In preparation for his 2017 program, Dr. Neil Drobny reflects on his experience directing the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab in Denmark and The Netherlands.
The opportunity to develop and lead the Global Lab in sustainability is one of the highlights of my teaching career at Ohio State. And the decision to concentrate the experience on sustainable business practices in Denmark and The Netherlands was icing on the cake.
I have known for many years that physical, cultural and other factors in Europe have intersected to create conditions ripe for innovation and development of sustainable business practice. The Global Lab experience was an opportunity to validate and observe what I had come to know only through reading and second hand information. Similarly it was an opportunity to reinforce with students information that I had presented in the classroom.
The mix of visits to diverse business and cultural sites worked well together in conveying that sustainable practices are well integrated into everyone’s work and non-work lives. We learned for example from Unilever, whose world headquarters in Rotterdam we visited, that an early consideration of all new product development is what the sustainability benefits and footprint will be. If a new product idea does not score well on sustainability metrics, it is not pursued.
In Amsterdam we saw the world’s first (experimental) solar road, a roadway with solar cells built into it. At this point it carries only bicycles and very lightweight vehicles, but there is every reason to believe that the technology will someday be incorporated into major roadways. It was like visiting with Thomas Edison in his lab as he worked on the first light bulb
In Copenhagen we saw the benefits of sustainability-driven thinking in city planning. In the older part of the city building height was limited to five stories and streets were exceptionally wide. With a latitude comparable to southern Alaska, sunshine is limited. The wide streets and limited building heights enhance the penetration of sunlight in the urban core which is well-established as a key ingredient to overall well-being and productivity. Today the wide streets help with accommodating bicycles and street cars in addition to automobiles and pedestrians.
Seeing the robust construction and results of careful maintenance of a 600-year old church in Rotterdam underscored that in the region things are “built to last” – a key element of sustainability. Considerable interest was also added by the fact that the church was where the Pilgrims stayed the night before they “shoved off” for their voyage across the Atlantic.
For 2017 we will build on the success of the 2016 program by adding a visit to Lund University in Sweden and working with visit hosts to fine tune visits in coordination with course material in advance of the trip.
In studying the successful sustainability of Denmark and The Netherlands, Robin Iritz got a lesson in design theory with FCOB’s Sustainable Business Global Lab.
A culture of thoughtfulness sits behind every feature in Copenhagen, Denmark. The same can be said for Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I traveled these cities in May 2016 as one of 25 climate-conscious Buckeyes. We observed innovative design at each carefully planned city corner.
In the US, sustainability is still securing its legitimacy as an essential consideration in our evolving communities. In Northern Europe, it’s always been in the culture. Our group visited seven influential businesses and universities with the goal of understanding how Europe continuously tops the environmental and social well-being charts. Put simply, what makes these guys so good at solving complex public problems?
It’s all in the design.
It seems as though Danish and Dutch cultures are focused on doing things absolutely right. Everything right. Objects, traffic patterns, personal interactions, all of it is designed with a specific purpose and function. Our group understood this at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen where the principles of sensory experience, functionality, and reflection were presented as important features of successful product-service experiences. This kind of design theory can be applied to any product, service, and professional interaction to create a meaningful experience. At Nordic Food Lab, it was applied to distilling grasshoppers into a nutrient rich soy sauce alternative.
We saw design again in the rapidly developing island Amager in Copenhagen where sustainable architecture is absorbing population growth and minimizing the environmental impact of greater population density. We saw design in incredible works of art throughout the many museums we toured in our free time. Design shined from the steel bridges crossing the river and canals in Rotterdam. The bridges are designed to look like the ships passing through Europe’s busiest port city.
My friends and I spent nights in hotel lobbies trying to figure out how to make sustainability as attractive in America as it was in our host cities. After tossing around ideas of flashy advertisement campaigns and political calls to action, we realized that nobody ever “sold” sustainability to the Scandinavians. Rather, it developed there out of geographical conditions, availability of natural resources, and a culture of collectivism. To instill such values quickly in Americans is a lofty endeavor. However, I think that our constraints are changing as a result of climate change and social and political pressure. The changing environment could catalyze innovative technology and community development in such a way that we develop our own brand of sustainability. What American Sustainability will look like is up to how we understand and adapt to our unique challenges.
Understanding the European’s approach to sustainable design has taught me how to deconstruct a problem and build the solution from its parts. Their responses to ever-changing limitations are at once inspired, effective, and efficient. My time in Europe was eye opening and a total blast. (Did I mention how well designed the nightlife is?) I couldn’t bring the culture of sustainability home but what I bring back to OSU this fall is a new point of view and a cool group of peers who know what it’s like to glimpse into the future.
Soon after final exams were finished and the first year of the MBA program came to a close, the Columbus Industries team was on the way to Shanghai! We arrived in country on Saturday afternoon — some came directly from the U.S. while others were able to spend some time with family and friends in India and China. Needless to say, we were quite jetlagged upon arrival, and it took some adjustment.
We decided to have our first team meal together on Sunday afternoon. Our resident Shanghai expert (Hong) suggested that we check out Xin Xiang Hui in People’s Square. We ventured up to the 4th floor of the building, and Hong got us into our own private dining room! The experience was “family style” in nature — we all chose a dish which we shared by using the rotating wheel (Lazy Susan) in the center of the table. Of course, we enjoyed typical cuisine such as beef, pork, tofu, veggies, rice, and noodles and everything we ate was quite spicy. One of the more interesting (and delectable) choices that we tried were the bullfrog legs! The best way I can describe the taste and texture was that bullfrog legs are similar to ….chicken, but better. Did I mention that everything was spicy?
Overall, it was a great dining experience in an authentic Chinese restaurant. After many hours of preparation and planning for our journey, it was nice to have all twelve of us sitting around the table enjoying lunch together. I can’t think of a better way to start off our time here in China! Next up — pork brain! We’ll save that for another day.
Want to know what the university experience is like at Thammasat University in Thailand? Learn from Melanie March’s point of view as she enjoys her time as a full-time student there on the Student Exchange Program in the “Land of Smiles”.
Just to clarify, I really do go to class here in Thailand! My parents confirmed this last week when they dropped me off for class at Thammasat University. I am taking a variety of classes here that includes International Marketing, Marketing Analysis, Operations Management as well as Beginner’s Thai.
These classes have been interesting and very different than my classes back at Ohio State. One of the biggest changes has been wearing a uniform to school every day. This has been very convenient in the mornings where you wake up and don’t have the energy to decide what to wear for the day. It also means that I have to wash it every day that I wear it because I sweat through it just walking to class. It’s about a 30 minute commute by foot and I get to take a ferry in order to cross the river to Thammasat.
Once we get to class we have fifteen minutes once class has started to sign in. Most teachers don’t start the class until after this sign-in period and then we have a 15 minute break in the middle of class to break up the three hour time frame. I wasn’t so sure about the break at first but it is a great time to stretch our legs or get some coffee. There is also an hour break in between classes that gives students plenty of time to get lunch at the pier or in the cafeteria on campus.
My favorite part about studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been the students that I have met here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are very willing to get to know you. Exchange students are welcomed with open arms and staff and students alike are very helpful with any problems that we have had settling into Thailand. Most of the students have gone to international schools when they were in elementary school so they have been speaking English for many years. A majority of students also study abroad at some point in their high school or college career that allows them to have been in our shoes so they know what it’s like to be in a classroom and know very few people.
In the classroom, Thai students are extremely bright and some of the most motivated students. Many participate in international business case competitions that has taken them all over the world. They also go above and beyond on every task that is assigned which has shocked me because so many people only do the bare minimum in order to get by. Thammasat students are quick thinkers and only want to succeed and work hard to do so. It is motivating to see students my age doing so much and becoming the next generation of business leaders in Thailand.
If any person decides to study abroad, I highly recommend taking a language course. It really gives you the chance to learn the language as well as learning about the culture that you will be living in. It’s crazy to think there are people who lived here years without ever feeling the need to learn the language when I can see the usefulness in my everyday life. We just started learning the Thai alphabet which has been really exciting but also challenging. Thai is a tonal language which means that a word can have many different meanings if you say it with the wrong tone. As Americans we tend to have a rising tone when we are phrasing a sentence as a question which can be a hindrance since many times people will not understand you because it sounds like you are saying a different word than you are trying to say. I was trying to ask a taxi driver to take me to Thammasat but I kept phrasing it as a question using a high tone. When I say it with a mid-tone that does not fluctuate, taxi drivers will immediately know what I’m talking about.
Thammasat University is a school that has immediately made me feel at home. Although frustrating at times, I am so happy that I chose to study in Thailand where the people are welcoming and kind. It really is the “Land of Smiles.”
About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.
Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!
David Drummond shares his highlights in Hong Kong, as he studies there for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. From the mixed culture, accessibility, and the many ways to spend your free time, he points out what makes Hong Kong a special place to live in.
Hong Kong really is one of the must-see places in Asia. The tourism board touts it as “Asia’s World City” because of how many different cultures can be represented in one city. It is also one of the safest, and I think by far, the most accessible cities in the world. It has to be the easiest of cities in Asia for westerners to integrate into because of how much English is both spoken and seen. Since my arrival, here are the major highlights so far that have helped form my picture of Hong Kong:
Highly accessible. Hong Kong’s transport system is extremely easy to get to know and get used to. The MTR (subway) service stretches across most of both Hong Kong island in the south and Kowloon in the north. It is easy and cheap, especially with a student discount, to travel anywhere in the city. If you cannot get somewhere by MTR you can find a double-decker or minibus to take you closer. All of these options usually cost less than 10 HKD (about 1.3 USD) and take the Octopus card, the most effective tool of mass transit EVER! You can put cash on this card just about anywhere through 7-11’s or McDonald’s or at any station and can even use it to buy food at many restaurants. If you’re in a hurry you can take a cab, which only takes cash, but still are fairly cheap compared to big cities in the U.S. and you only have to worry about them understanding you (Often speak no English). For such a big city, over 7 million, it hardly feels very crowded.
Take advantage of good weather. In Hong Kong it rains a lot or the fog rolls in and you can’t see much. I’ve been told that the summer can get very hot and humid. But when you get, every other week or so, a stretch of sunny days there’s so much that you can do! From beautiful views over the city in high rises or the peak, to hiking the many trails and hills of the island and country parks, Hong Kong has much more than a city can offer. Around 70% of the land in Hong Kong is outside the city and much of it is easy to get to by bus. Spectacular views await as you hike on down to the sandy beaches in the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island and spend the afternoon eating Thai food and drinks! I’ve climbed mountains, met monkeys, and traveled to far away fishing villages all within a short trip away from downtown or campus. Campus is only about 45 min away from downtown and less than one to two hours away from the best beaches, hikes, and scenery it has to offer.
Vibrant nightlife. Like any major city, Hong Kong has its nightlife district. Lang Kwai Fong is where people young and old congregate around a few blocks to enjoy the night, but head on up to SOHO and you find streets lined with unique restaurants with every taste you could be looking for. This is much more for the expats and young professionals where you can find any kind of cuisine of your choice. There’s always a new place to explore. The food scene is incredible. With so little space to work with, there is a huge variety of unique restaurants with food from all around the world. If you love to eat you’ll fall in love with the city. I have yet to get really into any music scene here but I have seen a few jazz clubs about.
Cultural crossroads. With the English no longer in control, Chinese culture may be becoming more dominant, but there are sizeable western expat communities and Hong Kong will always try to be the place to bridge East and West. British is no longer the upper-class standard, but you can find the influence still. I’m reminded of this when I see signs in English and walk past elegant western-style facades. There are definite pockets of the city which cater more aesthetically and culinarily to expats. However, when you walk through the markets with hanging fish and roasted ducks, see people chatting over a bowl of hotpot outside of a small dai pai dong, or walk through the crowds of Filipino domestic workers relaxing on their day off in Statue Square, you are reminded of the unique Asian cultures here. The little things also stand out, like having your card handed back to you with two hands or occasional subpar customer service (tipping is not very common). It’s harder to feel out of your comfort zone here, but you experience enough of the local and mainland Chinese culture to keep you interested to ask questions.
Shop till you drop. And you thought consumerism in America was the world standard? There are literally malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong, attached to the MTR and major buildings. Markets, with street food, abound. It’s definitely fun to wander through the malls and down the back alley stalls and wonder, who all buys this stuff? It is a city that only exists because the British wanted to sell things, mostly opium, to the Chinese. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the downtown of Kowloon you’ll find a lot of premier shopping and lots of mostly Indian men looking to advertise watches, suits, shirts, coats, bags, etc. I am really curious how many people respond well to being followed and touched by these guys asking if you like nice watches over and over! Shopping is definitely in the culture here. I heard from my roommate that a local girl mentioned that her usual holiday was going to a mall and just spending the day walking around and getting little bites to eat at lots of vendors. She didn’t understand why he would go on vacation and go windsurfing or water skiing!
Hong Kong offers a beautiful and vibrant experience where safety, accessibility, and comfort bring you back, but from where you can travel to a wide swath of nations in Asia with ease. Over my first two months here, I have experienced a beautiful and unique city which bridges East and West. In some ways it is struggling to hold onto its Western identity as China tries to gain influence, but I have gained a great appreciation for how the two cultures can work together in interesting ways. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting to learn about a multicultural Asian city with many of the comforts of home. It really is a the perfect location as a home base to see the diverse nations in the region. Asia is your oyster, and Hong Kong is the pearl.
About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong
More than the beautiful buildings and the breathtaking landscapes, Melanie March says that the highlight of her time in Thailand is the people she met while on the Student Exchange Program. Find out what is so special about the people in Thailand, South East Asia, and how it has become a life-changing experience for her.
I have been many places since coming to Thailand. I have been to Cambodia where I was taught that the problems I face daily are nothing compared to what others face everywhere in the world. I have been to Khao Yai that has shown the natural beauty of Thailand as well as the destruction that humans have caused. I have also spent hours in waters more clear and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I have been in the mountains of Laos that are slowly being taken over by tourists and backpackers but have also given me some of the best views of places untouched by foreigners.
What has really amazed me most here are the people.
The people that you meet in Southeast Asia are some of the greatest that you may ever have the opportunity to meet. Every person has their own story to tell and their own reasons for traveling here. Some are soul-searching and trying to figure out what to do in life and others just need a change of pace. I’ve met people who “just felt like doing something new” and other that weren’t happy with where their life was going so they decided to take a break and throw themselves into Southeast Asia.
I can hardly express my gratitude to these people and what they have taught me. From the exchange students who all have their own unique background to the Thai students who have been more welcoming than I could ever have imagined when I left months ago.
I have met people during my two months here that have changed my perspective about this world. These people have shown me kindness that is often unseen in the world nowadays and I believe the friendships I have made here will last me much longer than the trip.
So what I am trying to say that this experience has been life-changing. Asia will humble a person and remind them that there is more to life than just collecting objects. There are people out there to meet, conversations to have, and memories to be. It is just a waking reminder to live each day to the fullest so you can look back on life without regret.
About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.
Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy
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.
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.