Continuing Adventures in Ireland

Since my last post about my stay here at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland I have had so many new experiences worth talking about it’s hard to pick just one. In my last post, Irish students had just moved in, school activities were just starting, and classes were getting underway. My courses are not so different from my experience in the states; I have lectures and tutorials (smaller group recitations) each week for classes. The biggest difference is in the actual work for each course. In many of them the workload is focused into a few heavily weighted assignments, which is unlike my experience in the states where I have many more assignments that help alleviate weight on the final. Most of the time the only grade is a final exam (all of which are taken in May) and possibly a smaller assignment in the first term. Students only staying for the fall term have a substitute assignment, usually an essay, due just before term break. I should be starting my essays soon.

Somewhere between my classes I found some time to do some traveling in Ireland and do something special that I don’t think many people get to experience. First off, one of the reasons I chose Ireland to study was because my family is predominantly Irish. I knew my family history back to my maternal great grandmother who was the first to come to the US from Ireland in the early 1900’s. When my grandfather heard where I was going he jumped at the opportunity to visit me on the condition that we try and meet our relatives. We did some research and found his cousin living in the south of Dublin outside of county Cork in a small town called Rosscarbery. She said she would be happy for us to visit and said she would let the family know we were coming. So when my parents and grandparents got to Ireland we traveled south not knowing exactly what to expect when we got there.

Arriving in Rosscarbery we got a picturesque view of the town across the bay. We met my grandfathers cousin and she led us to O’Driscoll’s, a pub my family still owns and runs. There we were greeted with an unexpectedly large number of family members, some of which were meeting each other for the first time as well. One of the first people we met was my grandfather’s 94-year-old step uncle. It was really incredible seeing these two men (pictured below, my grandfather is on the right) meet for the first time and talk like they had been friends for years. I had never seen my grandfather so excited. While there we discussed our family history and when all the heads were put together we were able to fill in the family tree as well as extended it an additional four generations back from my grandfather.

On a cultural note, I said before that we were in O’Driscoll’s, my family’s pub. Today, a pub is synonymous with a rustic bar, but the word is actually short for public house, which is more than a place to get a pint. They were used as community centers for rural towns where people of all ages were welcome. O’Driscoll’s is reminiscent of this original style of pub. We were there on a Saturday and in the evening local families started to wander in. Mothers sat around and chatted, children played games in the corner, and fathers and older sons played darts and rings with surprising talent. I tried my hand at both and found the matches were uneven considering our opponents were the local champs. This was truly a pub in the original sense; it was a social center for the largely rural community. The place felt more like a home then a bar. The community feel reminded me of my own town where families would meet on porches on the weekend to socialize. Being able to go there with my grandfather and experience my own personal history was incredible and be in an original pub was one of the highlights of my trip so far and something I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to do. IMG_4518  IMG_0657_copy (1)

Exploring Italy

One of the greatest parts about a semester abroad is the opportunity to see the world. Fortunately, the exchange student network (ESN) at Bocconi makes it easy to do so.

The first weekend of the school year we took a day trip from Milan to Lake Como. I had not even heard of Lake Como prior to this, but was immediately blown away by the beauty of it all. From walking through the quaint streets surrounding the lake to riding a “funicolare” up the mountain for amazing views, it was all very well organized and included in the trip.


This past weekend, we took a trip to the Tuscany region. Four cities (Siena, Florence, San Gimignano, and Pisa) over 3 days, and it was a cultural and historical dream. Tuscany is known for the finest wine in the world, as well as the birthplace of the Renaissance. It was amazing to get a guided tour through each city from ESN members from that area, and walking through the neighborhood Michelangelo lived and worked in was a great experience. I know that it would have been very challenging to fit so much into a weekend without the benefits of ESN, and am glad that these types of trips are made available exclusively for exchange students. More travels to come.



The (Not So) Hidden Benefits of Studying Abroad

It’s no secret that when you study abroad you get to see a different part of the world and experience so many new things that you never expected. What I didn’t realize was just how much I would get to see when I left Ohio at the end of August.  Not only have I gotten the opportunity to explore Germany and the area around where WHU is located, I have been able to travel to places that I’ve always wanted to visit.

This past weekend I travelled to Amsterdam and was able to see the Anne Frank house, something that I’ve wanted to do since I was in 3rd grade. I’ve also been able to hike in the Swiss Alps, see where the Sound of Music was filmed, visit Oktoberfest in Munich, the Berlin wall, Westminster Abbey, castles in Cardiff and so much more!  I never dreamed of being able to visit so many cities in such a short amount of time or see things that I’ve been reading about for years. Next stop is a tour of Italy where I get to hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius!

100_1883 (640x480)

At the East Side Gallery in Berlin

100_1767 (640x480)

In the mountains of Engelberg, Switzerland

100_2069 (480x640)

Castle in Cardiff, Wales

Yet another benefit that I didn’t realize before I studied abroad was how much these experiences are helping me prepare for future jobs and interviews. Just the other day there was a huge train strike in Germany and I couldn’t get home from where I was travelling and ended up having to find an alternate route home. I used this experience as a positive example of how I could adapt to change and respond under pressure in a skype interview a few days later; the recruiters loved that I had such unique experience and that I was able to incorporate seeing different pieces of the world into my education.

The people you meet while travelling have also been so interesting and something that was completely unexpected. There is such a variety of people in the accommodations I used at all these different places, from people in their mid-20s who quit their jobs to travel Europe for 9 months, to fellow study abroad students, to people from half-way around the world. The diversity is endless and such a wonderfully unexpected part of study abroad because you get to hear the world views of so many people.

There are many more benefits waiting to be discovered and I can’t wait to find every one of them!

When in Milan

It is crazy to think I have already been in Milan for a month! Time has been flying and I have gotten to know so much about the city, the culture and Bocconi. It has been an uphill battle adapting to the European lifestyle and specifically the Italian style of life ( which is super laid back and slow paced). I am going to share 5 tips I wish I would have known before coming to Italy that would have made my life a whole lot easier upon arrival.

1. Bring your patience. I know from past experience that Europeans do things much slower than us in the United States but I was extremely unprepared for the Italian Bureaucracy. To do anything here you need about 3 hours of your time and most likely will have to go to 4 different offices. Make sure you leave plenty of time between appointments/ activities as I guarantee it will take you much longer than you anticipated to accomplish anything!

2. Bring lots and lots of photocopies of everything. I made multiple copies of my passport and visa as well as health insurance card. However I would advise you to make photocopies of all the documents you will need for your permit of stay (such as your proof of financial means and your acceptance letter). You will need to present many copies and it is much easier if you just bring them with you.

3. Do research on things to do in the area/ trips you plan on taking ahead of time. I did some research on Milan and destinations I wanted to visit while in Italy but am coming to realize I did not do enough! I can guarantee that the first few weeks you are here you will be stressing to plan trips with your new friends for your weekends and it is much easier if you research ahead of time. You will cause yourself less stress and that is so much better in the long run.

4. Learn basic Italian. Though many people say Milan is the most English-friendly city in Italy I would have to disagree. I know very little Italian and most people here know very little English making it quite hard to communicate. Usually if you know a little bit of Italian, the people will work with you but you need to make the honest effort. My advice would be to buy an English to Italian dictionary and look over key words and phrases.

5. Don’t forget to see Milan while studying here. I think most people are so focused on planning weekend trips and getting to Munich or Barcelona that they forget to take time to actually get acclimated to Milan. I advise that when here you get to know the city and experience everything it has to offer. Go to local restaurants and visit downtown as much as possible. There are so many amazing restaurants and activities right in Milan that always get overlooked because you are so worried about leaving! Make time to see the city!

The Class Structure in France

Never in my life did I think I would be able to sit still for 4 hours. The shock of the French system of classes is hard to take in when it varies so significantly from the American system. I had been used to taking a few classes a day for periods from an hour to two for the three years of my education. However, in France, the material is much more concentrated. We take one or two courses all day for 2 blocks of 3-4 hours. My easy days begin at 9am where I work till 12pm. Then, we have lunch for two hours, and class resumes from 2-5pm. We are usually lucky to get a 10minute break in this period, in which everyone runs to the coffee machine. The classes are mostly lecture based or group project based. There are a lot of group presentations throughout the class, and we are asked to evaluate one another on the spot. Our homework is generally reading chapters and cases, and I have yet to have any mathematical work. Additionally, my school, Audencia Ecole de Management, has a very special structure. For the first two weeks, we only take elective classes (1 or 2) and this tends to leave your schedule more open. However, afterwards the core or major classes begin. I am currently enrolled in the Consulting Major program which is one of the more rigorous and project oriented. The program is incredibly interesting, and I feel that I was able to learn a lot about the industry which I have never had much exposure to in Fisher. It is nice to apply the analytical skills we acquire throughout our classes at Fisher to the problems we are faced with. My class is composed of 2/3 international students and 1/3 French which also leads to a lot of interesting inputs and learnings. All in all, the Audencia classes have proved challenging but very valuable! We are presenting to a large consulting firm, Capgemini in just a few short weeks! I cannot wait for such an awesome opportunity.

This was my schedule for Week 4, within my Consulting Major

This was my schedule for Week 4, within my Consulting Major

Studying at WHU

The German education system has been an interesting experience, but I couldn’t be happier that I selected WHU for my exchange!  WHU is really good about accommodating their Tauschies, what they call exchange students, and making exchange the best experience possible.

Class was a little strange at first as I had to adjust to a 3.5 hour lecture… for all of my classes.  It was rough but the professors really find ways to break up the class since they know we can’t possibly handle all of the information at once. My very first lecture I was shocked when all of the WHU students started applauding the lecturer at the end of the period. It’s just what you do at the end of the lecture, no matter if it’s your regular professor or a guest speaker and it was an interesting culture difference.

All of the campus buildings, and the buildings around Germany, are really neat because they’re typically constructed around the remains of 15th or 16th century buildings.  For example, one of the buildings on campus was a monastery at some point but has since been converted into an office/general purpose building on campus. It still has the original chapel and vaulted cellar (where the monks used to store the wine they made); it’s so cool being seeped in so much history!

Another thing that I love about the WHU class system is that it allows plenty of time for travel. It’s such a cool experience to be able to hop on a plane and be in a totally different country, culture, and environment in just a few hours. I’ve already been to Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland and am going to Berlin this weekend!

WHU is also really great about introducing you to German culture. We went on a tour of the region a few weeks ago to see one of their local vineyards in Boppard (as the Upper Rhine River Valley where I’m located is famous for its wine) and then to eat a traditional German meal (which was DELICIOUS). I also visited the Deutsches Eck, the point where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet. It’s located in Koblenz, the bigger city around the teeny tiny Vallendar where WHU is actually located. It was such a cool experience!

100_1703 (800x600)

In the vineyards of Boppard!

100_1683 (600x800)

At Deutsches Eck

All in all WHU is a great school; they really welcome their Tauschies and allow us to get a great education, but also leave us plenty of time to explore the world!

The Reality of Planning for a Semester Abroad

This being my first blog entry, I suppose I’m starting things off on a negative note. However, I think it’s an important topic that should be touched on initially and reinforced from a student’s perspective.

First off, get started on your planning, as soon as possible. I cannot stress that enough. I made a lot of excuses for myself to put things off (Spring classes, summer trips, focus on internship, etc) but it made for a very stressful process when I couldn’t delay any longer. I wound up spending a lot of time searching for apartments and coordinating with other exchange students in Italy, which is not an easy process given the language barrier as well as the fraud/deception risk of searching for overseas lodging. My suggestion: stick with university sponsored housing (assuming it’s available). It will alleviate some of that stress and probably be a nicer set-up anyway, not to mention it facilitates the process of meeting other students.

If I had made this decision sooner, I could have put my time into the process of getting a study visa, which should be started ASAP. Initially I noted the 1-3 week processing time for the visa, but neglected the fact that you generally need to book an appointment 4-6 weeks in advance. Ended up contacting about 10 vice consulates to set up a last minute appointment, not fun. Also, it can take some time to gather and clarify all the required documents, especially since the consulates can be very hard to get a hold of with any questions (email is best). Didn’t help that I was planning to travel before and after my time in Milan, which complicated the travel documents needed.

The actual packing process was surprisingly simple, even for a procrastinator like myself. A quick google search will bring up plenty of student provided lists of items, and remember that you can always buy non-essentials like clothes, deodorant, etc. Focus on making sure you’re documents, medicines, and travel plans are in order, then you can worry about how many dress shirts to take.

All that said, don’t let stress distract you from excitement about the opportunity ahead! Spend a bit of time friending others on Facebook ahead of time (and of course upon arrival) and remember to use resources around you.

My next entry will be on all the positive things (since it’s already been a terrific 3 weeks in Italy). Coming soon..

The Past vs. The Future

Manchester, England

The photo shown above was taken in the city center of Manchester, England.

I believe it is an interesting perspective as to the cultural shifts that seems to be occurring. On the left side you can see the more modern architecture representative of Manchester’s modernization and continued growth.  If you turn your attention to the right, the contrast in building design is immediately apparent. The architecture is obviously of much older design, though kept in good condition. We were informed that many buildings in Manchester were originally textile factories built in the early 1900’s, but have been “recycled” as office buildings, hotels, and so on.

With a history dating back to 79 AD, it’s fair to say that Manchester is an ancient city. Despite that, the “Mancunians” (Those who live in Manchester), have kept relevancy remarkably well. Culturally, it should be noted that while the Mancunians have a sense of practicality about them, their respect for tradition and conservation should be noted as well.

First Impressions of Dublin

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 5.20.44 PM

Céad míle fáilte! A hundred thousand welcomes! This semester I have the privilege of representing Fisher Exchange and Ohio State at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. So far my impressions of the college as well as the country have been wildly positive even though things here are run very differently then one would expect in the states. I arrived in Dublin on 23 August to start a program called Semester Start Up- Understanding Ireland.

The class is designed to introduce international students from outside the EU to the history, art, and culture of Ireland by listening to lectures, attending discussions, and making trips to sites of historical and cultural significance. We visited the castles Trim and Dublin, the spiritual hills of Tara, and Croke Park the football stadium where Bloody Sunday occurred in 1920.

An interesting point for me was the amount of history of Ireland. We learned of the history from before the arrival of St. Patrick in 450AD to the works of James Joyce and beyond in the twentieth century. In the United States, events from the 1700’s are considered old but here that is considered modern history. The sheer age of some of the buildings is staggering. I ate in a pub that was founded in 1198, almost 600 years before the US constitution was ratified! In short, there is a lot of history to learn.

Outside of the program I have been exploring all the things Ireland has to offer. A group of students and I got out of the city to the quaint fishing villages of Howth and Dun Laoghaire at the points of Dublin harbor, spent a day hiking in the Wicklow Mountains, and watched Dublin play Donegal in the semifinals of Gaelic Football, the national sport. The finals are this weekend and I can’t wait to see another match of this intense sport.

At the moment we are in the middle of Freshers Week, an infamous kickoff to the start of the year in which the societies vie for students participation. At Trinity, the societies are the basis of college life out of the classroom similar to clubs at OSU. Imagine the student involvement fair at OSU for twelve plus hours a day for a whole week. There are concerts, social events, free food, and a lot more people now that many of the students have moved in. The biggest difference that I have seen between OSU and Trinity is the urgency with which things get done. I am in the process of scheduling my classes this week! At OSU I would have had that done months ago. It is a bit scary but all the professors assure us this is normal procedure.

Living in Dublin has been great so far and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. The locals are friendly, the city is beautiful, and the weather has been surprisingly sunny. I’m so excited that I was able to do the Exchange Program and can’t wait to share more about my experiences here.

Perth, Australia 1 Month Reflection

Six weeks ago, I left for my journey to study abroad. I spent two weeks in Southern China before traveling to Perth, Australia where I will study abroad during this autumn semester at Curtin University. Since that time, I can say that I have learned more in the last six weeks than I have at Ohio State in the previous three years. I have learned so much about culture, geography, language, business, people and most importantly, myself among countless other things. Having this experience firsthand is something I would not trade for anything in the world. Sitting in a classroom and reading a textbook will never provide the same thing, the same opportunity. Unfortunately, time is moving fast and I can’t believe I’ve been abroad for six weeks already, but it is important to reflect back on my journey so far and this blog post is the perfect way of doing so!

Quite honestly, after the first day of being in Australia, I couldn’t wait to go home. I couldn’t believe the situation I got myself into! My campus was far from the city center and everything was spread out unlike Columbus, Ohio. There are about 1,000 students living on campus and out of those 1,000, a good percentage of them are graduate students that are 35 years old or older! At Ohio State, there are about 10,000 students my own age living on campus and the other 50,000 at OSU live right around the campus in nearby off-campus housing. At Curtin, this wasn’t the case; everyone is spread out throughout the city and commutes to class maybe once or twice a week. You barely see them.

To make it worse, everything closes at 5pm and the WiFi was terrible! It was quiet, far from the beach or any form of shopping area and it was much colder than I expected. I was alone, 11,600 miles away from home, and the worst part…everything was so expensive! I had no idea how I would afford to be here. What was I thinking? I knew I could survive, but I didn’t know if I wanted to. I told myself that I have to stick with it, and it is what you make of it. I knew I was tough, but this would be a true test.
It took some adjusting, but within a week of being in Australia, I had a new bank account, a new phone number, new friends, a new home, but still something was missing.

First, let me tell you what wasn’t missing. It wasn’t a way of getting around. I’m way too independent to have to rely on Perth’s terrible public transportation or their expensive taxi’s. Instead I successfully figured a different form of transportation on my own.

It also wasn’t money. Within a few days of being here, Curtin offered me a $2,500 grant that I didn’t even apply for! They apparently looked at all of the incoming international students previous semester grades and gave scholarships to those who did well beforehand. This included myself. I wasn’t about to screw up the opportunity to go abroad and got a 3.7 GPA last semester, much higher than usual. Sure enough, it paid off, literally! The extra $2,500 was just what I needed to get by, and very conveniently, i’d say Australia is 25% more expensive. So that should give you an idea of what I’m spending to come here.

Here’s what was missing. True friendship. True relationships with people who cared about you. I knew that if I was going to survive here, I needed these true relationships. I was making a lot of new friends from all over the world, but I really wasn’t close with anyone yet. I experienced a similar thing when going to Ohio State the first year and being the emotionally outgoing and sociable guy that I am, it was hard. I knew it would take time, you don’t develop true friendships overnight, but when everyone else is 18,670 kilometers away (Yes another thing I learned was the conversions), you need someone to rely on.

First off, let me tell you that it is very obvious that there are groups around campus depending on each person’s cultural background. I also want to point out that the international students here all seem significantly more educated and enlightened than the typical people I am used to interacting with. Therefore, most of these people were bigger fish, they had more talent, more social skills and brighter futures. They like me, were also tough for being here on their own. We all share the same bond with the same love of travel. That’s why we’re all here. Based on this premise, I wanted to bring everyone together.

I initially made friends with all of the Brazilians, they were very friendly and very genuine. I felt very included, whenever I’d enter the conversation, they would stop speaking Portuguese and speak English to include me. None the less, I didn’t come here to just meet Brazilians, I came here to network with people from all over the world. I forced myself to go to another group. I then proceeded to start hanging out with the Swedes. They are also very great people. After that, I hung out with a group of mostly Europeans and after one night that I spent time with them, I was invited to join a Facebook group that they had. I felt loved and got a great vibe from them.

Finally, I chose to meet the Americans, most of whom all knew each other beforehand because they are on the same study abroad program. However, for myself, this wasn’t the case as I am on exchange. I made some American friends sure. It would have been easiest to develop those friendships sure, but quite honestly, I found I did not have things in common with this group  to connect. The interactions with the Brazilians were different. They looked you in the face and spoke with you. It was nice for a change because that’s who I am.

Here we are, a month later. I have met and made friends with people from the following countries in no particular order: Brazil, Belgium, Venezuela, Germany, Holland, England, Sweden, Lithuania, France, Russia, Switzerland, Scotland, the United States, Canada, Turkey, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Malaysia, Albania, Thailand, South Korea, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, India, Iran, places that I never even heard of like East Timor and Martinique, and last but definitely not least Australia! I’m probably forgetting a few, but you get the point.

Of course, I won’t be close with everyone, but now that I feel like I know almost everyone on campus, I can start developing these closer relationships with the people who matter to me, the genuinely good people. The people who I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. And without even realizing, these people did start coming together just like I wanted. Over the weekend, I celebrated a Kraftskiva (a crayfish party) which is a Swedish tradition. Sure enough a handful of Brazilians and Europeans joined as well.

Now, a month later, I fear the day when I have to return home to the USA because I know how much I’ll miss it here. I’ve grown to love it in Australia and it is already turning into one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve found my way around and learned to love the same things the Aussies do. Not only the people matter, but I’ve adjusted to everything shutting down early and found the places that don’t. I’ve grown to love the always nice weather, the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, eating Kangaroo, and especially the laid back attitude which mirrors my personality.

Next week, I will head to the east coast to see Sydney and Melbourne. Yet, I am not nervous. I am excited for the opportunity to meet plenty of other people as I am staying at the best youth hostel in Australia which is also top 10 in the world. Traveling to Australia has already proven to be one of the most difficult things I have ever overcome as well as one of the best decisions of my life. It has forever strengthened my desire to keep traveling. I have decided that upon graduating from Ohio State in the spring of 2015, I will look to pursue my masters degree in Europe. I cannot wait to see what is in store over these remaining next three months as well as continue to develop the friendships I have made. I will cherish every moment of it!