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.

Double the New Year, Double the Fun

After 2 months of being in Singapore, I have come to realize what a truly multicultural country it is. Everything from the people to the food to the holidays embody that. This year I was fortunate enough to experience two New Year’s celebrations.

I started off my New Year in Singapore at Marina Bay and it was absolutely spectacular. The view of the city and Marina Bay Sands were picture perfect. New Year's 2015 in Singapore

 

I thought I would have to settle for an average New Year’s Eve because I knew that Chinese New Year’s was also big in Singapore but the celebrations were anything but average. I got to ring in the New Year with some local Singaporeans and my roommates who are fellow exchange students at SMU. As you can see, the city at night is full of lights.

New Year's with locals and exchange students

I can’t think of any other country where the Gregorian New Year (January 1st) celebrations are just as big as the celebrations for Chinese New Year (February 19th)! Chinese New Year in Singapore was just as fun and colorful with a cultural twist.

Chinese New Year Singapore

 

Even after I leave Singapore, I think my new tradition will be to celebrate two New Year’s, every year.

 

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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Reflecting on Italy

It is hard to believe that my four and a half months in Italy has come to a close. While there were many ups and downs this past semester has been an incredible experience. I will never forget the people I have met, the friends I have made, the things I have learned or the places I have visited. As I think back on this experience it amazes me all I was able to do and experience in such a short period of time. I have done things I have only dreamed about doing and its hard to bring that experience to a close. Italy brought me some amazing memories and helped me to develop a new perspective. I traveled to some amazing cities and learned so much about so many different cultures.

I cannot believe I have just wrapped up my finals and have concluded my fall semester of studies. Schooling was very different in Milan than it is here in the states and that was something that was hard to get used to! My classes in particular had no homeowrk assignments, no quizes or tests and many of them came down to a final and a project at the end of the year. This made preparing for my finals very difficult, but I am happy I got through them!

While I have learned there is no place like home I know I am going to miss Milan and all my friends there so much. This experience gave me the opportunity to meet and make friends from all over the world includeing places like Colombia and Chile. I am so thankful for these opportunities. Saying goodbye last week to an incredible city and incredible friends was much harder than I expected. However, I am happy to be home and this isnt goodbye, it’s until next time Italy! Ciao!!

Goodbye, Dublin

Finishing up my semester at Trinity College, Dublin brings with it some bittersweet feelings. Having a few moments between layovers on my flight home I now have a chance to reflect on the last couple of months and the experiences I have had. The last few weeks here have been quite busy with finals, saying farewell to friends, and of course some holiday shopping and in that time I have tried to revisit some of my favorite locations one last time. The city has been in Christmas lights since Halloween; no Thanksgiving means the Christmas season starts early. The lights put up on Grafton Street, one of the main shopping destinations, are dazzling and a lovely Christmas market has been set up near St. Stephens Green with local vendors peddling Christmas goods, cookies, and mulled wine. A lit tree has been set up on campus and provides the front square with some Christmas cheer at night. It’s a shame I won’t be able to be there for the actual Christmas celebrations.

Among all the Christmas cheer, I of course had to find time to finish up my courses and complete my finals requirements. All finals at Trinity are completed at year-end in May, including those classes that only run for the first semester. I of course am on my way back to the US as I write this and will not be able to sit my finals in May. Trinity therefore makes exceptions for this case and I had final project/essay requirements instead. This was different from many finals weeks I have had in the past. In all I had six essays and two final projects to complete in the last two and a half weeks. Most of the final assignments made nearly 100% of the grade in that class with not many other assignments through out the semester. Needless to say I was in the library for most of my days.

In particular, one of my classes had a focus on entrepreneurship and building a new business. For the class, I worked with a group to establish a business idea, build the framework, and write a proposal to potential investors. The class was set up as a competition with 65 teams presenting their idea. The winning group would receive further mentorship from our professor as well as 20% of the investment so the group could actually put the idea to work. Unfortunately our group was not one of the finalists. Outside of class, another group member and I joined another competition hosted by Trinity’s Entrepreneurial Society. The competition was set up much like the show Shark Tank. We joined hoping to get some feedback on our business proposal and obviously to try and win. Unfortunately our proposal was a bit underdeveloped at that point to move on in the competition but the experience gave us some exposure to presenting a business to investors and feedback from the panel of entrepreneurs. It’s to bad we couldn’t continue.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I am so glad that I had the opportunity to participate in OSU’s Student Exchange Program. It will for sure be one of the defining experiences in my college careers. Before leaving we were told to think of the things we would miss most while abroad and I of course said my friends and family. After this semester I can’t believe I was worried at all. I met some fantastic people at Trinity and they served as my family during Thanksgiving and I couldn’t have been happier. Dublin was a perfect city for me to live and I would definitely live there again if the opportunity came up. I am looking forward to being home for the holiday season and getting back to OSU next semester but I know that I will miss the people and city that I’ve grown to love.

‘Tis the Season

One of the best parts about the Holiday Season in Europe is the Christmas Markets, or the Weihnachtsmarkt as they are called in Germany.  You may be wondering what exactly a Christmas Market is.  Well it is all of the joy of the holiday season, thousands of people, great holiday shopping, delicious food, and historic towns all rolled into one.  Since these markets are so irresistible I’ve visited the ones in Koblenz, Strassbourg, Offenburg, Rothenburg od der Tauber, and Nuremberg.  Living in Germany for this past semester has obviously made me partial to  the authentic German Christmas experience so this past weekend I made my final travel destination the markets of Rothenburg and Nuremberg.

Rothenburg was my favorite town in Germany that I’ve visited so far because of all the great history that comes with it.  It’s the best preserved Medieval town in Germany and it certainly looks the part.  Wandering through the lanes of houses and around the historic wall that dates back to the town’s founding and is still standing one can forget for a moment what century they are really in.  When I visited I even went on a tour of the city with a Nightwatchman who told us all about the city’s long and interesting background.  And while their Christmas market certainly isn’t the largest I’ve seen, it’s definitely the most adorable and authentically German.

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Nuremberg also had a great market, it’s heralded as one of the most authentically German as the town has very strict rules about stall decorations and merchandise to try and keep the market as traditional as possible.  While I was in Nuremberg I also got to participate in a local myth, there’s a fountain in the main square that has a gold ring on the gate.  It’s rumored that if you spin the ring twice and make a wish, it will come true!

Nuremberg (640x480)

The Christmas Markets have been a great conclusion to my semester in Germany but they, among a plethora of other factors, are going to make it so hard to leave in just a few short days!