Learning Cultural Intelligence (CQ) – Core vs. Flex

“‘Everyone assumes that Cultural Intelligence (CQ) comes from understanding other people’s cultures, but you really have to understand your own’ (Middleton). Julia is so right about this point.” says Sydney Lapin studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program at Ecole de Management Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. Read more on what she learned about CQ and how it related to her experience abroad, as well as how being abroad has helped her learn about her own culture and about herself.

Friends from all over Europe getting together for Valentine’s Day

The other day in my International Marketing Strategy class, we watched a Ted Talk that really spoke out to me. It was called “Cultural Intelligence: The Competitive Edge for Leaders” spoken by Julia Middleton. In the beginning, Julia defines cultural intelligence as “the ability to cross borders and boundaries between different cultures,  and actually thrive in doing so and love doing it and never want to not do it”. Julia grew up in the time where IQ meant everything, where it was considered crucial. Then, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) came around and people realized that it would be good for leaders to have this trait as well. However, people who are “good with people”, may really just be good with people who are like them. That is where CQ (Cultural Intelligence) comes into play: “the ability to work with people, and lead people, who are not like you”.

Julia went around the world, studying and interviewing people who she thought to have a good amount of cultural intelligence. Through her conversations, she found one large thing in common: “They had sort of figured out which bits of them was core, and which bits of them was flex”. By core “bits”, Julia means the behaviors, values and beliefs that are absolutely crucial to you being who you are, and a part of you that you are not willing to change. By flex bits, Julia means everything else that you are willing to compromise, or be flexible about. She states, “The more core you are, the more people trust you. The more flex you are, the more people trust you”. By this I believe she means that one needs to find a good balance, and that balance is what people who obtain cultural intelligence have found. For example, a salesperson is extremely flexible, and you lose all parts of your core and no one trusts you. And then, as Julia mentions, you have people like your grandparents, who are so set in their core that they refuse to be the least bit flexible.

Julia stated that cultural intelligence is found on the line between one’s core and one’s flex, and it moves from learning new things, gaining new experiences, and meeting new people. This video really got me thinking about which parts of me are core, and which parts are flex. I thought about my life, and my culture, and I tried and am still trying to figure it out. I think it will take a long time, if not forever, for someone to truly figure out where they stand because like Julia says, the line is always moving based on the things you learn and the people you meet.

Being abroad, I completely see how this video connects with my life. I have met people from all over the world, and not only met them but have held conversations, been involved in group projects, and traveled with these people of different backgrounds. There are parts of me I have and still need to adapt in order to get things to go smoothly when I work with people from other cultures.

With that, I am talking about the part of the video where Julia mentions knots in the core. We all have knots: parts of our supposed core that are based on PRE-judgement, rather than judgement. These are things we should push at and work on changing about ourselves. They might not be pretty, but I feel like that’s the point. For example, something I know I need to work on is my emotional resilience. When coming abroad, I thought that I had a pretty good grip on the things that would be difficult: the language barrier, the bureaucracy, the new school system. However, I did not think about preparing myself for how to react when difficult things are occurring. This is emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back and be okay when something is extremely frustrating and difficult. I have bounced back, but there are situations that I know I could have been more flexible and less reactive about.

An important part of the Ted Talk was where CQ comes from: “Everyone assumes that CQ comes from understanding other people’s cultures, but you really have to understand your own” (Middleton). Julia is so right about this point. She talks about the need to understand how your culture helps you versus hinders you, how it could open doors or close them, when your culture causes other people problems, and when your culture causes you to miss opportunities. To quote myself from my application, I thought one of the most important things was for me to “experience new cultures, learn about different backgrounds, and immerse myself in these cultures”. However, I now realize that the most important thing I am doing here, aside from learning about other cultures (which of course is still important), is learning who I am and how my culture, my core and my flex, affect my life and the people around me.

It is actually extremely complex, because when I think about the many things that I thought I was flexible on, it turns out that in some situations here I have found these things as “knots” in my core: they are things I want and aim to be flexible about, but I am currently not there yet, like my emotional resilience for example. It also turns out that when thinking deeper, things that I thought were in my core are actually things that I am quite flexible on. The biggest example of that I can think of is my Judaism. Being Jewish has always been one of the most important parts of me. I grew up in Cleveland, in an amazing Jewish community, that gave me so many opportunities I am grateful for. While being Jewish is something I hold very close, this video has made me think about the fact that yes, I am Jewish. Yes, this is important to me, and a part of me that I will not change. But, Judaism is actually one of the most flexible religions in the world. For instance, I personally do not think I believe in God, or in a lot of the things that supposedly happened back then, but Judaism still accepts me as a Jew. I am flexible to new opinions that go along with Judaism, and my thoughts and beliefs about it are always changing. So while being Jewish is something in my core, something that makes me who I am, I am still quite flexible about my beliefs through my religion.

I am beyond grateful to have seen this video while being abroad, and to be able to relate it to my everyday life here in Strasbourg, France. I feel as though I am much more aware of my personal strengths and weaknesses, and what I need to work on in order to become more culturally aware and to gain cultural intelligence. I know that the journey to having cultural intelligence is not easy, and will take a long time, but I think it is so important to be open to changing things about yourself, while also realizing what you are not willing to change in order to be who you are.

A trip to the Black Forest in Germany

Why You Should Create a Study Abroad Blog

“I am going to tell you why I chose to blog and why you should too.” says Samantha Ludes, as she studies at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. How will you document your time abroad?

There are endless ways to document your time abroad but it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. Is it keeping a written journal? Or an Instagram account? Or a combination of the two? Upon my arrival in Spain I had decided that I was going to have an Instagram account where I posted photos from my travels. What I didn’t like about this route was that I found myself not including details about the places I went and primarily just sharing pictures. I decided that this was not the best option for me, so I moved to journaling. The issue with journaling is the lack of convenience as well as the inability to share photos. This was when I decided I would try out a blog.

The benefit of blogging is that you can do it anywhere you have access to technology, I often write posts on my phone and then use my computer to add photos and tag restaurants. There are also many sites that offer free blogs but I found that I liked WordPress the most. The themes are endless and you can personalize it to your liking. I spent a bit of time playing around with my site until I settled on a theme I loved. Now I write a post on every trip, my favorite places to shop, and whatever else that comes to mind. If you don’t want people to see your posts you can password protect them.

WordPress can seem a bit overwhelming at first but you can Google just about any question and there should be an answer. Whenever I go on a trip I make sure to start a post with the date and place so that it serves as a reminder to work on it. After a weekend trip I go through my photos and put them in an album under the location so that when I am working on my blog I can Airdrop all of the photos to my computer with ease. WordPress has a really great app that is super simple to use and if you want to write down notes during your trip, this is a great place to store them. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable with everyone viewing your posts, then you can password protect them.

At the end of the day, find some way to capture your memories and experiences, you will thank yourself later. Don’t worry about grammar rules, just write your posts how you would share your stories. My blog is primarily for myself and my family but when I share it on Instagram or Facebook I can see that over 200 people have visited my site that day. The one thing people always say to me after they read my blog is that they read it in my voice, which sounds funny but that is ultimately my goal; to share my stories as if I am sitting across from you in person.

I chose the name “No Pasa Nada” for my blog because it best represents my time here in Spain. “No pasa nada” means “don’t worry about it” in English and to me, this embodies the relaxed Spanish culture.  People here take longer lunch breaks, grab coffee with friends, and always stop to say hello. They don’t worry about rushing places and go about life with less urgency, something I have worked on adopting. I decided that I am going to continue my blog (as well as the “no pasa nada” lifestyle) when I go back to the states. I have found that I enjoy keeping my memories in one place and I can’t wait to look back and see everything I have done and all the people I have met.

Building Your Global Career

Having aspiration of working abroad one day, Katelyn Mistele attends a professional speaker event at Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) about setting yourself up for a global career. She learns about the pros and cons of having a globally mobile career, and shares her insights on her experience studying abroad and what she gained from being abroad.

Copenhagen Business School is like Fisher in the fact that many companies and speakers frequently visit the school to give talks and recruit. There was an individual who is currently work with Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, but also worked with P&G with Gillette, who put on a presentation one day. I decided to attend as the message of the talk was marketing yourself and setting yourself up for a global career. 

The individual who was giving the talk has led a successful and extensive global career. He is from London but after working with P&G for a few years in London he made a jump to Switzerland. From that he changed companies and spent the next decade jumping between Singapore and London with Maersk. Today he sits in Denmark still working with Maersk and his career is still mobile and he will most likely make another career move soon. This background was so interesting to me because I have always heard about individuals being globally mobile with their career but this isn’t as common in the United States. Instead, we see intercontinental movement with jobs. The speaker proposed that the major contributing factor to his ability to be mobile in Europe is the European Union and how it is easier to be mobile for work here than it is across boarders in other parts of the world. 

He asked us to brain storm a list of questions regarding what we would ask if we were asked by a company to confirm that we are globally mobile. As a class we came up with questions regarding the length of the assignment, the preparation in cultural terms before the project, questions regarding the location itself, and the opportunities for development during the assignment and after the assignment. There are a lot of deciding factors that go into deciding if an individual wants a global career and its important to keep in mind aspects regarding preparation and development. In terms of preparation the speaker told us that small moves as opposed to big ones have more problems. For example a jump from England to France is harder to adjust to than a jump from England to Singapore. Another key factor to take into consideration is the development opportunities during the assignment and after the assignment. A lot of times with expatriation assignments there is high failure rates upon arrival back to ones home country as readjusting seems to be harder. The speaker told us that during his return from one of his projects his mentor told him to not talk about his experiences that much because people back at home really don’t care that much. He said it was so hard to keep his thoughts and experiences completely to himself but he said in the long run it was worth it and helped him to get back into to the English culture faster. 

This presentation was very interesting for me as working abroad or on abroad accounts is something I am definitely interested in looking into in the future. At a first glance I, as I am sure most other people would be, just think about the location. We all want to travel and work somewhere cool, but there are many important factors that contribute to what would make this a successful assignment and contribute to a successful global career. The speaker also suggested that if we have any inkling to go and lead a global career that we should. He said that the 70-20-10 model can be applied to working on international assignments as 70% of your learning in your career happens on the job and the best way to learn and grow in an international environment is to just take the job. The 20% is learning what happens with peers or mentors and the 10% is “classroom learning” which can happen in the class room or even on the internet in the form of training videos. All parts of this model apply to any assignment but the speaker was trying to point out that you learn the most from being on the job so if you want to grow your career internationally it makes the most sense to take international opportunities as they arise because that’s when you’ll learn and grow the most. 

He also mentioned how the environment of global employment is changing. There are now an increase in short term assignments which last less than two years and this is a positive as it is making people more mobile. However, there is a downside as customers do not like when people continuously rotate as it is harder to build long term relationships. Also companies are starting to now really look at the cost of expatriation as it is very expensive. So the question that is facing employees and businesses today is what is the balance? 

Personally, I hope that at some point in my career I have the opportunity to go on an expatriation assignment. After spending some time in Denmark, I have grown so much culturally and learned a lot. Only these international experiences can provide you with this personal growth. It is one thing to just read about a culture and learn about its nuances but you really do not reap all the benefits of cultural exposure and integration unless you go and live in the culture. I personally have become not only more mindful of my nature, but also have picked up some of the Danish cultural traits. For example, Jantelov is an integral part of Danish culture. At its core, Jantelov is the idea that everyone is equal and on the same level and the Danish peoples actions should be in accordance with this idea. It goes further to describe how if one fall the society will catch them and help them back up. After being here and living in this culture I definitely can see aspects of this part of their culture and I am hoping that I will be able to assimilate parts of it into my everyday life and bring this part of Danish culture with me back to my life in the United States. 

I strongly believe that cultural integration and sharing is something that I think will not only benefit myself and my career but could benefit a lot of individuals. As the speaker suggested 70% of learning happens on the job, and I think this can extend to study abroad or any cultural experience. It is important for myself to take advantage of these opportunities, and I hope that someday I will have the chance to go on an international assignment and further learn and mold my own cultural identity. 

Two Weeks of Travel

Kayla Salant, on the Student Exchange Program at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi (Milan, Italy), shares her two week break time travels with some advice and tips of traveling, as well as what she has learned from traveling abroad.

As I am beginning the second half of my semester abroad, there are many things I have learned about taking advantage of every second you have while abroad.

Recently I had a two-week spring break. This is unheard of in the states, but seemed normal to most students here in Italy. When my friends and I realized this at the beginning of the semester, we knew we had to take full advantage of this time off to cross many cities off our lists.

After hours of searching on Google Flights, Sky Scanner, and Go Euro we had the perfect two weeks planned to the minute. It was time to begin our break, everyone packed in just a carry on and a backpack, it was going to be the most adventurous two weeks of our lives.

From London to Amsterdam, Brussels to Paris, Prague to Budapest, we had a packed full two weeks. I will say, you learn a lot, not only about the cities but certainly about yourself when traveling for that long, hostel to hostel. You learn that alone time is necessary, that sleep is important, and time flies.

Some things I’ve learned

It is important to read about the history of cities before going. We have many different cultures in the U.S. alone, but imagine traveling from country to country, you’ll be in for a bit of a shock. It is easy to forget what languages they speak as you are traveling, so it is crucial to look up and remember basic greetings and phrases before you arrive.

Some things I wouldn’t change

Always travel with people you get along with. Take the time to meet locals. Go on free walking tours. Wake up early, and get lost in a city. Take tons of photos, but remember to be present.

Some things I won’t forget

The connections you’ll make. The breath-taking views. The unforgettable food. And certainly, the times you almost miss your bus, or getting stuck in the rain for hours in a line.

It is important to take time for yourself, and get rest. Two weeks of straight travel was not easy mentally or physically, but if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would!

In Bruges, Belgium

Sydney Lapin shares her adventures in Belgium, meeting the locals in Brussles and Bruges. Family dinners, an amazing hot chocolate, and a picturesque towns welcomed her to the country as she studies on the Student Exchange Program in Strasbourg, France.

Today I was thinking back to one of my first trips in January, Belgium. I had taken an overnight bus to Brussels with a few friends, and we arrived around 7:30 am. Anna, my friend from Finland, has a home is Brussels! Her parents work with the EU, and they move there every few years from what it sounds like. We were warmly welcomed into their home, and her mom had even prepared a lovely European breakfast for us! There were croissant, hard boiled eggs, yogurt and muesli, and juice. Anna’s mother spoke great English, and I was so appreciative to be around a parent again! It was like being at home a bit.

Anna showing us around Brussels!

We had a wonderful day of Anna showing us around Brussels. We took the long way to the city center, so that we could see the Parc de la Cinquentenare, (the park with the large gate that looks like the Brandenburg gate), the European Parliament, the Royal Palace, and a stunning view of Brussels near the Fine Arts Museum. We made our way toward Grand Place, where the buildings are gorgeously trimmed with gold decals. It was absolutely stunning. I think in the square alone there were four chocolate stores! Safe to say I was not dieting on this trip. But first, street waffles.

The group roaming Brussels!

We were on the hunt for the perfect street waffle. I ordered one with caramel, Belgian chocolate, and bananas. It took until I had about two bites left for me to realize it was landing like a pound of rocks in my stomach…but the taste was SO worth it!

Carly, Haley and I with our Belgian Waffles!

We walked around a bit more, and had planned to go home and relax and then head back out for dinner somewhere. When we arrived at Anna’s however, her mom had cooked a traditional Finnish meal for us! We all had drinks and discussed things about America and Finland, and each of us wrote a little note in the guest book that Anna’s family keeps.

In the morning, my friends had planned to go to Cologne, Germany but I was a little more interested in seeing Bruges, a more Northern town in Belgium, so I booked a night in a hostel just outside of the town and jumped on a train to Bruges! The train took about an hour, and when I arrived I had to take the public buses over to the area that the hostel was located. As I was sitting on the bus, I was a little unsure of what stop I was getting off at. An old man next to me noticed, and started speaking something in Flemmish. When he realized I had no idea what he was saying, the guy across from us laughed and translated. In Belgium, they speak Flemmish and French, so the man who spoke English and I had a nice conversation about speaking French, his friends in the states who live in New Mexico, and about the canal tours.

After dropping off my things, I headed out with my camera into the extremely picturesque streets of Bruges. I went on the canal tour, which was really cool and showed the entire city from a different perspective.

View from the water.

I had done some research on where I wanted to spend time in Bruges, besides just walking around, and so I headed to ‘The Old Chocolate House’ for hot chocolate! It was AMAZING. I sat in the restaurant upstairs, and ordered Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, and an assortment of 10 pralines (mystery chocolates!). When the hot coco arrived, it was a mug of steamed milk, and then a cup filled with your ingredients that you are supposed to dump in and stir. Even the cup was made of chocolate! It was so delicious, I went back a second time while being in the town.

The Old Chocolate House style Hot Coco!

The thing about Europe I noticed, especially in these smaller towns, is that so much closes around 6/7 pm. So I walked around a little, and bought my friends some assortments of chocolates, but then just sat in this little restaurant I found for a while until I felt hungry enough to eat again! I had to eat dinner, because there was a dish I was told I needed to try called “Waterzooi”. I ordered a drink, and the traditional dish, and wrote in my journal about my travel day. The restaurant was called “Brugge-Link”, and the dish was so amazing. It was almost like a cream of potato base with chicken and vegetables, and came with mashed potatoes on the side. Totally worth being overly full!

As I was walking back to the hostel, I ran into some sort of fire festival being held behind the Basilica of the Holy Blood. There were stands for food and drinks, a band playing music, and entertainers playing with fire! It was such a cool thing to run into!

In the morning, I got up before the sun rose to pack up my things and walk around the town while it was quiet. I was happy that the hostel was situated a little outside of the town, because the streets and alleys were just stunning. I was happy to be with my camera.


The rest of the day I explored. I roamed the town, went into the Basilica of the Holy Blood church, climbed the Belfry (the town tower in the center), walked around the ‘Lake of Love’, and then found a place called ‘Wijngaerde Beguinage’ which was a home for women, religious women, and widows who wished to live an “independent but committed life outside the recognized orders with their vows of fidelity and poverty”. It was considered a “city of peace”, and was a really beautiful area.

Swans in the “Lake of Love”
City of Peace

After strolling around some more, sending a couple postcards, and of course eating more chocolate, I took the train back to Brussels where I was catching another overnight bus back to Strasbourg. On the train I got to reflect on my time in Bruges, and my love of travel. Sometimes it’s just good to get away for a little and let yourself explore new things. I learned that I enjoy my own company, and that’s something that is really important in life! I hope to one day take my parents to Bruges and show them around, because it was such a lovely and picturesque little town.

Bruges City Center

My Danish High School Experience

Katelyn Mistele talks about her visit to the local high school to talk about cultural differences. She shared her surprise, experiencing a very different high school system, and touches on what she has learned about the U.S. and how these experiences changed her cultural views.

Today I had an amazing opportunity to go into a local Danish high school and give a talk about cultural differences and my experiences as an exchange student from America in Denmark. I decided to participate in this opportunity and the experience was extremely insightful and rewarding.

For starters, the Danish high school environment is dramatically different from the environment in the United States. When I first arrived on the high schools campus everyone looked very old and mature from what image I had in my mind of “typical” American high school students. This I thought can be attributed to two factors. First off, high school in Denmark is only three years long and most students take a gap year or years after completing elementary school. So the students I had a chance to talk with today about cultural differences and my experiences were all 16 to 20 years old, so not dramatically far off from my age. As well, Danish students are given a great degree of freedom in their high school experience which I think also lends a hand to how mature they were in comparison to how “typical” American high schoolers act. 

The degree of freedom that the Danish students get at high school was honestly shocking to me. Students were able to leave campus to get lunch or coffee during breaks. In some schools in the United States this happens to some degree as well, but the Danish students almost seemed as if they could come and go as they please whereas in my high school it was a highly regulated process and we had to check in and out when we were leaving. In addition, there are many open areas and common areas where students were participating in collaborative group projects. It felt more like a college setting as opposed to a traditional high school where the students are herded from class to class in a structured and efficient manner. Along with this idea of freedom students upon acceptance into the high school get to choose one of six tracks in which they want to study on. Some examples of tracks include biology, business, technology, and social sciences. Once in their track students take a range of courses, but focus on their specialized track which again lends to more of a college like atmosphere. I find this very interesting because I had no idea I even wanted to major in business until my sophomore year in college. Imagine having to have a general idea of what you want to do with your life immediately after elementary school. 

Another dramatic difference that I could see in the high school experience was the fact that Danish students don’t have as large of a sports culture as we can see in high schools across the states. My high school in particular was extremely sports heavy. Most students played at least one sport growing up. However, at this particular high school they didn’t have any sports teams. Instead they had a designated weekend each spring to a tournament of some sort, but that was it. Some of the students asked me about sports culture in the United States. They wanted to know if it was like the movies with cheerleaders, fans, and the band. I was able to provide them some insight to Ohio States football culture which they were very interested in. 

During my time at the high school in addition to learning more about the Danish education system, I was asked to present my experiences so far as an exchange student. I discussed some of the immediate cultural differences I have seen. For example, my biggest adjustment so far has been the fact that Danish people in general aren’t as open and chatty as Americans. After I presented my thoughts the students had the floor and could ask myself any questions. I found it very interesting and eye opening that many of their questions revolved around how safe I felt in the states. They also wanted to get my stance and my peers stance on gun laws. For the Danish people the threats and attacks we have in the states they have never even heard of in their country and they have only seen this through the news so they wanted to get my stance on it. I found it very eye opening and interesting as I have never really given much thought to how some of these events might be seen by other cultures. 

I am so fortunate to have been able to go on this experience. It was extremely interesting and definitely has led me to become even more mindful and aware of how my culture is. Specifically, this experience provided me with insight on how other cultures view America. The idea that students thought that I felt unsafe in America really was interesting to me as I have never thought of Columbus or my hometown as being unsafe. Also the realization that other cultures give their youth more freedom and flexibility to me was interesting as well and I think some aspects of the American schooling system could benefit from less rigidity. This experience of being in Denmark has challenged my cultural views and has shaped them in many more ways than one, and this experience this morning at the high school has contributed to this. 

As I don’t have any pictures from the high school I thought I would share some of my pictures from my most recent trip. I know it doesn’t really fit in with this blog post, but I wanted to give you all something to look at besides words. For spring break myself and some friends from four different universities traveled to Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic. It was an amazing experience and so much fun. My personal favorite out of the three was Budapest, Hungary because it felt like New York City in a way and the prices were SO cheap. In Denmark a single cup of coffee is around $6 and in Budapest it was refreshing as I could get the same quality of coffee for around $1 which I am sure contributed to the fact that this location was my favorite. As well I was able to go to the roman baths in the city which was an amazing experience as well.

These “typical tourist” experiences are great, but traveling around Europe has been really eye opening from a cultural standpoint. Everything is so different in comparison to the United States and has led me to become more mindful. My friends and I really attempt to make an effort to talk with some of the locals when we travel so we can get the true cultural experience. For example, in Prague we met some individuals from London and while they weren’t from the Czech Republic we were able to sit down and have dinner with them and exchange ideas. It’s interesting, many European’s are very interested in my views on the current political climate in the United States, and it’s interesting to see how other cultures view the current environment. Overall, traveling in Europe has made me a more mindful individual. In addition, I see myself adapting some aspects of European culture into my own identity. I find myself more relaxed and find myself doing things at a more leisure pace in comparison to the quick and fast paced nature of my cultural identity in the United States. I have some pictures from my trip below, and I already have my next trip planned to Malta in a week! All of these little experiences are incredible and I cannot wait to share more!

Budapest Parliament Building
Budapest Parliament Building 
John Lennon Wall, Prague 
Prague, Czech Republic
Yummy shakes in Vienna, Austria

Are you homesick yet?

Although Spain is a wonderful adventure, Nikki Matz also recognizes the difference from the U.S. She shares the things that she misses from the U.S. from her experience on the Student Exchange Program.

As a student studying abroad, one of the most-asked questions aside from “where are you from” or “what are you studying” is “are you homesick yet?” I have never been someone that gets homesick easily, I didn’t even get homesick when I went to college my freshman year. I wondered if the case would be the same when I moved across the world to live in a foreign country. After living in Madrid for 3 months I have decided that I may just miss a few things about home. I’ve compiled a list of a few things that I miss the most about America and home. I found it best to schedule a time to talk to people and if you can’t call texting can be just as useful.

  1. The people- At first I was very good about keeping in contact with friends and family at home, a 6 hour time difference meant I usually called people around 11 or 12 at night. As my friends and I got more busy with school and other things, I have found it harder to spend an hour on Facetime a couple times a week. Weekend trips will take ALL of your energy and the weeks have to be dedicated to all the schoolwork I don’t do on the weekends. 6 hours isn’t a lot, but it makes communication much more difficult than being in the same time zone. I found it worked best to set a time when you will try to call people, and it helps a lot to know other peoples schedules. For example, my parents would not get home from work until almost midnight in Spain, so I remember that when I wanted to call them.

2.The culture- Spain is not what I would consider a stereo typically cold culture, the people are generally nice and always willing to help, but I miss the friendly good mornings of American strangers when you are walking down the street or striking up conversations with people in the grocery store. I never realized that Americans were stereotyped as overtly friendly until I talked to people from other countries and they told me they thought this, and then I began to realize that it is very true. People generally consider Americans to be friendly people.

3. Free water/American service industry- I will be very relieved to order water with my first meal back in the States and to not see a charge for it on my bill. Europeans pay for all beverages on the menu and I have sadly eaten many meals without a drink because I am too stubborn to pay for water. In addition to the water dilemma, service in Europe is very different from the service in America. Waiters and waitresses in Europe are salaried and paid fairly well, so they do not have the motivation to give you excellent service because tipping is for the most part non-existent. You must get the waiters attention if you want anything, and sometimes they may still take 20 minutes to come to your table. In Europe it is rude to keep checking on a table because you may be interrupting conversations and it seems like you want to hurry people along. I found that I would spend over 2 hours at restaurants almost every time just because no one is checking on you and you don’t feel rushed.

I never appreciated the things that I love about America until I left and realized that I missed them. I am so happy that I have the chance to live in a culture so different from my own, and I really enjoy being able to see the differences in cultures across Europe. The truth is almost everyone abroad will eventually succumb to some kind of homesickness, missing a restaurant in your hometown or friends from college, but homesickness can easily turn into a good thing, because it makes you appreciate the things you miss even more than you already did. Keeping in touch with people helps a lot with homesickness and it helps you still feel connected to home. I also have found that a lot of the things you might miss (especially food) are available if you search hard enough. For example Bagels and many cereals that I like are not typical in Madrid, but I have found special stores such as Made in America or even cereal and bagel shops that serve some of my favorites. It won’t be something you get everyday, but every once in a while it is nice to have a bagel to remind me of home.

Some of the food I have enjoyed in Europe (without water)

Pizza on Foccacia with pesto (Cinque Terre, Italy)
Fresh pasta with pomodoro and pesto (Florence, Italy)
Pizza Margharita (Naples,Italy)

P.S. Of the 10 countries in Europe I have visited, Italy had the best food!

Reflection of Study Abroad

Bradley Herndon reflects on his semester abroad on the Student Exchange Program at Ecole de Management Strasbourg, France. He shares some of the things he have learned through the people he have met and the classes he has taken, to take steps to be a better global citizen and global business leader.

These days I often find it difficult to close my eyes, because right now, I am living in my dream. Since I was a kid in elementary school I knew I wanted to study abroad; it is an opportunity to explore new cultures, places, and ideas. I recognize I am a product of my environment and opportunities – I would not be writing this today in Strasbourg, France, if not for my family, friends, mentors, and teachers. These individuals have supported me in my endeavors, challenged me to work harder, and inspire me to pursue my passions. Only around 1.6% of U.S. students enrolled in higher education study abroad each year; for most students, studying abroad is simply infeasible. These four months in France are truly a gift, and I owe it to the people who helped get me here, to be cognizant and reflective. I believe it is my responsibility to think critically and share some of the insights I have derived from my first two months of studying abroad.

I am by no means an expert on understanding cultural differences, I am far from being a truly immersed, global citizen, and these insights have no doubt been written about before. This essay is partially a platform for me to understand where I have gained value from my experience; but, maybe it will also be a platform for me to distribute value to others. Perhaps it will shed new light on the importance of learning from different cultures and appreciating the world we inhabit. Although minute, perhaps I will be doing my part to bridge the cultural divide and connect this world even more. I hope you enjoy.

Listen:

These past two months I’ve had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world and it is the most inspiring aspect of studying abroad. I’ve met and made friends with people from Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Spain, France, Kazakhstan, Finland, Czech Republic, Hungary, U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and more; each person has a story and perspective that varies vastly from the next. Most of the time I just sit in awe and listen to people speak about their cultures, the hardships they’ve endured, and the passions they grip fervently. I want to share two stories that have influenced my perspective.

When I first met Mariana, what struck me most was how proud she is to say she is from Colombia. It was this passion which prompted me to learn more about her story. When people first learn she is from Colombia, overwhelmingly, their first response is to ask about drugs and crime. The Colombia that many people know, is the Colombia depicted in Narcos – Pablo Escobar, cocaine, drug-trafficking, guerillas, and violence. To be frank, those issues have plagued Colombia in the past. The guerillas were founded in the 1960’s as a communist-inspired army. Much of their operations were funded by drug-trafficking and ransom payments, leading to violence for a long period of time. However, the past is the past, and a lot of the violence and corruption has eased. Narcos, while portraying true issues, undermines the tremendous progress that Colombia has made to create peace. Colombia is more than just Pablo Escobar, and it is more than its past.

Mariana recognizes there is progress to be made, but she chooses to view her country in a positive light and focuses on the aspects that make Colombia unique and beautiful. For starters, it is a cultural hub having been a home to writers like Gabriel García Márquez, artists like Juanes and Shakira, painters like Fernando Botero, and athletes like James Rodríquez.

“I wish everyone was able to see Colombia through my eyes.”

It was through those eyes that she grew up watching the Carnaval de Barranquilla, filled with adults and children dancing, celebrating their culture. Those eyes that would watch people cheer madly for the Colombian National Football Team; those eyes that witnessed the beauty in the beaches, mountains, and cities that comprise the land; and those eyes that have consistently seen energetic, warm, and loving people, fight through adversity and remain strong. That is the Colombia that Mariana knows and holds so dearly. As an aspiring journalist, her experiences have shaped her passion to one day open a media company that focuses on positive news stories in Colombia. It is her dream to inspire hope and compassion in the people, and to share the Colombia she sees through her eyes.

Besides experiencing joy while listening to her speak about her country, Mariana taught me to look beneath the surface of a situation; it is a reminder to seek the truth and the light within the world, a country, or a person.

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The next story is about my friend Bernat from Barcelona, who has experienced Catalonia’s plight for independence from Spain. His story is complicated and I will attempt to give a brief synopsis; Catalonia is a region of 7.5 million people in the northeast corner of Spain, notable for being the region of Barcelona. Catalans have their own language, their own culture, their own parliament, and their own history. On multiple occasions, the Spanish government has tried to suppress Catalan identity, including the period after the siege of Barcelona in 1714 during the War of Spanish Succession, and also during the reign of the military dictator Francisco Franco from 1939 – 1975. Catalonia, accounting for 16% of Spain’s population, is a wealthy region accounting for 19% of GDP and 25% of industrial production. Recently, the country has seen Madrid take large sums of taxes from their region, and distribute the benefits to areas outside of Catalonia. This history has created cultural, political, and economic motives for the Catalan population to claim the right of self-determination, and it lead to the events that took place on October 1, 2017.

Since 2012, the Catalan Parliament has been calling on the Spanish government to hold a  referendum, to let the people decide the future of their small nation. However, after twenty formal demands and consequential denials, the Catalan government led by Carles Puigdemont scheduled a referendum to vote for independence without consent from Madrid. After the announcement, “The government of the conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called on residents to stay home. With the help of Spanish courts and the police, it confiscated paper ballots and closed referendum-related websites.” (New York Times) When the Catalan’s took to the streets to demonstrate peacefully and exercise their right to vote, the Spanish government sent police forces and the violence used on citizens is truly shocking. When talking to Bernat, who associates himself as a Catalan and is on the pro-independence side, he said, “It’s no longer a nationalist issue, it’s an issue of democracy. Catalans deserve the right to decide on independence and to have their voices heard.”

These are his people; you can see in his eyes the deep connection and love he has for Catalonia, and the hurt he feels while describing the violence. There are two sides of every story; Bernat has encouraged me to research and understand the motives from the Catalan and Spanish perspective. One thing is evident – the actions taken by the Spanish Government to inhibit the vote, violated human rights and clearly undermines the value of democracy. To understand more of the situation I encourage you to watch the video on youtube: “Help Catalonia. Save Europe.”

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I could go on to share multiple stories like these two which have impacted the way I think and view the world. Studying abroad has pushed me to be cognizant and opened my eyes to situations and hardships that I knew little or nothing about. I’ve realized I am passionate about connecting people; sharing stories so we realize we are more alike than we are different. When you listen to people’s stories, you empathize and learn how you can advocate for them.

Observe – Interpret – Value:

I recently attended a lecture on French Culture, delivered by a professor who has experience working with schools from all around the world. Dr. Mac Gabhann implored that we should be curious about the toughest issues of the day, both business and social, and that we should be garnering a European perspective to assist in decision making. One of his main points resonated with me: it is not satisfactory to exclusively observe French behaviors, you have to interpret those behaviors using historical and societal context, in order to value the French culture.

Personally, I do not know the French language and, most of the time, I have absolutely no idea what people are saying around me. However, I am still actively attempting to immerse myself in the culture, so I have been researching French history as an avenue to relate to French students and interpret their behaviors. One of my observations is that the French appear to be slightly less welcome to speaking other languages, and prefer for you to attempt to speak in French. My interpretation is that France is a very proud country; their language represents their rich history of Enlightenment thinkers, innovation and diplomacy. They have also seen the English language infiltrate their society and it has upended some of the French influence around the world. These changes have made the French more protective of their language, and hence, on average, slightly less welcome to speaking different languages. I have learned to value the pride they have in their country, and it has motivated me to learn more of the language, culture, and history.

I stated before that I am not yet an immersed global citizen, but I do have aspirations to one day work with people across borders. I am excited to be exposed to many different cultures and it is necessary to value their differences in order to collaborate and optimize performance. I believe this framework, observe – interpret – value, is an important reminder to abandon preconceptions, and learn how to view cultural differences in a positive light.

Appreciate:

I love reflecting on moments. There is something incredibly satisfying about narrowing your scope, and understanding exactly what specific events brought you happiness. Time is fleeting; you are forced to pay attention to the details to prevent sources of happiness from slipping away. Traveling produces a heightened sense of emotion. Time after time, these past two months I have experienced moments where I just feel happy and alive and inspired. Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by beauty. Beauty in the streets of Vienna, captured from my early morning stroll in the snow; beauty in the alleyways of Strasbourg, on Sunday mornings when the quaint apartments and their iron railings have still yet to be woken; beauty in the sunsets, enveloping the Côte d’Azur, Paris, and Florence in their own distinct shade of red and orange; beauty in the thousands of years of French history, rich with the Enlightenment, kings, queens, revolutions, art, fashion, and cuisine; and finally, beauty in the friends I have met, each one with a tale from another part of the world. This world has destinations to explore, cultures to learn from, ideas waiting to be tapped, and beauty to be discovered; what a privilege it is to play our own role.

Life will likely not always be this lively, where I seemingly have the freedom to travel to another country every weekend. So while I am holding onto this time dearly, I am also not afraid of when it will pass. Whether I am spending hours studying or relaxing with friends, hanging out in Ohio or traveling the world, I control my mindset and can always work to derive happiness from the simplest moments. Life is short, and I know for many it is characterized by hardship, inequality, and constant struggle. But try to focus on what brings you happiness, what you are grateful for, and what inspires you. Optimism only strengthens your ability to enact positive change. For me, studying abroad has reaffirmed the importance of appreciating the individuals and opportunities which have shaped me, and also taught me to pause and reflect. There is a lot of beauty in this world, we just have to open our eyes and look.

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Read more of his experiences in France on Brad Herndon’s original blog here!

About the Author: Brad Herndon, Sophomore, Finance. Student Exchange Program- France.

Public vs. Private Sector in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp observes that difference in public vs. private sectors in Italy as she studies at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy. She shares some of her advice and tips to be prepared for differences in Italy’s!

I have noticed that professional norms across the board tend to be slightly different in Italy versus what I am used to in the United States, especially in terms of public service. In the United States, we are used to some services to always be open and usable, such as the post office and public transportation. However, in Italy, that is very much not true. Strikes of public workers are frequent and almost ignored in Italy, whereas they are usually a big deal at home. In Italy, I have found that they are for a few hours, maybe a full day in extreme cases, and rarely come with any sort of actual demonstration.

One example of this happened last Thursday, when the public transportation workers went on strike. This meant that there were no subways, trams, or buses within the city of Milan almost all day, and the ones that did run were sporadic at best. It showed the dichotomy between public and private transportation workers that we don’t see as much in the Untied States, as the private trains and buses between cities were by and large unaffected.

Similarly, the response to the strike was very different between the Americans and our European counterparts. Because of the location of our dorm, we take public transportation to class, so the idea of it not running on a school day was pretty concerning to me! However, when I spoke to my professors, their attitude was much more along the lines of whatever happens, happens – who knows, maybe there will be trams running anyway! It ended up that the trams happened to run when I needed them to in order to get to class and then I walked home (only about an hour, and the weather was great!), so it all ended well.

There are a couple ways to deal with this when you encounter it in Italy (definitely more of a “when” than an “if”!). First of all, I just guess and check. At each tram stop, there is a screen that tells you which lines run to that stop and how far away the next train is. This is usually pretty accurate, and sometimes you get lucky that there will be a train coming soon. The other option that I’ve found works pretty well is Google maps. There’s an option for public transportation that is usually updated in real time, meaning you can see how long it will take you to get somewhere and the timetables for the trains and trams. This helps tremendously, both during a strike and during regular operation, as the notices at the stop or on the websites are usually all in Italian and can be confusing.

Advice on Traveling While Abroad

Nikki Matz, studying in Spain on the Student Exchange Program, shares her advice and tips on how to go about traveling while abroad for a semester. Check out her list of helpful Apps and webpages, as well as ways to get discounts!

One of the most exciting parts of studying abroad is the ability to travel around the area you are in and see a different part of the world. Being in Europe makes it quite convenient to visit a lot of countries very inexpensively. One of the best things to do when booking weekend trips is to do it early. I was able to get several flights under 100 USD just because I booked them early, and when I booked trips later I had to pay much more. For my school, I didn’t schedule my classes until December, so I wasn’t able to book very many trips early. It is important to think of other costs associated with booking trips, sometimes a flight may be cheaper but you may have to pay more for other things. For example, my monthly metro pass takes me to the airport for free, but the metro is closed from 2-6am, so if I have a flight early in the morning, I have to pay for a taxi. The cost savings on flights sometimes aren’t worth the hassle.

Some helpful tools and websites to use when booking trips:

  • Google flights: Make sure to open an incognito window, but it lets you see many cities at once and their prices, and you can track prices for different flights. Sometimes I would open two tabs to purchase 2 one way tickets.
  • Rome2Rio: once you are in a country, you need to get from the airport to your accommodation, and you also may want to move around the country. Rome2rio shows you all the ways you can get from point a to point b, with prices include. It is very useful to see the time it will take for different methods of transportation and their costs.
  • Bookings.com: I used this many times to book accommodations, they list hostels, B&Bs, and hotels at very discounted prices. It is always worth checking because you can find steeply discounted prices for very nice accommodations.
  • Hostelworld: Hostels are a staple for youth travelers, and if your goal is to save money you’ve got to use them. Hostelworld shows you how far places are from the city center, ratings, pictures, and other information. It makes comparing hostels very easy and is very easy to book through it. (Bring a padlock with you for hostels just in case they don’t have them, and I would also recommend a quick-drying towel and refillable toiletry bottles.)
  • Skyscanner: Skyscanner is another flight search engine, a lot of students utilize this to find the cheapest flights. I personally have used google flights more, but Skyscanner is very popular as well.

These are a few of the tools I found most useful, there are also often discounts for students such as the European youth card or ISIC that give you discounts on airlines such as RyanAir. It is good to be aware early that you can purchase a youth card for a few euros and get discounts on travel.  Traveling on the weekends is an integral part of studying abroad, it is exciting and exhausting at the same time. Being prepared makes everything more enjoyable and less stressful.

Pro tip: Try not to schedule classes at 8 am on Monday mornings (speaking from experience) best case scenario is ending class early on Thursday, no class Friday, and late class Monday.

Tétouan, Morocco

Copenhagen, Denmark