Networking at Rikkyo and Job Hunting

Through one of his classes at Rikkyo University, Cayhil Grubbs had the opportunity to visit Adidas Japan! Hear about his experience interacting with business people in Japan on the Student Exchange Program.

My interactions with Japanese business professionals were fairly limited in number, but significant, especially in a class I took called Business Project. In this class, Adidas Japan came in and presented us with a marketing related problem that they are currently facing. We were tasked with finding the best way to measure Net Promoter Score (NPS), and where we could measure it best. We formed groups to solve this problem, and in mid-October and early December we went to Adidas Japan’s headquarters to present our research and solutions.

During my two visits to Adidas Japan’s HQ, I had several opportunities to network with current employees and Rikkyo alumni at Adidas. The employees were more than willing to talk about what it’s like to work in Japan and their experiences with Adidas Japan. I also met several senior executives and mid-level managers that were happy to talk about their career paths, and what they liked or disliked about working in Japan.

I learned a lot about searching for jobs from Japanese students. Looking for a job at a Japanese company in Japan is very different from the United States. Internships differ between the two countries as they usually last one or two days in Japan versus two or three months in the United States. These one day internships are unpaid. Students do most of their network through these internships and career fairs. In Japan, looking for a job once you graduate is called “Job Hunting” as they typically take time off of school to schedule a lot of interviews, do as many one day internships as possible, and go to a lot of career fairs. Japanese workers rarely change companies. As far as networking goes, reach out to your professors and counselors to find out about career fairs and potential job opportunities. Several of the professors at Rikkyo teach part-time and work at various firms. Most networking techniques that work in the U.S. also work in Japan, so put them to use and be persistent.

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!

Packing List for a Student Exchange in Thailand

In one of my other posts (Budgeting for Student Exchange in Thailand) I mentioned that a previous student sent me a comprehensive document of everything that she spent in Thailand. The document also included a partial packing list that she found important. When I was packing I did lots of research and read lots of travel blogs about what would be important to bring and I think I’ve finally got it down. Here is my packing list for Thailand. Hope you like it!

<What to Bring>



  • Toothbrush – I use a bamboo toothbrush so I brought them (3)
  • Mini Disposable Toothbrush – perfect for the 30 hour flight over


  • Mini Contact Solution Bottle (2 oz) – good for traveling (buy “dropper bottle” at the Container Store or Amazon)
  • Contact Solution Bottle (1 8oz)
  • Glasses  + Glasses Case
  • Contacts (6 months worth)
  • Contact Cases (6 pack)

Body Care

  • SPF Moisturizer -Thailand only has bleaching stuff and you need the SPF here
  • Lotion – again, Thailand really only has bleaching stuff
  • Tweezers
  • Travel Mirror
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume (if you want, but it’s hot here and everyone is smelly so I didn’t use it)

Shower Stuff

  • Towels (2) – Quick Dry/Microfiber (look on Amazon, these are amazing for travel and they dry so quickly and take up almost no space)
  • Face towel/s
  • Body Scrub/Face Wash
  • Razor
  • Shower Shoes – $1 flip flops from Old Navy are great


  • Ponytail Holders
  • Headbands/Bandanas – good for pushing your hair off your face when it’s absurdly hot
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair product – if you use it regularly bring it. It may not seem important but the heat does things to your hair.


  • Makeup + Makeup Bag – pack no more than one small makeup bag. You will think you’ll wear it but you will not it. It is 105 degrees here every day and it will get sweated off.

Feminine Products

  • Tampons – women in southeast Asia don’t use them. You won’t find them anywhere.
  • Wet Wipes – necessary anytime you’re traveling. Not a lot of toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer – many times bathrooms don’t have soap



  • Digital Camera
  • Charger
  • Extra Batteries
  • Extra SD Cards
  • GoPro
  • Disposable Camera – I brought one and I cannot wait to see my prints. I had a friend who took 6 with her to India and said that the prints were some of the best ones she’d seen. Plus you can’t stress over the perfect picture if you only get one chance.


  • External Phone Charger: when you have a 13 hour overnight bus at the end of a day of sightseeing, your phone tends to die easily. Even on airplane mode, battery goes quick. It’s worth it to invest in one, especially if your adapters stop working
  • Phone Chargers (2 or 3)
  • Mini Speaker/Speakers: good for when you’re hanging out with your friends, on the beach, etc
  • Waterproof iPhone Bags: good if you want to take your phone in the water/kayaking/etc. Be careful.
  • Headphones: get noise cancelling ones, and you won’t regret it. People in hostels/buses/anywhere public can be incredibly loud.
  • Earbuds
  • Lifeproof/Sturdy Case: Asia is dirty and dusty and wet! If you drop your phone or get caught in rainy season, you’re going to want something sturdy to keep it alive. I bought a case in Myanmar for $3 and it’s pretty amazing, but it’d be better if I had one before I left and didn’t almost shatter my phone.


  • Mini flashlight: good for the streets, hostels, etc.
  • Waterproof Watch: rainy season is no joke in Asia
  • Waterproof/Dry Bag – good for kayaking/water sports. You can find them on Amazon for under $20. These are the best for excursions. You can find these in all the markets in Asia, but they’re overpriced and usually don’t keep your things dry. Don’t take the risk.
  • Universal Converters/Adapters

Medication/First Aid

  • Sunscreen: bring 1 or 2 big bottles, depending on how much you need.
  • Bug Spray: bring a small bottle (for travel) and then a big one. The mosquitoes aren’t bad in Bangkok, but they’ll eat you alive everywhere else.
  • 5 months worth of Medication
  • First Aid: Neosporin, Bandaids, Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hydrocortisone/Itching Cream
  • Aloe Vera
  • Medications: Allergy Pills, Ibuprofen, Migraine Medication, Sleeping Pills, Anti-Diarrhea, Tums, Cold/Flu Medication (check that all medication you are planning to take are not illegal in your country!)



  • Lightweight Travel Blanket – good for flights
  • Neck Pillow with Strap
  • Cards
  • Febreeze Fabric Refresher
  • Mini Padlocks (4 or 5)  – absolute a must for traveling in hostels. Lock your things up. Many times I didn’t get a lock included in the room price and needed these.
  • Travel Journal – you won’t want to forget a moment here.
  • 10 copies of Passport & Visa (handle copies with care)
  • 5 copies of License, Student ID, Credit Card, Debit Card (handle copies with care)
  • Lonely Planet Language Book
  • Water Bottle
  • Electrolyte Pills – a lifesaver in these heat
  • American Snacks – you may be running out of space, but you’ll want some of these. My mom spent $80 shipping me Mac & Cheese to Thailand, and it was so worth it. Between all the pad thai, you’ll start to miss American food.


I packed 2 backpacks and 1 suitcase. My flight allows me to bring 2 checked bags home, so I’m buying a suitcase here for my souvenirs and bringing it home with me. If you can do the same, I’d advise it.

  • Large distinct suitcase
  • Backpacking backpack – 50L is perfect for Asia. Just make sure it’s not unreasonably large, otherwise Asian airlines will force you to pay for it to be checked when you travel. Go on AirAsia, Thai Lion, etc and see their carry-on allowances. They’ll post the dimensions and the weight, and I’ll be honest, they are not kidding around.
  • Collapsible duffel bag
  • Collapsible backpack
  • Money Belt/Fanny Pack – absolute necessary. Saves space, is safe, etc. Everyone uses fanny packs in Asia.
  • Passport Holder
  • Luggage IDs for your bags
  • Small purse/Crossbody

And now…onto Clothing!



The motto for shoes is, if you don’t mind them getting ruined bring them to Thailand. I lived in my Tevas and Skechers.

  • Nice Sandals – 2 pairs
  • Chacos/Tevas – I wore these almost every day
  • Skechers – I had a pair of slip ons that I wore every day to school and whenever I needed a gross pair of shoes (walking around cities)
  • Merrells/Keens/hiking shoes – if you want to trek
  • Tennis shoes – good for hiking, working out


  • Maxi Skirt – temples require you to cover your knees
  • Casual Shorts (4)
  • Leggings (3)
  • Harem Pants (2) – you can buy them anywhere here


  • Sundresses (3) – bring ones that don’t show sweat
  • Classy Dresses (2) – for going out


  • Rain Jacket
  • Umbrella
  • Scarf/Shawl/Sarong
  • Cardigan (1)


  • Underwear (10 pairs)
  • Bras (8)
  • Socks (8 pairs)
  • Pajamas (2 or 3 sets)

Business Clothes 

  • Blazer – I needed this when I did Skype interviews
  • White Tank Top


  • V-neck loose shirts (3)
  • Tank tops (4)


  • Sunglasses (2 or 3)
  • Baseball Hat
  • Sun Hat
  • Foot Inserts
  • Swimsuits (2 or 3)
  • Swim Coverup – Asia can be a bit conservative at the beach.



  • Conditioner/Shampoo: you can buy this anywhere here. Unless you use a specific kind, don’t bring it.
  • Lots of makeup: like I said earlier, it is really hot here. You really won’t need much because it won’t stay on.
  • Toothpaste: buy it here
  • Heels: sidewalks in SE Asia are known for being broken, cracked, etc. Everyone here wears flats.
  • Jeans: it was very cold in Vietnam, but I bought things there. It was way too hot in Bangkok to ever wear jeans.
  • Cold Clothing: not worth it. Pack light.
  • Notebooks/School Supplies: buy them at Thammasat’s Book store or any 7/11
  • Expensive Jewelry: pickpocketing is rampant in Thailand.

I know this list is long so I hope it doesn’t freak you out but everything on here is important and has been useful since I’ve been in Thailand. One of the most important things for me was making sure to by 3oz travel containers and various different sizes for other things I used before I left for all the toiletries I’d need. I brought extra ones and always found use for them. I got them from Amazon and the Container Store and they’ve been my best friends when I backpack.

As always, do your research before you go. I hope you enjoyed my list!


Here is me all packed up at the end of my trip 🙁

Visiting Team: Differences Between Madrid and the States

Read the observation Danny Rodgers shares as he spends his semester at Universidad Pontificia Comillas on the Student Exchange Program! He touches on the difference in the classroom, sports, to the daily life in Spain.

One of the coolest parts about living abroad is seeing how daily life works in another country. Some differences are minimal, whereas others are quite drastic. Over the past couple of months here in Madrid, I have diligently taken note of key differences and put together this blog featuring some of the more interesting differences between life back home and here in Madrid. With that, let’s dive in!

Daily Routine

Although three days of my school week beginning at 8:00 am, the typical Spanish day starts later than in the US. This became apparent to me rather quickly as I was the only one in the neighborhood awake, walking in darkness to class at 7:30 in the morning; traffic doesn’t really pick up until about 9:00 in the morning when Madrid is commuting to work. Another major difference in regards to the mornings is what is served for breakfast. Here, breakfast consists of strong coffee and maybe a small pastry, usually served and eaten quickly at one of Madrid’s plentiful coffee bars. Given the later start to the day, the rest of the day’s meals also occur at different times. The lunch hour starts around 2:00pm and is the heaviest meal of the day. Many shops and businesses shut down during lunch and people head home to eat with family. The result is a sort of 2-part work day that ends later than the typical US workday. For example, the relocation service I used when searching for accommodation followed office hours of 10:00am-2:00pm and 3:00pm to 7:00pm. Wrapping up the day around 9:00 pm is dinner, a lighter meal in comparison to lunch. At a full 3-4 hours later than the typical US dinner hour, this late meal is arguably one of the biggest adjustments to make when living in Spain.

In regards to studying in Madrid, Ohio State and my university here could not be more different. Here at Comillas, all my classes are under the same roof. The classes are about 20 – 40 students in size and I have multiple classes with the same classmates. Compare this to Ohio State where a brisk 20 minute walk across campus in between classes is not uncommon and a first year economics lecture brings out a crowd that can rival a small concert venue. Here at Comillas, the structure of the classes differs significantly as well. For example, a typical final exam at Ohio State usually accounts for about 20 percent of the final grade whereas here, my final exams currently looming on the horizon are worth a humble 50 percent of my final grade. As is with most aspects of studying abroad, adjusting to a different way of doing things is the norm. Add on a positive outlook and even the most daunting of tasks seem doable.

The Big Game

I am a huge sports fan, so a goal of mine going into the semester was to attend a match at Santiago Bernabéu, home of one of Spain’s top football clubs, Real Madrid. After a stressful morning of ticket shopping, I managed to snag a single ticket to a Champion’s League match between Real Madrid and Tottenham, an English football club. Champions league matches feature two high level international clubs, so I knew I was in for a good game. It felt great to be back in a packed stadium for a prime time game as I didn’t have the usual Buckeye game days throughout the semester.

The differences between Madrid’s marquee sporting event and a comparable event in the US were very interesting. For instance, the entire match was played in under 2 hours. The trade off to a shorter event, however, is that those 2 hours were filled with constant action. Compare this to a typical Sunday NFL game with all its commercial breaks and stoppage of play and you can see why some non-Americans find American football rather boring. Another interesting aspect of the Real Madrid match was how the moment halftime hit, everyone pulled out their pre-packed sandwiches from home to enjoy during the break. Quite the nice alternative to the typical $13.00 hotdog and soda found in US stadiums. Finally, and probably the most impressive difference, would have to be how the fans engaged in the game. From pregame to the final whistle, fans on both sides chanted and sang the entirety of the match. Their dedication to cheering was incredibly impressive and created a high energy atmosphere the whole game. Coming into the match knowing next to nothing about European football (very American of me, I know), the skill of the players, passion of the fans and the overall experience gave me a new appreciation for the sport.

City Life

When considering where I would spend a semester abroad, I only had two requirements. I had studied Spanish for 8 years and am currently working towards a Spanish minor, so studying in a Spanish speaking country was a must. Secondly, I grew up in Naperville, Illinois, so Chicago was always a quick train ride away. Heading to Chicago year after year, I developed a love for exploring cities. With these two desires, Madrid, Spain seemed like the perfect choice. Now several months into the semester, I can say Madrid is exactly where I am supposed to be. Trading towering skyscrapers and our beloved cars for royal palaces and public transportation, the experience of living in a European metropolis has been an incredible experience.

As a capital city with over 3 million people, Madrid is an exciting place to live. Here, one can find everything from maze-like neighborhoods hailing from the 17th century to streets like Gran Vía, bustling with activity 24 hours a day. Madrid is also a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and impressive lineup of restaurants, night life, and shops. Outside of main thoroughfares, chain restaurants and businesses are not very common. This allows local businesses to take center stage, each providing a completely unique experience to the next. I’ve often wondered how so many of these little shops can stay in business, and I think it speaks volumes to the benefits of high density, walkable neighborhoods. This is a far cry from the car-centric towns we have in the US—outside of a select few urban areas. Only having to walk 5 minutes or less for fresh baked bread, a grocery store or coffee shop will be something I miss dearly.

Madrid has also provided the perfect setting for practicing Spanish. In these aforementioned coffee bars and little restaurants, English is hardly common. It is with this real world practice that I now feel more confident than ever in my language abilities. I can only image how proud my high school Spanish teachers would be, knowing I can successfully fight my way to the counter of a packed tapas bar and order without issues; this is why I studied Spanish. But in all seriousness, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in a city where I must speak Spanish daily. I strongly suggest to anyone studying a language to pursue an exchange in a country that speaks the language you are studying. It is far and away the best way to develop confidence in using the language, which is something that cannot be easily gained in a class that only meets twice a week. While it was certainly a challenge learning the ins and outs of new city, Madrid has become a place I’ve grown to love.

Although my semester abroad is coming to a close, there are still more stories to tell! Check back next time to hear about a global business experience I had here in Madrid. Later on, look out for my advice for outgoing study abroad students as the next semester rolls around.

As always thanks for reading!

Last Reflection of Chile

Phil Koch debriefs his experience with time in Chile and S. America and how it compares with the U.S. at the conclusion of Autumn 17.

Without a doubt, South America is a vastly different region when compared with the United States and North America. Although each are part of the Americas, they each go about life in a very distinct way. South America tends to be much more laid back and almost fatalistic as a whole while the U.S. is undeniably focused on forward economic progress. As an American, I found it extremely interesting and a true privilege to experience a culture whose outlook on life is fatalistic (Chile) as US culture is based upon the idea that you directly control your life and what happens, the exact opposite of fatalistic cultures.

I would venture to guess almost everyone has had some experience with “Latin American Time”. Whether that be directly through a Latin American friend, a local experience in Latin America or indirectly through the grapevine, it is a common stereotype that Latin Americans are more often than not, considered late by North American standards. During my time in Chile I did find this to be true. Social events and even class could easily begin thirty minutes, forty minutes even up to one hour “late” due to the way Chileans and other Latin Americans view time. Before coming to Chile, I did not know the origins of the Latin American outlook on time or why people would/could be this late habitually. As alluded to above, this differing standard about “acceptable lateness” comes from a very different outlook on an approach to life (internal vs. external). Before my classes in Chile I had no idea this distinction existed or what may have caused the divide so I find the reasoning behind it quite fascinating.

My classes explained that North Americans derive much of their culture and work values from Protestant ideals, such as “work is noble” and “you live to work” among other associated ideas/sayings. On the other hand, Latin Americans derive much of their culture and work values which indirectly translate into their ideas about time from Catholicism with beliefs such as “work is not noble” and “you work to live” etc. These origins are quite insightful and help derive some context to the highly different views on time between North and South American cultures. Unlike in the United States, the idea of being “late” in South America is not seen as a horrible thing because time does not equal money. Life is meant to be enjoyed and work is merely an avenue to some level of comfortable sustenance. Since time does not equal money and work is not the end all be all of Latin American life, time is very flexible as it is meant to be enjoyed. If someone is late to a social gathering, class or meeting and they do not communicate that they will be late, it is not seen as a sign of disrespect as it often is in the U.S.

Having the opportunity to live for an extended period in a fatalistic culture that does not equate time with money has been an awesome experience for me. I found the roots of the time differences very interesting and honestly enjoyed experiencing the dichotomies between living in a fatalistic and internal control society. As someone who is always looking for the next opportunity, maximizes their time and someone who is almost always early, adapting to the Chilean way of life (concept of time) was difficult at first. However, after the first two to three weeks my time in Chile and adoption of the Chilean time concept has made me a fuller person. I was able to partially embrace the Latin American concept of time and truly enjoy most of my time in Chile without constantly planning, working and analyzing options for my future. I took the time to engage with other students and travel to different places around South America including, Argentina, Peru & Machu Picchu and various parts of Chile. Taking some time to truly enjoy life, the Latin American way instead of always working for the next thing and worrying about the future is liberating. Going forward I will be able to more evenly balance my business, schoolwork and social life based on some of the Latin American time principles I have adopted into my life. As a firm believer that you directly control what happens to you and someone who always prioritized work over other aspects of life, I highly recommend a semester abroad in Chile as it will make you a more complete person and show you that there is a whole lot more to enjoying life than simply getting ahead and excelling at work.

On the Inca Trail
Machu Picchu

Experiencing Cultural/Business Difference in Latin America

Phil Koch discusses how professional and classroom interactions are different in Latin America, as he studies as he studies at the University of Chile on the Student Exchange Program in Santiago, Chile.

By distance, I do not mean any sort of easily quantifiable form of distance that can be measured in miles or kilometers. No, I mean the intangible distance between people in power and those who are not within Latin America. Although Chile is over five thousand miles away from my home in Cleveland, it is not the sheer geographic distance that defines our differences in culture. Many may qualify five thousand miles as being extremely far away, but in my opinion it’s really not. When compared with a nine thousand mile journey to India or a seven thousand mile flight to China, a ten hour flight to Chile seems quite manageable, if not short. As someone who has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and visited dozens of cities around the world, I can say that the tangible difference between two points although real, is unimportant in understanding the world. What is more valuable is understanding that distance (defined as the amount of difference between different cultures) is abstract but very real. The culture of the United States and Chile are distinctly different in more ways than one but in this blog I will discuss what I have learned about Chilean culture when it comes to their perceptions of power and accessibility to those who are in a position of authority be it bosses or professors.

PDI or the Power Distance Index defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally is a good place to begin the analysis. The Power Distance Index is one of the six “cultural dimensions” that define a culture and was originally developed by Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede. As an International Business student I am all too familiar with these six definers of cultures as Hofstede is included in every International Management class and probably every single IM text book out there. However, before living abroad for such an extended period, first time being in India, I infrequently saw them in practice and was not able to contrast them with what I experience in the U.S. What I have learned at FEN and through my personal experience I have seen that there is a great divide between acceptance of inequality in power between Chile and the U.S. Chile scores highly on the Power Distance Index while the U.S. scores much lower meaning Chile is generally more accepting of inequality and is less prone to challenge authority. I have seen this to be extremely true based on my time at FEN. In the classroom it is extremely uncommon and even rude to challenge what a teacher states or interrupt them in any way. In one of my classes a number of other exchange students from the Nordic countries, who are egalitarian and open to discussion, challenged the ayudante (Chilean version of a TA) saying that a number of his facts were incorrect. Although I thought nothing of it, as a class we received an informal lecture describing how open disagreement with the professor is downright disrespectful in Chile, because it causes the person to lose credibility with the rest of the group. This credibility or the idea of always “saving face” is extremely important in Chilean and more broadly, Latin American culture. It helps to foster trust within a group whether business or personal. I also found that professors, especially those who are very traditional, do not make themselves as available for extra help as they do in the United States. It is not expected of them because they are in a place of authority at a much higher societal position than the student.

While I did learn firsthand about the differing dynamic of power in the Chilean academic environment when compared with that of the U.S., I learned in my classes how it applies to the Chilean business environment. Many of the themes I just discussed are true in this realm as well. Open disagreement with the boss or any superior rarely happens, if ever. Subordinates are expected to follow instructions and not challenge the direction of their superiors. I also learned that Chilean (and Latin American) employees tend to have less autonomy over their work than those in the U.S. or other Anglo founded countries. Part of the Power Distance in the business environment is that the boss accepts full responsibility for any successes or failures. For this reason, Chilean employees defer almost all decision making of any importance to their boss and will wait for their direct go ahead before moving forward. This is generally the opposite of what happens in the U.S. where independent problem solving and autonomy among subordinates is highly valued and encouraged. Lastly, I realized that similarly to what occurs in the Chilean academic realm, the negative attitude in the Chilean business community towards open confrontation is due to the high power distance found in Chilean society. A subordinate should not challenge a superior regardless of their education or personal achievements because it causes the superior to lose credibility among their colleagues and employees as well as have their power undermined.

In closing, Chileans tend to have a much higher acceptance of inequality within organizations than Americans which was difficult for me to adapt to. In a classroom setting I learned that direct disagreement is disrespectful and can cause a loss of trust and credibility between students and the teacher. Stemming from my experiences in the classroom the same is true of the business culture in Chile and Latin America. Large differences (distance) in power is widely accepted as normal and is the status-quo in Latin America meaning those who lack power or a position of authority are not as envious of those who do when compared with the United States. Missteps here as an American manager will kill your chances of having success while in Chile. Whether negotiating a deal with a Chilean customer or leading an international team here, always know who is in charge and who will be the final decision maker. Do not send a low or mid-level employee to negotiate a deal for you. Always send a high ranking executive to meet with Latin American customers so that they know you take their business seriously. Expanding on that point, if you find yourself leading a team of Chilean employees, remember that you must be assertive with your authority and give them the guidance they expect from a superior. Failure to do this will cause you to lose credibility as a boss or result in you losing an important deal. Truly understanding cultural distance and adapting to it in a meaningful way is the best way to ensure success when dealing with people from a culture that is different than your own, Chile included.

Life as a Thammasat University Student

Studying in Thailand, Talia Bhaiji shares her experience of a different education system and culture, while she attends Thammasat University on the Student Exchange Program.

The university that I’m studying at in Thailand is called Thammasat University, and it’s located in Bangkok, Thailand. The location of the school is really unique; it’s right near the Grand Palace and all of the oldest temples in Bangkok. It is a bit far from the center of the city, which can sometimes make it difficult to experience all that Bangkok has to offer without paying for a 200 baht taxi ($6- as of November 2017).

As a BBA student, we’re all required to wear uniforms. They’re short-sleeve white blouses and long black skirts with a belt and buttons and black shoes (usually optional). The girls are lucky though; the boys have to wear long white shirts and long black dress pants which are an absolute killer in the heat. Some people wear different clothes to school and change and some people play around with the dress code and test the boundaries. You do have to wear your uniform every single day to class, otherwise they won’t let you sign in at the beginning.

Required to wear these every time for class, BBA students only

Which leads me to: absences and sign ins! At Thammasat, as a BBA student, you’re only allowed to miss 4 classes per subject, and if you miss more than that you need to get dean’s permission to take the final exam, so basically you run the risk of failing. You have to sign in at the beginning of the class which is the first 15 minutes of class and they are very strict about it. Don’t miss this time! After that time, you’re considered late and it’s 1/2 an absence.

Now to my classes. Between Fisher and Thammasat, there are only 3 approved classes to take, so I’m in those 3 and I’m also in another class as well. The system over here for education is a lot different from the US, so if you’re studying abroad here I hope you’re really ready for a big challenge. I came in with expectations that I shouldn’t have and it gave me some challenges.

I’m currently in:

  • Marketing 201: An interesting class with a really cool professor. Very engaged and loves to talk about the United States and marketing campaigns around the world.
  • International Business 311: Interesting class, outspoken professor who challenges you.
  • Operations Management 211: Very difficult class. I struggled really hard with this one and found I had to study much more than in the United States to get a good grade.
  • Entrepreneurship 211:  Good class, doesn’t teach you too much about how to be an entrepreneur, rather studying previous entrepreneurs and their methods.

The way that Thammasat Business School works is very much on a group based system. The school really advocates for group projects which means leadership skills are tested and so are teamwork skills. I’ve done group projects in the past, but they were no comparison to the projects I did here. It’s not necessarily that the content is more difficult because it’s not, rather you’re dealing with students from around the world, many of whom are not native English speakers, and who also have different systems of doing work. For example, many of my teachers have informed me that it is typical of Thai students to do assignments right before they’re due, which is different from how a lot of students in the United States do work. Another thing is that the size of group projects is generally a lot larger, and I found many of my projects ranging from 7 people – 13 people in a group. This was one of my biggest challenges; unfortunately I enjoy being a leader, so I put myself in positions of leading groups a lot and this was a challenge I wasn’t entirely prepared for. If you’re coming here for exchange be ready for group projects.

Another intercultural challenge is the concept of “Thai Time” that doesn’t just extend to time. It follows through with communication, assignments, and the accomplishment of most tasks. In the United States, we have a culture of doing things almost instantaneously, and while I usually thrive in that culture, it’s not always the least stressful way of doing things. Thai culture is an extreme opposite. Professors rarely email back, our exchange coordinator rarely emailed back, class cancellations and reschedulings were posted days before, and anything under the sun you can think of. An example: it’s currently November 26th, and I have 2 weeks left of school here (which is very sad). I have none of my grades for any of my classes yet, which would be an atrocity not to see any of my grades on Canvas. At home I usually check them all the time, and calculate my grades on excel so I can get a rough estimate of my GPA. Here, that’s impossible in Thailand. I asked for my grades and was told I would receive them “maybe in the next month or so?” and when I asked for my grade I was told “you’re doing above average!” That’s just how things are here and you have to evolve to adjust to the difference in the culture. Call on all the skills you learned at home to manage your time, your groups, and assignments, but also learn to relax a little otherwise you won’t make it!

I won’t say Thammasat was an easy school because it wasn’t. I enjoyed my classes (except for Operations, yikes) and it was really cool to experience a different style of school. Our uniforms show the rest of Thailand that we’re students of an incredible institution and it’s gotten me much respect (and many taxi discounts) by being a Thammasat student. I will say that I have encountered some difficult times, just because of the intercultural boundaries and the lack of immediate (or any) responses like we expect in the US. That being said, you should understand this before you go, have no expectations, and be prepared with an open mind. Either way you’ll have a great time and you’ll meet some amazing people!

10 Things I Learned in Thailand

Navigating a new culture is fun but challenging! Talia Bhaiji shares the 10 Things she learned in Thailand, while she was abroad for a semester on the Student Exchange Program.

Living in Thailand and technically being a Bangkokian has been one of the most fulfilling and life changing experiences of my whole life. I traveled a lot when I was younger, but only stayed in places around 3 days, so I never got the opportunity to immerse myself in the cultures. I always vowed I’d live somewhere abroad and get the chance to see what the world was like. Being in Bangkok was exactly that opportunity and I learned more than I ever thought I would.

That being said, these are the top/most prevalent things I’ve learned since being here.

  1. Thailand loves 7/11. It might sound weird to Americans, since 7/11 isn’t really held in the highest regard, but 7/11 is amazing here. They’re on almost every corner and if I had to guess, I’d say I ate there at least 5 times a week. Anything you could ever need in Thailand you’ll find at 7/11. They have food, ice creams, milk, full meals, candy, chocolate, incense, face masks, cleaning supplies, beauty supplies, etc. Also, if you’re out in the city and have to buy water, 7/11 is the place to be. Bangkok is hot and you’ll need more than 1 bottle of water during the way.
  2. “Land of Smiles”: Thailand is definitely land of smiles and you’ll experience it almost immediately. It can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that people can be so nice and so helpful and they are such bright wonderful people. The curse can be that you’ll never really know how Thai people feel since acts of emotion besides smiling in public can be perceived as disrespectful.
  3. Thai Time: If you’ve read my other posts, you’ve read about my gripes with Thai Time. Thai Time is broadly defined as things never being on time, including buses, planes, people etc. They have a very laid back approach to things, so nothing is ever done on time. It goes back and forth. In some places I’ve been in, Thai Time does not exist! So please be careful and don’t show up somewhere an hour late. You just have to wait things out, all the time. You wait for professors to show up, you wait for the ferry, you wait for people that walk slow, etc…Speaking of which….
  4. People Take Their Time: And mainly, they walk really really slow. Either get used to this (I didn’t) or deal with shoving and moving around people all the time, almost everywhere.
  5. Taxis and people will try to scam you: Thailand is one of the biggest tourist destinations on the planet, and with that comes scams, as does any other destination. Don’t take it personally, just realize how they see tourists and stand your ground when you know you’re being scammed.
  6. Sometimes things don’t make sense: And there’s no rules, and there’s no signs and nothing is in English and no one speaks English. I still don’t understand the majority of things that happen to me in Thailand, but as my professor calls it “organized chaos” everything here seems to work itself out at some point.
  7. Buying groceries is not a good idea: I’m a big grocery person and I found it nearly impossible here. Food doesn’t stay good with the warm climate, and it’s hard to beat a 50 baht pad thai. Cheese and most western foods are really expensive at the grocery store, so most people end up eating out. Hence the popularity of street food and small restaurants everywhere.

  8. Thai people can be traditional: Whether it be with religion, or with the clothing you wear, Thai people are very traditional and don’t appreciate having their customs disrespected. Be careful about what you say and how you dress, especially when you’re at a temple or you’re somewhere that is not particularly touristy. Even when you are in touristy places, don’t be obnoxious or loud. Don’t make fun of things about Thailand in an obnoxious manner. Just be a little bit more conservative in your dress and your speech. It’s about knowing the time and place to say and do things, which you’ll learn no matter where you travel. But here, traditional practices are on a different level and you’ll have to conform to that.
  9. Thailand is cheap!: It’s super cheap, take advantage of things you can’t do at home. Go around the city, take taxis, get super cheap meals and enjoy crazy experiences that are a fraction of the cost. Although it can be good to compare costs to home, don’t do it all the time because it will get you out of the mindset that you’ll be in when you live here.
  10. Traffic in Bangkok is horrible and crazy: The traffic here is absolutely absurd. It will take you hours to get places if you go anywhere in the middle of the day (i.e. from 11am-6:30pm) and you will pay for an expensive taxi and you might miss your plan. It happens, so be prepared for it. If you take a tuk-tuk (3 wheel decorated covered bike), you may get scammed. If you take a motorbike taxi (my personal favorite), it’s may challenge your comfort level but it will get you somewhere quicker. Plus, you’re riding on a motorbike through the city, and that feeling never gets old.

Hope you enjoyed!