Parla Inglese? (Do you speak English?)

Jayna Wolfe shares her excitement being exposed to an array of people and opportunity being on the Student Exchange Program at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Hear about her experience of her first few weeks in Europe and the small adventures she has on a daily basis living in a different country.

Ciao from Milano! My name is Jayna Wolfe and I am a fourth year logistics management student currently studying at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in Milan, Italy. I have now been in Milan for about three weeks and am settling back into a more normal balance of academia and fun. My first week and a half in Milan was filled with welcome events including things such as “Speed Exchange” (a mock speed date for exchange students), orientation meetings, campus tours, visits to the Duomo and lots of socializing.

A large portion of the 850 exchange students at Bocconi participated in an Italian language “crash course” and quickly started meeting each other and forming travel groups. I chose not to participate in the crash course, but have found that the excitement of being on exchange is similar to being a freshman at your college university—everyone is a little unsure about how life will be and is therefore willing to extend their hand and introduce themselves if you are willing to do the same.

Bocconi exchange students hail from North America, Latin America, Oceania, Africa and the Middle East. I can honestly say that when first becoming interested in Bocconi I had no idea that I would be meeting students from such a wide range of universities and different cultural backgrounds. The diversity in my peers has made my experiences in the classroom very different from those at Fisher College of Business. I am currently enrolled in a corporate finance class and although the course is taught in English and utilizes dollars in practice problems, our professor encourages input from every student on similarities and differences between the American financial system and the system of the country the students hail from. When asked in my entrepreneurship course to formulate ideas for innovative products and processes we will develop throughout the span of the course my classmates considered problems they face in their own countries. I was intrigued by my group member’s idea to create a system for displaced refugees to integrate into society. The refugee crisis is something we hear about on the news in the United States, but has never been something I consider on a day-to-day basis because of influxes in the number of migrants moving to the states. My group members are from Germany and Australia where these issues are prominent.

When asked where I am from I cannot simply say “the state of Ohio” because those unfamiliar with the geography of the US are only familiar with California, Florida, and New York City. Participating in the classic first day of school ice breaker where each student states their name, country of origin, and home university I was in awe- Australia, Egypt, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Brazil, Turkey, and so on. Bocconi is truly a global institution and I am confident that I will walk away from this experience with a broader way of thinking, thanks to my peers. Each education system instills in its students’ different behaviors and methods of participating in the classroom. In just one and a half short weeks of class I have been enlightened by my classmate’s different ways of thinking and participating. Some students are incredibly comfortable with shouting out to the professors as though they are having a one-on-one discussion while most of the American student have learned that in a classroom you always raise your hand unless told otherwise.

The wide variety of courses offered to exchange students that coincide with Ohio State course credit is a huge benefit of coming to Bocconi. This semester I am enrolled in Leadership Skills, Corporate Finance, Organizing Entrepreneurship, and New Product Development and Open Innovation. Some of these courses are similar to topics covered in leadership and development courses I have already taken, but the professors have accents from around the globe, are impressively decorated with research distinctions, and have been visiting professors at universities all over the world. These distinctions and scopes of experience make for interesting class periods and excellent networking contacts for students.

I feel incredibly blessed to have the chance to participate in this program and to be able to say that at this very moment I am a Bocconi student, and I am in Europe. The ability to travel on the weekends, see amazing places and meet such wonderful people gives you a different sense of freedom than being in your home country. Every tram ride, trip to the grocery store, and visit to the Galleria is a new adventure without the feeling that you are a tourist. My weekly trips to the grocery store that started as one of the most confusing life processes have become routinized as the layout is now clear. Clerks speak broken English if any at all, and navigating around a sea of shoppers (the grocery is crowded at every hour of the day) you are constantly yelling “scusa!” (sorry, or excuse me). I finally know how to respond when the clerks ask “sacchetto?” (bag?) or “carta?” (card?). Each learning experience no matter how big or small helps with becoming more and more confident in your ability to navigate the unknown.

Here’s a brief travel update of what’s to come:

Cinque Terre, Italy

Corfu, Greece

Florence, Italy

Barcelona, Spain

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Jumping for joy at a beautiful swim spot in front of George Clooney's mansion in Carate Urio on Lake Como.
Jumping for joy at a beautiful swim spot in front of George Clooney’s mansion in Carate Urio on Lake Como.
My first Italian pizza <3
My first Italian pizza <3
The classic Duomo photo. A requirement when traveling through Milan.
The classic Duomo photo. A requirement when traveling through Milan.

Arriverderci! (See you later)

About the Author: Jayna Wolfe, Senior, Logistics Management, Student Exchange Program- Italy, first time traveler to Europe.

Ready, Set, Bike!

Listen to Kelley Jiang’s advice as she starts her life in Copenhagen, Denmark and experience her first steps in the city studying and living abroad on the Student Exchange Program. 

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kelley Jiang and I will be starting off my third year fall semester studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) on the Student Exchange Program.

My highly anticipated European experience began before stepping foot on European soil. As soon as I boarded the Norwegian airplane, I immediately felt like a foreigner. I was no longer in a cramped and uncomfortable Delta or United Airlines plane, but flying in a seat that I could actually fall (almost) comfortably asleep in and with a ceiling that was so high I could not reach it with my arm fully extended.

My biggest fear upon landing in Copenhagen was that all the signs would be in Danish and I would have no idea where to go. Although I have traveled to Europe before, it was one of those trips you sign up with 70 of your closest friends (and chaperones) through an international touring company, in my case we booked through EF Tours. Anyways, as my “Buddy” assigned to me from CBS picked me up and took me to my housing accommodation via the Metro my first thoughts can be summarized in 3 words: Pretty, quiet, and bikes. The Scandinavian people are breathtakingly gorgeous—but they all look very similar—, the city was very quiet/quaint for a city, and there are so many bikes that the city has a separate raised lane and traffic lights to direct bike traffic. There is even “bike rush hour”.

In just my first days exploring some of Copenhagen I have learned a lot. First and most importantly, everyone bikes. Although everyone here might be able to speak English well, everything is written in Danish. After successfully ordering my first meal here I thought, “This isn’t so hard! Everyone speaks English. No problem”. But going to the grocery store is a different story. I should have known things would be different when my roommate accidently bought yogurt instead of milk on the first day because it came in a carton identical to what milk comes in. Although I didn’t mix up any foods on my first trip, I didn’t realize after checking out with several items that in most stores you have to pay for a grocery bag. After my items were scanned I stood at the end of the cashier table for a good minute while looking for the grocery bags and then finally realized that people had brought bags with them to put their items in. Just when I thought I had got away with no one trying to speak Danish to me or noticing that I was a complete foreigner, I not only drew attention to myself by having to get back in line to purchase the grocery bag but I also had to speak up in English to ask the cashier about the bags. Instant perspiration inducing moment. My next few trips to the grocery store were definitely still very rocky. The trips take me triple the time it would normally take in America because I have to carefully decipher what the item is by its context clues (there are no English translations on the food labels). And even after I am confident I have chosen what I wanted, I will open a fruit smoothie juice to find the oddest tasting fruit flavor ever or pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth and find out that I had bought chocolate covered licorice (EW).

The biggest immediate struggle so far is definitely finding foods that I like and that are affordable. After several trips to the grocery store and I have learned that it’s worth swallowing your pride and asking someone for help if you need finding something or translating a label. Also, you must learn to accept the fact that there will be many things you purchase in the beginning that you absolutely hate and mistakingly bought thinking it was something else. You will lose some money to buying then immediately tossing grocery items, but it will happen to every exchange student. Other than that the people, I have noticed, are also different but not in a way that would make it hard for someone visiting to fit in. People are nice and don’t treat you like a tourist when they find out you can’t speak Danish. The weather, despite many warnings, has been gorgeous every day so far. The city center is breathtaking and definitely worth many visits.

Some other observations after 2 and a half weeks are:

Official procedures: One of the first things you have to do as an exchange student is register for your CPR number. This stands for “Det Centrale Personregister” in Danish and is the American equivalent to a social security number and how you receive all the free services provided by the socialistic Danish government like free healthcare. If I were in America I could easily look up a straightforward set up directions with details on how to do this. But in Denmark everything and everyone is extremely vague. One person will tell you one thing and another person will tell you another. The website that has the instructions is in Danish and there is not much help provided, so you will have to be ready to attack it trial and error style.

Fashion: Black, black, and more black. Scandinavians are minimalistic—wearing mostly neutrals. Instead of wearing stylish shoes to match a great outfit they seem to wear sneakers with everything, even when getting dressed up. Also, leather is definitely in.

Buildings: Reflects the fashion here, minimalistic as well.

First Impressions: The stereotype is that Scandinavians are known to be cold and without feelings. But the reason why Scandinavians might come off this way at first is because most of them are brutally honest and therefore do not do fake interest in someone like some Americans are known to do when they are actually disinterested in meeting someone. Although they might not make the first move to begin a conversation, once you break the silence (and my own fears of judgement) and begin talking to a Scandinavian they are actually quite friendly. Don’t be afraid to start up conversations with locals! Especially in Denmark where almost everyone can speak English.

America: A place where everything is super-sized. My perspective of America while living in Copenhagen has been realigned. Everything here is smaller. The buildings, the roads, the cars, meal portions, grocery stores, etc. At first I thought that everything in Copenhagen is just smaller, but now I am beginning to feel like everything in America is enlarged.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you got a little taste of Copenhagen!

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Selfie with one of many bike racks.

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen. Typical touristy area.

About the Author: Kelley Jiang, Junior, Marketing, Student Exchange Program- Denmark

A Day in the Life of Coralia Nunez

To continue on from our “Day in the Life of…” series, this author will be covering the exuberant Miss Coralia Nunez-Velasquez-Martinez-Rodriguez-Guerrero (though she prefers to just go by Coralia).  Today was quite the excursion for Coralia.  She had an early wake up call to make the 8AM bus to the famed Dutch tulip fields.  Did you know that the Dutch currency was so bad at one point in history that tulip bulbs were used as their national currency?! Coralia learned this fact from some very informative tourist while she was on her trip and decided to see if she could capitalize on some potential arbitrage opportunities!IMG_1633

Following her trip to this sanctuary of beauty, the team decided to take a tour of the canals of Amsterdam.  In the earlier history of Amsterdam, the canals were actually a logistical and health nightmare!  They did not have flowing water, so you can imagine the amount of filth that built up.  To solve this problem, dams were built to allow a controlled flow of water through the canals to prevent this from recurring.  Incredible!  IMG_3319

Coralia was quite exhausted from her explorations.  Sorry!!!

Hope you all enjoyed following Coralia on her Amsterdam adventures.

 

London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady!

London Bridge is falling down? Apparently not! I checked the bridge myself, and it’s as strong as ever. Moving on from that terrible joke… I reached London on Saturday May 9, 2015 and met my team to explore London for a day before we would leave for Northampton, the home of Commercial Vehicle Group(CVG) UK. My first impressions were on how similar it looks to the USA, but with a few differences. Most noticeable is the left hand traffic, which we will experience more when we get our rental car and start driving on the “wrong” side of the road :).

London Bridge in the background
London Bridge in the background

Overall, this time of year, London has the perfect weather, and it looks green and beautiful! I am not a big city guy, but it was nice to explore some of the classic London tourist sites. Here is big Ben looking up at The Big Ben!

Big Ben looking at the Big Ben :)
Big Ben looking at the Big Ben :)

We are looking forward to Northampton and the CVG project! We are all determined to do a great job for CVG, especially since CVG is located in Ohio and the Vice President of CVG (whom we are working with) is a long time Buckeye fan and Ohio state alumni. (We plan to make him proud!) Keep watching this space; lots more to come from Team CVG- UK!

Audencia, Nantes Education

Hello everyone! It is near the end of the semester here at Audencia in Nantes France, and so far I have had the time of my life on the Student Exchange Program. Studying abroad has been the best decision I have made in my life so far and I have made memories that will last forever.

In this blog, I will discuss the academic side of my experience. I attend a business school that is ranked in the top 5 in France that consists of about 3,000 students. This has been a huge change coming from being around 60,000 students at Ohio State, as you see classmates every single day at the University. The classes each consist of about 40 people, and roughly 30 of these students are in every single one of your classes. This has allowed me to really get to know a lot of people in the classroom setting, which I feel is much different than back in the US.

Also, the classwork here is heavily oriented on group work, also helping further develop these relationships. The groupwork in France is much different than in the United States, as people do not have a strong time structure on when to get things done, and tasks are often not split up like they are back in the US. The whole group normally meets to do the entire project together, and meetings often consist of a lot of talk outside of things pertaining to the project. Another difference in the education system here is the way things are graded. The scale is from 0 – 20 instead of A – F, and grades are rarely given back on any of the work turned in during the semester. This makes it hard to judge how well the student is doing in the course, but also helps keep each student motivated to do well from start to finish. Classwork consists of mainly case studies and presentations, and then the semester ends with final exams worth anywhere from 50% to 100% of the grade.

The overall experience at Audencia has been great, and the classes I took in the Grand Ecole (general course) program served as a great connection of the material of what I have learned in the US. Audencia has been a fantastic choice to continue my educational career abroad!

Social Life and Traveling in Nantes and Europe

Hello everyone!

In this post, I will discuss the social life living in Nantes, as well as the travel I have been able to do living in Europe. Before departing for Nantes for the Student Exchange Program, one of my main concerns was leaving my friends back in the US and having to meet all new people from different countries when I arrived here. I am a very social person and looked forward to being around all new people, but it was definitely nerve racking.

However, the social life I have had here in Nantes has been absolutely incredible. I have met and become close friends with people from over 30 countries, and I will have these relationships for the rest of my life. Just on my floor in the residence, I have friends from Ireland, England, Belgium, US, Spain, Finland, Mexico, and Argentina. This group, along with about 50 other international students and 10 friends from the basketball team I joined at Audencia, travel, hang out, and pretty much do everything together. This was a big adjustment, as at Ohio State you only see 5-10 people every day, and the rest maybe once or twice a week. It really allows you to become close very quickly, and everyone has truly become a family. It is so cool how everyone has a different background and culture, but are all here for the same reasons and connect right away.

Outside of the social life, traveling has been another great thing about being in Nantes. Nantes has both a main airport and main train station, making it very easy to get anywhere around Europe for a low cost. So far, I have traveled to Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and roughly 6 cities around France. I still have plans to be in Portugal, Spain, and 6 more cities in France before returning home, and I cannot wait! There are several websites and travel methods that can be used to get around Europe, and through searching all the options it can be done at a very low cost! The trips I have been on have shown me many different cultures and ways of life, and have truly allowed me to have a better view on life. I will never forget the people I have met here and the travel I have done, and am so thankful to have had the opportunity.

Nantes Culture and Lifestyle

Hello from Nantes!

In this blog, I will talk about the culture and lifestyle living in Nantes, France while on the Student Exchange Program. The culture is so much different than what we are used to experiencing living in the United States, from the architecture to the food eaten every day to the clothing worn.

To begin, everything in Nantes looks fancy compared to what I am used to seeing in Columbus. All of the stone buildings, miraculous churches, and weaving roads along the river truly are part of the French culture. It provides a sense of happiness, as even on the grey and rainy days the city still looks pretty. The food eaten in France is not overly different from that in America, but the stereotype about the bakeries and baguettes is definitely true. Being able to wake up in the morning and have breakfast from one of several fresh bakeries is definitely something I will miss back in the US. It is a part of the culture here, as people take the time each day to go and buy fresh products, opposed to buying things from the grocery store for a week. The clothing worn in France is definitely more stylish than the common clothes seen walking around a college campus in the US, as no sweatpants or sweatshirts are worn unless sports are being played. However, I did expect it to be a little more fancy than it is. A pair of jeans and a sweater is okay to wear to any night venues, and the majority of restaurants do not require professional dress as well.As far as the lifestyle goes in Nantes, things are a lot slower. Through the hour and a half lunch breaks, everything being closed on Sundays, and long processes to complete normal day tasks, time is stressed much less here. It is clear to see the citizens of France value building relationships and taking time each day to relax and enjoy life, opposed to the constant upbeat living style in the United States.

Overall, I have truly enjoyed being in a new culture and adapting to the lifestyle here in Nantes. There have definitely been a few times that things get frustrating, but I have grown tremendously as a person and will treasure my experience here forever.

Traveling Smart with Your Smartphone

I have publicly rebelled against having a smartphone since high school, when all of my friends made the transition. I did not believe they were worth the expense, but when I decided to spend a semester abroad, I realized there could be some advantages. Most notably, having a smartphone gives you access to a GPS which is extremely helpful when you’re lost. Additionally, there are many moments when you’ll need to look up things you wouldn’t have expected, such as the opening hours of a restaurant or store. Internet isn’t as widespread in Europe as I was used to it being in the States, so having a data plan was essential for me to manage my time effectively. I found my data plan to be cheaper than the one in the States, however I did have less data, which required me to be selective with my access. I recommend getting the proper simcard and plan in your host country as soon as possible. This will also be good when you meet new friends at orientation and in your classes, as you can swap numbers right away!

There are also a lot of very helpful apps. Here are a few that I used while abroad:

Word Lens
Worried about getting to a restaurant and not knowing how to order in another language? This app translates the words of any picture you provide, offline. It’s extremely effective when you want to translate a whole paragraph instead of having to type each word individually, and also a lifesaver when you don’t have internet access. I would also recommend getting another translator app with audio, if your phone doesn’t already come with one.

Google Voice/Whatsapp
By now, most people know about Whatsapp. It is a free messaging app for anyone with a smartphone to connect. There is also an app called Google Voice, which works a bit differently. Google Voice actually gives you a vacant US number (if you set it up while you’re still in the States) and then allows you to call and text via this number to US and Canada numbers for free. Neither of my parents have smart phones, and a lot of my friends in the US didn’t have Whatsapp, so I used Google voice to text them. Once you set up the number, you can download the app and text them like you would normally, as long as you have access to internet. Then, you can call them via Hangouts which is directly connected to Google Voice. (Technically, you can call them via Google Voice as well, however if it is connected to your US # it will not work when you get a new simcard)

Duolingo
Instead of dropping hundreds of dollars on Rosetta Stone or an extra language class, Duolingo is a free website and app that allows you to practice a language in an easy and fun way. The app focuses on language you would actually use (for the most part, one exception was when it taught me how to say “I am a butterfly” in French), and goes at whatever pace you are comfortable. I would argue it’s not necessarily sufficient to learn the language totally, but as a beginner or someone trying to refresh their memory, it is a great tool.

CityMaps 2 Go
This app downloads maps of major cities (you get 4 free!) that you can access offline. It is perfect for traveling, and easily highlights tourist hotspots to visit. It’s much easier than carrying a map everywhere, and you can put a thumbnail on key locations (such as your hostel) on it as well, incase you get lost.

Kitestring
At the risk of sounding motherly, I strongly advice you to get this app for safety reasons. If you are going to a hostel by yourself, or on a date with someone you just met, or any other situation you are wary about, you can sign up for this app to check in on you at a designated time. If you don’t respond, it will alert your friends or other emergency contacts. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can sign up for this free service online.

Lastly, if there is some sort of Kill Switch you can download on your phone (Android and iPhone both have it), I recommend getting it. Europe is notorious for pickpockets, and I had the unfortunate experience of having my phone stolen. I called my parents immediately, and my phone provider got me a new phone within 6 days, making the process as painless as possible. Another friend of mine was not as lucky, and had to buy a basic phone to use for the rest of the trip. In the beginning of the trip, I found I was very vigilant over my belongings, but as time passed, I became more relaxed. My phone was taken when there was only a month left in my program. On a positive note, as I had personal information on my phone (from Venmo to Amazon), I was extremely thankful I could delete all of this information after my phone was taken.

Remember, the most important thing when you’re traveling is to be smart and safe. With the right Apps, your smartphone can make your travel experience that much easier and more enjoyable!

Collaboration/Networking

Any student at the University of Manchester will agree that the school is incredibly international.  In comparison to OSU, Manchester seems to emphasize group work and collaboration between students not just for presentations, but for essays as well.  In just one of my classes, our group consisted of two British students, two Americans including myself, a French classmate, and two students from Ukraine.  Several of my classes emphasized not just learning how to work in a group, but also learning how to learn from each other.  The typical weekly assignments or quizzes that is often present at OSU, did not seem to have a strong presence.  I believe that this situation is an accurate reflection of the diverse backgrounds that will occur in the workforce, and business students who do not have some sort of international collaboration training are woefully under prepared.

One of the greatest advantages to studying abroad is the opportunity to network with your peers from around the world.  Life long friendships were made and I truly appreciate the opportunity to have been able to study abroad.  For example, I had the privilege of spending Christmas at the home of a friend of mine in Strasbourg, France. Very few people will ever have the chance to not just travel to another country, but form global friendships and experience a different culture not as a simple tourist.

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Natale a Milano

 

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Natale a Milano (or “Christmas in Milan” for those not versed in Italian) is a very beautiful and busy time of year. Being the fashion capital of the world, Milan is known for its high-end stores and extravagant shopping experience. During the holiday season, this is especially noticeable from the crowds of people from all over Italy and the world.

Since I had already finished most of my shopping for gifts/souvenirs throughout the semester, I was able to enjoy the surroundings and decorations without the stress of checking things off my list. The city-center has a very large and well-decorated tree that looks beautiful next to the Duomo, and all the stores are festively decorated with trees and lights as well. There is also a Christmas market in the main square that’s full of fresh chocolates, nuts, fruits, and Christmas-themed gifts and trinkets from local producers in Milan. Thankfully it is not too cold here to keep people inside, because the large crowds and outdoor environment was a very nice experience for me 🙂

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