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

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

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

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

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The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France

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

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I nearly started hyperventilate when I spotted Winged Victory…

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

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Visiting with Troy in Heidelberg, Germany

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

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Game night with some of my closes friends

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

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The gang during our last Dancing@WHU Dance Class

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

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Köln, Germany

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

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

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Reflections on My Semester Abroad in France

After a month back from the Student Exchange Program, Troy Weider reflects on his incredible semester abroad in Strasbourg, France. He shares some of the things that he already misses about leaving Europe, the return culture shock he felt coming back to the U.S., and his message to students considering (or on the fence) to go abroad.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.17.41 PMScreen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.20.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.19.26 PMWow… I can hardly believe that it has already been a month since I arrived back to Perrysburg, Ohio, after four months of exploring some of the most beautiful places in Europe. I catch myself daydreaming about being back in the Alps, being back in a Parisian café, or being back in Strasbourg, surrounded by fairy-tale architecture, Christmas markets and all the new friends I so quickly had to leave behind.

Studying abroad was a life-changing experience, and I would recommend it to any college student who has ever had even Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.18.20 PMthe faintest interest. Ever since I was a little kid, the outside world, with its diverse people’s and cultures has always fascinated me. In elementary school, I would pour over children’s atlases and history books, dreaming of what it would be like to be in another country, exploring a corner of the world that was previously unknown to me. I finally got to know what that experience felt like in these last few months. Living in a place that’s very different, yet at the same time comfortable and unintimidating.

Things are very different now that I’m back at home. I no longer plan weekend trips to London or Slovenia, I’ve got a lot more schoolwork that I have to do, and for whatever reason, no one is speaking French! On a more serious note, it is great to be back again to see everyone who I was missing during this last semester, and after not really being in Columbus for the last eight months, it feels nice to be back on Ohio State’s campus again. Near the top of my list of things that I missed while in France, was being able to watch football (well at least so called “American football”, and luckily I arrived back just in time to watch the college football bowl season and the NFL playoffs! While at the game I was most looking forward to, did not really go as planned, it was nice to be back watching football with friends and family.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.19.04 PMDespite all the bittersweet happiness of being back home, the first few weeks back showed me that reverse culture shock really does exist. I can remember just realizing how big everything really is here: from the portion sizes to the cars to the buildings. People speak much quieter in public in France than they do in the United States, and right when I started getting use to that back in Strasbourg, I left to come back. Something that I did not really miss though was that the air feels much cleaner in the United States without the constant smell of everyone smoking cigarettes. But one of the things that I was most excited about being back was being able to have large amounts of mediocre American coffee again! I’m a big coffee drinker, and while I love the French café culture, it’s hard to find cheap coffee that is anywhere near the same size as its American counterpart, instead it’s stronger and much smaller. There is a plethora of differences between France and the United States, but these differences are really what made my trip so exciting in the first place!

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Last Travels

I love being able to reflect on my experiences during the last few months, so I figured I’d also give you all a brief recap of what’s been going on since my last blog post.

After starting classes near the end of September, I came into October with a full schedule of trips planned. My first one, and one of the highlights of my whole experience, was a trip with four of my friends to Slovenia. This is one of the most beautiful, but sadly overlooked countries of Europe. Slovenia had everything: beautiful Alps and lakes in the northwest, beautiful castles and villages, a very quaint yet cosmopolitan capital city, some of the largest caves in the whole world, and a small but beautiful Adriatic coastline. Slovenia was an amazing trip, and luckily the next weekend I got to go on a long weekend trip with my friend Julie, who happens to go to BGSU and was on the Slovenia trip as well. Julie and I spent three full days seeing the best of London! We saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and tons of free museums along the way. London is an incredible city with all its history and diversity, and I was very lucky to cross that one off my bucket list. Then the following week, the University of Strasbourg had its Fall Break and I got to go on the trip of a lifetime, a 10-day trip through Europe with my dad. While my dad and I had always loved to travel together, he had never been to Europe before, and this was a great opportunity to show him around my “temporary home”. We met up in Paris for a few days before taking the TGV high-speed train to Strasbourg. Once there I gave him a 36-hour “best of Strasbourg” tour, with stops at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the European Parliament, Petite-France, the European Parliament, Orangerie Park, lots of sauerkraut and tarte flambées along the way. Then the next morning the two of us rented a little French car, a black Renault Twingo, and started a 6-day road trip through the heart of Europe. Starting first in Ribeauvillé, a small medieval town along the Alsatian Wine Route, we visited my French friend Hakim, who gave us a day-long tour of his hometown and the castles and villages that surrounded it. Hakim was one of my closest friends who I met in Strasbourg, and we luckily met during my first week in the city when I was lost trying to find the laundry room. I asked this random student in the main building where to do my laundry, and after showing me the way there, we ended up talking for an hour or so in both French and English, and then we started hanging out a few days later. Getting to see this region with a local made the experience much more unique, and since Hakim had several friends and family members working at the local wineries, we ended our day with a few tastings and cellar tours. From here, we spent the next day in the Swiss Alps, making a four-hour stop in my favorite Swiss city, Lucerne, before driving the high mountain Klausen Pass through the heart of the Alps. After several hours of the most breathtaking scenery, we made it to the micro-country of Liechtenstein, where we saw the main castle, got a “VIP tour” of the nation’s parliament, and ate at what seemed like Vaduz’s most happening restaurant. Then we left the Alps behind us and made it to Munich, where we spent the next day biking between parks and beer gardens past old reconstructed churches and palaces. Munich was amazing, but I was most excited about the final leg of our trip, the Czech Republic. I had made a lot of friends from this country during my time in Strasbourg, and Prague was always at the top of my bucket list of places to see. During our short two-day stay we drove to Plzen, where my friend Petra gave us a list of cool breweries and sites to visit in her hometown, then we visited the imposing Karlstejn castle en route to Prague in time to catch the sunset. Prague lived up to my expectations and was one of the most beautiful cities that I visited in Europe. Between the Prague Castle, the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and all the local pubs, restaurants, and hidden spots that I was told to visit by my Czech friends, Prague proved to be a memorable stop. The last day of our trip, we drove back through the Czech Republic and Germany, before I sadly had to say goodbye to my dad the next morning, but while his European vacation was over, my adventure continued.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.19.39 PMIn the last half of my stay I went on several day trips with my “host family”, was interviewed by French radio about the American presidential elections, continued spending time with my new friends, and went on several more weekend trips to Colmar, the Alsatian Wine Route, Heidelberg and Nancy. The biggest trip of this last leg was a spontaneous trip to Amsterdam with a French club at the university, where we biked along the canals, ate tons of local delicacies, and took in the nightlife. Also one of the biggest highlights of the last month in Strasbourg was getting to see the cities world famous Christmas market. Over the last few years this 500-year market with 300+ stalls selling everything from hot wine and local foods to ornaments, has been named Europe’s best Christmas market. The city was beautiful festooned with lights and decorations, and during December more than a million tourists packed the city center and added a different energy to Strasbourg. After an extremely busy last few weeks of exams, traveling, and saying goodbye to friends, I left Strasbourg for Paris on December 18th. After a whirlwind 24-hour stay in Paris, which I now feel I know better than almost any other city after 5 trips there, I boarded my plane to head back to Chicago to once again see all my friends and family back home.

I know that was a very brief recap of months worth of adventures in Strasbourg, but it definitely helps to illustrate all the fun that you can have exploring a new country and culture. Besides the enjoyment of just being over there, my semester abroad gave me a greater appreciation of different cultures, an amazing opportunity to improve my French, and the ability to exchange beliefs and ideas with new friends from all over the world. I’m very grateful for my time spent in Strasbourg, and I’m already looking at opportunities to return there again.
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Intro To Ireland – The Return

This is my last post as I am now home in Ohio! It’s weird being home and not being able to wake up and walk to Trinity, but after four months it’s great to see friends and family again. Though, I did prefer Dublin’s winter weather to Ohio’s. The snow was a major plus but the temperature could be better.

Trinity

To anyone thinking of going abroad, after my experience, I would highly encourage it. Exchanging is way more than seeing sites or mastering a language, but those are great pluses. It’s the friends you make and the once in a lifetime experience that you will remember your whole life. Since I grew up in Ohio and have lived here my whole life, it’s an amazing feeling to know I have friends not only in Ireland but spread across the world. It also boosts your confidence in your ability to travel and adapt to new situations. Think about it. If you can survive in a foreign country, entering a new company culture will be nothing even if it’s across the pond. Personally, I would love to work abroad one day, but always felt like that was a huge daunting step. Now that I have lived abroad I know how it feels, how the adjustment period goes and that it wouldn’t be as daunting as I thought.

One of the biggest highlights of my exchange was getting to go to a Gaelic football game at Croke Park, the main stadium that all finals are played in. I have grown up seeing these games and the stadium, but going to a game as a local was amazing. I’m sadly still not 100% sure of the rules but got to experience something that I only could in Dublin, Ireland. Even the less glamorous parts, like getting there was exciting as I knew the bus system and the city well enough to do it without help.

Game

One big piece of advice I would give to anyone is to stay organized! It can get overwhelming during the application process and while abroad. If you apply to Trinity the process is slow, so don’t panic if it takes longer than others. Other than that don’t forget to explore outside of the city your in and have so much fun.

Intro to Ireland – Packing

Packing you life in a few suitcase it tough, but Grainne Hutchinson, attending Trinity College on the Student Exchange Program, share some tips with you as she packs up her life in Ireland.

As my time in Ireland wraps up I thought I would give helpful tips on how to pack your life up when your time abroad has come to an end. It’s a tedious process and a kind of sad experience, but a happy good sad. I also strangely love to pack so I know a few tips.

One major tip I would give is regulating what you buy abroad! Make sure to keep in mind what you buy either has to fit in your suitcase or get left behind. Bringing an extra bag so that you have extra room on the way back is a great way to accommodate all the purchases you will make abroad. Because have no doubt you will be acquiring souvenirs no matter how hard you try. You’re going to want your exchange school’s attire, aren’t you?

Another tip is to pack early and slowly at the end of your time abroad. You have a lot of stuff so packing the morning of your flight or even the night before is not a good idea. Maybe start packing the week before and focus on all your souvenirs and stuff you won’t need in the next week. Also start gathering stuff you don’t think will make the cut home; if you have time, you can donate them to charity shops like Oxfam, basically the British version of Goodwill. All the kitchen stuff and bedding you will buy can be donated to charity shops or left for the next students who go abroad.

Oxfam

This is also a great time to narrow down your wardrobe, especially if you need room or weight in your suitcase. Keep in mind if you didn’t wear it while your abroad and have a limited wardrobe you probably won’t wear it at home. When packing to leave the U.S., bringing things that you plan to donate at the end will help with the room in the suitcase at the end.

My room all packed up.
My room all packed up.

Other great packing tips include rolling your clothes instead of folding them; witch helps with space and wrinkles. Putting socks in shoes to save space in your suitcase, especially if you’re putting them in your carry-on. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane; you can always take them off as well as your bulkiest jacket. That’s all for now!

Intro to Ireland – Last Days

You might know how to navigate the end of semesters at OSU, but do you know how to in Trinity College, Ireland? Grainne Hutchinson shares her advice in navigating Trinity’s exams and end of semester as she studies on the Student Exchange Program.

As the weeks are narrowing down, I thought I would give some helpful info on the last days of being abroad.

First the last weeks get a bit crazy. Trinity usually has their exams at the end of the school year, but as an exchange student, you will have papers in their place as you either won’t be there for them or have missed some of the class. I would completely recommend making plans with your new friends to meet and say goodbye before you hit your last week as you might get to stressed with packing and papers and run out of time, as near the end, it fly’s by.

I would also ask your teachers how papers are required to be turned in, most often in Trinity a hard copy of papers are turned in to the department office with a cover sheet assigned by the department. If you’re leaving somewhat early, I would check with the professor to make sure you will be in the country to do that. If not don’t worry, they can also be uploaded on Blackboard, Trinity’s version of Carmen. Also as it’s the end of the year, the library is always crowded and any textbooks you might need will probably be rented out.

Ran my fastest 5K in Ireland! Thanks to research into what 5K where available.
Ran my fastest 5K in Ireland! Thanks to research into what 5K where available.

Upon reflection, the big thing I would tell people is If your thinking of going abroad I would start a checklist of the places you want to see and things you want to do before you leave. At the very least I would do some research into what there is to do. This ensures that you don’t get to your last week and find some incredible things you didn’t know existed. I would highly recommend doing this with weekend trips as well, as you are limited on time, you want to make sure you do all the things you want to.

Intro to Ireland – Brexit

As Grainne Hutchinson studies in Ireland on the Student Exchange Program, she enjoys her involvement with the University Philological Society. From seeing the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and talking about Brexit and the affect on Ireland, she shares her experience of the wonderful events held at Trinity College.

I know I have mentioned the great things you can do when you join societies, but I had the awesome opportunity through the University Philological Society to see the first Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon speak, and I feel like I should stress it again. The Hist (College Historical Society) and the Phil (University Philosophical Society) are both debating societies within Trinity, and I highly recommend joining one as they host some great speakers every term.

Hist

Nicola Sturgeon was being presented an honorary membership in the society and answered questions first from the head of the Phil and then from the audience. She was, of course, asked about Scottish Independence, as there was a referendum in September of 2014 where the Scottish people voted to decide if Scotland would remain part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country. She gave her opinion that she would love to see Scotland as an independent country and she also said she feels it could happen in her lifetime.

Nicola

She was then asked how the first ministers of Scotland felt about Brexit. For anyone who doesn’t know Brexit is, it was another referendum that took place in the United Kingdom asking the people to vote on whether they want to remain the European Union (EU). They voted to leave, but the logistics for how and when they will leave has yet to be decided. She expressed her opinion that she would like to see the parliaments of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have a say in the logistics of the departure from the EU. She also stated when asked if she thinks Brexit will lead to another referendum in Scotland, and she said that she is aware that the vote in Scotland was in favor of staying in the EU and doesn’t want the people of Scotland to be forced into something they don’t want, but she is also aware that more people may want to stay in the UK than in EU.

Before I came to Ireland I didn’t now what Brexit would affect, but through discussions in class, my visit to the dial and Nicola Sturgeon I have learned a lot. As the logistics are still being worked out, no one knows what it will affect. There are many factors that will need to be worked out between the EU and the UK, so everyone is waiting on the UK government to decide a few things. In Irish opinion, there are opportunities and fears surrounding Brexit. One huge opportunity for the economy is that business that needs headquarters in the EU and is currently headquartered the UK may move to Ireland to stay in the EU as it is the only other English speaking nation. A big fear is that, as immigration was a big issue in the discussion leading up to the referendum, Irish citizens might have a harder time getting visas and working in the UK, as before there was freedom of movement and they didn’t need a visa. There is also concern over if current EU citizens that are living in the UK will be expected to apply for visas to stay.

Mostly it’s a waiting game to see what Brexit will do, but Ireland will be just affected as the UK when it does happen. It’s a bit scary and anxious to think about as there is no way to really prepare. We will just have to wait and see what happens. I still don’t know enough about international relations and trade to predict how it will affect the US but I imagine there will be ripples that will reach us even across the pond.

Intro to Ireland – Travel suggestions

Want to know some travel tips to Dublin, Ireland and London, UK? Grainne Hutchinson, studying on the Student Exchange Program to Trinity College-Ireland, shares her favorite places in these cities!

Over the week of Thanksgiving, my brother came to visit me in Ireland as he could take time off and didn’t have to pay for accommodation. We then took two days and flew over to London, my favorite city in the world! Not that Dublin isn’t great but London has so much history and culture and a little bit of everything for everyone. So I thought I would dedicate this post to two things, the main things to do if you ever visit Dublin and all the great things there are to experience in London if you visit there as well. Even if you study someplace else in Europe, I would highly encourage you to visit these magnificent cities.

The first thing is a list of thing to do in Dublin and why. Defiantly look into the Guinness Storehouse Tour, it’s a bit touristy but very informative. Plus where you end your tour has a great areal view of Dublin that’s perfect for pictures. There is also the Viking Splash tour, which I highly recommend. It takes you through the city and gives you great insights into Dublin’s history and culture. But it’s not just any tour you’re in an old “duck,” a car that can also be a boat, and your tour guide is a Viking as are you (complete with a hat). If you’re ever walking through the streets of Dublin and a weird looking car full of people wearing Viking hat’s roar at you, you’ve encountered the Viking Splash tour. The last thing you have to see is, of course, Trinity College Dublin! It is one of the most beautiful campuses around and is home to the Book of Kells and the long room.

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Now on to London! There are so many great things to do in London, and it may depend on your time and what kind of things you like to do. Some of the greatest museums are in London; my favorite is the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The V&A is basically just a giant collection of things from jewelry to keys. The British Museum is better if you’re only in the city for a few days, it has the Rosetta Stone, parathion marbles, and an Easter Island statue among many other things. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the London Eye are all kinds of tourist but in my opinion not worth missing. The changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace can be missed, though; it’s also impossible to see with all the tourists and it takes about an hour. One last thing I would suggest is the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. It’s a tall ship that has been transformed into a museum, so you can go inside and all through the ship. It is on land now, but it is still impressive, though I love boats.

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There are a lot more great things to do in Dublin and London, but these are the ones you can do if you are pressed for time and things average tourists don’t think of.

Intro to Ireland – The Business Community and Gender

Grainne Hutchinson shares her observations as she attends Trinity College’s first ever women’s leadership conference while on the Student Exchange Program in Ireland. The event consisted of professionals from Microsoft, CPL Resources, UK Investment Bank, J.P. Morgan, and former McKinsey & Co Consultant.

This week I got the amazing opportunity to attended Trinity College Dublin’s first ever women’s leadership conference. The Stronger together, women in business conference featured many different women speakers as well as a Q&A panel with various women and men in leadership roles throughout business and government. The Keynote speaker was Brenda Trenowden, who is the global chair of the 30% club. The 30% club’s primary purpose is to help achieve the goal of women holding at least 30% of leadership positions throughout companies. She started by explaining as alumni of Trinity she saw her graduating law class of about 70% female, and when she moved on in her career to assisting with her law companies recruitment of graduates, she saw them take in around 70% as well. But then when you look at leadership level the number extremely drops off. She went on to explain that in her opinion there are many contributing factors as to why this happens and that by discussing this matter and the reasons, we can come to an answer on how to overcome them. I personally was shocked to hear that with 70% of graduates being women that only around 10 to 20% make it to the leadership level.

http://tba.ie/women-business-stronger-together-conference/
http://tba.ie/women-business-stronger-together-conference/

Following the Keynote speech was a panel discussion moderated by Dearbhail McDonald, the Group Business Editor for the Irish Independent (A Newspaper in Ireland). The panel consisted of Catharina Hallahan, Managing Director of Microsoft, Anne Heraty, CEO and Co-Founder, CPL Resources, Ina De, Co-Head of UK Investment Bank, J.P. Morgan, Stephan Donnelly, Independent TD and former McKinsey & Co Consultant. The panelists first answered questions put to them by the moderator and then took questions from the audience.

From this experience, I found that the gender division in the workplace is different in the UK and Ireland than in the US. For example, there is a stronger feeling here that women should be the primary carers of children, and a larger amount of women leave the workplace after having children. Ina De shared her story of when she was expecting her first child and had concerns over working after he was born. She explained that she felt that working would disadvantage her son, but in hindsight, she said she thinks he was more advantaged with her working. In her view, it gave him perception that a woman working were the normal thing to do. She also said that she feels more access to childcare will help women stay in the workforce after having children. I personally agree with her that there is a perception that woman should stay home after a baby’s born and it was interesting to learn that she thought her decision to go back to work actually helped her son more than if she had stayed home with him.

The conference was a great way to learn what challenges and differences there are in the Irish business world. In this case, the problems were very similar but that helped me to see a new view on old problems. I would highly encourage fellow students who exchange to participate in these events. They are an excellent way to get an open dialog about the business community and have any questions you have answered.

Intro to Ireland – Reading week

Have you ever hear of Reading Week? Grainne Hutchinson explains this system at Trinity College, as she studies on the Student Exchange Program in Ireland. Also sharing her tips and advice on how to take good use of the Reading Week.

One surprising difference between the Irish and the American University systems is the Reading week. Essentially every semester half way through there is a week where no classes take place. Students are encouraged to “re-read” through the class notes and readings but mainly the week is a chance to decompress from school. I know we have Thanksgiving break and fall break but there not quite the same as a reading week. I strongly prefer the reading week style of Semester but with Thanksgiving as late in the year as it is I can’t see the U.S. ever switching over. That being said, allow me to plead my case for reading week.

Ocean

So this is kind of implied, but it’s a full week, basically spring break in fall and spring! Two days for fall break and three for Thanksgiving are short and hard to fit relaxing things into like travel and family. In a way, its not enough time to shut your brain off school mode as lots of teachers still gives assignments over break. A week, though, as with Spring break, is plenty of time to travel home, with friends or just have time to do other activities. It also gives time to distress, and returns to school with the same motivated mindset may students lose half way through the semester. It is kind of a weird system we have if you think about it, why do we only get a week in the Spring? Are we not just as stressed in the Fall?

Another point in its favor is the fact that it splits the year up into four equal parts. I have noticed, in my classes at least, that teachers use them as mini-semesters and they sort of wrap up what you should know and what you will be learning next. The week gives students a time to make sure they don’t fall behind or can catch up if they did fall behind. If you feel you don’t understand something its hard to dedicate time to it if you still need to be learning something new every week. A stop in course work can give them that time for further study, to be better prepared for the next half of the class.

Norway

I used my reading week as a time to travel (Went to Norway!) and work on schoolwork (Finished an essay!). A lot of the students here balance their time throughout the reading week, unlike a lot of people in the US including me. I think with the breaks so evenly spaced the year doesn’t feel as confining as our system, so students don’t feel the pressure to relax. I know personally I always want to get away on Spring break, as there seems to be pressure to make it count and by the time is comes around its much needed. Those are just my thoughts on the systems differences, though, and I would highly encourage students who exchange to Trinity to review class work at least once as teachers expect you to have a better grasp on the knowledge after the break and be prepared to build off what you learned.

Studying Abroad: More Than Just a Resume Booster

Passing the halfway point of her time studying for a semester at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management on the Student Exchange Program, Colleen Sauer reflects on some of the career focused events at WHU and how she has expanded her connections as well as developed herself professionally.

These days, it seems that every company that recruits at Ohio State is looking for some sort of international experience.  Through the Fisher Student Exchange Program I have not only gained that point on my 14513694_1413319905349229_300643295_oresume, but have been inspired by both the company presence on-campus and the diverse group of business students.

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My favorite trip so far was to Prague, Czech Republic

Though before I go into my topic for today, I wanted to give a quick update on my travels and life here.  The latter part of the first quarter was extremely fun for me, partly due to the fact that I began to meet and spend time with the German students here at WHU.

For me this made a huge difference, as I now feel much more integrated here.  There have even been situations, from figuring out my mail to needing to call Deutsche Bahn (German train company) using German, where I was able to recruit some of my kind German friends to help me.  And besides some of my technical difficulties, I have also had some fun opportunities for cultural exchange through food.  A month ago I was able to share my love of Cincinnati Skyline Chili by making a batch for some friends (it was the consequence of losing a bet in kicker, aka Football, but definitely a fun one at that!), and later I was invited to make crepes with a few other students.

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The Paulaner tent at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

I have had so many more wonderful adventures since when I last posted!  I have been fortunate enough to experience Euromasters (a huge sporting event with business schools across Europe) here at WHU and travel to Prague, Munich for Oktoberfest, Amsterdam, and London with my fellow tauschies.  A few weeks ago, my parents came and visited me at WHU, and at the end of the week I met them in Bacharach to accompany them during the rest of their trip.  We have several friends here in Germany so we were able to visit them in Stuttgart, Dresden, and Berlin.  Along the way we also stopped by Rothenburg and Nürnberg.  The timing of my parents’ visit worked out perfectly, due to the fact that in their second week here I actually had a break in classes.

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Big Ben in London, England

Alright, now that you’re all caught up I can move to the main point of my entry for today. Thus far, you have heard a lot about the awesome friends and travels here in Germany.  But WHU is a highly esteemed business school as well, so I have also had some awesome class experiences and opportunities for professional development!

A unique aspect of WHU that I have been able to take part in here at WHU are company presentations.  Just about every week a different company comes and offers a presentation and networking dinner.  Many of these presentations are in German, but I was able to attend the Oliver Wyman (a consulting firm) company presentation which was in English.  During the networking dinner I had conversations with representatives from the company (many of them being graduates of WHU) and I enjoyed how casual and honest the conversations seemed.  Often times I find these sort of networking encounters to be quite scripted, but when it comes to events at WHU it’s not at all the case.

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During my parents’ visit we spent time with our friends the Schröders in Stuttgart, Germany

To be honest, consulting was not something I seriously considered before coming to WHU.  I didn’t completely understand what that profession even looked like.  But due to the fact that a large percentage of WHU students enter that sector after graduation, there is a huge consulting firm presence on campus and I have been able to learn so much more about the field.  Through talking to firms at both company presentations and the career fair I started to realize that it might be a great fit for me.  I enjoy fast-paced environments, finding solutions for others, networking, and am an extremely curious person when it comes to both people and industries.  I’m now quite excited about the idea, and it’s amazing to think that had I not gone abroad for a semester at WHU, I may not have explored this option.  It may be due to the fact that I’ve stepped back a bit from my normal life in the US allowing more space to think about what I actually want after graduation, or simply because there’s a huge push towards consulting here, but either way I’m very pleased about this! Even though I’m away from Ohio State, I still interviewed and was accepted to the Fisher Emerging Consultants class next semester, and am excited to continue exploring this option.

Beyond the university-sanctioned events, attending an exclusively business institution also has its benefits.  I thoroughly enjoy the fact that Ohio State has a plethora of majors available, with that comes such a diverse student population in terms of talents and perspectives.  But there’s also something to be said for WHU, where you can talk about business internships, aspirations, and issues with everyone you meet.  There’s certainly a unique drive and ambitious character to WHU students when it comes to business.  Never before had I been in a room with 4 other young college students, speculating over dinner about the future of the labor market as digitization improves.  To be around these students is truly inspiring! Additionally, the tauschie population is comprised of business students from top-notched schools around the globe, so there’s such a diverse set of backgrounds and business perspectives represented.  It’s safe to say that my network has become much larger and more international while abroad!

I’ve definitely been able to travel and have a ton of fun while abroad.  That’s to be expected, but my time here is becoming much more valuable than simply bragging rights due to places I’ve traveled and something to stick on my resume, hoping that companies will see that I have an “international perspective”. I’ve become a better leader, much more flexible, open-minded, yet confident in expressing my own opinions. I truly have learned so much so far, both personally and professionally!