A Weekend In Morocco

From seeing the blue city to enjoying camel rides, join Samantha Ludes on her adventure to Morocco, while she studies at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain on the Student Exchange Program.

If you hadn’t planned on visiting Morocco while abroad, then you need to read this and I hope you change your mind. I suggest traveling with a group, especially as a student. The cultural differences and language barriers make it a challenging trip to do on your own. I am not normally a fan of group trips; I hate being on a strict schedule, I always feel exhausted, and I never see everything I wanted to see. However, this group trip was unlike any I had been on. I went through a group called BeMadrid (but I booked it through UniTrips) and I cannot recommend it enough. While it was a long weekend, it was really a great one.

The trip that we chose to do was not necessarily the easiest transportation wise, but I swear it was not as bad as it may sound. We met late Thursday night and took a 7 hour bus ride to Tarifa, Spain. From there, we took an hour ferry ride to Tangier, Morocco. If a longer travel day is not for you, there are trips where you can fly into Morocco and meet them, but the bus was nice enough that we were all able to sleep and honestly not that bad.

In Tangier, we met up with our tour guide Mohammed and hopped on a bus to start off our day. While on our way to see Cap Spartel and Hercules Caves, Mohammed would tell us anything ranging from funny stories about his life to facts about their culture. Having a local guide allowed us to get by much better since there was no language barrier or questions about where something was. Cap Spartel is a famous lighthouse overlooking the ocean just a quick drive from Tangier. We stopped here and got out to take some pictures, as well as pet a donkey and buy some beautiful little gifts that none of us actually needed.  After, we visited Hercules Caves which are a few minutes from Cap Spartel. The story behind these caves is that Hercules is said to have rested here during one of his journeys. The caves have two openings, one to the sea and one to the land, with the opening to the sea in the shape of Africa. If you go to Tangier, these are two touristy sites you must see.

And if you want to ride camels, you can do so only a short drive from Hercules Caves. I’m not sure if you have ever been on a camel but it is like riding a very unstable horse. While you may feel like you are going to fall off at any moment, it is one of those activities that you cannot miss when in Morocco (and this was included in the trip I went on).

We also went to Chefchaouen and Tétouan. If you have ever looked at pictures of Morocco, you most likely have seen either Marrakech (on my list of places to visit) or Chefchauoen, aka the blue city. We walked through the narrow streets of the blue city, each street painted blue and covered with a  range of colors. If I had more space in my backpack I would have bought a lot more than I did, everything is so beautiful. My lunch in Chefchauoen was my favorite meal of the trip. For the equivalent of 5 euros, we were able to get more food than our stomachs could keep up with. I left this beautiful city with lots of argan oil (Morocco is famous for it) and a few other goods I probably did not need. For those of you who love skincare, argan oil is great for hydration of your skin, without being too oily, as well as for your hair. Buy it for yourself, your mom, your sister, and everyone will be happy. Next on our tour was Tétouan, one of Morocco’s major ports famous for their seafood markets. We only spent an hour or so here but I was happy we did because we were able to see a much less touristy city but a gem nonetheless.

Back in Tangier, we had an “authentic” Moroccan dinner (bread, chicken, soup, potatoes, and their delicious mint green tea) while we watched a performance by a few locals. It was a great end to our trip and fun to get to meet a wide variety of people. Our group of 100 people (& 40 different nationalities) were led by students and a few adult advisors. Even though we only had 2 full days in Morocco, I think that our leaders did such an efficient job in organizing the trip that I felt like I had seen everything.

Now, there are a few things to remember when traveling here. What you wear has become less of a focus, however, you should still dress on the conservative side to draw less attention. In Morocco, most people speak French (and Arabic of course) but if you don’t know French, try Spanish or even German before you try English. My weekend consisted of lots of pointing and using the only two French words I know; toilet and pan. And speaking of toilet, do not forget to bring a roll of toilet paper because the bathrooms in restaurants and public places most likely won’t have any. Also, never pay whatever price they’re asking for (except at restaurants), ALWAYS barter and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel like you’re paying too much. Do not forget to buy lots of bottled water and just be cautious about where you are getting your fruit from. I personally had no problems with the food but I know other people did. Overall everything is very cheap there, so you should expect to pay less and get more (finally an exchange rate that is totally in your favor).

I am so happy that I decided to go on this trip. It is an amazing experience unlike anything I had done before and the weather is beautiful. So if you are studying abroad, add Morocco to a weekend trip because you definitely will not regret it.


What Am I Doing Here?

After a question in class “Why are you here?”, Maggie Hobson shares her thoughts and goals on why she is abroad studying at Curtin University in Perth, Australia on the Student Exchange Program, on her very first extensive experience outside of the U.S.

Me with a Kangaroo

Reading the title of this post might be a bit frightening at first.  It may seem like I am questioning my decision to travel alone to a foreign country for five months.  However, I have been “abroad” for exactly three weeks and at my host university for exactly 2 weeks and not once have I questioned my decision of coming here.  However, today was the second day of classes and my first time sitting in on my “Human Structure and Function” course, that I took as last resort to cover my natural science GE credit I still need at OSU.  I was thinking that this class would be another typical Earth Science or Chocolate Science course that I could check off in order to stay on track to graduate next spring.  I was far from wrong.  As a class, we went around the room announcing our majors.  “Nursing.” “Health Science.” “Physical Therapy.”  These were all the responses of each student.  I started to build a nervous sweat as the teacher pointed to me and I announced, “Accounting.”  The teacher continued to point to each of the students to hear their responses.  However, at the very end, she pointed back to me and asked “I just need to point out what we’re all thinking, why are you here?”

That got me thinking.  Why am I here?  I have lived in Columbus, Ohio my entire life, 21 years, and I will be living in Australia for five months.  That’s about 2% of my life that I am able to spend meeting all new people, experiencing a whole new culture, traveling and exploring a multitude of places and taking classes that I would never have stumbled upon back home.  I am here to learn and grow as an individual.  Ultimately, I want to come back with a new perspective on life and other cultures, in hopes that I can influence and relate to others in a more positive way.  So far in my time here, I have met people from, and not limited to, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Canada, Asia, New Zealand and all around the US.  It has been fascinating not only learning about the culture in which I am living but the cultures of these many other exchange students going through similar experiences to mine.

Throughout these past two weeks, I have already gained so much knowledge about myself and other cultures and classes only started yesterday.  For instance, I have learned that it is NEVER too late to learn.  Each of my classes here has someone who is about the age of my parents.  These people differ from the adults in my classes at OSU because they engage with everyone just as if they were our age.  They are enthralled by class discussions and they will join classmates in getting a bite to eat after class.  Additionally, some of my fellow exchange students are five or six years older than me.  It is so much more common in other cultures to take a gap year, or two or three and then return to school when you know what you want out of your education and you are able to fully value what you are learning.  Additionally, I have learned that I am more independent than I once thought.  Going into this time abroad, I truly believed I would regret my decision, be lost and wondering, not make friends and yearn for my friends and family back home.  Fortunately enough, none of this has come true.  I started meeting people on the first plane ride over, when I talked to the two people sitting next to me for the entirety of the four hour flight.  You are never fully alone when traveling  because there are always people to meet and learn from and I have taken advantage of the opportunity to do so.  Lastly, I am eager to see what I learn in these non-accounting classes.  It is awesome to have the opportunity to take elective classes without having the stress of focusing more heavily on the classes for my major.  This way, I am able to really experience each class I take here and gain knowledge on a whole new subject outside of my major.

It has been quite the adventure so far and I am looking forward to the rest of my time here!  Not only am I looking forward to my bigger trips like the ones to Ningaloo Reef, Cairns and Bali but I am looking forward to living my day to day life as a student: playing in my touch rugby league, engaging in my dorms free food nights and enjoying the gorgeous weather while walking through campus.  I’ll check back in with more of my experiences later on but for now, here are a few of my favorite pictures I have taken so far from traveling around Perth, Western Australia!

Looking at the sunset over the city of Perth
Fremantle, an area about 40 minutes from Curtin known for its history and shops
A quokka which is an animal that is part of the kangaroo family but only found on Rottnest Island!

Guide for Attending a Spanish University

From how to dress, how you take your in-between-class breaks, to the best gelato place to go after class, Samantha Ludes guides you how to navigate a Spanish university, as she attends the Universidad Pontificia Comillas for a semester on the Student Exchange Program.

I wish there had been a “How To” guide to attending a university in Spain, but since there is not, I decided to make my own. Everything from the clothes you wear to using graph paper instead of lined paper, there is a laundry list of differences.

I am studying at Universidad Pontificia Comillas ICADE, a business school in the heart of Madrid, Spain on Fisher’s Student Exchange Program. The school itself is beautiful. The Church inside the school and the tiled blue walls make me feel as if I am not at school at all.

I take classes ranging from Planificación y Gestión de Marketing (Marketing Planning and Management) to Spanish Culture Through Visual Arts. Most of my classes are primarily international students except for my Marketing course. It has been very beneficial to take classes with Spanish students since I have learned so much about the culture, the slang, and what university is like in Spain.

The first thing I learned is that students do not eat in classes, that is considered very rude. They do, however, talk during class. At least in my experience, students will talk to friends and be very casual in front of the teachers. Professors here are also more informal, talking about what good places students should go to, and not minding when students show up 20 minutes late to class, especially on Mondays.

Coffee breaks are apart of everyone’s everyday schedule. Before or after class, we will often go grab a coffee at a local cafe near school. My personal favorite is to go to UVEPAN because all of the staff are so friendly and love when I practice my Spanish with them. PRO TIP: If it is Monday then go to McDonald’s (which are a lot nicer in Spain) and get FREE coffee. All you have to do is ask for it!

People stand outside the building and catch up for a while after class with friends. Standing on those steps I have planned weekend trips, dinner plans, and laughed about stories from the previous week. I have met with group project members to discuss our assignments and scheduled our next meetings. In the states, I tend to go to class and then straight to whatever I had planned next. Here they take their time, plan a lot less, and chat a lot more. In my attempt to blend in, I have had to adjust how I present myself in class. I went from dressing very casually, typically in my workout clothes and my backpack, to wearing jeans, a sweater, and boots or sneakers with my purse. People dress as if they are going out to dinner but instead it is just for class. To my surprise, I have actually enjoyed getting ready like that everyday (probably because the shopping is so great here) but nonetheless, it has been an adjustment.

Going to a university in Spain may be very different from going to Ohio State, but different is not always bad. Getting lost in this small (but VERY confusing) building has led me to meet Spanish students who studied at Ohio State for their abroad experience. I approached a group of students in the cafe and asked if one of them could show me where the bookstore was. A few of them offered to walk me there and were telling me about where they studied in the US. It was the craziest coincidence when one of the students told me he studied at Ohio State. We talked about our business classes and football (of course) and how we missed the deep love for all things OSU. Talking with him about being a Buckeye made this new place feel a little more like home.

Another perk of going to Comillas is the gelato shop La Romana right down the street. If you like gelato, you will LOVE this.  The people at the counter will let you try almost every flavor, ranging from the classic Pistachio to Biscotto. I get a new flavor almost every time I go because they’re all so delicious that I can’t even pick a favorite! You must go in there and ask for a “muestra” (sample) and you will understand what I am talking about.

As always, Go Bucks!

A Glimpse into Life at Copenhagen Business School

With a few weeks into the semester, Katelyn Mistele shares her experience studying at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark on the Student Exchange Program. From course selections, class structures, exams, to professors, she shares her experience and some tips and advise to adjust!

Hello from Denmark everyone! I am currently on my third week of classes here at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and I am still learning to adjust to the style of teaching and the general education system over here. I thought it would be beneficial for me to outline the major differences and shed some light onto the Scandinavian style of education. As much as you can read up on these differences, it is very different arriving here and sitting through your classes. I am still adjusting, and quiet honestly starting to love this different style of teaching and learning. As well, I am loving the city of course! I have a few pictures below of the city, but I will write up my next post on more on Danish culture in general and will include more photos with that.

Downtown Copenhagen, specifically the Nørreport Station area!
A beautiful castle right next to my residence!

I am currently studying at Copenhagen Business School as noted before. CBS, for short, is a large strictly business institution. At CBS there are just over 20,000 students either studying their undergraduate degrees or graduate degrees. In addition, there is a large international presence here on campus. Just under 4,000 full time students are international. In my particular exchange semester there are around 500 exchange students, 300 of us being undergraduate students.

The first major difference I realized even before arrival was the variation of courses here. It is a lot different from Fisher. There isn’t just a general business major with 15 specializations to choose from. Instead there are different programs and tracks that correspond with the final undergraduate degree. Examples of these programs are a Bachelors in Business Administration and Philosophy, Bachelors in International Business and Politics, or even Bachelors in Business, Language, and Culture. This original realization made me excited to see what courses I was going to be able to taken once I arrived to CBS.

There are a variety of courses here that are non existent in Fisher. Unfortunately, due to my degree requirements and prospective graduation date I wasn’t able to take many of them, but they have many interesting courses here based in sustainability and innovation which aren’t as common back at home. For example I was looking at taking courses in entrepreneurship, or this course titled: Innovation Management. I am however taking four courses over here and they are as follows: Corporate Finance, Global People Management, Global Supply Chain Management, and Language of Negotiations.

Not only do the types of courses offered here are different but the structure of these courses is very different as well. For starters CBS is actually similar to Fisher in a way that they offer many “session classes” as we call them at Ohio State. Three of my four classes are “Q3” or “Q4” courses which is similar to how Fisher structures their first and second session classes. My other class is a full semester course, so it runs from the end of January through May.

This is where the similarities end however. All courses that I am enrolled in at CBS last around two and a half hours for each class, and each course is primarily lecture based. There are moments in some of my courses for group work, but for courses like Finance it is all lecture based for the entire duration of class. At first when I saw this I panicked as I struggled to stay awake during my 55 minute courses back in Ohio, but these longer courses have grown on me. The professors give you breaks every 45-55 minutes, and the trade off of having long courses also means that you are done with these courses earlier or have less courses during the week. What I mean by this is, I do have finance three times a week right now, but I am done with this course by the end of March! In addition, I only have classes Monday through Wednesday which is fantastic for those who want to travel and explore Denmark as well as Europe! It definitely takes some adjusting to get used to things, but I am growing to like the structure and set up here at CBS.

It took me just over two weeks to fully adjust and assimilate myself into the new system. I am on my third week of classes now and I feel absolutely integrated into the life of a student at CBS. Some tips I have for those who are planning on attending CBS or other European countries that have the same style are, first and foremost, really listen to your professors and go to class. It may seem tempting that there aren’t participation grades and that most of the content is posted online, but going to class really helps fully understand the information. Also the professors will help you understand how to handle the work load and drop hints on what work is really necessary to do in order to succeed, and which work is just purely if you’re interested. For example, a lot of the syllabi here at CBS list a TON of reading. If you think Fisher has a lot of reading CBS is easily 2-3 times more, but that being said the professors shed light on which chapters to skip or merely “skim”, also give tips on how to read the content. I would even go as far to say that by going to class and being fully engaged really decreases your workload! Another tip is that when a professor provides you a break during the class, I would suggest that you get up walk around and even treat yourself to a coffee. Two and a half hours is a really long time, but by truly giving your mind a solid ten minute break and walking around helps me personally regain my focus. Finally, another thing I found that worked well for me is to compile my notes and lecture slides at the end of each week. Also to take the information presented in class one step further by thinking critically about certain articles, for example, and by proposing new ways of thinking or questions regarding the article. Some of my exams here allow me to use notes and by preparing from day one there will be less work when it comes time to the exam, and also by thinking critically from day one, I will be able to provide more insight during the exam rather than just the surface level information that everyone will provide.

The last major difference between school here and back at Fisher is that each class is 100% exam based. Meaning that there are no homework grades, or participation grades. The only grade that is recorded is the final grade at the conclusion of the course. The final exams are different too. They have many different formats from the common sit in closed book exam, to oral exams where you write a paper and get questioned by your professor on your final product, and even some courses have take home week long papers! It is very different and slightly intimidating at first, but the the professors talk about the exams in class and prepare you for them, which definitely gives you a piece of mind.

Now before I conclude my thought, I’d like to include some pictures of this amazing and beautiful university for those of you interested and those of you thinking about coming to CBS. I have really enjoyed this partner university already. There are so many opportunities to take new and exciting courses. The structure of the school system is flexible and this is great if you are looking to travel! Finally, all of my professors I have had so far are fantastic and really focus on you simply learning and how to master the content to best set you up for success in the future. So, if you’re thinking CBS, I say yes!!! The partner university has been amazing so far and has introduced me and integrated me into this Scandinavian style of education smoothly.

One of the main classroom buildings here at CBS.
The main library on campus! This is my favorite building on campus due to the massive amounts of amenities it offers and the sleek modern design. I have some of my courses in here, but I also spend some time in the library which has a vibe similar to Thompson but modernized. You could spend your whole day here as there are many classrooms and even a cafeteria. In fact, all classroom buildings on campus have cafes.  I think Fisher needs more than just Rohr!! In addition, in the basement of this building on campus there is a CrossFit club with it’s own gym that I’ve been going to! It’s a perfect location with everything you need as a student.
A photo of the sky light in one of the classroom buildings. Proving to you that despite common thoughts not everything is just the color black here!

Thanks for reading and tune back in later in the semester to hear more about my adventures in Copenhagen! I am of course looking forward to traveling and have been to many places in Europe already, but I am even more excited to further integrate myself into the Danish culture. In the weeks to come I have some “coffee dates” set up with some Danes, and am also getting involved in a student organization, and I am excited to learn more about the culture over here and especially to see how the Danes perceive America! It will truly be eye opening, and I will discuss this in my next post!

First Week in Italy

Sarah Disselkamp shares some of the differences in being a student in Italy vs. U.S. Hear what her life is like in her first week attending Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program.

It has officially been 1.5 weeks since we arrived here in Milan to study at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, and it certainly has been a whirlwind! I have learned so much about living in Europe and specifically Italy.

Being in Milan, one of the most fashion conscientious cities in the world, the most immediate difference I noticed was the clothing. It is very easy to pick out a native Italian versus an exchange student while walking around Bocconi. Italian students tend to dress up more for class, and their outfits are more trendy, whereas American students tend to dress more business casual when dressing up for classes. I’ve noticed that the shoes tend to be a big hint, as Italians usually wear boots or something with a heel. Shopping in and around Milan has helped a lot though, and has been super fun!

Another major difference is the culture around food. In the United States, we typically eat 3 meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner; whereas in Milan they do 4. They have breakfast and lunch, which are smaller meals, aperitivo, which is a prix fix hour of unlimited appetizers at a restaurant between 6 and 9pm, and then dinner beginning between 8 and 9 typically. Many restaurants are closed between the end of lunch around 2pm and 4, sometimes even being closed until dinner at 7! This can make it hard to find something to eat, especially on Sundays when almost everything is closed. I am learning how to plan ahead and make sure I don’t get caught in one of the in between times though!

The final difference I have noticed between American culture and Italian is the bureaucracy. In the United States, filling out forms is usually a straightforward event. However, in Italy, it has been anything but! From the permit of stay to an Italian SIM card and a monthly metro pass, it seems that every task has come with a wide range of conflicting advice and instructions. I have found that the best way to approach these situations is to have all of your ducks in a row and just go for it! The people processing the paperwork and such have all been very understanding so far.

Although it has definitely been an adjustment, I am loving my time so far in Italy! I have gotten the opportunity to meet so many people and experience so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to in the United States, and it hasn’t even been 2 weeks. As classes start this week, my goals going forward are to ensure that I am keeping up with my schoolwork and finding the perfect balance between school and travelling. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester holds in store!

Initial Observations of Spain

Read some observations from Nikki Matz, who is studying in Madrid, Spain for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. She describes the difference between U.S. and Spain on eye contact, greetings, grocery stores, and more.

I have now been living in Madrid for about 3 weeks, and I have found many differences between this city and any place I have lived in the U.S. One thing that is very interesting is how much people stare in Spain. In the US, if you catch a person staring at you they will quickly look away knowing that they have been caught; however, here people do not look away. In my first few days, I was on edge because of this cultural difference, but I soon realized that it was not something to be scared of.

View from my balcony, Calle Mayor

Another interesting concept that I have discovered is the greeting of 2 kisses. I knew it existed but I wasn’t quite sure how often it was used. I was recently at a Spanish person’s house where there was a large group of Spanish people, and upon introduction, I indeed kissed 15 people’s cheeks. It is difficult to get used to because my natural inclination is to shake hands with someone. There is also additional confusion when I meet other international students from around Europe or South America because they also have different greeting norms. In Chile for example, a greeting of one kiss on the cheek is staple; however, in Italy they also do two kisses, but they begin on the opposite cheek of Spaniards. I am hoping that by the end of the semester I will be able to catch on greet anyone like a pro!

Palacio Real
Sabatini Gardens

My final observations come from the grocery stores or “supermercados”. I live on Calle Mayor, which is right in the center of Madrid. The options for groceries around me are mostly express shops, very tiny grocery stores with the essentials. If I want anything more I have to go to a different neighborhood of Madrid. A very surprising discovery that I made was that Spanish supermarkets do not refrigerate their eggs or their milk. I’m still not quite sure how that works, but it is nice to be able to stock up on those things without worrying about them spoiling.

Palacio de Cristal
Templo de Debod

I look forward to spending more time as a Madrileño and getting the opportunity to practice Spanish daily. Madrid has a lot to offer as well as the rest of Spain, and I can’t wait to explore!

Copenhagen: Speaking English, Free Metro Rides, and the Flat-Tax

Will Towers shared some of his mistakes and surprise points while starting his life in Copenhagen, Denmark on the Student Exchange Program attending Copenhagen Business School.

The land of vikings and legos is probably not as difficult to acclimate to as one may think. Although there’s very few signs in English, the population speaks it with fair ease. I’ve picked up on a few common phrases, the most used being what sounds like “tak fa day-a”, meaning “thank you for the day”, a way to say goodbye to someone you just spent quality time with. Other than that, speaking Danish would only benefit me in such specific circumstances like grocery shopping and reading my mails. The former is less daunting, as I’ve come to realize the groceries we buy often describe themselves in many ways on top of their names. The packaging, coloring and buzz words are similar to those in America. Also, it’s pretty easy to tell that “organisk” means “organic”, although some are less easy, like an “orange” being “appelsiner”. In this case, common sense goes a long way. Mail is slightly less obvious – I got a letter from the post office that I originally thought was a slip telling me I was in trouble for walking in a crosswalk illegally. Classic mix-up.

The crosswalk hasn’t been the only mistake I’ve made since being in Denmark. The metro system is a highly efficient one and its made my time here much easier to navigate. At first, however, I assumed it to be free as there were no tollbooths, no collect points at the entrances for money: simply a waist-high large blue circle that people seemed to press when entering the stations. In my mind this was a tracking system, so that those who ran the operation had a general idea of the traffic being accounted for. It took a not-so-friendly metro ticket patrol officer to inform me that these blue dots were where people scanned their metro cards, a small credit card solely used for boarding the metro. She let me off with a warning entirely based on the American charm I let off on her.

Not being ticketed by that metro officer was a blessing. The average cost of a metro ride is about $1.50 and the cost of the ticket for not paying is $125. When you put it like that I have no problem paying the blue circle. That extra $120 I saved will go a long way! But not too long – alas, Copenhagen has what is best described as a flat-tax. Everything, yes everything, is subject to what has been told to me is a 25% tax. Coffee and beer are the two commodities this strikes me the most in. An average beer will be upwards of 8$ and a cappuccino could run you the same. When it comes to this, I’ve learned I must adjust (obviously) my expectations. These things are meant to be enjoyed, not just consumed. The act of going out for a beer with friends actually becomes more revered in a strange way when you know a beverage this much. It’s not ideal, but it’s good in it’s own way.

One week into my courses and the differences are greatly welcomed. The classes here are much differently structured than those at Ohio State. My shortest class is 100 minutes long – however, each class will break for 10-15 minutes every 45 minutes or so which makes learning more digestible. I actually enjoy this structure more than jumping from brief class to brief class, as it allows me to focus-in on one subject at a time. The grading is also different. All of my courses have a final paper at the end, which is much more welcomed than the mass-scantron paranoia that I’ve grown accustomed to in Columbus. I’ve even gotten to have 1-on-1 time with professors during class! Quite a few firsts; if it weren’t illegal and impractical I’d be tempted to extend my stay.

Some things I’m looking forward to:

  • The weather has been constantly bleak and hovering around 30 degrees (F). According to every local I’ve gotten to know, Denmark’s springtime transformation more than makes up for the dreadful weather of the winter
  • Come April 1st, half of my classes will be finished. That means a lot less time spent reading and in-class and a lot more time spent exploring Scandinavia
  • I’ve gotten close with a yoga studio owner I’ve even been working with. I have the feeling our relationship will evolve and he can be a mentor for myself in my journey to becoming an instructor.
  • Finally, I look forward to what I can’t envision now! The most rewarding aspects of my trip have been getting lost, meeting strangers by coincidence and finding the hidden beauty in not having a plan!

December Photos and Adventures in Austria

Peyton Bykowski, living in Vienna, Austria, describes her latest December adventures and shares pictures from the month. As she ends her semester abroad on the Students Exchange Program, she shares what she appreciates about her experience abroad.

This December I have remained in Austria, enjoying the Christmas-time cheer and holiday spirit, as well as attending an extreme amount of Christmas markets.

In the beginning of December, EBN (Erasmus Buddy Network) hosted a Ski Trip to Zell Am See, Austria. Zell Am See is an extremely small skiing town in the Austrian state of Salzburg. While I did not participate in skiing, it was an extremely fun several days spent with friends, relaxing at the hotel spa, studying for exams, and exploring the town located in the Austrian Alps. The Alps were an incredible sight, and I absolutely loved walking along the lake in Zell Am See which was encircled by the mountains. The town of Zell am See was extremely small but full of charm. I got to further see what life in Austria is like; this time, from a small town in the middle of the Austrian Alps. The small town had plenty of little shops to browse through and lots of coffee shops to enjoy. Even still, my favorite day was when my friends and I bused over to the small town to look around and then walked all the way back along that gorgeous lake.

As mentioned in other posts, the Christmas Markets are a spectacle. They are absolutely amazing- filled with great food, drinks, and everything is incredibly authentic. Going to these Christmas Markets with my friends was one of the highlights of my time abroad. Below are some pictures of Zell Am See as well as more pictures of Christmas-market-fun  in Vienna.

To conclude my time here in Austria, I can sum up my experience as one of the best times in my life. Not only did I grow as a person, I grew as a professional and expanded my network to people all over the world. I learned German (at least more than I knew before I left), I traveled through a great part of Europe, I made amazing friends, and the lessons I learned are invaluable. Studying abroad with Fisher was one of the best decisions I ever made. The process was easy, affordable, and allowed me to develop in my personal and professional life more than I ever could have imagined. I got to experience the ins and outs of Austrian culture, become a local, and understand the world from different points of view. Learning how to take a back seat and soak in all of the different cultures I experienced and then learning the reasons behind cultural practices and traditions was the biggest lesson I took from my trip. I am now able to meet people from their point of views and perspectives, which will be essential in my career to come in business and in my life.

Christmas pastries (large donuts)
Schonbrunn Palace Christmas Market
Museum Quartier Christmas Market Mugs ft. Hot Apple Cider
Zell Am See Ski Lift
The Grand Hotel in Zell Am See
Austrian Alps from the Lake

Vienna: Cultural Events, Holiday Spirit, and More

On the Student Exchange Program to Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU) in Austria, Peyton Bykowski talks about the cultural life in Vienna, including events, holidays and festivals. She has been exposed to Vienna Fashion Week, Halloween in Vienna, Christmas Markets, and the must see Viennese Opera!

These last several months in Vienna have been beyond incredible. With a city so full of culture, history, and things to do, there was certainly never a dull moment. Vienna has had plenty of cultural events and festive holiday spirit. In this blog post I will talk about some my favorite events in Vienna, and share pictures from this last month, my final month, here. (pictures below)

One of the first events I went to in September was the MQ Vienna Fashion Week. Vienna Fashion Week was a huge event attended by several thousand per day, where there were constant runway shows by new and established designers, displays, and interactive stands. Attendees were given the runway experience with a makeover and samplers from different cosmetic companies, in which the attendees then walked a red carpet area for a photo-op. The shows were limiting (first come first serve seating basis) and varied greatly in terms of clothing and runway styles. Vienna Fashion Week was certainly more of an expression of art than anything else. It was certainly a fun, enlightening, and entertaining week! Here is a link!

MQ Vienna Fashion Week

As important and festive as Halloween is in the U.S., it is, not surprisingly, very celebrated in Europe. However, many stores, classrooms, and social settings had decorations or themed items of Halloween and the week leading up to it. While it is not an official holiday for the Viennese, it was still enjoyable to see large shopping streets participating and getting into the spirit of Halloween. In Vienna there is an English cinema called the Haydn Kino Theater, which did a special showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show and other American Halloween classics. Going to these showings was extremely fun to do with both American and other European friends who are not as familiar with these Halloween classics and was a great way to share some American culture with natives. While all people find the movie to be extremely odd, all of my friends found it to be really fun. They could see why it was considered a “cult classic” and enjoyed seeing a quirky side to American culture.

Rocky Horror Picture Show MQ Vienna
Rocky Horror Picture Show MQ Vienna

Since Austrians do not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas markets start setting up in early to mid November. Austria is extremely festive during the “holidays”, even though it is not a particularly religious country. Viennese Christmas markets are unlike any other holiday experience. They are filled with local stands, lots of food and classic hot drinks, festive mugs, and handmade items like ornaments, gloves, hats, and many other gift-inspiring items. They are the epitome of “Christmas-time” and are loved by all. Vienna has an extraordinary amount of Christmas markets, with the largest being at Rathaus. All attendees at the markets are in good spirits, and they are a great place to go with friends any day of the week. They have been a staple of social life during December. The Christmas markets of Vienna are certainly the largest cultural event(s) and festival during the year. More information on their webpage!

Other cultural events include the Opera and Volkstheater, which offers many and a wide variety of theater experiences. The Viennese Opera is one of the best in the world, and is an absolute must while you stay in Vienna. You can purchase seated tickets, which are more expensive and come with a dress code, or there is an option to purchase standing tickets for only a few Euros and have a much less strict dress code. Most WU and Viennese students opt for the standing tickets, as it is a more cost and dress code effective option. Likewise, Volkstheater is an extremely established theater in Vienna and is also a great cultural experience. Vienna is a city of art in many forms, and the events and showcases are certainly worth taking advantage of as there is truly no comparison. Find more theater information here and here.

My experiences have allowed me to grow a lot while abroad. Some of the events, like the Rocky Horror showing, allowed me to get to know Viennese culture more while also getting to share mine. Events like the the Fashion Week and and touring/seeing shows at the Opera and Volkstheater really allowed me to understand Viennese culture even further. The Opera and Volkstheater are cultural icons of not only the city, but the entire country. Visiting and immersing myself into their culture really allowed me to appreciate how different my culture is to Viennese culture and allowed me to connect more with the locals of the city. Also, visiting and experiencing these cultural events allowed for a great conversation starter for my networking on campus with my peers and my academic advisors. Most of these events and sights were recommendations from them and other peers alike. Getting to experience them and then report back my reactions was a great way to further develop my network and deepen my connections with others.

Vienna Opera
Vienna Opera


4 Weeks Left in Thailand

As her semester at Thammasat University ends, Talia Bhaiji reflects on her semester on the Student Exchange Program and encourages you to go abroad too!

According to the calendar, I currently have 28 days left in Thailand, and it makes me so sad to even think about that. I can’t believe my experience is flying by, and I’m definitely not ready to go home just yet.

I’m not sure if you need any more convincing about going abroad, but if you do I hope this post will do so. At Ohio State, I’m involved in a lot of things, studying a subject that I thought would make a lot of money, and working a job while maintaining leadership positions in a bunch of clubs. It’s everything that I thought I needed and was supposed to do in college. Student Exchange was more of an afterthought when it came to priorities and necessities in college. I took it as more of a vacation and more of a time to relax from school, but that was nothing like my experience.

Yes, it was definitely a bit less stressful than Ohio State, where the possibilities of what you want to do and be a part of are numerous, but it was just as much of a learning and growing experience as anything else, if not more. I didn’t think Student Exchange would change my life and I highly doubted people when they told me that it did, but my semester abroad did exactly that.

I not only learned to appreciate a whole other culture around the world, but it gave me such a strong appreciation for the United States, my status as an American citizen, and all the possibilities and opportunities that I have back at home. The rest of the world doesn’t give you open doors to do what you want to do, and to have unlimited opportunities. So many places are still so far behind, but not the United States. It really is the land of opportunity and I feel so lucky to live there and to have access to anything and everything.

Student Exchange has also really taught me what’s important in life. When you’re traveling with a backpack and have a 15 pound weight limit (it’s true, be careful!), you really learn what’s important to bring and what’s unnecessary. Same goes for packing for Thailand; you’re really forced to pay attention to what’s important and leave behind the things that aren’t. It actually taught me to be way less materialistic than I am at home. When you see how people here live, and how they don’t need much, it really makes you think about the amount of things you have and how much you don’t need. The other thing that I thought about a lot was the consequences of pollution and my actions in the U.S. Bangkok, and the rest of Thailand, doesn’t have a strong sewage and trash collection system, so all the trash is displayed on the streets and in the river. It makes you think about your effect on the world’s pollution and how to decrease that. In the U.S., we can be more environmentally friendly because we have the money and resources, but we choose not to be. Thailand doesn’t have those financial resources, and they’re suffering the consequences. It’s up to us to take on these responsibilities.

Environmentalism rant aside, Student Exchange has taught me more about myself than I ever thought I could discover. You’ll be placed in situations you never thought you’d be in, around people you never thought you’d see, and experience some of the most beautiful things on Earth. You definitely change, and you feel things you weren’t sure were possible. I’ve never felt so connected to so many people; I also never knew how little I knew. I learned how to take care of myself when I was traveling, how to push through my emotions and not give up when I was frustrated, how to take care of myself and others when I was homesick, I learned my boundaries and what I’ll take and what I won’t take, how to be spontaneous and enjoy the unexpected things in life, and more importantly how to be a better person. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my entire life and I leave this semester with absolutely so regrets. It is so hard to walk away from so many amazing people and places, but it just gives me another reason to come back.

Thank you for everything Thailand, Amarin, Thammasat, and all of my friends, I’ll never forget you!