Arriving in the UK and Trying to Adjust

Nate Hazen studying abroad in Manchester, England on the Student Exchange Program, shares his insights, tips, and advice on the first month in the country. To the difference in culture and classes, to the weird restaurants!

As winter break came to a close, and the Student Exchange Program came closer, my emotions were all over the place. All of my friends were back in Columbus starting classes, while I still had three weeks until I began my semester in Manchester, England. I was so excited, but also horrified. I kept thinking about the worst-case scenarios. The “What if I hate it there?” and “What if I don’t make friends?” type of things. It almost felt like the beginning of freshman year happening all over again, except this time I was a little more confident, thinking that it would be easier the second time around. I was wrong.

Moving across the world for a semester was more difficult than the transition into university, even for an out-of-state student like myself, who didn’t know a single person when I first arrived at Ohio State. This time around, there were so many more factors in play. I completely underestimated how jet lag would affect me. I thought I was prepared, but it took me nearly two weeks to fully readjust my sleep schedule. Forcing yourself to wake up and fall asleep at certain times can be a lot harder than it sounds! I also had a hard time meeting people at first. I moved into my hall a week early, figuring it would be a great time to meet some people and make friends. I quickly realized that the students in the UK were still in their first semester exams and not many students wanted to be social. I hung out alone and with the few people that had finished exams for my first week until orientation came the following Friday. I was never made aware of many of the orientation events, but I would recommend asking about/going to any event that the school offers. We had a business exchange orientation that was super helpful to connect with and befriend other students. I made most of my friends at this event and in my classes.

A few of my friends from the Business Exchange took a weekend trip to London. Students are on exchange from all over the world. I now have friends in Maryland, Southern California, Toronto, and many more places. As you can see, Big Ben was sadly under construction.

It was nice that the Alliance Manchester Business School had an orientation program solely for business exchanges. We got more specified information and were able to connect with other students that we would be in classes with. This event also allowed me to meet quite a few lasting friends. Although they had activities planned for the entire day, most of the day was spent with all the students socializing and trying to get to know one another, along with making plans for the evening. At the end of orientation, the International Society told us that they were all going to a pub nearby and invited us to join, along with informing us of other good events to connect with more international students.

Moving to a different country on your own is scary. Even in an English-speaking nation, there are a lot of cultural differences. For starters, in my short time here so far, I have almost been hit by three cars, as they drive on the opposite side of the road. Many of the stores here also close very early, around 5 or 6pm. There are not as many large grocery stores, as many of the urban locations are more similar to a gas station or convenience store. Public transportation is used heavily, and you can often catch a bus every 2 minutes on the busiest streets. Another difference I noticed early on was the use of coins for the 1 and 2 pound rather than paper bills. I have also picked up that British cuisine relies heavily on potatoes, red meats, and a strong connection to Indian food. They also have way too many restaurants with strange varieties of food, such as fried chicken places that also selling pizza?? I love food and could talk about it for days.

Adapting to many of these differences was not super difficult, however I still get very confused with traffic and continue to have close calls. I get bored of the blandness of the food, but I try to find creative ways to add flavor such as adding hot sauce or spices. Stores closing early can make things difficult, especially since I have class going into the evening, but you are usually able to find something similar that is open late or 24 hours. Sunday business hours are very short, so I try to avoid shopping on Sundays. Many other differences are pretty helpful. I really enjoy how accessible public transit is and the use of coin money. For students studying in Europe, especially England, I would recommend using Apple Pay, as contactless payment is commonly used and some places will not accept foreign chip-cards that need a signature. This is also handy when travelling, as you do not have to worry about carrying a card and potentially getting pick-pocketed.

The coursework here is also quite different. I am enrolled in a Sustainability in Business course, along with a Team Management & Personnel Selection and Mental Health courses. I am most looking forward to the sustainability course, as I think it will present exciting material regarding the future of business. Many of my lectures only meet once per week, which leads to a lot of independent study. This allows a lot of flexibility to students, but it also makes students accountable for their own studies. The overall teaching style seems similar, but the assessment format is different. In the States there is a significant portion of most courses that includes homework or weekly tasks. In the UK most of the assessment comes down to either one final exam or final paper. One of my courses has a small portion that is marked on a group presentation, but the rest of my grades come from final assessments. This puts a lot of pressure on just a few assignments for the term. I enjoy this a bit because it makes every assignment feel like it has a purpose. I often feel that homework in the US is given and doesn’t always have much effect on learning. It often feels like busy work. Here, it is easier to focus and give your all on assignments because they are more infrequent.

Some of my favorite things about my time here include the ease of traveling, the friendliness of the people, and the historic aspects of the UK. The UK and Europe are both super accessible and cheap to travel. I have been to Leeds, London, and Edinburgh in the UK, along with Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Nuremburg, Germany abroad. Being able to fly cheap and take trains most anywhere in the UK is very exciting and allows us to see so much more of the landscape and culture. The people here are also very friendly and often go out of their way to help out if you are lost or struggling with nearly anything. This seems to be a Northern England trend, as those in London were much more to themselves. The UK has so much to offer for history. London, a 2 hour train from Manchester, is a global, multicultural city that has endless museums and historic museums. Manchester itself was the home of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and created veganism. The buildings here are also very old and there are many beautiful historic government buildings and churches. I know very little about architecture, but there are so many impressive structures to take in.

As the semester kicks into full gear, I look forward to exploring Manchester and the United Kingdom more, along with seeing how the different style of education alters my learning ability. I am excited to see what material is presented in my courses, as well. The semester is young, but I’m sure it will fly by faster than I expect. I can’t wait to see what is at store.

This photo was taken at an old abbey called Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds, UK. Now a ruins, it was originally built in the 1100s!
This is the Manchester City Hall. The architecture of many of the government buildings is extremely intricate and impressive.
The view from our Airbnb in London was especially incredible. I caught this during sunset!

Go Confidently – Overcoming the Challenges of Going Abroad

Angela Adams is about to go abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Italy, and shares her tips, advice, and thoughts as she gets ready to steps onto that airplane taking her abroad!

Waiting.  That is all I feel I can do right now. In less than 3 weeks I will be in a country I have never been to surrounded by other exchange students from around the world I am eager to meet.  I have been planning my trip to Milan for about a year now while constantly asking myself, “is it worth it?”.  I am leaving all of my friends and the comfort of my campus for a semester in an unknown country.  Plus, the worry and stress about securing the correct documentation, living arrangements, and class scheduling has played into my doubt.  Some advice I have for students who are planning to go abroad is to start preparing as soon as possible. Do not wait until the last minute because deadlines always approach quicker than you think. Also, don’t be afraid to ask faculty or other students for help! Use whatever resources and support systems you have. If you prepare well enough, the doubt won’t seem so perpetual and the only thing left to do is to get yourself on the plane.

The one thing that has pushed me through all of my doubt and worry is the regret if I decided not to study abroad.  I know I would be upset myself if I let doubt win me over.  When I think of who I want to be and the life I want to live, I think about doing things that take me out of my comfort zone. I want to be somewhere I have never been and not know the local language.  I want to say yes to spontaneous trips and adventures. I want to say yes to the unknown.  Whenever I am unsure of what I am doing with my life, I often think of this quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined”.

I think the thing I am most excited for is traveling. I definitely want to travel throughout Italy as much as I can, but I also want to visit as many countries as possible. Another thing I look forward to is meeting a lot of new people! Bocconi University is known for having a lot of exchange students from all over the world, so I hope to be meeting a lot of them. My whole mindset for this trip is to go with the flow of everything. I can try to plan out trips and experiences, but sometimes things don’t always go the way you want them to. I am looking forward to all the ups and downs that come with this trip.

Most of us picture how we want to live our lives, but we rarely take action to make our dreams into a reality. The promise I have made to myself is to become more of a doer than a dreamer.  We can dream all day, but eventually we have to wake up.  Might as well wake up to the life you have always imagined.

My Top 5 Photos on the Student Exchange Program

As she shares her top 5 photos from the Student Exchange Program, Michaela Santalucia reflects on her time abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain. As a first time international traveler, she also shared her insights and benefits of taking the leap of faith to study abroad.

In order to highlight my experiences in a more fun way, I decided to do a little photo journal of my favorite photos, and reflect on the experience I had and where I was!

This photo of me was taken at the Real Jardín Botánico in the heart of Madrid. Some other exchange students and I happened upon the Botanical Gardens between lunch at one of our favorite places (Tinto y Tapas) and a trip to the museums in Madrid. Since the botanical gardens are so large (8 hectares!!), we never made it to the museum but we did see 3 very friendly cats, thousands of plants, and a cool art exhibit! Although this seems like a photo that could be taken anywhere in the world, this experience was extremely important to me because I felt like a true Madrileño (a native inhabitant of Madrid), because I found something completely by myself without advising a travel site and enjoyed my day without regard to time (in true Spanish fashion). This experience was a true turning point of my trip because I realized that I was no longer a tourist and was actually living in Madrid.

This photo was taken of me in Morocco! Only a 10 hour bus ride and a one hour ferry ride away from Madrid, this trip was one of my favorites because the culture was incredibly different than anywhere I had seen in Europe or North America, the food was incredible, Morocco had my favorite architecture, and the company I traveled with was extremely punctual and handled the incoming hurricane well and got us all out safely.

During this trip, I was lucky enough to visit three separate cities, get tours (by locals) in all of them, and stayed in a nice hotel. It was incredibly cool to visit a predominantly Muslim country and see how Morocco has been influenced by French influence. Most places I have visited in Europe or the U.S. do not operate under an incredibly religious government, and generally, Muslims are a minority in the places I have visited. Being exposed to a new style of government, a new way of life and a completely different architectural style had a big impact on my opinions of the area. Although I did not pick up any Arabic, I felt like I learned a little bit more about the world.

I took this photo in a small town about an hour train ride outside of Madrid called Siguenza (which conveniently shares the name of my favorite Spanish bottled water brand). My Professor mentioned that it was an incredible town with rich history, so I Googled it and convinced all my friends to go on a day trip with me that weekend! It just happened that weekend there was a special medieval-themed train you could take to the city to get the “full experience”.

On the train there were magicians, jugglers, and performers all presenting themselves in a traditional medieval fashion as they performed in the various train cars. Upon arriving in the city we were given a guided tour of the city (included in the ticket price), and on that tour, I found this adorable staircase. After the tour, we were free to wander around the city, get lunch, and meet back up later for an optional paid cathedral tour. This experience was one of my favorites because it was cheap, could be done in one day, and how often do you get to enjoy medieval magic shows as a college student? Never.

The university I attended in Madrid, Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Comillas Pontifical University) was a Jesuit school located in the heart of the city. It has been a longstanding institute of Spain but actually got its origins as a seminary in Comillas, a city in northern Spain. Due to its deep history, Comillas offered a trip to its exchange students to see the original university in the city Comillas!

This photo is taken from one of the corridors of the building looking out towards the courtyard and the main atrium/church. It was interesting to learn about why/when the university moved to Madrid and what it is used for today (another university purchased it after being abandoned for many years). This experience gave me a broader scope to how old some European institutions are compared to OSU.

Last, but not least, the experience that destroyed my rainboots, but was somehow the most peaceful I had ever felt while traveling. This photo was taken at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. We did a day trip from Dublin to here one day (left around 6 a.m. via bus with a tour group and returned around 9 p.m.). I still don’t know what it was about this specific place that felt different from all the others, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Something about looking off the cliffs into the ocean was calming and also incredibly scary and filled me with adrenaline. At times the walking/hiking path was small and covered in rocks, puddles, and mud pits (which is why my boots did not make it back to the states with me). After three hours of walking the path, we had to get on the bus to return to Dublin, but I probably could have stayed there forever. Looking back, I could have just been really refreshed from being able to speak English again, but I like to think the cliffs are magical.

Every part of my experience abroad changed me for the better, and now that I have returned to the states I am starting to see those changes in myself. For example, I recently noticed that I adopted the more relaxed Spanish approach to being early/on-time to events. Before going abroad, I was 20 minutes early to almost everything, but now I am more relaxed and prioritize what situations I need to be early in, and show up on time to the rest of my commitments. Before I went abroad, people would always ask me why I was going abroad/how I picked Madrid and I never had a solid answer, but looking back I now know what my ultimate goal of the experience was and that I achieved it.

My major goal of going abroad was getting a deeper understanding of myself and becoming more independent. Since my hometown is only an hour away from OSU, I always felt like if the opportunity arose to live/work in another area of the country, I would be too afraid to take the plunge. Going abroad as the only OSU student at my institution helped me to conquer these fears. Not only am I confident that I can keep myself alive (remembering to eat and other basic things), I can travel and manage myself independently. I funded my entire experience abroad by myself through scholarships and financial aid, made friends and connections in the country by always networking and attending social events, and learned a lot about myself because I was not influenced by anyone who knew me before. Oftentimes, you become who people tell you you are (you grow up around your parents and are influenced by their opinions on your character for example) but being abroad releases you from that. I was able to see who I was in an entirely new environment filled with new people and an opportunity to recreate myself if I so chose.

This trip allowed me to realize that when/if the time comes I will be able to take the plunge and move away from everything I’ve ever known. However, the trip helped me affirm my decision that Columbus is the place for me for a few years after graduation, and that has lifted a major weight off of my shoulders.

For anyone considering going abroad, my advice is always to go and for as long as your life plan allows (a week, a month, or even a year)! However, I understand that it is a major financial burden. My advice is to start early, pick a city that is within your budget, and apply for every single scholarship possible. Doing these things will ensure that you maintain your intended graduation date, do not undergo a huge amount of debt to fund your global experience, and it will prevent problems down the road such as Visa delays, expensive flights, etc. Going abroad seems daunting, but during my trip I kept reminding myself “If other students can do it, I can too” and reminding myself of that got me through the semester.

All the Not-So-Good Things and How to Deal with Them

Michaela Santalucia shares some of her start of semester challenges as she started her life in Madrid, Spain on the Student Exchange Program, to help future students prepare for some things they may confront. At the end, the challenges she faced helped her develop her independence, be a better problem-solver, and grow her resiliency. Skills she plans to use moving forward!

One of my biggest fears doing an exchange program was the level of independence required, especially since it was my first time abroad. Before I left I kept thinking “What if something bad happens and I don’t know how to handle it and I have to come home” or “What if I can’t handle adult problems like dealing with my landlord in Spanish?”. I think these fears are present in many people’s heads when they are heading abroad and/or these fears are holding them back. For these reasons, I made a list of the not-so-great things that happened to me to prove to everyone that you will be okay. Also, I can now laugh at these experiences (at the time I didn’t find them as hilarious).

On my way to Madrid and in my first few days in Spain, I ran into some issues that at the time seemed really inconvenient and I wasn’t sure how to navigate, but that I managed fairly well. Here they are:

  1. On my flight to Madrid, we hit some moderately scary turbulence (my phone and book flew into the air). This was incredibly scary because this one lady wouldn’t stop screaming, and it was only the third time I have ever been on a plane, so I was freaking out for a few minutes. Luckily, the pilot came of the intercom to assure us we would be okay, and that he was going to try to fly around the storm rather than through it. I think I fell back asleep within 15 minutes.
  2. After it taking me 20 minutes inside the Madrid-Barajas Airport to figure out the MyTaxi App (I highly encourage downloading this before you arrive and connecting your credit card in advance to make your airport experience easier, if you don’t want to speak Spanish to a taxi driver), I finally made it to the taxi. However, when I was getting into the car I dropped my phone outside of the car and almost left it. Luckily, I heard something fall and stopped the driver right after he pulled away and ran back for it. Not only was I embarrassed, but I think I saw my actual life flash before my eyes on day one.
  3. The first day I was in the city, I literally just slept the entire day. However, on the second day, I needed to leave to buy groceries and furnishings for my apartment. On my way back home from the grocery store, I could not get my apartment unlocked despite having the key. The key was not a traditional key I was used to because the building was old, and despite turning the key all the way until it stopped, the door would not open. At this point, my roommates were not in the apartment yet, and my landlord’s office was not open and they could not be reached.

With no other solution in sight, I started knocking on doors in my buildings. Person after person rejected the exasperated girl speaking broken Spanish at their door (probably because my Spanish was making no sense). However, I finally found a woman to come and help. She got the door open after many tries and we practiced on the door together. However, when I left again later, the same thing happened, and I could not get the door open. I had to ask another stranger for help. At this point, I was afraid to leave my apartment, so I spent the entire weekend inside until I could get into contact with my landlord because I didn’t want to get locked out, have no one to help me, and have to pay for a locksmith. On Monday I called the landlord probably 5 times to get them to send someone over. When they finally came, they taught me the trick to opening the door (which they probably should have told me when I checked in) and I never got locked out again.

This was by far the scariest part of my entire trip. I called my mom crying (which made her freak out) and I had never wanted to come home more than I did on this day. However, looking back on it, I realized that I was letting my fear get to me, because if I could open the door at any point, I probably could have opened it those first few days, but I let my exhaustion and fear of being in a new country get a hold of me. Additionally, it taught me that I would have to be incredibly persistent with my landlord in comparison to the U.S. Now that I have overcome that though, I feel like I am more resilient.

  1. The last semi-dramatic thing that happened to me abroad was that when I arrived, our toilet was broken for almost two weeks. Upon arriving to the apartment, I noticed that there was water by the toilet, but since it had rained, I thought it had come through the open bathroom window, boy o boy was I incorrect. Turns out, every time we flushed the toilet, some of what we flushed would end up on the bathroom floor minutes later. Generally, Spaniards are a little more relaxed than in the U.S., and the landlords follow suit when answering requests. We had to email them a total of ten times to even get them to come to the apartment. In total, it took 12 days for them to completely fix the toilet, and for most of those, I refused to go into the bathroom because of the smelly health hazard. This experience taught me that those in charge are not as receptive in the U.S. and without resources like Student Legal Services and the Student Advocacy Center, I would constantly need to advocate and push for my needs while abroad.

At the time, all of these experiences seemed like everything I feared before I left was coming true. However, these problems have taught me how to rely on myself for problem-solving, advocate for my needs, and maintain my own safety.

Although these experiences were difficult and should be discussed. They were outweighed by the positive experiences I had. While in Spain, I formed cross-cultural friendships inside and outside the classroom that will last me a lifetime. With my fellow students, I was able to discuss world problems and receive viewpoints and experiences that are not common in the United States. For example, I learned a ton about the Denmark legal system while in Spain, just by comparing business law with another student in my class. This cross-cultural experience was the most valuable part of my trip.

However, learning to manage all of my apartment problems did have some almost immediate real-world applications. While traveling during my time abroad (to England, Ireland, Morocco, Germany, and within Spain) I felt like my problems solving abilities was heightened. I understood that when I experienced a problem or mix up in a different country (language barriers, transportation issues, payment mix-ups), that I need to be conscientious of the culture of the country I was in and how my American mindset would cause me to react to things. This allowed the few mix ups I had while traveling (flight delays, credit card problems, not knowing how to use public transport) to seem like small bumps in the road whereas if they occurred at the beginning of my time abroad it would have seemed world ending. Reflecting on my trip abroad, it has allowed me to realize that I can feel completely comfortable travelling almost anywhere in the world, and that would not have been possible without all the not-so-good things.

17 Things I Noticed During My First Month Abroad

While her semester in Spain on the Student Exchange Program, Michaela Santalucia shares the differences she observed in Spanish culture and U.S. Culture, from eating habits, social norms, and daily expectations!

In my first few weeks in Madrid, I noticed some interesting differences between Spanish culture and U.S. Culture. Rather than writing paragraphs, I decided to make it a list so that everyone can reference it easily. All of these are in no particular order of importance or relevance.

  1. Mayonnaise– The mayonnaise in Spain and most of Europe is much different compared to what we have in the United States. Also, Europeans put it on a lot more stuff (for example, many people dip their fries in mayo and ketchup which if you have not tried is magical). At one of the first events of the semester, I watched many Spaniards pass around bottles of ketchup and mayo instead of ketchup and mustard and I knew something was up. I was hoping to be able to bring some Spanish mayo back to the U.S., but my suitcase was already full, so I do not get to keep this delicacy around. However, I think it is better than what we have in the U.S., so I am exploring import options for the good of everyone.
  2. Phones are older– Spaniards are not constantly buying the newest smartphones. While I was there, there was still a decent amount of advertisements for the iPhone 7, and a majority of available cases were for the 6,7 and 8. My guess is that because Spain’s economy is not the strongest, their first priority is not buying the newest smartphones, but it was still an interesting comparison to the United States.
  3. Hiring/firing practices– From my understanding, it is incredibly difficult to get both hired and fired and Spain. This is because the firing process is nearly impossible, so they have to make sure early on that you are not a risk.
  4. Grocery store styles– There are stores every 2-3 blocks that fit different needs. The traditional grocery stores are incredibly small and carry 1-2 brands of every product. However, there are tons of specific stores also. There are an equal number of fresh produce, fish, meat, and bakery stores interspersed between the grocery stores. Spaniards generally shop more frequently than we do in the U.S. because their kitchens have less storage space and they place a higher value on fresh goods.
  5. Pharmacies– There are literally pharmacies on every corner, and medicine is relatively easy to get. However, they give you an entire package of medication instead of just a few pills so that can seem overwhelming.
  6. Spanish Hours– In Madrid, the days start later and go a lot slower than in the U.S. On a Saturday, you won’t see anyone outside walking, or even on a metro until like 10 a.m. Why does that happen you may ask? In Spain, bars and clubs are open until 6 a.m. and many people will stay up that late hanging out with friends no matter their age.
  7. Old people living their best lives– There are more elderly people out and about it Spain than in the U.S. There are entire restaurants, clubs, bars, and parks where the elderly are known to congregate and hang out together. This is just something we don’t see as much in the U.S.
  8. Trash/recycling things– In Madrid since everyone lives in apartments, the trash is done in larger groupings. Every night, the landlord of each building wheels out trash bins for organic waste and normal waste. Then, between the hours of 11 p.m.- 2 a.m. every night (except Saturdays), municipal workers come to collect it. Recycling is done with large dumpster-like containers, generally one per square block, and is separated into glass, paper/cardboard, and metal/aluminum. These are generally also picked up every night.
  9. Always cleaning the streets– Due to the number of people in Madrid on any given day, Madrid has a team of workers who are always cleaning the streets. They walk around with brooms, shovels, and trash cans and clean the streets constantly to ensure that leaves, cigarettes, and other assorted trash does not build up.
  10. American music– When I first came to Madrid, I was hoping to increase my knowledge of Spanish by hopefully learning lots of Spanish pop music. However, the majority of music played is American, which can sometimes be disappointing.
  11. No screens– None of the windows, doors, or any other pathway to the outdoors has a screen to protect you from bugs. There are basically no bugs which makes the lack of screens sensible, but it is still difficult to adjust to.
  12. No air conditioning– I never saw a house or apartment that had air conditioning, and considering it was still upper 80s into October, I could have used air conditioning.
  13. Money is different sizes and different colors– Euros are fun to adjust to.
  14. Taking a two-hour break in the middle of school every day– Most of my classes had a two-hour break in the afternoon so the professors could eat lunch and run home. Which was nice so I could also eat lunch.
  15. Lunch as the biggest meal of the day– In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. This means they prioritize eating good food at this time of the day. Also, this means they invented my favorite thing about Spain: the menu del dia. It is essentially a meal with a first course, second course, dessert, and drink all for a convenient price (usually around 10-15 euros, however, there are more expensive options available). I wish I could have brought the menu del dia back to the states with me because I got to try so many different restaurants.
  16. Ham, ham, ham– There is more ham in Spain than I ever expected. As a vegetarian, it could be a little annoying, but it was cool to see actual butcher’s processing meat.
  17. No dryers– Due to Madrid’s dry climate, most people do not feel the need to have a dryer. This means once you take your clothes out of the washing machine, you get to set it on a drying rack and let it dry for anywhere between a few hours to two days. In my opinion, this is really inconvenient because I was not responsible enough to make time for my laundry to dry.

Tips and Tricks to Maximize your Experience in Spain!

Tips and tricks for studying abroad in Spain! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her Summer Global Internship experience.

It has been a couple weeks since I have been back from my Summer in Spain, and I already miss it! The people, activities, and of course the food, more specifically the 4 for 1∊ croissants you could get at any bakery. I also miss being with the other students in the internship. We were able to get so close to each other, I will at least get to see most of them when I am back on campus. However after reflecting on my trip, and sleeping for two days straight,  I want to give you all a couple tips for when you also go abroad for the summer:

  1. Always find the nearest McDonald’s to your home. It can be a nice reminder of the United States when you get homesick and it tastes way better than it does back in America. McDonald’s also is one of the only places that has public restrooms because sometimes you have to pay to use them in Europe.
  2. Travel! Whether you travel around Spain or to other countries it is a great experience. Just think, when is the next time you will be able to travel to this many places in a short amount of time. It also makes you more global and it a great conversation starter with companies!
  3. Try to speak Spanish as much as possible. Even if you do not know a lick of Spanish, it helps you immerse yourself in the culture. It also let’s your co-workers know you are trying and interested in the culture. Even if you just pick up a few words and phrases it is worth it!
  4. Keep an open mind! This may be one of the only times that you are in an entirely different country. Keep an open mind about the food, people, and culture in general. Be open to trying new things and if you get a chance just talk to random people! Talking to people around your age they can show you the non-touristy things to do and take you to some great restaurants.
  5. Have fun! Yes you are in a new country, meeting new people, and working a new job and it can get monotonous at times. However, you have to make the most of the trip while you are there. Do not be lazy when you are tired after work and someone asks you to go somewhere because you never know when you will be back!

Overall, this trip was worth it! Not only was I able to become a world traveler, but I gained so many friends from the trip, to hang out and study with when I came back to Fisher. There were many scholarships I applied to so I could get the cost down such as the FCOB Global Experience Scholarship the ODI Education Abroad Scholarship, these both helped to fund the trip. I was able to get real world business experience abroad, and not many people can say they have done that. Recruiters have been impressed with my experience, because not only did I work broad but I was able to make a considerable contribution to Fundación Aladina. I also gained many transferable skills, that helped me answer behavioral questions during interviews. As a bonus, the internship abroad also makes a great fun fact for when you come back to campus. I would recommend this trip to anyone and I am sure, if you follow these tips, you will have just as great of a trip as I did!   

Spain: The Finale

That’s a wrap! Junior Alex Jackson reflects on her final week in Spain and her final work presentation on the Summer Global Internship Program.

I only have one week left in Spain and I am going back to visit my favorite places as well as visit anywhere I have not been. It is kind of bittersweet being in my last week of the trip because I have made new friends, memories, and gotten business experience, but I cannot wait to see my family!

Everyday after work I would go a do a different activity that I enjoyed doing in Spain! One day, I went to Parque Retiro. It is so beautiful and peaceful there, plus there are a ton of people just enjoying their time in the park. My friends and I rented one of the row boats and spent an hour rowing around in the park’s pond. It was very fun, but there are fish that jump in that pond, so it was sometimes a little scary because you did not know if they were able to jump into the boat. On another day, I went shopping for myself and friends back at home. In Spain, they had an entire week of sales up to 60% off in all the stores to try to get rid of the summer clothing. I was able to buy cute, fashionable things at an amazing price so it was money well spent.

Not only did I do activities but I also ate at some of my favorite places around Spain. Of course, I went and got gelato in Plaza Mayor and visited the local market there that is similar to the North Market here in Columbus. My friends and I also splurged one night and went to Jack Percoca a little Italian place we found with the best truffle mac and cheese I ever had! Throughout the trip I ate at the McDonald’s a couple times because I was either feeling homesick or I was craving it. The McDonald’s abroad is ten times better than the ones in America, plus they have a dessert cafe in each one.

On my last day of my internship, it was so hard to say goodbye. I made sure before the trip that I brought Ohio State thank you cards and pens for the people in my office. I wanted to make sure that before I left, I would be able to give them a proper thank you for having me, so I gave it to them at my farewell lunch. I also presented my marketing strategies for the company and finished translating the final documents from Spanish to English. Both of these projects were to get more people to donate and become ‘Friends of Aladina, as well as expand into the English market’. Not only did they like my ideas, but I also presented the entire thing in Spanish. I presented a powerpoint presentation, on the best ways to get more donations. I presented my ideas just like I would in class at Fisher. One minor difference was that they asked me questions while I presented instead of waiting till the end of the presentation. It was a great way for me to see that I improved my Spanish and I was able to help the organization who helped me!

 

Spanish Culture Do’s and Don’ts

Is culture shock real? Junior Alex Jackson explores cultural differences between Spain and the United States, and shares her tips on how to navigate the culture.

There were many cultural norms in Spain that were different in the United States. First, the concept of personal space. In the United States, unless you know someone very well you tend to keep your distance when meeting someone or even just in public spaces. When standing in crowds, you try not to stand too close unless it is absolutely necessary to be on top of each other. Even in a crammed train or bus I am still on the lookout to make sure no one is trying to take my things or read over my shoulder. In Spain the concept of personal space seems almost non-existent. On the metro, there would be plenty of seats open but people would hop on and sit right next to you! This took some getting used to because I did not understand why out of all the seats you would pick mine. This was also alarming because we were warned of getting pick pocketed and I did not want people too close to me who I was not familiar with. Another cultural norm I learned from riding the metro everywhere is that staring was completely normal. I do not know if this is because I was American or if it was just normal for people to stare and talk about someone so blatantly. I do think that some of this probably came from people thinking I did not know how to speak Spanish.

Secondly, there was a lot of public displays of affection. People would hold hands, kiss, and even sit on each others laps in public. People were very touchy with each other, especially those close to my age. When I asked someone why that was, they said  that there is a lot of public affection because young adults tend to live at home until they finish university. This meant that they did not have the same freedoms that we have in college here. Many of us move away from home, get our own apartments, and pay our own bills. There is a big family aspect in Spain and because young adults cannot freely bring their significant other in their house they show a lot of affection in public.

The last difference between American culture and Spanish culture was the fashion. For one, there is no sales tax on clothes, so the price you see on the tag is the price you pay. Also, being in Europe clothes were much cheaper! Being closer to the manufacturers even designer goods were cheaper to buy in Spain. Everyone in Spain seemed to be trendier than those in the United States, including the kids. There were mainstream stores like Zara and H&M but there were also huge discount stores like Primark where you could find anything you wanted, at good quality for a low price. I noticed the difference in fashion because when I went to work, everyone dressed trendy and not necessarily business professional. This gave me a great excuse to go shopping for new, trendy clothes!

The biggest takeaway from living in Spain was that, for me, there was not much of a cultural difference to the United States. It was easy to adjust when it came to personal space and staring, but other than that it was not a huge adjustment. The best advice I received before traveling to Spain, was do not act like a tourist. This is the best advice, act like you belong there and people will not bother you, or single you out!

International Experience: Non-profit v. For-profit

Summer Global Internship participant Alex Jackson discusses the differences between working abroad in Spain versus here in the United States, as she attends a meeting including the CEO of the company.

In working for a small nonprofit company, I was able to meet the founder and CEO of Fundación Aladina, Paco Arango. He is a very busy man, but would stop in the office every once in awhile for either a quick meeting or update. It was usually before the organization would have an event and the team would convene to talk logistics about the event. At first, it was hard for me to keep up during those meeting because everyone was speaking Spanish really fast. However, by the second mini meeting Paco had stopped and caught me up in English as to what was going on. Although I was able to understand most of the meeting, it was nice for him to make sure I understood. His reiterating the meeting in English affimed that I was improving on my Spanish speaking skills.

I was also able to sit in on their larger monthly meeting one afternoon. Surprisingly to me the meeting was through a working lunch. Through research, and the class we had taken before the trip, in Spain meetings do not usually happen over lunch because lunch is a social activity. Many times my entire office would go eat together for at least an hour and just take a break from the long day. I was also lucky to be able to get the food for the lunch with one of my co-workers Sara. This was a great way for me to learn more about her and get to know what she does at the organization. It was nice because she had only been there for about 4 months, so we were in the same boat when it came to adjusting to a new work environment.

The meeting was also located at Paco’s loft which had a long table in it specifically for business meeting. The topic of this meeting was, the new movie and its release across Spain. Fundación Aladina had been working hard on the movie premiere because all of the funds raised from the movie would go to the ‘Aladinos’, the children they assisted, so they could attend a summer camp specifically for kids with cancer. It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities of meetings in Spain versus the United States. Since the organization is so small, all employees except for Paco had a mini meeting beforehand to make sure they all knew how each of their roles would play into the premiere. When we got into the meeting Paco was doing most of the talking, my boss was constantly interrupted by him while she was explaining the plan. This was different than in the United States because usually the presentation would finish and then questions would be asked. Another interesting thing is that the movie release and premiere was a team effort but the discussion at the table was only between three major people, Paco, my boss, and a coordinator. I thought this was interesting because the rest of the team would not speak unless they were spoken to, or asked a question directly.

Also, the dress code of the meeting was very casual everyone was in jeans and a shirt either blouse of a t-shirt. In the United States people dress up in business professional clothes for meetings, but I did not know if this meeting was a special case because they are a non-profit. Paco also made all the final decisions. Seeing that he is a head of the company he took the information given to him and either told people to work on certain things or to change that part of the proposal completely. What I learned from the meeting is, like in the United States, always be prepared. I was not expecting to speak at the meeting but I did and was able to contribute to the conversation. It may be obvious but, do your best to follow the conversation. In the meeting people started talking at the same time and would interrupt each other, and I never knew if I could add to the meeting. Overall the meeting was casual, fun, and I was even able to speak a little on how the website marketing should work!

Volunteering in Spain

Interested in working with Non-Profits? Junior Alex Jackson talks about her experience volunteering with one in Madrid, Spain on the Summer Global Internship Program.

One of the great things about working with a non-profit organization is you can actually see the impact you have on the people you serve. Although I spend most of the time in the office I was able to visit Hospital Niño Jesus and volunteer with our ‘Aladinos’,who are children with cancer the Fundación Aladina supports. One of my coworkers let me go with her on her weekly visit to the hospital, just to spend time with the patients. I also visited the hospital midway through my time in Spain, this was a perfect way for me to see what the organization actually does and how what I work on daily would help the children.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was given a tour and able to see the wing of the hospital. There was a room full of toys, board games, and a TV for the students to be able to play with. At the end of the hall, there was a relaxation room for the parents of the patients. It had comfy chairs, TV’s, and its own bathroom. When I ask why it was created, it was for the parents to take a break from all the emotions that can come with a child in the hospital for so long. Also, each child’s room was designed for the patient to have the most comfortable experience while they are battling their cancer. It was also very colorful and the children’s artwork was on the walls in the halls and in each of their rooms.

While I was there we played charades, in Spanish. This was both fun and difficult for me because I had to really think about my vocabulary and make sure I even knew what they wrote down. One word I had to describes was ‘guitar’ and that was hard because I knew barely any vocabulary about music. One of the kids offered to help me! I would whisper the word describing a guitar in English to him and then he would whisper is back in Spanish. What made it more interesting was that the kids were speaking to me in English, but I was speaking with them in Spanish. This helped me with my Spanish and also helped to improve their English. When I would respond in English they would all say “OOOO NO ENGLISH” and then make me say it again in Spanish. The kids were having a blast and I could see my volunteering was good for the family too. The parents were able to relax, take a break, or have fun with the kids  while the volunteers were there. I was able to see that what Fundación Aladina does, really impacts the families lives with both the volunteering and the facilities they provide.

Also, since my visit was midway through my summer, it helped me to see why they had me doing the work I did. It reminded me of why I was there for the summer too. The work I was doing could bring in more funds for the organization, which meant the more children they were able to impact. My volunteering gave the kids a break from the doctors and let them be kids again for a little while. I started feeling a little homesick around this time because the “thrill” of living in a new place was wearing off and I was in a routine every day. The visit let me see that my work had purpose and even helped me create new ideas for my summer marketing project at the organization. I also started visiting new parts of Madrid I had not seen to remind myself that I was in Spain. This helped with my homesickness because it reminded me I would not be here forever and to enjoy every moment I had!