice fields, and the trip was truly breathtaking, probably one of my favorite activities throughout this entire trip. We came back, hung out with our new friends at the hostel and had a good night sleep.
Afterwards, we had a nice day off, so I was able to catch up on my pictures and do some homework (yes I’m in school!) and the next day we headed out and went back to Hanoi. While we were in the town center of Sapa, we were able to visit an old cathedral, hang out in some of the cafes, and spend some time relaxing under the Christmas lights. It was absolutely amazing.
I ended my time in Hanoi and was able to pick up some really cool souvenirs for my friends and family. Vietnam was beautiful and I will never forget it.
Abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Thailand, Talia Bhaiji shares her travels to Myanmar and her favorite places she has visited!
After my weekend in Cambodia, I took a 2 week break from traveling and then made my way back out of Thailand to Myanmar! I was surprised how much I loved Myanmar and would highly recommend it to anyone who is in Southeast Asia.
There was almost a point where I was considering scrapping my trip to Myanmar and it’s because of the current issue with the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims. In the far west of Myanmar near the Bangladesh border, the Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted for nearly 20 years now. The world didn’t learn about it until the military regime left Myanmar, but the persecution had been going on for years before. Basically, Myanmar is very Buddhist and very traditional, and with the Rohingya Muslims coming in, it caused a huge religious clash. Because of this, the Rohingya people are not recognized as real people and have little to no rights in the region. I knew about this and felt I’d be personally liable if I participated in tourism for the country while ignoring the intense humanitarian problems going on. A friend of mine had already gone, and after doing my research (as well as with his advice), I read that if you don’t go, you are not helping the local people, rather you’re hurting them and it’s incorrectly directed anger. When you travel to Myanmar you should avoid funding government activities, rather look into being a sustainable tourist and helping the local people. It’s not fair to the local people to not travel to Myanmar because of the government’s actions; either way they’re hurt by this. With this in mind, I decided to do my research and head to Myanmar.
Our first stop was in Yangon, the capital city, and I think I fell in love here. Our hostel was 200 meters away from the Sule Pagoda, the center of Yangon and a beautiful landmark seen all throughout the city.
We were right in the heart of everything and got to experience so much. There was so much Indian food in Myanmar, due to the influences from India and Bangladesh, and it was also mixed with Thai food, so I loved getting to eat food there. There’s a lot of ethnic populations in Yangon and the food is so authentic. We took some time doing a walking tour around the city and got to see the train station, a park, a famous cathedral, and a really cool market. Our first night there we also accidentally stumbled upon a fair for the Lighting Festival of Myanmar. During this time, many Burmese people get off work and are free to travel around, so the city was completely packed. It was so amazing to see everyone all together.
After our time in Yangon, we tried to book some bus tickets to the ancient city of Bagan, but since so many Burmese people were on holiday, everything was booked. This was one time where I wish I would have done some more planning, which is usually the opposite in Asia. Although there are different travel styles, what I head on the way to backpack well in Asia is to book your ticket into the country, get your visa, and book one night in a hostel. The rest of your planning (buses, hostels, tours) you should do while you’re in the country and with locals and tourists who have already done the activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t do our research to see that everything was so busy that week, so we struggled during the whole trip to plan things well. Plus, my companions were a lot more laid back than me, and I struggled with that too. I’m a planner by nature, and when things go awry I tend to panic. Finally, after wandering the streets, we found a travel agency and were able to book a bus to Inle Lake.
Inle Lake was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. We all rented a boat for the day and it was $5 a person, which was amazing. I was taken to an authentic silver shop, a handmade cigar shop, and a bunch of other places with traditional Burmese handcrafts. It was absolutely amazing and something I highly recommend. There’s actually a village in the water and the people get around by using boats everywhere. It’s reminiscent of Venice but so so different. They also have limited access to technology and to the outside world; it was quite refreshing to see how they get by and how their lives are so different.
After we went to Inle Lake, we took a day van to get to Bagan. The driver sped through the mountains and swerved on the edge of the road. It may have been one of the scariest car rides of my life. Either way, we made it safely to Bagan and were able to enjoy the beauty of the ancient city. Bagan is known for having nearly 2000 pagodas and they’re all very close by. There used to be around 10,000 but so many of them got destroyed by nature. It’s really sad but there’s still so much beauty in the city. We spent the whole day in Bagan and had a nice picnic at one of the pagodas.
Finally, we finished our touring in Bagan and made our way back to Yangon. Here I finished all my shopping and was able to get some really good Burmese noodles in a nearby shopping mall. We also went on the local Yangon Circular Train and enjoyed the sights of the city.
Myanmar was surely somewhere not to be missed and I’m so happy I could go. I did have my concerns with the Rohingya crisis going on, but after learning about the situation more and deeming it appropriate to travel there, I ended up going and don’t regret it. As a country that was largely oppressed and hidden from the world, I think it was so important for me to go and see it. It was also very budget friendly and I found myself spending way less money than expected! Overall, Myanmar is definitely less touristy than both Thailand and Vietnam, which I definitely enjoyed, and I really found myself so much more immersed in the culture than before. My unpreparedness made me a little bit uncomfortable, but I definitely learned to be adaptable and more flexible when things didn’t go right, which was super helpful in the future when I was trying to adapt to Thai Time in Thailand.
Talia Bhaiji shares her observation of Cambodia, a side trip, while she studies abroad in Thailand on the Student Exchange Program to Thammasat University.
One of the first trips I did while abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Thammasat University, Thailand, was my weekend getaway to Cambodia. I remember sitting in the cafe near Amarin Mansion (my apartment building) and deciding on a whim, “I think I’m going to Cambodia next weekend!” I booked my bus (8 hours across the border) and booked my hostel in the middle of Siem Reap. I was there from Thursday to Monday morning.
I made it across the border fairly easy and after a couple hours made it to Siem Reap. I got dropped off in the absolute monsooning rain (rainy season hits Asia really really hard) and caught a tuk tuk, which is a little 3 wheel vehicle used to get around, to my hostel. I have to say that I was pretty nervous as I was traveling without a sim card, but their English in Cambodia was pretty good, so I didn’t encounter too many difficulties. Once I got to my hostel, I hung around at the hostel for a bit, and then forced myself to befriend some really cool Australian sisters who I ended up spending my entire weekend with!
We were able to go to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious monument on earth. We woke up at 4:30 am, caught a tuk tuk at 5 am, and made our way over to catch the sunrise at Angkor, which was absolutely spectacular. It was packed with people, and super hot, but it’s also one of the most well known monuments on Earth, and the architecture and vast beauty of it was like nothing else.
Afterwards, we made our way over to Bayon temple, which is known for having all of the faces on the temples.
Finally, we went to Ta Prohm, which is famous for being in the Tomb Raider movies, and is very recognizable by the trees that cover the temple. It was so cool to see so much of history and to be surrounded by such untouched beauty.
At night, we walked around Siem Reap and visited the infamous Pub Street as well as the Siem Reap Night Market, which was really amazing as well. There’s no real downtown, or real “city” in Siem Reap, which was surprising to me as Siem Reap was the capital and it felt very empty. There are some shorter buildings, but if you go, you’ll see that there are no office buildings, absolutely no skyscrapers and it feels mildly abandoned. Google has very few images of Siem Reap as a town as well, which was quite odd to me. All that pops up is really Angkor Wat when you search for Siem Reap.
In the mornings, we ate breakfast at some of the cafes around the city and had lots of expensive Western food. There were a ton of French bakeries, so I was able to get baguettes, croissants, and lots of cheese, but I really didn’t see much Khmer food which was very surprising to me, but after I did some research about Cambodia I was able to figure out why. The experiences with the war wiped a lot of the culture away, which is why it was so difficult to find native Khmer things/food in Cambodia.
I got to do a lot in Siem Reap and it was really cool experience, but Cambodia was really not what I was expecting. To be fair I only spent a weekend there and I was only in the capital, but there was still a fair amount of the culture that I was able to absorb. Cambodia has a sort of emptiness to it that I couldn’t seem to figure out. I did some research on their history to understand and found out that in the earlier centuries (14th, 15th) Cambodia and Angkor, the capital city, were a powerhouse and had incredible infrastructure. Later on in Cambodian history, they were owned by the French which made a lot of sense as to why they had so much French influence in not only their food, but their architecture, and also on some of their advertisements, menus, etc. But I still couldn’t figure out why it felt like there was something still missing in Cambodia. Yes, there were small buildings and stores but it felt like there was almost no one there. As I was talking with my Australian roommates, they brought up the Vietnam War and said that they had seen the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and had seen the destruction that the US, Vietnam War, and the Khmer Rouge had done to Cambodia, and how the country had never been able to recover. I began my own research and was appalled to learn about it.
Apparently, the US had a huge role in bombing Cambodia, during the late years of the Vietnam War in an attack called the Cambodia Campaign, followed by the Khmer Rouge which brought a huge massacre, torture, and forced labor in the country. I leaned that there was no aid from the US to help Cambodia in its devastating years. If you want to know more about the history, you can find information here.
Learning this history, it made me so ashamed to be an American; here in Cambodia these people love America, love to speak English with us and even use the US dollar as their currency! They celebrate the day that the US ousted the government and put in a new leader and yet we left them with no aid.
Because of this history (our bombings, the war, the Khmer Rouge), Cambodia to this day has been unable to recover and will need some time before it can get back to where it was before. All of these actions occurred within a 10 year period, so it almost impossible for Khmer people to rebuild a destroyed country. While I was there I also took some time to watch “First They Killed My Father” which is a Netflix documentary about a young girl’s experience in the Khmer Rouge. It changed how I see my country and how I see myself. I was ashamed to know that I had barely learned about this in school, and that was probably due to the fact that the US lost the Vietnam War and didn’t want to dwell on its failures.
This trip really made me think about my country and about how our actions affect the rest of the world. I felt humbled to have gone and wouldn’t change my experience for anything. I will say that it did teach me that I need to start doing research before I travel somewhere; I know people told me to do that and I brushed them off with the assumption that I knew far more than I did. When I got to Cambodia, I was mildly embarrassed to not have known any of the history of the war, which is still so relevant to them. It also taught me to be more aware of the actions of America, and how I’ll be perceived as an American. It made me want to be more educated and understand my country’s history better, especially since it does affect so many people.
If you’re in South East Asia I encourage you to go to Cambodia and check out Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields, if possible. But if you do go, please do your research about the Vietnam War, about Cambodia’s history, and be prepared for a life changing experience.
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.
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.
Grant Buehrer, participating in the Student Exchange Program in Spain, shared his story meeting with the King of Spain! Tasked with a gift and the first question to the king, he puts what he learned at Ohio State to the test as he steps into the room that the king awaits.
This is a continued story for my previous blog post here, and I am excited to share the story of meeting the King of Spain!
The time had come for me to join the group of students set to be a part of the annual private audience with the King of Spain. As we waited outside the university – in formal suit and tie – for the bus that would take us to Palacio Zarzuela, the official residence of the Spanish royal family. I had the chance to strike up a great conversation with a group of outstanding students at ICADE, they were interested to hear about business culture in the U.S.A. and we had a short, yet passionate, debate regarding the role of the United States in the world. At this point my Spanish was starting to sound quite coherent and I was proud of my progress in the first 2 months of the exchange semester.
Once on the bus Marta – the person who aided me in getting my replacement phone out of customs – began to address the group of around 20-30 students. We had known that our meeting would be a casual-style Q&A, but none of us were expecting Marta to ask us to be the first to ask a question. After a few moments of silence following her request for an initial question, Marta called on me to ask a question first. I became tense, but remembered all the great preparation I had received from my time at Ohio State to be ready in this moment. I felt that there was a necessary need to bring a gift for the King, know that he was an active man, I decided to bring a new Ohio State Nike dry-fit hat; it seemed fitting considering I was a long way from home. With question and a hat in hand, I got off the bus and went towards the palace.
The palace was a beautiful place, incredibly regal with fine accents. For a building for nation leader, it was right in line with my expectations in terms of its exquisiteness. As we were waiting for our appointment with the King, we waited in an anteroom and were prepped as to what the proceedings for the meeting would be. I handed my gift over to an assistant to the king, and we began to make a line for our entrance and formal handshake.
After a wonderful procession into the room, we were there. King Felipe VI was very gracious and received us regally. With a firm handshake and a slight bow, I greeted the king with a formal Su Majestad (Your Majesty), it was an incredible experience. Once the proceedings began, time seemed to rapidly pass by. After speeches from the Rector of my exchange university, King Felipe VI, and a single student representative the Q&A had commenced. Without fail, the entire room was looking to me as I stretched my Spanish skills to its maximum. After a minute long speech in Spanish I politely asked the King if I could ask my question in English, I did not want to ask a complex question and receive a response in a language I didn’t have total mastery of yet! He graciously accepted, and provided an incredibly thorough response, I was incredibly impressed by his breadth of knowledge.
He did the same for the rest of the students, each response was carefully crafted and expertly explained. what was most interesting for me was his diplomatic demeanor. One could tell that he was a person who had spent much time in front of the citizens of Spain, and in negotiations with international leaders. There was a lot to learn from having the honor to observe such a well-polished individual.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to have met King Felipe VI, and would not have been able to have such an experience without the existence of the Fisher Semester Exchange program. I have much gratitude to both Universidad Pontificia Comillas and The Ohio State University for their partnership. Get out there and go beyond the classroom with a semester exchange!
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.
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.
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!