Intro to Ireland – Last Days

You might know how to navigate the end of semesters at OSU, but do you know how to in Trinity College, Ireland? Grainne Hutchinson shares her advice in navigating Trinity’s exams and end of semester as she studies on the Student Exchange Program.

As the weeks are narrowing down, I thought I would give some helpful info on the last days of being abroad.

First the last weeks get a bit crazy. Trinity usually has their exams at the end of the school year, but as an exchange student, you will have papers in their place as you either won’t be there for them or have missed some of the class. I would completely recommend making plans with your new friends to meet and say goodbye before you hit your last week as you might get to stressed with packing and papers and run out of time, as near the end, it fly’s by.

I would also ask your teachers how papers are required to be turned in, most often in Trinity a hard copy of papers are turned in to the department office with a cover sheet assigned by the department. If you’re leaving somewhat early, I would check with the professor to make sure you will be in the country to do that. If not don’t worry, they can also be uploaded on Blackboard, Trinity’s version of Carmen. Also as it’s the end of the year, the library is always crowded and any textbooks you might need will probably be rented out.

Ran my fastest 5K in Ireland! Thanks to research into what 5K where available.
Ran my fastest 5K in Ireland! Thanks to research into what 5K where available.

Upon reflection, the big thing I would tell people is If your thinking of going abroad I would start a checklist of the places you want to see and things you want to do before you leave. At the very least I would do some research into what there is to do. This ensures that you don’t get to your last week and find some incredible things you didn’t know existed. I would highly recommend doing this with weekend trips as well, as you are limited on time, you want to make sure you do all the things you want to.

Intro to Ireland – Brexit

As Grainne Hutchinson studies in Ireland on the Student Exchange Program, she enjoys her involvement with the University Philological Society. From seeing the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and talking about Brexit and the affect on Ireland, she shares her experience of the wonderful events held at Trinity College.

I know I have mentioned the great things you can do when you join societies, but I had the awesome opportunity through the University Philological Society to see the first Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon speak, and I feel like I should stress it again. The Hist (College Historical Society) and the Phil (University Philosophical Society) are both debating societies within Trinity, and I highly recommend joining one as they host some great speakers every term.

Hist

Nicola Sturgeon was being presented an honorary membership in the society and answered questions first from the head of the Phil and then from the audience. She was, of course, asked about Scottish Independence, as there was a referendum in September of 2014 where the Scottish people voted to decide if Scotland would remain part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country. She gave her opinion that she would love to see Scotland as an independent country and she also said she feels it could happen in her lifetime.

Nicola

She was then asked how the first ministers of Scotland felt about Brexit. For anyone who doesn’t know Brexit is, it was another referendum that took place in the United Kingdom asking the people to vote on whether they want to remain the European Union (EU). They voted to leave, but the logistics for how and when they will leave has yet to be decided. She expressed her opinion that she would like to see the parliaments of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have a say in the logistics of the departure from the EU. She also stated when asked if she thinks Brexit will lead to another referendum in Scotland, and she said that she is aware that the vote in Scotland was in favor of staying in the EU and doesn’t want the people of Scotland to be forced into something they don’t want, but she is also aware that more people may want to stay in the UK than in EU.

Before I came to Ireland I didn’t now what Brexit would affect, but through discussions in class, my visit to the dial and Nicola Sturgeon I have learned a lot. As the logistics are still being worked out, no one knows what it will affect. There are many factors that will need to be worked out between the EU and the UK, so everyone is waiting on the UK government to decide a few things. In Irish opinion, there are opportunities and fears surrounding Brexit. One huge opportunity for the economy is that business that needs headquarters in the EU and is currently headquartered the UK may move to Ireland to stay in the EU as it is the only other English speaking nation. A big fear is that, as immigration was a big issue in the discussion leading up to the referendum, Irish citizens might have a harder time getting visas and working in the UK, as before there was freedom of movement and they didn’t need a visa. There is also concern over if current EU citizens that are living in the UK will be expected to apply for visas to stay.

Mostly it’s a waiting game to see what Brexit will do, but Ireland will be just affected as the UK when it does happen. It’s a bit scary and anxious to think about as there is no way to really prepare. We will just have to wait and see what happens. I still don’t know enough about international relations and trade to predict how it will affect the US but I imagine there will be ripples that will reach us even across the pond.

Intro to Ireland – Travel suggestions

Want to know some travel tips to Dublin, Ireland and London, UK? Grainne Hutchinson, studying on the Student Exchange Program to Trinity College-Ireland, shares her favorite places in these cities!

Over the week of Thanksgiving, my brother came to visit me in Ireland as he could take time off and didn’t have to pay for accommodation. We then took two days and flew over to London, my favorite city in the world! Not that Dublin isn’t great but London has so much history and culture and a little bit of everything for everyone. So I thought I would dedicate this post to two things, the main things to do if you ever visit Dublin and all the great things there are to experience in London if you visit there as well. Even if you study someplace else in Europe, I would highly encourage you to visit these magnificent cities.

The first thing is a list of thing to do in Dublin and why. Defiantly look into the Guinness Storehouse Tour, it’s a bit touristy but very informative. Plus where you end your tour has a great areal view of Dublin that’s perfect for pictures. There is also the Viking Splash tour, which I highly recommend. It takes you through the city and gives you great insights into Dublin’s history and culture. But it’s not just any tour you’re in an old “duck,” a car that can also be a boat, and your tour guide is a Viking as are you (complete with a hat). If you’re ever walking through the streets of Dublin and a weird looking car full of people wearing Viking hat’s roar at you, you’ve encountered the Viking Splash tour. The last thing you have to see is, of course, Trinity College Dublin! It is one of the most beautiful campuses around and is home to the Book of Kells and the long room.

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Now on to London! There are so many great things to do in London, and it may depend on your time and what kind of things you like to do. Some of the greatest museums are in London; my favorite is the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The V&A is basically just a giant collection of things from jewelry to keys. The British Museum is better if you’re only in the city for a few days, it has the Rosetta Stone, parathion marbles, and an Easter Island statue among many other things. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the London Eye are all kinds of tourist but in my opinion not worth missing. The changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace can be missed, though; it’s also impossible to see with all the tourists and it takes about an hour. One last thing I would suggest is the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. It’s a tall ship that has been transformed into a museum, so you can go inside and all through the ship. It is on land now, but it is still impressive, though I love boats.

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There are a lot more great things to do in Dublin and London, but these are the ones you can do if you are pressed for time and things average tourists don’t think of.

Intro to Ireland – The Business Community and Gender

Grainne Hutchinson shares her observations as she attends Trinity College’s first ever women’s leadership conference while on the Student Exchange Program in Ireland. The event consisted of professionals from Microsoft, CPL Resources, UK Investment Bank, J.P. Morgan, and former McKinsey & Co Consultant.

This week I got the amazing opportunity to attended Trinity College Dublin’s first ever women’s leadership conference. The Stronger together, women in business conference featured many different women speakers as well as a Q&A panel with various women and men in leadership roles throughout business and government. The Keynote speaker was Brenda Trenowden, who is the global chair of the 30% club. The 30% club’s primary purpose is to help achieve the goal of women holding at least 30% of leadership positions throughout companies. She started by explaining as alumni of Trinity she saw her graduating law class of about 70% female, and when she moved on in her career to assisting with her law companies recruitment of graduates, she saw them take in around 70% as well. But then when you look at leadership level the number extremely drops off. She went on to explain that in her opinion there are many contributing factors as to why this happens and that by discussing this matter and the reasons, we can come to an answer on how to overcome them. I personally was shocked to hear that with 70% of graduates being women that only around 10 to 20% make it to the leadership level.

http://tba.ie/women-business-stronger-together-conference/
http://tba.ie/women-business-stronger-together-conference/

Following the Keynote speech was a panel discussion moderated by Dearbhail McDonald, the Group Business Editor for the Irish Independent (A Newspaper in Ireland). The panel consisted of Catharina Hallahan, Managing Director of Microsoft, Anne Heraty, CEO and Co-Founder, CPL Resources, Ina De, Co-Head of UK Investment Bank, J.P. Morgan, Stephan Donnelly, Independent TD and former McKinsey & Co Consultant. The panelists first answered questions put to them by the moderator and then took questions from the audience.

From this experience, I found that the gender division in the workplace is different in the UK and Ireland than in the US. For example, there is a stronger feeling here that women should be the primary carers of children, and a larger amount of women leave the workplace after having children. Ina De shared her story of when she was expecting her first child and had concerns over working after he was born. She explained that she felt that working would disadvantage her son, but in hindsight, she said she thinks he was more advantaged with her working. In her view, it gave him perception that a woman working were the normal thing to do. She also said that she feels more access to childcare will help women stay in the workforce after having children. I personally agree with her that there is a perception that woman should stay home after a baby’s born and it was interesting to learn that she thought her decision to go back to work actually helped her son more than if she had stayed home with him.

The conference was a great way to learn what challenges and differences there are in the Irish business world. In this case, the problems were very similar but that helped me to see a new view on old problems. I would highly encourage fellow students who exchange to participate in these events. They are an excellent way to get an open dialog about the business community and have any questions you have answered.

Intro to Ireland – Reading week

Have you ever hear of Reading Week? Grainne Hutchinson explains this system at Trinity College, as she studies on the Student Exchange Program in Ireland. Also sharing her tips and advice on how to take good use of the Reading Week.

One surprising difference between the Irish and the American University systems is the Reading week. Essentially every semester half way through there is a week where no classes take place. Students are encouraged to “re-read” through the class notes and readings but mainly the week is a chance to decompress from school. I know we have Thanksgiving break and fall break but there not quite the same as a reading week. I strongly prefer the reading week style of Semester but with Thanksgiving as late in the year as it is I can’t see the U.S. ever switching over. That being said, allow me to plead my case for reading week.

Ocean

So this is kind of implied, but it’s a full week, basically spring break in fall and spring! Two days for fall break and three for Thanksgiving are short and hard to fit relaxing things into like travel and family. In a way, its not enough time to shut your brain off school mode as lots of teachers still gives assignments over break. A week, though, as with Spring break, is plenty of time to travel home, with friends or just have time to do other activities. It also gives time to distress, and returns to school with the same motivated mindset may students lose half way through the semester. It is kind of a weird system we have if you think about it, why do we only get a week in the Spring? Are we not just as stressed in the Fall?

Another point in its favor is the fact that it splits the year up into four equal parts. I have noticed, in my classes at least, that teachers use them as mini-semesters and they sort of wrap up what you should know and what you will be learning next. The week gives students a time to make sure they don’t fall behind or can catch up if they did fall behind. If you feel you don’t understand something its hard to dedicate time to it if you still need to be learning something new every week. A stop in course work can give them that time for further study, to be better prepared for the next half of the class.

Norway

I used my reading week as a time to travel (Went to Norway!) and work on schoolwork (Finished an essay!). A lot of the students here balance their time throughout the reading week, unlike a lot of people in the US including me. I think with the breaks so evenly spaced the year doesn’t feel as confining as our system, so students don’t feel the pressure to relax. I know personally I always want to get away on Spring break, as there seems to be pressure to make it count and by the time is comes around its much needed. Those are just my thoughts on the systems differences, though, and I would highly encourage students who exchange to Trinity to review class work at least once as teachers expect you to have a better grasp on the knowledge after the break and be prepared to build off what you learned.

Studying Abroad: More Than Just a Resume Booster

Passing the halfway point of her time studying for a semester at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management on the Student Exchange Program, Colleen Sauer reflects on some of the career focused events at WHU and how she has expanded her connections as well as developed herself professionally.

These days, it seems that every company that recruits at Ohio State is looking for some sort of international experience.  Through the Fisher Student Exchange Program I have not only gained that point on my 14513694_1413319905349229_300643295_oresume, but have been inspired by both the company presence on-campus and the diverse group of business students.

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My favorite trip so far was to Prague, Czech Republic

Though before I go into my topic for today, I wanted to give a quick update on my travels and life here.  The latter part of the first quarter was extremely fun for me, partly due to the fact that I began to meet and spend time with the German students here at WHU.

For me this made a huge difference, as I now feel much more integrated here.  There have even been situations, from figuring out my mail to needing to call Deutsche Bahn (German train company) using German, where I was able to recruit some of my kind German friends to help me.  And besides some of my technical difficulties, I have also had some fun opportunities for cultural exchange through food.  A month ago I was able to share my love of Cincinnati Skyline Chili by making a batch for some friends (it was the consequence of losing a bet in kicker, aka Football, but definitely a fun one at that!), and later I was invited to make crepes with a few other students.

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The Paulaner tent at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

I have had so many more wonderful adventures since when I last posted!  I have been fortunate enough to experience Euromasters (a huge sporting event with business schools across Europe) here at WHU and travel to Prague, Munich for Oktoberfest, Amsterdam, and London with my fellow tauschies.  A few weeks ago, my parents came and visited me at WHU, and at the end of the week I met them in Bacharach to accompany them during the rest of their trip.  We have several friends here in Germany so we were able to visit them in Stuttgart, Dresden, and Berlin.  Along the way we also stopped by Rothenburg and Nürnberg.  The timing of my parents’ visit worked out perfectly, due to the fact that in their second week here I actually had a break in classes.

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Big Ben in London, England

Alright, now that you’re all caught up I can move to the main point of my entry for today. Thus far, you have heard a lot about the awesome friends and travels here in Germany.  But WHU is a highly esteemed business school as well, so I have also had some awesome class experiences and opportunities for professional development!

A unique aspect of WHU that I have been able to take part in here at WHU are company presentations.  Just about every week a different company comes and offers a presentation and networking dinner.  Many of these presentations are in German, but I was able to attend the Oliver Wyman (a consulting firm) company presentation which was in English.  During the networking dinner I had conversations with representatives from the company (many of them being graduates of WHU) and I enjoyed how casual and honest the conversations seemed.  Often times I find these sort of networking encounters to be quite scripted, but when it comes to events at WHU it’s not at all the case.

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During my parents’ visit we spent time with our friends the Schröders in Stuttgart, Germany

To be honest, consulting was not something I seriously considered before coming to WHU.  I didn’t completely understand what that profession even looked like.  But due to the fact that a large percentage of WHU students enter that sector after graduation, there is a huge consulting firm presence on campus and I have been able to learn so much more about the field.  Through talking to firms at both company presentations and the career fair I started to realize that it might be a great fit for me.  I enjoy fast-paced environments, finding solutions for others, networking, and am an extremely curious person when it comes to both people and industries.  I’m now quite excited about the idea, and it’s amazing to think that had I not gone abroad for a semester at WHU, I may not have explored this option.  It may be due to the fact that I’ve stepped back a bit from my normal life in the US allowing more space to think about what I actually want after graduation, or simply because there’s a huge push towards consulting here, but either way I’m very pleased about this! Even though I’m away from Ohio State, I still interviewed and was accepted to the Fisher Emerging Consultants class next semester, and am excited to continue exploring this option.

Beyond the university-sanctioned events, attending an exclusively business institution also has its benefits.  I thoroughly enjoy the fact that Ohio State has a plethora of majors available, with that comes such a diverse student population in terms of talents and perspectives.  But there’s also something to be said for WHU, where you can talk about business internships, aspirations, and issues with everyone you meet.  There’s certainly a unique drive and ambitious character to WHU students when it comes to business.  Never before had I been in a room with 4 other young college students, speculating over dinner about the future of the labor market as digitization improves.  To be around these students is truly inspiring! Additionally, the tauschie population is comprised of business students from top-notched schools around the globe, so there’s such a diverse set of backgrounds and business perspectives represented.  It’s safe to say that my network has become much larger and more international while abroad!

I’ve definitely been able to travel and have a ton of fun while abroad.  That’s to be expected, but my time here is becoming much more valuable than simply bragging rights due to places I’ve traveled and something to stick on my resume, hoping that companies will see that I have an “international perspective”. I’ve become a better leader, much more flexible, open-minded, yet confident in expressing my own opinions. I truly have learned so much so far, both personally and professionally!

Intro to Ireland – The Government

Join Grainne Hutchinson as she explores the political world of Ireland while on the Student Exchange Program. Hear what she has experienced visiting the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, and her observations on how networking is done in Ireland. She also shares some advice on how to get involved at Trinity!

Dia dhuit! (Hello!)

This week I got the exciting and rare experience to visit the Dáil Éireann! The Dáil Éireann is the lower house of the Irish parliament. The Houses of Oireachtas, the Irish Congress, has two houses the Dáil Éireann (House of Deputies) and the Seanad Éireann (Senate). The two houses function somewhat the same as their American counterparts. One huge difference, though, would be that instead of the Prime Minister of Ireland being directly elected as our president is, he is nominated by the Dáil Éireann and to stay in power must keep the majority support of the Dáil. That’s a big difference between the US and is made even clearer to me as this is an election year. It would be like if we voted in our state representatives and then they chose the president out of all the candidates the parties put forth.

Picture of the Dáil. Photo from the Independent. Phelan, Shane. "Dail Bars Forced to Chase 11 TDs and Senators over Their Unpaid Tabs." Independent.ie. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
Picture of the Dáil. Photo from the Independent. Phelan, Shane. “Dail Bars Forced to Chase 11 TDs and Senators over Their Unpaid Tabs.” Independent.ie. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Membership to the Dáil works a lot like membership to the House of Representatives in the US. The “Teachta Dála”, in English “deputies to the Dáil” usually just called TD’s, are elected in by their constituency. The constituencies are determined by population, and there must be a member the represents every 20,000 to 30,000 people. At the current moment there 158 members and 40 constituencies. 

I was invited as part of a Society I joined at Trinity, as it was a political society it’s going to remain anonymous. We were addressed by current TD’s and given a short speech on Brexit, as it will affect Ireland quite a bit as well. Then we were shown one of the two bars that are located inside the Dáil (because it’s Ireland) and a had a drink while we mingled with other students and current TD’s. Networking in Ireland is about the same as in the US. In this case, there were about three TD and 30+ students but every TD tried to say hello to each of the students there while I find in the states they usually let the students come to them.

I would strongly recommend students going abroad to join societies and make the most out of them! They can help you make friends as well as give you once in a lifetime opportunity. Definitely join the ones you have an interest, but consider some country specific groups as well. For a trinity example, there are always sports clubs to join but do consider clubs like The Hist or the College Historical Society. The Hist which I joined is mainly a debating society that everyone is welcome to, whether you debate or not. They are one of the oldest societies and host famous guests from time to time. This experience might be the only time in your life you can experience the culture like a local so join clubs that focus on local things like hiking or food. Or if you’re still feeling adventurous after agreeing to live in a foreign country for 4 months join a sports club you never could back home, in Trinity’s case Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) clubs like Gaelic football and Hurling. I would also suggest looking at the international student club! At Trinity, the club arranges travel weekends all around Ireland and connects you to full-time students from your home country that you can go to for advice or questions. Thats all for this time!

Sláinte! (Cheers!)

Intro to Ireland – Experience the Culture

As Grace Hutchinson continues her studies at Trinity College Dublin on the Student Exchange Program, she explores more of the culture and Island of Ireland. Hear about the Dublin Zoo to the Blarney Stone to the Ladies Gaelic Football All Ireland game, as well as her observations on Irish education.

Dia dhuit! (Hello) My first few weeks at Trinity have been great, though it is only the third week of class, so the course work is still on the small side. The rain has reduced to once a week, which makes it feel more like spring than fall. All the students have returned to campus, and the library is always packed with people as the course work over here is very dependent on readings. That’s not the only difference, as the courses here are also almost all graded on one essay or test at the end of the year, which makes me slightly terrified. As I am only here for one semester I won’t be here for the end of year exams, so my teachers come up with separate assignments, usually essays, to be graded on at the end of the semester. The Irish students I have talked to have advised me to keep the readings and familiarize myself with the Library for the essays.

School here is pretty similar in other aspects. For example, though Trinity is smaller than OSU there are still recitations or tutorials as there called here were TA’s or assistant professors give deeper insights and allows student discussion. I expected fewer people classes, especially coming from OSU, but it’s great that there are still non-lecture environments where you get to voice your questions. My advice to students coming to Trinity for exchange would be to pick classes you have a genuine interest in. As one assignment will determine your grade, and it usually involves a lot of outside research as well as applying what you learned in lecture, it can be frustrating and easy to procrastinate if you’re not interested in the subject.

On the less academic side of things, I took a trip to the Dublin Zoo! It was neat to see, but for someone who has grown up in Columbus with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and even volunteered there, it was a bit smaller than what I am used too. They did have a lot of different animals I never thought I would see on the small island of Ireland, including seven giraffes. Dublin is a City with limited space, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the smaller amount of space the animals had in their enclosures. It also made me realize and appreciate how great the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is!

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Taken at the Dublin Zoo by the entrance to remind people where they are incase they forgot.

I also took a trip down to Cork (a city on the west coast of Ireland) and of course Blarney Castle where, for those who don’t know, is the home of the Blarney Stone. After climbing a very scary tight spiral staircase my friends and I admired the view of the many gardens, and after some peer pressure, I decided that if I climbed all those steps with a cold, I might as well kiss the Blarney Stone. By doing this, it is said that you will receive the gift of better speech. It’s not a graceful process to do this. You have to lay down on your back and stretch out over a hole that you can see the ground through and kiss the stone. I don’t feel the effects of the stone now, but I will keep you guys updated. I do know that who ever kissed it after me might, unfortunately, receive the gift of my cold.

I also got the great experience of attending the Ladies Gaelic Football All Ireland (Finals). It took place in Croke Park where they host all All Ireland for all Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA ) sports (i.e. Gaelic Football, Hurling). The game of Gaelic Football is a weird mixture of Soccer, Rugby a bit of basketball and American Football. The All Ireland was between Dublin and Cork, as every county in Ireland has a team who play a sort of bracket to make to the All Ireland. Being in Dublin, there was a great turnout for them, but surprisingly there were just as many people who were there supporting Cork, who won out in the end. The President of Ireland, Micheal Higgens, even attended the match and shook each player’s hand before the match.

The Ladies All Ireland in Croke Park.

That’s all I have done so far, but don’t worry there are more adventures to come! I am also starting to get a bit homesick, missing my kittens. I’m looking forward to my classes and other travel excursions, hopefully, during the reading week when we don’t have classes! See you all real soon and love from Ireland! Sláinte! (cheers)

 

Alsatian Adventures

A month has passed in Strasbourg, France, as Troy Weider has been lucky enough to explore the beautiful French region of Alsace, Germany, and Switzerland. Along the way he has met tons of new friends from all over the world and settled in to his life at the Ecole de Management Strasbourg.

Wow time really flies by! It feels like just yesterday that I boarded the plane in Chicago to start my adventure of a lifetime on the Student Exchange Program. I’m actually starting this post after being in Europe for exactly one month, and so far I have been lucky enough to take a few trips outside of the Strasbourg area.

After just a few days in the city, I got a group of friends together to go to Europa Park in Rust, Germany, which was only about 40 minutes away by bus. Europa Park is the 2nd largest theme park on the continent, and each area in the park is themed after a different European country. The park was beautiful and it contained some of Europe’s largest roller coasters, so my trip there was definitely a highlight. Amusement parks are not as common in Europe  as in the United States, and I was telling all my new friends in the group about parks that I go to back home: Cedar Point and Kings Island. My European friends were so surprised to hear about how many huge roller coasters that there are in Ohio, and Cedar Point was generally something I mentioned when describing my state in general. Even though I’m used to amusement parks, my day at Europa Park was one of the best of the trip. I got to spend time with a great group of people that I had just met three days ago, and thrill rides have a great way of bringing people from all backgrounds together. On top of that, Europa Park is really fun and we were lucky enough to go on a day when the weather was beautiful and there were hardly any lines for the attractions. The highlights of the day for me were definitely the two biggest rides at the park, Silver Star (reminiscent of Diamondback at Kings Island) and Blue Fire (a unique launched coaster that was Iceland themed), as well as the beautiful theming and landscaping of the park, which differentiated it from amusement parks back home. So overall, this was the first of many fun day trips.

The next weekend I was asked to go on a trip to Switzerland by two friends who had been on the Europa Park trip. There were nine of us in a van that we drove throughout the country, and we basically did the Grand Tour of Switzerland in three days. Along the way we visited the 5 largest Swiss cities (Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne), the beautiful lakeside town of Lucerne, Switzerland’s iconic Chateau de Chillon, and the breath-taking Berner Oberland region. While I knew that Switzerland was going to be beautiful, the country really exceeded my expectations. Switzerland is packed with beautiful scenery, and it is very different from the other places that I’ve visited so far. All of the Swiss towns and cities that we saw were pretty similar, they were quaint and very clean, they were situated on a lake or river and generally both, they were surrounded by mountains, and they had pretty old town centers. As nice as these cities were, most of them were fine to see for just a couple hours because there were not all that many sights. My favorite part though about Switzerland was all the landscapes that we were surrounded by. We saw dozens of lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and villages, and everything really was overwhelmingly beautiful, but a couple of the places really stood out. My favorite town that we passed through was definitely Lucerne, and although we only really had 30 minutes in the city, it was enough to make me want to come back. Lucerne was the quintessential Swiss city, situated on a lake at the mouth of a river, surrounded by the Alps, and the city had the prettiest old town with a fancy old wooden bridge that spanned the river. The most beautiful scenery though, was in the Bernese Oberland, which is in the center of the country and surrounds the town of Interlaken. We stayed in the perfect Swiss village of Iseltwald, and our hostel gave us the most incredible view, and we even got to try the local fondue the next day. Everywhere we went in the Bernese Oberland was beautiful, so much so that in fact we decided to chose the word “époustouflant” (‘breathtaking’ in French) as our “word of the day”. In all we spent three days discovering Switzerland, and it was an awesome way to spend the weekend.

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Our Switzerland group at the Lake Lodge Hostel in Iseltwald

This last weekend I had the opportunity to go on two more short trips, and this time I went to Stuttgart and Freiburg in Germany. Like I said before, Strasbourg is right on the German border, and I only need 10 minutes on the tram and bus to get to Kehl, Germany. Most locals in Strasbourg go to Kehl to buy there groceries, so I’ve actually been to Germany four times this week between the shopping and the day trips.

Last Saturday I went with a group of friends to the big Oktoberfest celebration in Stuttgart. While it isn’t the original festival that is in Munich, it is the second biggest celebration of its kind in the world, and its much cheaper and closer than Munich. A word of advice, when traveling in Germany, you can buy a group pass for each region of the country which gives you 24 hours of unlimited train travel for a low price. For example, since I live right on the border of the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg (which Stuttgart is the capital of), our group bought a 5-person group ticket for 38 euros total, so we could take a bus across the border and then take unlimited train trips while paying only 7.50. Other ways to save money while traveling are by looking into budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet), taking bus services (Flixbus!, a German company that serves most of surrounding areas) or looking into discount passes for the train companies. I saw on the French website for SNCF (the national railroad company) that they were having a deal on their Carte Jeune, a discount card that saves around 30% per train, where they were only 25 euros instead of 30, and within two trips I already recovered the 25 that I spent. Surprisingly, though, this deal was not displayed on the English language site, which is a very French thing to do, so look out for better deals on the French language site.

Getting back to my trip, I can say that Oktoberfest was even more fun than I expected it to be, and it felt like a huge state fair on steroids. There were several massive festival tents filled with people who were all dressed up in local costumes to dance, sing, eat and drink together. Every tent had a band that played music for the festival, including a few traditional drinking songs that they repeated every 15-20 minutes. Besides this, there were roller coasters, bumper cars and huge rides everywhere, so I had a really fun day in Stuttgart. After returning back to Strasbourg that night, I came back to Germany the next day with a different group to visit Freiburg, the main city in the Black Forest. The famous Black Forest is a large area of mountains and dark, thick forests that line the German border with France, and the area is filled with interesting old towns. Freiburg is a historic university town, that is reputed to have the best weather in all of Germany. We spent the day exploring the towns famous cathedral, old town center, and hiking the hills that overlooked the city. As expected, I had an awesome day with everyone in Freiburg, and it was great to be able to explore another interesting city.

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The guys atop Schlossberg hill overlooking Freiburg and the Black Forest

The biggest highlight so far though, was all the amazing people that I’ve been able to meet at my host university. When I arrived in Strasbourg, I was the only student here from Fisher and I did not know anyone in the whole country. Luckily though, within my first few hours of being here I got to make new friends from all over the world. I have always loved studying about Europe and all its different cultures and peoples, but it was cool to finally have the opportunity to be exposed to this interesting part of the world. I have met French people, Danes, Czechs, Slovaks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Colombians, Brazilians, and many other nationalities that I would have never had as much contact with in the United States. Everyone here has been so open to meeting new people, and it really feels like freshman year all over again, except that everything is in French and there’s better food. I love being able to meet people from all over the world and everyone who I’ve met here has had different life experiences from myself, but what has stood out, is how much we all have in common. That is why it is so important when you travel abroad to get out of your comfort zone. Everyone here is so eager to meet new people and all you have to do is introduce yourself and embrace the challenge of meeting new people.

These new, exciting experiences are what I live for, and I am so fortunate that my first few weeks in Europe have been this enjoyable. Whether its ordering lunch in a local restaurant, sipping coffee on the café terrace, buying a French phone plan, meeting people from other countries, or even mountain biking in the Vosges mountains with a guide that speaks only French, these are all memorable experiences that studying abroad has afforded me. I hope to update you all soon on my further adventures, and until then I’ll keep travelling and learning in this beautiful corner of the world. Thanks for reading.

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Representing Germany, France, and the United States in Isenfluh, SUI

Welcome to Strasbourg

After three weeks at Ecole de Management Strasbourg on the Student Exchange Program, Troy Weider talks about his journey to this new university and his first experiences in Strasbourg, France. A UNESCO World Heritage site, a home of the EU Parliament, a historically unique city, in the heart of Western Europe. 

Since a very young age, studying abroad in France has always been a dream of mine. I began taking French language courses over seven years ago, and was I fortunate enough to travel to this beautiful country twice previously. Upon beginning my studies at Ohio State two years ago, I knew I wanted to combine my interests and I therefore chose to double major in Finance and French. Fortunately, I had the opportunity through the Fisher College of Business to spend this semester studying at EM Strasbourg Business School on the Student Exchange Program. After only a few weeks here, I’m already getting assimilated to the French culture and loving every minute of my journey.

I started my European adventure on August 24th when I departed from Chicago O’Hare Airport for Reykjavik, Iceland. I did not need to be in Strasbourg until the 30th of the month, so I decided to use the time beforehand to explore two very different travel destinations, Reykjavik and Paris. Iceland was a country that had always fascinated me due to its Viking roots and rugged, beautiful landscapes, and since it was a natural stopover point to Europe, I spent three full days there. My time there was absolutely incredible, and I got to explore the country’s famous waterfalls, mountains, and geysers, while staying in its quaint capital city. Iceland  was the most unique place that I have ever visited before. The country is home to only 330,000 inhabitants, whose Viking ancestors settled here over a thousand years ago on an uninhabited and inhospitable volcanic island. These resourceful locals made the most of what little this barren land had to offer, and Icelanders are thus a result of their environment. The temperature never left the 50’s, but the weather actually felt great here because the Icelandic air is so clean and the sun was generally shining during their long summer days. I got to learn a ton of interesting things about Icelandic history and culture, because I bought the Reykjavik City Card (which you should buy if you ever visit) and it gave me free access to all the museums, pools, and public transportation. Iceland is a very old country, but for most of its history the country had been one of Europe’s poorest, but during the 20th century Iceland emerged to become one of the world’s most progressive and prosperous. After winning independence from Denmark during the Second World War, the country became strategic for the Allied powers due to its location and the United States built a massive base there. Money from the Marshall Plan and major technological advancement allowed the economy to emerge from that of subsistence, and they became a world leader in fishing, services, banking and tourism. In 1980, Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the world’s first female president after winning the Icelandic elections, and then even more recently Johanna Sigurdardottir became the first openly lesbian head of state in the world. So basically for such a tiny country, Iceland has a very interesting history and I would recommend it to all of you to put on your bucket lists.

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View of Tjörnin Pond and the City Hall in Central Reykjavik
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Icelandic Horses roaming through the countryside
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View from Reykjavik Harbor of Videy Island and Mt. Esja
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Gullfoss Waterfall: my favorite sight in Iceland

Then before reaching Strasbourg, I had a whirlwind 24-hour layover in Paris, where I took in as much Parisian culture, history, and food as possible. This was my third time in Paris, but it was the first time that I was there all by myself. I had an ideal day in the city, and I got to experience a city that is very different from my other destinations. Paris is one the world’s greatest cities, and is completely packed with famous monuments,  which means this city is insanely beautiful but also very hectic. Therefore I avoided the usual must-sees like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and the Sacre-Coeur, and instead focused on historic neighborhoods and great restaurants.  After several crazy days of traveling, I finally reached Strasbourg in the evening of August 29th, and that’s when my immersive experience truly began.

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The obligatory selfie with Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
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Beautiful Sunset in a Beautiful City, Paris

Strasbourg is a city with a very unique history, which is due to its strategic location on the border with Germany. Over the last several centuries, countless wars have been fought between these two European powers, and the winner always won the region of Alsace and its capital of Strasbourg. As a result the city is a Franco-German cultural and architectural mix. In Alsace, many locals have German last names; beer and sauerkraut appear on most menus; and street signs also are written in the local Alsatian language, a variant of German. Actually, Strasbourg’s library from which I’m writing this blog post, was built by the Germans in the 1880’s in an area of Strasbourg that looks more like Berlin than Paris. Strasbourg’s central location between the European Union’s most powerful nations, helped secure it as the home of the EU Parliament, and some of Europe’s most important decisions are made in this city. This status as a regional powerhouse attracts a lot of visitors to the city, including the Dalai Lama, who is in town for the week.

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View onto the Ponts Couverts, Petite-France, and Strasbourg Cathedral
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Myself atop my favorite building in the world, Strasbourg Cathedral

Despite having a unique history all its own, Strasbourg today is firmly French, and the city feels a long way culturally from Columbus, Ohio. Strasbourg is filled with smoke filled cafés and restaurant, where locals enjoy their long lunches and vacations. Working hours here are quite different, and during the month of August many businesses shut down. Strikes are common here as well, and today for example the city’s tram workers went on strike, so a lot of the lines got closed down. Also some places close down on Sundays, Mondays, evenings, and during lunch breaks, so I had to adjust to this new pace. Another major difference was that it is pretty uncommon to find public restrooms and especially drinking fountains anywhere, so foreigners expecting this might be very surprised. A final obvious difference that I noticed was that most of the buildings here are not air-conditioned, so going to class in 86-degree weather was a rude awakening.

While these were all things that were very foreign to me, adaptability is a very important part of living abroad. To anyone else going to France, you just have to understand that things are different in another part of the world, and the French do numerous things that are different from the United States. You must remember though that you’re not the only one who is adjusting, and many other exchange students are dealing with the same things. Even if it seems foreign to you, try to adapt to the local way, rather than focusing on the difference. And contrary to popular belief, I’ve found the French to be really open and friendly, so the locals are usually willing to help if you’re having trouble understanding something. Another thing to be aware of though, is that a lot of French people do not speak as much English as they do in most other parts of Western Europe, and the locals have a lot of pride in the French language. Luckily, I’ve been studying French since junior high school, so I prefer just speaking to local people in the French language. Even if you don’t speak any French, I strongly recommend learning at least a few basic expressions before coming to the country. It’s considered pretty rude here to just come into a shop or restaurant and immediately start in English without at least a “Bonjour Monsieur/Madame” (Hello Sir/Ma’am) or “parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English). If they don’t speak any English, which is common especially outside Paris, try your best to speak slowly and use the expressions “je voudrais” (I would like…), “s’il vous plaît” (please), “merci” (thanks), and “bonne journée/au revoir” (Have a great day/Goodbye) when applicable. Being polite and respectful is very important in France, and understanding social norms here can really help you adapt to the local culture.

While I do miss my friends, family and home university, I am so happy to be able to study abroad in Strasbourg, France. This city is absolutely incredible, and sometimes it is hard to believe that I am actually living in another country. As I look out my dorm bedroom window every morning I have an incredible view of Strasbourg’s Notre-Dame Cathedral, which serves as a good reminder if I ever forget where I am. This cathedral was the tallest building in the world between 1647 and 1874, and it truly is the most awe-inspiring building that I have ever seen. The Cathedral has a unique color, a pain-staking amount of detail, and an iconic tower that can be seen from all across the region. The most historic part of the city, including the cathedral, is situated on a large island formed by the Ill River, and this is the area where I try to spend the most of my time. This is definitely the most beautiful part of the city, and although I live about a 12-15 minute walk from the center, the public transportation here is quite good and I can get anywhere by tram or bus. In about the same amount of time as it takes to get downtown, I could also cross the Rhine River and go to Germany, which is pretty crazy to comprehend. The advantages of this central location are enormous, and as a result many other international students are also drawn to study in this city. Luckily, since arriving in Strasbourg, I have made so many amazing friends and had the opportunity to travel all around the surrounding regions. I could talk endlessly about all these incredible experiences, so I will save them for my next blog. I am hoping to write another post very soon, and until then I’ll keep traveling and learning in this beautiful corner of the world. Thanks for reading.

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View from my friend’s apartment, which I’m very jealous of…
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View from my room, still a great view of Strasbourg Cathedral

About the Author: Troy Weider, Junior, Finance and French