HKUST Takeaways

Diving deeper into the university community, David Drummond shares his insight to his Student Exchange Program location, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Learn about the university, classes, community, and how he has managed to assimilate.

My time at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has given me a fuller impression of Hong Kongers and the international community, a rich curriculum taught by very experienced professors, and opportunities to learn and interact outside my normal studies.

Campus itself is on Kowloon and to the east a bit on the coast of Port Shelter. In good weather, there is no better place to be studying in Hong Kong. Next to the water the dorms and academic facilities climb up a steep hill and provide beautiful views of blue water, islands, and plenty of sails. The downside to this location is also the weather. During my time here in the spring, most days are cloudy, grey, and foggy/misty if not rainy. I hear the humidity is something awful in the summer. However, waking up to a sunny day on a Friday feels amazing and motivates you to get outside and take advantage of it.

I have had different impressions of the local students here. By taking introductory business courses, like MGMT and MARK, I am in class with first and second year students. The biggest difference was that a lot of them come late to class, which surprised me and didn’t seem like it fit with my preconceptions about Asian studiousness. They also have a tendency to talk to each other in Cantonese while the professor is talking. I think I would attribute this mostly to their inexperience rather than culture, because the older students I know don’t behave as much like this. Still, it is definitely something to expect when taking these kinds of courses. Also, the cultural differences are clear in terms of participation. Local students are less open to participate in class, even more so than Mainland students! It’s common for professors to make an effort to not continue calling just on exchange students.

Because HKUST is a little further from the city, exchange students often form groups to go explore the parks on a hike or go out for dinner or to an event. For us, it has been super helpful to have a Facebook group just for our exchange students to post what they are doing and to find others who want to tag along. The university makes it easy to connect with other exchange students by giving us a book of names, emails, and a picture of each that we can reference. Extremely helpful when you forget someone! As someone who does not generally invite themselves into other groups I had to figure out how I was going to meet and hang out with new people once I got here. I’ve had plenty of opportunities through the Facebook group to meet other exchange students from Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America, and most of my best memories are with these groups. For me, it was easier to set myself on something I wanted to do and invite other people along, but in my experience this group of multinationals loves getting to know one another and building friendships. This network is especially helpful for travel!

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The courses I am taking have definitely exceeded my expectations in terms of quality of instruction. While my introductory courses are not the liveliest, the professors have had extensive experience and genuinely care about helping the students learn and understand the material and concepts. The business school is definitely feels like a top world program. Taking a global business course on Deal making in Asia and Emerging Markets has exposed me to some of the school’s top undergraduate and MBA professors in a unique model. Years of experience in forming deals and doing negotiations in Asia and other emerging markets comes together in this course which focuses on case studies and group negotiations. As my professor experienced negotiating in China, the other party will often keep asking the same questions over and over making a frustrating time for a westerner who just wants to get the deal done. However, after enduring the long drawn-out negotiation process my professor was told that he “ate bitterness well” and this was a sign of his trustworthy character. This is the type of information you are lucky to have access to.

HKUST also offers a plethora of involvement opportunities and ways to go beyond your normal studies. I have been taking an International Relations course taught by a professor with over forty years experience studying Chinese politics. This has given me the historical context to live and study in Southeast Asia and the unique application of my studies in a simulation game of an international conflict in the South China Sea. Just last week I went to interview a special correspondent for Reuters, through my professor’s contacts, who follows the current events of the crisis. Since Hong Kong is such a financial and trade hub, I was able to get information about the current state of affairs between countries in Asia directly from someone who actively studies it and was approachable. There are also lots of student organizations covering academics and social networking, however when I first arrived they were promoting them over a couple weeks with ‘chantings’. I still haven’t figured out how this works, but it seems like they just stand in groups of their organization next to all the others and yell chants for hours. I’ve been living in Hall IX, one of the newest, which has its advantages but not a lot going on. Some of the halls have learning communities that organize events and activities that can really get you involved with local students. There is also an international students’ association that plans trips and events around Hong Kong like kayaking, hiking, and cultural discovery. However it is all up to luck since you cannot request your hall placement.

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In my first few weeks here, I planned a lot on going into the city alone to explore and get my bearings. I didn’t yet feel comfortable enough of the other exchange students and wanted a way to feel independent in this new home. I think this gave me the confidence to explore more of Hong Kong. The first bar I went to, I happened to meet the President of the OSU Hong Kong Alumni Association, and I’ve made similar contacts going to watch the super bowl or other events. His advice was that the best way to make connections is to actually, with no pretext, get to know someone, and that’s often hard to do when you’re with a big group of students. Most of my connections were developed through the exchange student group on facebook, but when you’re out in the city and meet some fellow expats it is always a good idea to ask them about how they got to Hong Kong, getting an idea about what opportunities there are outside the U.S. Since then I’ve made great friends here but being far enough away from the city it’s easy to get sheltered here on campus. I found my strength in a new place by making sure I could rely on myself first to have good time and then invite new friends along to enjoy it with.

About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong

I Promise I Study During my Study Abroad

Want to know what the university experience is like at Thammasat University in Thailand? Learn from Melanie March’s point of view as she enjoys her time as a full-time student there on the Student Exchange Program in the “Land of Smiles”.

Just to clarify, I really do go to class here in Thailand! My parents confirmed this last week when they dropped me off for class at Thammasat University. I am taking a variety of classes here that includes International Marketing, Marketing Analysis, Operations Management as well as Beginner’s Thai.

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These classes have been interesting and very different than my classes back at Ohio State. One of the biggest changes has been wearing a uniform to school every day. This has been very convenient in the mornings where you wake up and don’t have the energy to decide what to wear for the day. It also means that I have to wash it every day that I wear it because I sweat through it just walking to class. It’s about a 30 minute commute by foot and I get to take a ferry in order to cross the river to Thammasat.

Once we get to class we have fifteen minutes once class has started to sign in. Most teachers don’t start the class until after this sign-in period and then we have a 15 minute break in the middle of class to break up the three hour time frame. I wasn’t so sure about the break at first but it is a great time to stretch our legs or get some coffee. There is also an hour break in between classes that gives students plenty of time to get lunch at the pier or in the cafeteria on campus.

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My favorite part about studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been the students that I have met here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are very willing to get to know you. Exchange students are welcomed with open arms and staff and students alike are very helpful with any problems that we have had settling into Thailand. Most of the students have gone to international schools when they were in elementary school so they have been speaking English for many years. A majority of students also study abroad at some point in their high school or college career that allows them to have been in our shoes so they know what it’s like to be in a classroom and know very few people.

In the classroom, Thai students are extremely bright and some of the most motivated students. Many participate in international business case competitions that has taken them all over the world. They also go above and beyond on every task that is assigned which has shocked me because so many people only do the bare minimum in order to get by. Thammasat students are quick thinkers and only want to succeed and work hard to do so. It is motivating to see students my age doing so much and becoming the next generation of business leaders in Thailand.
12573709_1241511272532629_1163249868574369464_nIf any person decides to study abroad, I highly recommend taking a language course. It really gives you the chance to learn the language as well as learning about the culture that you will be living in. It’s crazy to think there are people who lived here years without ever feeling the need to learn the language when I can see the usefulness in my everyday life. We just started learning the Thai alphabet which has been really exciting but also challenging. Thai is a tonal language which means that a word can have many different meanings if you say it with the wrong tone. As Americans we tend to have a rising tone when we are phrasing a sentence as a question which can be a hindrance since many times people will not understand you because it sounds like you are saying a different word than you are trying to say. I was trying to ask a taxi driver to take me to Thammasat but I kept phrasing it as a question using a high tone. When I say it with a mid-tone that does not fluctuate, taxi drivers will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Thammasat University is a school that has immediately made me feel at home. Although frustrating at times, I am so happy that I chose to study in Thailand where the people are welcoming and kind. It really is the “Land of Smiles.”

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About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!

Hong Kong: One Student, Two Schools

David Drummond shares his highlights in Hong Kong, as he studies there for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. From the mixed culture, accessibility, and the many ways to spend your free time, he points out what makes Hong Kong a special place to live in.

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Hong Kong really is one of the must-see places in Asia. The tourism board touts it as “Asia’s World City” because of how many different cultures can be represented in one city. It is also one of the safest, and I think by far, the most accessible cities in the world. It has to be the easiest of cities in Asia for westerners to integrate into because of how much English is both spoken and seen. Since my arrival, here are the major highlights so far that have helped form my picture of Hong Kong:

  1. Highly accessible. Hong Kong’s transport system is extremely easy to get to know and get used to. The MTR (subway) service stretches across most of both Hong Kong island in the south and Kowloon in the north. It is easy and cheap, especially with a student discount, to travel anywhere in the city. If you cannot get somewhere by MTR you can find a double-decker or minibus to take you closer. All of these options usually cost less than 10 HKD (about 1.3 USD) and take the Octopus card, the most effective tool of mass transit EVER! You can put cash on this card just about anywhere through 7-11’s or McDonald’s or at any station and can even use it to buy food at many restaurants. If you’re in a hurry you can take a cab, which only takes cash, but still are fairly cheap compared to big cities in the U.S. and you only have to worry about them understanding you (Often speak no English). For such a big city, over 7 million, it hardly feels very crowded.IMG_9271
  2. Take advantage of good weather. In Hong Kong it rains a lot or the fog rolls in and you can’t see much. I’ve been told that the summer can get very hot and humid. But when you get, every other week or so, a stretch of sunny days there’s so much that you can do! From beautiful views over the city in high rises or the peak, to hiking the many trails and hills of the island and country parks, Hong Kong has much more than a city can offer. Around 70% of the land in Hong Kong is outside the city and much of it is easy to get to by bus. Spectacular views await as you hike on down to the sandy beaches in the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island and spend the afternoon eating Thai food and drinks! I’ve climbed mountains, met monkeys, and traveled to far away fishing villages all within a short trip away from downtown or campus. Campus is only about 45 min away from downtown and less than one to two hours away from the best beaches, hikes, and scenery it has to offer.
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  3. Vibrant nightlife. Like any major city, Hong Kong has its nightlife district. Lang Kwai Fong is where people young and old congregate around a few blocks to enjoy the night, but head on up to SOHO and you find streets lined with unique restaurants with every taste you could be looking for. This is much more for the expats and young professionals where you can find any kind of cuisine of your choice. There’s always a new place to explore. The food scene is incredible. With so little space to work with, there is a huge variety of unique restaurants with food from all around the world. If you love to eat you’ll fall in love with the city. I have yet to get really into any music scene here but I have seen a few jazz clubs about.12697096_1688147988065365_273820927109159395_o
  4. Cultural crossroads. With the English no longer in control, Chinese culture may be becoming more dominant, but there are sizeable western expat communities and Hong Kong will always try to be the place to bridge East and West. British is no longer the upper-class standard, but you can find the influence still. I’m reminded of this when I see signs in English and walk past elegant western-style facades. There are definite pockets of the city which cater more aesthetically and culinarily to expats. However, when you walk through the markets with hanging fish and roasted ducks, see people chatting over a bowl of hotpot outside of a small dai pai dong, or walk through the crowds of Filipino domestic workers relaxing on their day off in Statue Square, you are reminded of the unique Asian cultures here. The little things also stand out, like having your card handed back to you with two hands or occasional subpar customer service (tipping is not very common). It’s harder to feel out of your comfort zone here, but you experience enough of the local and mainland Chinese culture to keep you interested to ask questions.  12697494_1688148098065354_2853886174183624221_o
  5. Shop till you drop. And you thought consumerism in America was the world standard? There are literally malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong, attached to the MTR and major buildings. Markets, with street food, abound. It’s definitely fun to wander through the malls and down the back alley stalls and wonder, who all buys this stuff? It is a city that only exists because the British wanted to sell things, mostly opium, to the Chinese. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the downtown of Kowloon you’ll find a lot of premier shopping and lots of mostly Indian men looking to advertise watches, suits, shirts, coats, bags, etc. I am really curious how many people respond well to being followed and touched by these guys asking if you like nice watches over and over! Shopping is definitely in the culture here. I heard from my roommate that a local girl mentioned that her usual holiday was going to a mall and just spending the day walking around and getting little bites to eat at lots of vendors. She didn’t understand why he would go on vacation and go windsurfing or water skiing!

Hong Kong offers a beautiful and vibrant experience where safety, accessibility, and comfort bring you back, but from where you can travel to a wide swath of nations in Asia with ease. Over my first two months here, I have experienced a beautiful and unique city which bridges East and West. In some ways it is struggling to hold onto its Western identity as China tries to gain influence, but I have gained a great appreciation for how the two cultures can work together in interesting ways. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting to learn about a multicultural Asian city with many of the comforts of home. It really is a the perfect location as a home base to see the diverse nations in the region. Asia is your oyster, and Hong Kong is the pearl.

About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong

A Love Letter to South East Asia

More than the beautiful buildings and the breathtaking landscapes, Melanie March says that the highlight of her time in Thailand is the people she met while on the Student Exchange Program. Find out what is so special about the people in Thailand, South East Asia, and how it has become a life-changing experience for her.

I have been many places since coming to Thailand. I have been to Cambodia where I was taught that the problems I face daily are nothing compared to what others face everywhere in the world. I have been to Khao Yai that has shown the natural beauty of Thailand as well as the destruction that humans have caused. I have also spent hours in waters more clear and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I have been in the mountains of Laos that are slowly being taken over by tourists and backpackers but have also given me some of the best views of places untouched by foreigners.

What has really amazed me most here are the people.

The people that you meet in Southeast Asia are some of the greatest that you may ever have the opportunity to meet. Every person has their own story to tell and their own reasons for traveling here. Some are soul-searching and trying to figure out what to do in life and others just need a change of pace. I’ve met people who “just felt like doing something new” and other that weren’t happy with where their life was going so they decided to take a break and throw themselves into Southeast Asia.

I can hardly express my gratitude to these people and what they have taught me. From the exchange students who all have their own unique background to the Thai students who have been more welcoming than I could ever have imagined when I left months ago.

I have met people during my two months here that have changed my perspective about this world. These people have shown me kindness that is often unseen in the world nowadays and I believe the friendships I have made here will last me much longer than the trip.

So what I am trying to say that this experience has been life-changing. Asia will humble a person and remind them that there is more to life than just collecting objects. There are people out there to meet, conversations to have, and memories to be. It is just a waking reminder to live each day to the fullest so you can look back on life without regret.

About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!

It’s totally worth it! – Go Abroad

Ending her studies in Japan on the Student Exchange Program, Phuong Tran shares her final thoughts living and studying in Tokyo. The challenges, the struggles, but also the new unforeseen opportunities that these brought and the better experiences she gained as a result.

I have just returned home and have some time to reflect on my experiences in Japan, I realize that I have failed to accomplish about half of the things I had planned. Am I disappointed? Only a little, because I have gained something else, which is even greater.

My student exchange, of courses, did not include only pleasant experiences. The first upsetting thing occurred to me even before I left the U.S. I was told that the dorm was full, and I had to find accommodation somewhere else. Finding another apartment was not that hard, but the total cost was almost doubled. More importantly, it had made it hard to communicate and hang out with other students who were staying at the dorm. There were times when I could not go to some events because the time and location were not convenient for me. I really wished that I had been accepted into the dorm so that I could have built a stronger bond with other international students.

My second disappointment was about school. When I did my interview for the program, the interviewer asked me what I would do if I could not take all the classes I had planned to take. I said I had another list of classes to substitute. However, that was easier being said that done. During the school orientation, I was kind of panic when being told I could not sign up for the two most-looking-forwarded-to classes, Business Communicating and Business Project, because of the schedule conflicts, my early-return request, and the class’s capacity. I pulled out my substitute list, but again, most of them could not fit into my schedule or not being offered this semester. I ended up taking two random business courses in order to fulfill the credit requirement.

With all those being said, I felt clueless and frustrated in the beginning of the program. Now that I think back, my problem was that I got fixated on a few objectives. Actually, after school started I soon realized I should not have been too worried. I did not have to look hard, new opportunities to learn and adventure came to me one after another. And all of these unforeseen invitations were what made my exchange’s experiences so wonderful.

As I mentioned earlier, I failed to get into my preferred business courses and thought that I could not be able to learn the “business culture” anywhere else. Fortunately, the other courses I got into also emphasized on group work and interactions between cultures. I appreciated that my professors assigned students into groups that had both international and Japanese students. We could not choose to work only with friends, but also new people, especially the ones from completely different cultures. Also, I was able to got a part-time job at school, which taught me the basic Japanese business etiquettes. Furthermore, there were many career events offered to international students either on or off campus. My most favorite one was the visit to Oak Lawn Marketing’s office, during which I could see an actual workplace and even participate in creating the marketing plan for a new product.

My Japanese teacher and classmate. We came from all around the world (France, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, America, etc)
My Japanese teacher and classmates. We came from all around the world (France, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, America, etc)

I had to admit that sometimes I felt lonely for staying in an apartment apart from others. However, I have met people whom I want to befriend for life. Also, the International Office at Rikkyo did a wonderful job on keeping us busy. They offered us many opportunities to experience tea ceremony, Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), Christmas parties, city tours, etc. After experiencing all of these exciting activities together, it was hard not becoming friends. When I first came to Japan, it took me a long time to get to my apartment carrying a big suitcase by myself, but when I left, my new friends helped me carry my luggage, which had been doubled in size, up to the gate. Just thinking of that made me feel so happy.

A trip to Asakusa with other international students. (The trip was organized by Rikkyo's COBBY group)
A trip to Asakusa with other international students. (The trip was organized by Rikkyo’s COBBY group)

Beside that, staying in an apartment has not only taught me many things about living in Japan but also helped me improve my language skills. In fact, except at school, I only communicated with people in Japanese. If I had stayed at the dorm, there should have been someone I could ask for help, but living alone, I had to deal with all issues by myself. Actually, Rikkyo’s International Office provided many resources to support my life there. However, they were not always available and it took time to arrange a Japanese student to assist me. Thus, I had to go to the city office, bank, etc. by myself to complete all necessary paperwork. My thought was “Lets go see if I can handle this. If I can’t get things done, then I will ask for help later.” I was so worried at first but then I gained more and more confidence in using Japanese. Also, never once I felt I was treated unfairly for not speaking Japanese well. Japanese people are very very friendly and helpful, I can assure you that!

I still think having a clear objective for going abroad is a good thing, but now I believe that keeping an adventurous spirit and being open-minded is more important. In the end, we cannot predict our days in a foreign environment as accurate as when we are home. No need to be obsessed with the plan. My stay in Japan has taught me so, and now I appreciate all the experiences I had over in Japan, even for the unpleasant ones. If I had to talk about the study aboard experiences in only a few words, I would say, “It’s totally worth it.”

About the Author: Phuong Tran, Senior, Accounting and Japanese. Student Exchange Program- Japan.

Proceed to The Highlighted Route: Why you should go global!

As Jayna Wolfe ends her semester abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Italy, leaves you with some of her final thoughts about studying abroad and why you should go global from a personal and professional standpoint.

As the semester draws to a close I would like to devote my final blog post to address what I have learned over the last four months of my life and express why I think a semester abroad is a valuable experience for a Fisher College of Business student.

I find myself with a nagging question in the back of my mind, “did you see everything you wanted to see, do everything you wanted to do, and take advantage of the opportunity to its fullest extent?” These questions of reflection appear in my mind when new experiences come to an end, and looking back on my time as an exchange student I can honestly say that I have done what I came here to do.

Study abroad is what you make of it. My friends and I have oftentimes wondered when we return to our homes over the next few weeks, if our loved ones and friends will notice any changes. Maybe it won’t be anything blatantly obvious, but I think seeing the world changes a person. Adult life and its responsibilities are right around the corner and during the college years our thoughts and opinions are still heavily influenced by new experiences. I recently read an article about the importance of traveling when you are young. I couldn’t agree more and I believe that traveling alone/without family at this age has the ability to alter many different aspects of a person’s life.

My first and only experience abroad before Italy was the summer of 2014. I spent about five days working at a trade show in Harrogate, England and then two weeks at the international branch of the company I was interning for in Huddersfield, England. In just 20 days I returned home with a major perspective change on just how massive the world really is, a new sense of independence, and the realization that the horizon of opportunities ahead was even broader than I had originally anticipated. Making connections abroad gave me access to new and very different resources and perspectives. The desire to explore employment options with international opportunities along with the realization that it could actually become a reality were turning points in my perspective on the future. My 20 days in the UK amplified my aspiration to study abroad and seize the opportunity to explore other countries and learn more about myself.

I’ve always thought of myself as an independent person, but this entire experience was independence on a new level for me. When I felt alone, I felt very alone and when I saw a new place it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my short twenty-one years. I felt a greater need to stay in touch with what was going on back home and developed a new appreciation for the news. I cleaned out my friend list and restored my Facebook news feed to give me relevant updates on business, politics, and world events since I was constantly using the social media site for communication with other exchange students. I started paying closer attention to non-U.S. news sources in order to have a different and less biased view on European news and outside opinions on the drama of U.S. politics. I cared less about buying clothing and material items and more about eating amazing food. I scoured guidebooks and Wikipedia pages for further information about historical sights and the places I was visiting. I developed a newfound interest in a subject I loathed in high school, history. I’m very detail oriented and found myself having a big role in planning trips and leading the way with a map close at hand to make sure we saw the sights. I discovered how to get by with the Italian language. Overall I have learned so much from Italy, Bocconi University, and my time spent traveling that I am confident I have become more well rounded as a person.

I hope that the Fisher Student Exchange program grows. Other universities have 5-10 students attending Bocconi each semester while we typically can only reserve 1-2 spots depending on the interest Bocconi students have in coming to Ohio State University. Bocconi’s exchange network is massive with over 800 exchange students this fall from an impressively diverse list of foreign partner institutions from every continent (except Antarctica). If nothing else, researching the program and attending an information session can help students learn something about a foreign institution or a different country, and shed some light on the program’s feasibility.

I never thought of study abroad as something that I could afford. Growing up my family never took trips outside of the U.S., I didn’t know what it meant to be a true tourist, and I’ve always had different jobs during the academic year and internships in the summers to help out with paying for tuition and rent. The exchange program, Fisher College of Business, and Ohio State University offer some excellent scholarships to assist students with funding an invaluable semester abroad. During the program students pay a normal OSU semester of tuition and can utilize the federal loans they might receive during a standard semester of school. The most daunting of expenses are the plane ticket to Europe and rent. With some strategic planning and insight on appropriate dates to travel I believe that it is possible to find flights that are reasonable in price. My rent payment for a dorm that was cleaned on a weekly basis and had all the essentials (including a private bedroom) cost no more than a mid-budget off-campus housing option in Columbus. Drafting a budget and forecasting expenses is an excellent exercise that helped me understand where I stood financially before I left the U.S. and what I’ll need in order to get by when I return to Ohio State in January. As with living anywhere there are ways to live frugally and cut costs while abroad so that saving for some amazing travel experiences is easy.

Taking a college student out of their natural environment for four months reveals a lot about a person and presents an opportunity for that person to face a completely new list of daily struggles and triumphs. Simple activities like riding public transport to school every morning, visiting the grocery store, or ordering a coffee when the bartender doesn’t speak English, and big things like how to budget and travel without hindering academic progress are part of the daily routine. Staying organized both in preparing for the time abroad and in everyday life once abroad can help to avoid silly mistakes that will save money and prevent students from finding themselves in dangerous situations. I have heard countless stories about getting fined on the trains, having items stolen, losing keys, getting excess charges for booking with the wrong companies, and just in general getting taken advantage of. As a student traveling around Europe with friends it is easy to lose the feeling of being a tourist and become overly confident. Staying alert and aware while also having a good time can save traveling students from headaches and unwanted expenses.

Time is something I’ve thought about a lot in the last few weeks. I have already looked through my photo library multiple times to keep reminding myself of the four months I have had in Milan and the amazing experiences I’ve had traveling this semester. Since arriving in August I have visited Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Verona, Corfu (Greece), Florence/Tuscany, Barcelona (Spain), Genoa, Amsterdam (Netherlands), Marrakech (Morocco), Parma, and Rome. I have taken pictures that I will cherish for years to come. I never could have imagined that I would be camping in the Sahara Desert on Thanksgiving Day, jumping off cliffs in the Mediterranean Sea, or laying eyes on some of the greatest artistic works of the Renaissance era. Italy has been very good to me, and I am promising myself that I will return.

No matter where the opportunity might present itself I highly recommend that students do everything in their power to study abroad. I firmly believe that I will return home with a lot more to offer and that through their own unique set of experiences this is true for every student.

Please feel free to contact me with questions you might have about my experience or studying abroad in general. I am happy to share what I have learned and love meeting new people with a similar passion for learning more about the global environment we live in.

With the very best regards,

Jayna Wolfe (wolfe.592@osu.edu)

About the Author: Jayna Wolfe, Senior, Logistics Management, Student Exchange Program- Italy, first time traveler to Europe. Planned graduation in SP 2016.

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The End in a Blink of an Eye

Brad Schulze reflects back on the wonderful four months in Italy on the Students Exchange Program. It was challenging, inspiring, eye-opening, adventurous, but a life changing experience that he learned more about himself then ever before. 

They say time flies when your having fun and that couldn’t be more true than this past semester. Here I am, sitting in the Baltimore airport, eating Chipotle for the first time in quite some time, waiting for one more connecting flight to head home. Finals are over, the packing is done but it still hasn’t hit me that it has come to an end. It is weird to think that exactly four months ago I sat in the same airport but headed in the opposite direction with a sense of uncertainty on what to expect. What would Italy be like? Would I make new friends? Would I have fun? Well now I can say I sit here with nothing but certainty. Certainty that I had the best four months of my life. Certainty that I have made friends for life. Certainty I learned more about myself in four months than in 21 years of life and certainty that Italy and Europe treated me well and that I certainly will be back.

If you had asked me about a year ago from today where I saw myself in a year; the answer would have been finishing up finals at OSU and headed home for the holidays. Instead, in reality I was headed home from an experience of a lifetime. I had spent four months in a foreign continent traveling and experiencing different cultures, gaining worldwide friends, learning from teachers across the globe and learning more about myself than ever before.

How many 21 years old are lucky enough to experience the things that I did?  I got to bike across the Netherlands countryside, biked through Barcelona, ate Belgian waffles in Brussels, sipped on a few Guinesse’s and listened to live local bands in Dublin, took a trip back to the Roman Empire and visited the colleseum, visited two of the worlds most famous churches, La Sagrada Familia and Milan Duomo and of enjoy a nice Roman sunset. During the week I got to go to dinner and hang out with kids from around the world. Learn some deutch, spanish and italian. Plan a thanksgiving potluck for 30 people and have a Turkey Bowl. I got to pick up a job tutoring two young Italian kids in English and grab coffee once a week with my italian language partner. The list goes on and on and on.

Netherlands
Netherlands

An experience like this really put things in perspective and teaches you so much. Really makes you realize just how big the world is and just how many awesome places and awesome people there are. Makes you realize just how small, in reality, Ohio State is. Made me realize that while living in a foreign country is a scary thought, it is quite possible. Hard to describe but being alone in a country, planning classes, studying for exams, requesting Airbnb’s and just being on your own really is an accomplished feeling. Makes other daunting tasks not seem so hard. Really just teaches you that the world is big and the opportunities are out there, and with some motivation, are very doable.

It felt like a blink of an eye and was very hard to say good bye to my “temporary” life in Milan and hard to say good bye to all the great people I met. So many thanks to go around to so many people for such a great four months. To all my friends; especially my parents for all their support and of course The Fisher Student Exchange Program. Studying abroad had to be the best experience of my life up until this point and I hope an opportunity to return presents itself in the very near future. I never would have thought the experience would have been this great. It fullfilled and surpassed every expectation I had. From traveling to making new friends and learning a new language it was an A++. Made friendships that will last a lifetime and a part of me will always be in Milan, Italy. To a great four months and until next time.

Thanks Europe for the time of my life.

Barcelona Beach Chilling
Barcelona Beach Chilling
Florence with the Italians and Spanish
Florence with the Italians and Spanish
Rome Sunset
Rome Sunset

About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy

Professional Interactions in Manchester

With the fortunate opportunity Kevin McGann had meeting with business professionals at Manchester on the Student Exchange Program, he shares his observation on how business is different in England compared to the U.S.

While living in Manchester, I have had the opportunity to further understand the English business culture.  Beyond learning about business practices in my classes, I have had the opportunity to network with English business professionals.  My first chance came when I attended a banquet for North American students this past October.  I arrived with other American exchange students who I had met during my first month in Manchester.  None of us knew what to expect before attending the event, and only knew that food would be provided.  When we arrived, we started conversing with other exchange students from all over the U.S. and Canada.  We talked about how we had been enjoying our time in Manchester so far, but were still getting used to the culture.  All of us missed home to a small extent, but were eager to make travel plans.  It was refreshing to find that a lot of the other American exchange students felt the same way I did after being away for a month.

During this banquet, I was able to speak with a couple of University of Manchester recruiters who gave me some insight into English business culture.  A couple of other American exchange students and I started asking them basic questions about restaurants and other attractions in Manchester.  After this basic small talk about things to do in Manchester, one of the recruiters talked about his business trips to America, and about the differences that he sees in the two cultures.  He mentioned that business professionals in England are more reserved than those in America.  He found the young professionals in America to be more outgoing and more likely to strike up a conversation with someone they don’t know.  I think this observation extends beyond business people and is an accurate distinction between the English and Americans in general.  Despite this difference, he mentioned that he believes that business is conducted in a similar fashion in both countries.

I was also able to speak with one of the generous benefactors who makes exchange at the University of Manchester possible.  I did not know this when I had first approached her and was surprised to find out that she wasn’t a professor.  Speaking with her gave me insight into her reasons for donating to the exchange program specifically.  One of the main reasons that she gave was that she believed that global experiences drastically enhance a student’s education.  She came across as very genuine and interested in hearing about my reasons for choosing to study in Manchester.  Although we only spoke briefly, I am glad that I was able to meet one of the people in Manchester who has allowed me to have the best three months of my life.

My business classes provided insight into how important America is to international business.  I realized this when every single one of my business professors mentioned the U.S. during lecture in a positive business context.  What I concluded from this is that the U.S is an extremely powerful force in the business world.  This could be due to the fact that there are many American corporations are operating abroad.  England is not nearly as relevant in my Fisher classes, but it is difficult to say whether this is due to a lack of large companies in England or a more U.S. focused curriculum.  One way in which I was able to see how business is conducted in England is through shopping. Every grocery store that I shopped at charged people for grocery bags.  This encouraged people to bring their own.  Although this is minor, I think that it demonstrates the environmental awareness in England’s business community.  Another small difference that I noticed was that British stores are much smaller.  There are less one stop shop places in England, which made weekly grocery shopping more challenging.

Adapting to English Culture and Travel Advice

Experience navigating though England, Kevin McGann give tips on how to survive in a different culture and country while on the Student Exchange Program.

The first difference I noticed when I first arrived at the University of Manchester was that Manchester’s campus is much more sprawled out.  I am about a 25 minute bus ride away from campus, and I am still considered to live in campus halls.  This says something about English culture because the reason that the college’s administration can justify having student living located so far from campus is due to the fact that public transportation in England is phenomenal.  Although the buses are dependable and arrive at most bus stops every 5 minutes, relying solely on public transportation was a tough change for me.  This is mainly because I had a hard time figuring out exactly when I had to leave my hall to be able to make it to class on time.  It turned out that there was no answer to this question because there is a ton of variety in bus travel time.

Getting acclimated to public transportation was not as big a challenge as adapting to language differences.  A common greeting in England is “you ok?” and for the first two weeks of being here, I thought that my flatmates were asking me this because I was a foreigner.  Although this is a trivial example, there are several phrases that are used that I had a difficult time understanding.  Beyond picking up on common phrases, understanding certain accents was difficult at first.  For example, I could not understand about a third of what one of my flat mates was saying for the first couple weeks. This is partially due to the fact that she is from Newcastle, which has a particularly thick English accent, and that she speaks really quickly. Some people have trouble understanding me as well, so the accent barrier goes both ways.

My English peers are friendly and are for the most part accepting of Americans. This is not to say that America, as a country, is well received in England because there are parts of American culture that the English despise. For example, when my flat mates think of America, gun violence, lack of health coverage, and pollution first enter their minds. This can get irritating when these topics are brought up in conversation because there is much more to America than a few policies.  This negative view of America has affected how I am treated to a small degree.  When these situations would arise at the beginning of the semester, I would usually stay silent.  As time went on and I became more comfortable with my flat mates, I would usually point out that England isn’t without its flaws either, and that they shouldn’t act like you know everything about America if they haven’t even been there.  My advice to future exchange students would be to handle this situation however you see fit, but that it helps to be prepared.

I have 3 pieces of advice for exchange students who want to travel during their time abroad:

1.) Find other exchange students to travel with. Before I went abroad, I thought that I would be able to meet English people to travel with.  This was not the case because English students don’t have the incentive to travel around Europe because that is always an option for them. Instead, start talking to other exchange students to see if they have similar travel plans.

2.) Book flights in advance. Prices for the airlines that you will be using have been known to skyrocket within days.  This is why exchange students should try to book trips as soon as they find people to travel with. This not only cuts down on prices, but it also allows students to focus on studying without feeling bad about not having enough trips planned.

3.) Be adventurous. Exchange students should not be discouraged if they can’t find people to do some of the things that they want to do whether travel or activities. For example, I traveled to Amsterdam by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with, and it was one of the best trips that I’ve taken during my time over here.  The sense of accomplishment and independence that I felt after returning to Manchester is unmatched by anything else I’ve ever done.

Business Exposure in Japan at the OLM DAY 2015 Event

Phuong Tran shares her experience, attending the OLMDay2015 event in Tokyo, while she studies in Japan on the Student Exchange Program. She expanded professional networks and got insight of Japanese business, all thanks to being awarded one of Japans’ Bridging Scholarships.

I considered myself lucky for being one of the recipients of the Bridging Scholarships, which was funded by various private foundations and major U.S. corporations. The best thing about receiving this scholarship was that I received not only financial aids but also opportunities to attend professional events during my time in Japan. Back in December 2015, I was invited to participate in the OLMDAY2015 event at Oak Lawn Marketing’s office in Toranomon, Tokyo. The OLMDay2015 event was sponsored by Oak Lawn Marketing Inc., and offered to American students who received an OLM scholarship through the United States-Japan Bridging Foundation for studying in Japan.

During the event, me and three other students were given an introduction presentation on the company’s background and business, a tour around their office, and had hand-on experience through a marketing workshop, and then a meeting with President Hill.

I was really thankful for this opportunity because this was my first time to visit a Japanese company and talk to the employees who were actually working there. I also appreciated the fact that some of the staffs were from other countries, so they were able to give me an insight on what kind of jobs that foreigners (like myself) could do in Japan, and how they fit in the company’s culture.

The marketing workshop was very fun and exciting. After being introduced to the company’s marketing philosophy “Before After After,” we were divided into groups to create a marketing plan for a “product that is not available on the Japanese market yet” under the guidance of the OLM staffs. We had only about 20 minutes to prepare, which made me very nervous, but the OLM staffs were very friendly and helpful. Everyone in the team had a chance to express our ideas and was willing to do that. We collaborated very well even though we did not know each other before.  Then we presented our plan to the marketing director and received feedback from him.

The experience that had the most impact on me was the meeting with Mr. Hill, a very passionate businessman from America. I asked him about the company’s participation in the post-disaster recovery because the incident was one of many things that had ignited my interest in Japan. Back in 2011, I watched news about the situation in Japan and was impressed on how Japanese citizens got together in order to overcome the disaster. However, I was impressed at how the president addressed the issue from the viewpoint of a businessman. According to him, one of OLM’s significant contributions in reviving the economy in the area was continuing their business and creating jobs. I agreed with Mr. Hill that businesses should aim for profit even in such situation, and by doing that they could benefit the whole community.

The visit was very helpful for me as well as other students since we were all interested in working in Japan in the future. The staff was very friendly and answered all of our concerns about working in Japan, such as over-time work and how to communicate with other Japanese co-workers. From my observation, Oak Lawn had a diverse and American-like culture, especially in their Sales and Marketing branches, which was understandable since the company was founded and directed by an American. I sometimes felt concerned about whether or not I could actually work in a Japanese company, but after this visit, I felt like I had an idea about what to look for in a company in the future.

On the other hand, I feel that we were busy with many things to do in such a short amount of time. I wish we had more time to sit down and have conversations with the OLM staffs. Nevertheless, OLMDAY2015 was a wonderful experience, and I appreciated the company for providing me this opportunity to learn about business in Japan.

OLMDAY2015
OLM’s office and my team during the marketing workshop.

The event was also reported on the company’s website here.

About the Author: Phuong Tran, Senior, Accounting and Japanese. Student Exchange Program- Japan.