A Weekend In Morocco

From seeing the blue city to enjoying camel rides, join Samantha Ludes on her adventure to Morocco, while she studies at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain on the Student Exchange Program.

If you hadn’t planned on visiting Morocco while abroad, then you need to read this and I hope you change your mind. I suggest traveling with a group, especially as a student. The cultural differences and language barriers make it a challenging trip to do on your own. I am not normally a fan of group trips; I hate being on a strict schedule, I always feel exhausted, and I never see everything I wanted to see. However, this group trip was unlike any I had been on. I went through a group called BeMadrid (but I booked it through UniTrips) and I cannot recommend it enough. While it was a long weekend, it was really a great one.

The trip that we chose to do was not necessarily the easiest transportation wise, but I swear it was not as bad as it may sound. We met late Thursday night and took a 7 hour bus ride to Tarifa, Spain. From there, we took an hour ferry ride to Tangier, Morocco. If a longer travel day is not for you, there are trips where you can fly into Morocco and meet them, but the bus was nice enough that we were all able to sleep and honestly not that bad.

In Tangier, we met up with our tour guide Mohammed and hopped on a bus to start off our day. While on our way to see Cap Spartel and Hercules Caves, Mohammed would tell us anything ranging from funny stories about his life to facts about their culture. Having a local guide allowed us to get by much better since there was no language barrier or questions about where something was. Cap Spartel is a famous lighthouse overlooking the ocean just a quick drive from Tangier. We stopped here and got out to take some pictures, as well as pet a donkey and buy some beautiful little gifts that none of us actually needed.  After, we visited Hercules Caves which are a few minutes from Cap Spartel. The story behind these caves is that Hercules is said to have rested here during one of his journeys. The caves have two openings, one to the sea and one to the land, with the opening to the sea in the shape of Africa. If you go to Tangier, these are two touristy sites you must see.

And if you want to ride camels, you can do so only a short drive from Hercules Caves. I’m not sure if you have ever been on a camel but it is like riding a very unstable horse. While you may feel like you are going to fall off at any moment, it is one of those activities that you cannot miss when in Morocco (and this was included in the trip I went on).

We also went to Chefchaouen and Tétouan. If you have ever looked at pictures of Morocco, you most likely have seen either Marrakech (on my list of places to visit) or Chefchauoen, aka the blue city. We walked through the narrow streets of the blue city, each street painted blue and covered with a  range of colors. If I had more space in my backpack I would have bought a lot more than I did, everything is so beautiful. My lunch in Chefchauoen was my favorite meal of the trip. For the equivalent of 5 euros, we were able to get more food than our stomachs could keep up with. I left this beautiful city with lots of argan oil (Morocco is famous for it) and a few other goods I probably did not need. For those of you who love skincare, argan oil is great for hydration of your skin, without being too oily, as well as for your hair. Buy it for yourself, your mom, your sister, and everyone will be happy. Next on our tour was Tétouan, one of Morocco’s major ports famous for their seafood markets. We only spent an hour or so here but I was happy we did because we were able to see a much less touristy city but a gem nonetheless.

Back in Tangier, we had an “authentic” Moroccan dinner (bread, chicken, soup, potatoes, and their delicious mint green tea) while we watched a performance by a few locals. It was a great end to our trip and fun to get to meet a wide variety of people. Our group of 100 people (& 40 different nationalities) were led by students and a few adult advisors. Even though we only had 2 full days in Morocco, I think that our leaders did such an efficient job in organizing the trip that I felt like I had seen everything.

Now, there are a few things to remember when traveling here. What you wear has become less of a focus, however, you should still dress on the conservative side to draw less attention. In Morocco, most people speak French (and Arabic of course) but if you don’t know French, try Spanish or even German before you try English. My weekend consisted of lots of pointing and using the only two French words I know; toilet and pan. And speaking of toilet, do not forget to bring a roll of toilet paper because the bathrooms in restaurants and public places most likely won’t have any. Also, never pay whatever price they’re asking for (except at restaurants), ALWAYS barter and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel like you’re paying too much. Do not forget to buy lots of bottled water and just be cautious about where you are getting your fruit from. I personally had no problems with the food but I know other people did. Overall everything is very cheap there, so you should expect to pay less and get more (finally an exchange rate that is totally in your favor).

I am so happy that I decided to go on this trip. It is an amazing experience unlike anything I had done before and the weather is beautiful. So if you are studying abroad, add Morocco to a weekend trip because you definitely will not regret it.

 

The Difference in University Culture in Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guide for Attending a Spanish University

From how to dress, how you take your in-between-class breaks, to the best gelato place to go after class, Samantha Ludes guides you how to navigate a Spanish university, as she attends the Universidad Pontificia Comillas for a semester on the Student Exchange Program.

I wish there had been a “How To” guide to attending a university in Spain, but since there is not, I decided to make my own. Everything from the clothes you wear to using graph paper instead of lined paper, there is a laundry list of differences.

I am studying at Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICADE, a business school in the heart of Madrid, Spain on Fisher’s Student Exchange Program. The school itself is beautiful. The Church inside the school and the tiled blue walls make me feel as if I am not at school at all.

I take classes ranging from Planificación y Gestión de Marketing (Marketing Planning and Management) to Spanish Culture Through Visual Arts. Most of my classes are primarily international students except for my Marketing course. It has been very beneficial to take classes with Spanish students since I have learned so much about the culture, the slang, and what university is like in Spain.

The first thing I learned is that students do not eat in classes, that is considered very rude. They do, however, talk during class. At least in my experience, students will talk to friends and be very casual in front of the teachers. Professors here are also more informal, talking about what good places students should go to, and not minding when students show up 20 minutes late to class, especially on Mondays.

Coffee breaks are apart of everyone’s everyday schedule. Before or after class, we will often go grab a coffee at a local cafe near school. My personal favorite is to go to UVEPAN because all of the staff are so friendly and love when I practice my Spanish with them. PRO TIP: If it is Monday then go to McDonald’s (which are a lot nicer in Spain) and get FREE coffee. All you have to do is ask for it!

People stand outside the building and catch up for a while after class with friends. Standing on those steps I have planned weekend trips, dinner plans, and laughed about stories from the previous week. I have met with group project members to discuss our assignments and scheduled our next meetings. In the states, I tend to go to class and then straight to whatever I had planned next. Here they take their time, plan a lot less, and chat a lot more. In my attempt to blend in, I have had to adjust how I present myself in class. I went from dressing very casually, typically in my workout clothes and my backpack, to wearing jeans, a sweater, and boots or sneakers with my purse. People dress as if they are going out to dinner but instead it is just for class. To my surprise, I have actually enjoyed getting ready like that everyday (probably because the shopping is so great here) but nonetheless, it has been an adjustment.

Going to a university in Spain may be very different from going to Ohio State, but different is not always bad. Getting lost in this small (but VERY confusing) building has led me to meet Spanish students who studied at Ohio State for their abroad experience. I approached a group of students in the cafe and asked if one of them could show me where the bookstore was. A few of them offered to walk me there and were telling me about where they studied in the US. It was the craziest coincidence when one of the students told me he studied at Ohio State. We talked about our business classes and football (of course) and how we missed the deep love for all things OSU. Talking with him about being a Buckeye made this new place feel a little more like home.

Another perk of going to Comillas is the gelato shop La Romana right down the street. If you like gelato, you will LOVE this.  The people at the counter will let you try almost every flavor, ranging from the classic Pistachio to Biscotto. I get a new flavor almost every time I go because they’re all so delicious that I can’t even pick a favorite! You must go in there and ask for a “muestra” (sample) and you will understand what I am talking about.

As always, Go Bucks!

First Week in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp shares some of the differences in being a student in Italy vs. U.S. Hear what her life is like in her first week attending Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program.

It has officially been 1.5 weeks since we arrived here in Milan to study at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, and it certainly has been a whirlwind! I have learned so much about living in Europe and specifically Italy.

Being in Milan, one of the most fashion conscientious cities in the world, the most immediate difference I noticed was the clothing. It is very easy to pick out a native Italian versus an exchange student while walking around Bocconi. Italian students tend to dress up more for class, and their outfits are more trendy, whereas American students tend to dress more business casual when dressing up for classes. I’ve noticed that the shoes tend to be a big hint, as Italians usually wear boots or something with a heel. Shopping in and around Milan has helped a lot though, and has been super fun!

Another major difference is the culture around food. In the United States, we typically eat 3 meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner; whereas in Milan they do 4. They have breakfast and lunch, which are smaller meals, aperitivo, which is a prix fix hour of unlimited appetizers at a restaurant between 6 and 9pm, and then dinner beginning between 8 and 9 typically. Many restaurants are closed between the end of lunch around 2pm and 4, sometimes even being closed until dinner at 7! This can make it hard to find something to eat, especially on Sundays when almost everything is closed. I am learning how to plan ahead and make sure I don’t get caught in one of the in between times though!

The final difference I have noticed between American culture and Italian is the bureaucracy. In the United States, filling out forms is usually a straightforward event. However, in Italy, it has been anything but! From the permit of stay to an Italian SIM card and a monthly metro pass, it seems that every task has come with a wide range of conflicting advice and instructions. I have found that the best way to approach these situations is to have all of your ducks in a row and just go for it! The people processing the paperwork and such have all been very understanding so far.

Although it has definitely been an adjustment, I am loving my time so far in Italy! I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many people and experience so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to in the United States, and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks. As classes start this week, my goals going forward are to ensure that I am keeping up with my schoolwork and finding the perfect balance between school and travelling. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester holds in store!

Not Your Typical Group

With some struggles, Sydney Lapin shares her success expanding her network at Strasbourg, France, as she attends Ecole de Management Strasbourg on the Student Exchange Program. Now she has made friends from Canada, Hungary, Finland, Czech Republic, Columbia, France, Germany, Norway, Ireland, and the U.S!

Bonjour!

My Finnish friends, Anna and Emilia, and I at the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

My name is Sydney Lapin, and I am in the Fisher College of Business studying Marketing and minoring in Fashion Retail Studies. Currently, I am  spending my Junior year second semester abroad in Strasbourg, France on the Student Exchange Program! I am taking classes through EM Strasbourg, the business school here.

I have been in Strasbourg for one month, and while I haven’t been too active on blogging yet, I have kept a journal of most of my days here. So far I have had bad days and good days, but overall I am always grateful for this opportunity. Not many people can have the chance to study abroad, and I would like to thank Ohio State and my family for being supportive of my decision to be here.

I’ll start with a bit of background. Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to study abroad. My mom studied at Miami, Ohio, and went abroad to their school in Luxembourg. My parents are probably the people who gave me the travel bug, and I will be thanking them the rest of my life. There is nothing more amazing than traveling to a brand new place and exploring the different things it has to offer: a new culture, a new way of doing things, new foods, the list goes on. I have a lot of friends from other schools around the states who have also planned on studying abroad. However, when it came down to it, our programs are, for the most part, quite different. Fisher’s Office of Global Business made sure that those of us who chose to go through the business school knew that this is a very independent program. While they offered assistance when we came to them with issues, most of getting here and being here is all on us. Luckily for me, another student from Ohio State, Brad, decided to come to Strasbourg last minute as well, making my transition a little bit easier.

Most of the friends I know are on these Student Exchange group trips through their school or other schools. For them, they were placed in Facebook groups, given contacts for roommates, and are dropped in a different country with a support group of what sounds like 50 other Americans. Brad and I arrived in Strasbourg, and had our “group” of two. On the second night we were here, someone posted in the Facebook group (that we were added to about five days before arriving) about meeting up somewhere. When Brad and I arrived, we sat down to a table of three Canadians, two Finnish girls, a girl from Turkey, a girl from Norway, a girl from Estonia, and a girl from Argentina. It was really cool to meet these people from around the world, and to have Business in common.

After the first week and a half of meeting people from all over the world, I was a little lonely. It was hard to create friendships, there seemed to be some cultural barriers and miscommunication. I was feeling bitter towards other Student Exchange Programs, because they were with all Americans and able to make friends and connect with others in an instant. I was on the phone with a friend, helping her pack for her Student Exchange, and she was telling me all about her roommates (that she hadn’t even met yet) and how they already have four trips planned out together. She asked: “So tell me what the first day was like!” And I responded, “First day? Brad and I were alone the first day, what do you mean?” She expected me to say that we were immersed into this huge group of people to meet and make connections and become best friends with. Well, we did have orientation the week after we arrived, and I can tell you it was nothing like an orientation you would expect in America. No “ice breakers” no name games, just sitting in a room for half an hour at a time and then being released. We did not meet many people at orientation, so we really had to reach out to the Facebook group and see if anyone was making any plans.

Now, I look back on these past few weeks, and forward at the next three months, realizing that I have been given the best opportunity of all. How many people get to not only study abroad, but to create friendships with such culturally different people? I am so grateful that I am on this program, and while it has had its hard days, I finally feel like I am starting to make good friends. These friends are from the United States, from Canada, from Hungary, from Finland, and from Czech Republic. They’re from Columbia, France, and Germany. I have a friend from Norway, friends from Ireland. Yes, it was and is harder to create close friendships with people who aren’t from the same place as us, but it has been a growing experience and it has taught me that sometimes it just takes a little extra time to get to know someone, and get them to open up to you and your culture, just like you have to open up to them and their culture.

I would not trade this experience for any other, and I look forward to more challenges that I can grow from and overcome.

 

Copenhagen: Speaking English, Free Metro Rides, and the Flat-Tax

Will Towers shared some of his mistakes and surprise points while starting his life in Copenhagen, Denmark on the Student Exchange Program attending Copenhagen Business School.

The land of vikings and legos is probably not as difficult to acclimate to as one may think. Although there’s very few signs in English, the population speaks it with fair ease. I’ve picked up on a few common phrases, the most used being what sounds like “tak fa day-a”, meaning “thank you for the day”, a way to say goodbye to someone you just spent quality time with. Other than that, speaking Danish would only benefit me in such specific circumstances like grocery shopping and reading my mails. The former is less daunting, as I’ve come to realize the groceries we buy often describe themselves in many ways on top of their names. The packaging, coloring and buzz words are similar to those in America. Also, it’s pretty easy to tell that “organisk” means “organic”, although some are less easy, like an “orange” being “appelsiner”. In this case, common sense goes a long way. Mail is slightly less obvious – I got a letter from the post office that I originally thought was a slip telling me I was in trouble for walking in a crosswalk illegally. Classic mix-up.

The crosswalk hasn’t been the only mistake I’ve made since being in Denmark. The metro system is a highly efficient one and its made my time here much easier to navigate. At first, however, I assumed it to be free as there were no tollbooths, no collect points at the entrances for money: simply a waist-high large blue circle that people seemed to press when entering the stations. In my mind this was a tracking system, so that those who ran the operation had a general idea of the traffic being accounted for. It took a not-so-friendly metro ticket patrol officer to inform me that these blue dots were where people scanned their metro cards, a small credit card solely used for boarding the metro. She let me off with a warning entirely based on the American charm I let off on her.

Not being ticketed by that metro officer was a blessing. The average cost of a metro ride is about $1.50 and the cost of the ticket for not paying is $125. When you put it like that I have no problem paying the blue circle. That extra $120 I saved will go a long way! But not too long – alas, Copenhagen has what is best described as a flat-tax. Everything, yes everything, is subject to what has been told to me is a 25% tax. Coffee and beer are the two commodities this strikes me the most in. An average beer will be upwards of 8$ and a cappuccino could run you the same. When it comes to this, I’ve learned I must adjust (obviously) my expectations. These things are meant to be enjoyed, not just consumed. The act of going out for a beer with friends actually becomes more revered in a strange way when you know a beverage this much. It’s not ideal, but it’s good in it’s own way.

One week into my courses and the differences are greatly welcomed. The classes here are much differently structured than those at Ohio State. My shortest class is 100 minutes long – however, each class will break for 10-15 minutes every 45 minutes or so which makes learning more digestible. I actually enjoy this structure more than jumping from brief class to brief class, as it allows me to focus-in on one subject at a time. The grading is also different. All of my courses have a final paper at the end, which is much more welcomed than the mass-scantron paranoia that I’ve grown accustomed to in Columbus. I’ve even gotten to have 1-on-1 time with professors during class! Quite a few firsts; if it weren’t illegal and impractical I’d be tempted to extend my stay.

Some things I’m looking forward to:

  • The weather has been constantly bleak and hovering around 30 degrees (F). According to every local I’ve gotten to know, Denmark’s springtime transformation more than makes up for the dreadful weather of the winter
  • Come April 1st, half of my classes will be finished. That means a lot less time spent reading and in-class and a lot more time spent exploring Scandinavia
  • I’ve gotten close with a yoga studio owner I’ve even been working with. I have the feeling our relationship will evolve and he can be a mentor for myself in my journey to becoming an instructor.
  • Finally, I look forward to what I can’t envision now! The most rewarding aspects of my trip have been getting lost, meeting strangers by coincidence and finding the hidden beauty in not having a plan!

December Photos and Adventures in Austria

Peyton Bykowski, living in Vienna, Austria, describes her latest December adventures and shares pictures from the month. As she ends her semester abroad on the Students Exchange Program, she shares what she appreciates about her experience abroad.

This December I have remained in Austria, enjoying the Christmas-time cheer and holiday spirit, as well as attending an extreme amount of Christmas markets.

In the beginning of December, EBN (Erasmus Buddy Network) hosted a Ski Trip to Zell Am See, Austria. Zell Am See is an extremely small skiing town in the Austrian state of Salzburg. While I did not participate in skiing, it was an extremely fun several days spent with friends, relaxing at the hotel spa, studying for exams, and exploring the town located in the Austrian Alps. The Alps were an incredible sight, and I absolutely loved walking along the lake in Zell Am See which was encircled by the mountains. The town of Zell am See was extremely small but full of charm. I got to further see what life in Austria is like; this time, from a small town in the middle of the Austrian Alps. The small town had plenty of little shops to browse through and lots of coffee shops to enjoy. Even still, my favorite day was when my friends and I bused over to the small town to look around and then walked all the way back along that gorgeous lake.

As mentioned in other posts, the Christmas Markets are a spectacle. They are absolutely amazing- filled with great food, drinks, and everything is incredibly authentic. Going to these Christmas Markets with my friends was one of the highlights of my time abroad. Below are some pictures of Zell Am See as well as more pictures of Christmas-market-fun  in Vienna.

To conclude my time here in Austria, I can sum up my experience as one of the best times in my life. Not only did I grow as a person, I grew as a professional and expanded my network to people all over the world. I learned German (at least more than I knew before I left), I traveled through a great part of Europe, I made amazing friends, and the lessons I learned are invaluable. Studying abroad with Fisher was one of the best decisions I ever made. The process was easy, affordable, and allowed me to develop in my personal and professional life more than I ever could have imagined. I got to experience the ins and outs of Austrian culture, become a local, and understand the world from different points of view. Learning how to take a back seat and soak in all of the different cultures I experienced and then learning the reasons behind cultural practices and traditions was the biggest lesson I took from my trip. I am now able to meet people from their point of views and perspectives, which will be essential in my career to come in business and in my life.

Christmas pastries (large donuts)
Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market
Museum Quartier Christmas Market Mugs ft. Hot Apple Cider
Zell Am See Ski Lift
The Grand Hotel in Zell Am See
Austrian Alps from the Lake

Vienna: Cultural Events, Holiday Spirit, and More

On the Student Exchange Program to Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU) in Austria, Peyton Bykowski talks about the cultural life in Vienna, including events, holidays and festivals. She has been exposed to Vienna Fashion Week, Halloween in Vienna, Christmas Markets, and the must see Viennese Opera!

These last several months in Vienna have been beyond incredible. With a city so full of culture, history, and things to do, there was certainly never a dull moment. Vienna has had plenty of cultural events and festive holiday spirit. In this blog post I will talk about some my favorite events in Vienna, and share pictures from this last month, my final month, here. (pictures below)

One of the first events I went to in September was the MQ Vienna Fashion Week. Vienna Fashion Week was a huge event attended by several thousand per day, where there were constant runway shows by new and established designers, displays, and interactive stands. Attendees were given the runway experience with a makeover and samplers from different cosmetic companies, in which the attendees then walked a red carpet area for a photo-op. The shows were limiting (first come first serve seating basis) and varied greatly in terms of clothing and runway styles. Vienna Fashion Week was certainly more of an expression of art than anything else. It was certainly a fun, enlightening, and entertaining week! Here is a link!

MQ Vienna Fashion Week

As important and festive as Halloween is in the U.S., it is, not surprisingly, very celebrated in Europe. However, many stores, classrooms, and social settings had decorations or themed items of Halloween and the week leading up to it. While it is not an official holiday for the Viennese, it was still enjoyable to see large shopping streets participating and getting into the spirit of Halloween. In Vienna there is an English cinema called the Haydn Kino Theater, which did a special showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show and other American Halloween classics. Going to these showings was extremely fun to do with both American and other European friends who are not as familiar with these Halloween classics and was a great way to share some American culture with natives. While all people find the movie to be extremely odd, all of my friends found it to be really fun. They could see why it was considered a “cult classic” and enjoyed seeing a quirky side to American culture.

Rocky Horror Picture Show MQ Vienna
Rocky Horror Picture Show MQ Vienna

Since Austrians do not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas markets start setting up in early to mid November. Austria is extremely festive during the “holidays”, even though it is not a particularly religious country. Viennese Christmas markets are unlike any other holiday experience. They are filled with local stands, lots of food and classic hot drinks, festive mugs, and handmade items like ornaments, gloves, hats, and many other gift-inspiring items. They are the epitome of “Christmas-time” and are loved by all. Vienna has an extraordinary amount of Christmas markets, with the largest being at Rathaus. All attendees at the markets are in good spirits, and they are a great place to go with friends any day of the week. They have been a staple of social life during December. The Christmas markets of Vienna are certainly the largest cultural event(s) and festival during the year. More information on their webpage!

Other cultural events include the Opera and Volkstheater, which offers many and a wide variety of theater experiences. The Viennese Opera is one of the best in the world, and is an absolute must while you stay in Vienna. You can purchase seated tickets, which are more expensive and come with a dress code, or there is an option to purchase standing tickets for only a few Euros and have a much less strict dress code. Most WU and Viennese students opt for the standing tickets, as it is a more cost and dress code effective option. Likewise, Volkstheater is an extremely established theater in Vienna and is also a great cultural experience. Vienna is a city of art in many forms, and the events and showcases are certainly worth taking advantage of as there is truly no comparison. Find more theater information here and here.

My experiences have allowed me to grow a lot while abroad. Some of the events, like the Rocky Horror showing, allowed me to get to know Viennese culture more while also getting to share mine. Events like the the Fashion Week and and touring/seeing shows at the Opera and Volkstheater really allowed me to understand Viennese culture even further. The Opera and Volkstheater are cultural icons of not only the city, but the entire country. Visiting and immersing myself into their culture really allowed me to appreciate how different my culture is to Viennese culture and allowed me to connect more with the locals of the city. Also, visiting and experiencing these cultural events allowed for a great conversation starter for my networking on campus with my peers and my academic advisors. Most of these events and sights were recommendations from them and other peers alike. Getting to experience them and then report back my reactions was a great way to further develop my network and deepen my connections with others.

Vienna Opera
Vienna Opera
Volkstheater

 

4 Weeks Left in Thailand

As her semester at Thammasat University ends, Talia Bhaiji reflects on her semester on the Student Exchange Program and encourages you to go abroad too!

According to the calendar, I currently have 28 days left in Thailand, and it makes me so sad to even think about that. I can’t believe my experience is flying by, and I’m definitely not ready to go home just yet.

I’m not sure if you need any more convincing about going abroad, but if you do I hope this post will do so. At Ohio State, I’m involved in a lot of things, studying a subject that I thought would make a lot of money, and working a job while maintaining leadership positions in a bunch of clubs. It’s everything that I thought I needed and was supposed to do in college. Student Exchange was more of an afterthought when it came to priorities and necessities in college. I took it as more of a vacation and more of a time to relax from school, but that was nothing like my experience.

Yes, it was definitely a bit less stressful than Ohio State, where the possibilities of what you want to do and be a part of are numerous, but it was just as much of a learning and growing experience as anything else, if not more. I didn’t think Student Exchange would change my life and I highly doubted people when they told me that it did, but my semester abroad did exactly that.

I not only learned to appreciate a whole other culture around the world, but it gave me such a strong appreciation for the United States, my status as an American citizen, and all the possibilities and opportunities that I have back at home. The rest of the world doesn’t give you open doors to do what you want to do, and to have unlimited opportunities. So many places are still so far behind, but not the United States. It really is the land of opportunity and I feel so lucky to live there and to have access to anything and everything.

Student Exchange has also really taught me what’s important in life. When you’re traveling with a backpack and have a 15 pound weight limit (it’s true, be careful!), you really learn what’s important to bring and what’s unnecessary. Same goes for packing for Thailand; you’re really forced to pay attention to what’s important and leave behind the things that aren’t. It actually taught me to be way less materialistic than I am at home. When you see how people here live, and how they don’t need much, it really makes you think about the amount of things you have and how much you don’t need. The other thing that I thought about a lot was the consequences of pollution and my actions in the U.S. Bangkok, and the rest of Thailand, doesn’t have a strong sewage and trash collection system, so all the trash is displayed on the streets and in the river. It makes you think about your effect on the world’s pollution and how to decrease that. In the U.S., we can be more environmentally friendly because we have the money and resources, but we choose not to be. Thailand doesn’t have those financial resources, and they’re suffering the consequences. It’s up to us to take on these responsibilities.

Environmentalism rant aside, Student Exchange has taught me more about myself than I ever thought I could discover. You’ll be placed in situations you never thought you’d be in, around people you never thought you’d see, and experience some of the most beautiful things on Earth. You definitely change, and you feel things you weren’t sure were possible. I’ve never felt so connected to so many people; I also never knew how little I knew. I learned how to take care of myself when I was traveling, how to push through my emotions and not give up when I was frustrated, how to take care of myself and others when I was homesick, I learned my boundaries and what I’ll take and what I won’t take, how to be spontaneous and enjoy the unexpected things in life, and more importantly how to be a better person. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my entire life and I leave this semester with absolutely so regrets. It is so hard to walk away from so many amazing people and places, but it just gives me another reason to come back.

Thank you for everything Thailand, Amarin, Thammasat, and all of my friends, I’ll never forget you!

Visiting Team: Differences Between Madrid and the States

Read the observation Danny Rodgers shares as he spends his semester at Universidad Pontificia Comillas on the Student Exchange Program! He touches on the difference in the classroom, sports, to the daily life in Spain.

One of the coolest parts about living abroad is seeing how daily life works in another country. Some differences are minimal, whereas others are quite drastic. Over the past couple of months here in Madrid, I have diligently taken note of key differences and put together this blog featuring some of the more interesting differences between life back home and here in Madrid. With that, let’s dive in!

Daily Routine

Although three days of my school week beginning at 8:00 am, the typical Spanish day starts later than in the US. This became apparent to me rather quickly as I was the only one in the neighborhood awake, walking in darkness to class at 7:30 in the morning; traffic doesn’t really pick up until about 9:00 in the morning when Madrid is commuting to work. Another major difference in regards to the mornings is what is served for breakfast. Here, breakfast consists of strong coffee and maybe a small pastry, usually served and eaten quickly at one of Madrid’s plentiful coffee bars. Given the later start to the day, the rest of the day’s meals also occur at different times. The lunch hour starts around 2:00pm and is the heaviest meal of the day. Many shops and businesses shut down during lunch and people head home to eat with family. The result is a sort of 2-part work day that ends later than the typical US workday. For example, the relocation service I used when searching for accommodation followed office hours of 10:00am-2:00pm and 3:00pm to 7:00pm. Wrapping up the day around 9:00 pm is dinner, a lighter meal in comparison to lunch. At a full 3-4 hours later than the typical US dinner hour, this late meal is arguably one of the biggest adjustments to make when living in Spain.

In regards to studying in Madrid, Ohio State and my university here could not be more different. Here at Comillas, all my classes are under the same roof. The classes are about 20 – 40 students in size and I have multiple classes with the same classmates. Compare this to Ohio State where a brisk 20 minute walk across campus in between classes is not uncommon and a first year economics lecture brings out a crowd that can rival a small concert venue. Here at Comillas, the structure of the classes differs significantly as well. For example, a typical final exam at Ohio State usually accounts for about 20 percent of the final grade whereas here, my final exams currently looming on the horizon are worth a humble 50 percent of my final grade. As is with most aspects of studying abroad, adjusting to a different way of doing things is the norm. Add on a positive outlook and even the most daunting of tasks seem doable.

The Big Game

I am a huge sports fan, so a goal of mine going into the semester was to attend a match at Santiago Bernabéu, home of one of Spain’s top football clubs, Real Madrid. After a stressful morning of ticket shopping, I managed to snag a single ticket to a Champion’s League match between Real Madrid and Tottenham, an English football club. Champions league matches feature two high level international clubs, so I knew I was in for a good game. It felt great to be back in a packed stadium for a prime time game as I didn’t have the usual Buckeye game days throughout the semester.

The differences between Madrid’s marquee sporting event and a comparable event in the US were very interesting. For instance, the entire match was played in under 2 hours. The trade off to a shorter event, however, is that those 2 hours were filled with constant action. Compare this to a typical Sunday NFL game with all its commercial breaks and stoppage of play and you can see why some non-Americans find American football rather boring. Another interesting aspect of the Real Madrid match was how the moment halftime hit, everyone pulled out their pre-packed sandwiches from home to enjoy during the break. Quite the nice alternative to the typical $13.00 hotdog and soda found in US stadiums. Finally, and probably the most impressive difference, would have to be how the fans engaged in the game. From pregame to the final whistle, fans on both sides chanted and sang the entirety of the match. Their dedication to cheering was incredibly impressive and created a high energy atmosphere the whole game. Coming into the match knowing next to nothing about European football (very American of me, I know), the skill of the players, passion of the fans and the overall experience gave me a new appreciation for the sport.

City Life

When considering where I would spend a semester abroad, I only had two requirements. I had studied Spanish for 8 years and am currently working towards a Spanish minor, so studying in a Spanish speaking country was a must. Secondly, I grew up in Naperville, Illinois, so Chicago was always a quick train ride away. Heading to Chicago year after year, I developed a love for exploring cities. With these two desires, Madrid, Spain seemed like the perfect choice. Now several months into the semester, I can say Madrid is exactly where I am supposed to be. Trading towering skyscrapers and our beloved cars for royal palaces and public transportation, the experience of living in a European metropolis has been an incredible experience.

As a capital city with over 3 million people, Madrid is an exciting place to live. Here, one can find everything from maze-like neighborhoods hailing from the 17th century to streets like Gran Vía, bustling with activity 24 hours a day. Madrid is also a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and impressive lineup of restaurants, night life, and shops. Outside of main thoroughfares, chain restaurants and businesses are not very common. This allows local businesses to take center stage, each providing a completely unique experience to the next. I’ve often wondered how so many of these little shops can stay in business, and I think it speaks volumes to the benefits of high density, walkable neighborhoods. This is a far cry from the car-centric towns we have in the US—outside of a select few urban areas. Only having to walk 5 minutes or less for fresh baked bread, a grocery store or coffee shop will be something I miss dearly.

Madrid has also provided the perfect setting for practicing Spanish. In these aforementioned coffee bars and little restaurants, English is hardly common. It is with this real world practice that I now feel more confident than ever in my language abilities. I can only image how proud my high school Spanish teachers would be, knowing I can successfully fight my way to the counter of a packed tapas bar and order without issues; this is why I studied Spanish. But in all seriousness, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in a city where I must speak Spanish daily. I strongly suggest to anyone studying a language to pursue an exchange in a country that speaks the language you are studying. It is far and away the best way to develop confidence in using the language, which is something that cannot be easily gained in a class that only meets twice a week. While it was certainly a challenge learning the ins and outs of new city, Madrid has become a place I’ve grown to love.

Although my semester abroad is coming to a close, there are still more stories to tell! Check back next time to hear about a global business experience I had here in Madrid. Later on, look out for my advice for outgoing study abroad students as the next semester rolls around.

As always thanks for reading!