Live through a typical week in Bangkok, Thailand with Talia Bhaiji, as she shares her week as a student at Thammasat University on the Student Exchange Program.
There’s no typical week in Bangkok, but I’ll do my best to try and describe what I do here, and how a week here goes.
Monday: I usually head to the school library or the cafe next to Amarin to get some work done. I prefer to get my work done early in the week, so that I can have the opportunity to enjoy my weekends with my friends or on a trip. Sometimes, if I am on a trip, I’ll fly home/take a bus home this morning, so that I can have a full day before school; lots of my friends have class on Mondays, so it’s cool for me to go shopping or go to a museum I missed out on earlier.
Tuesday: Class 9-12, Class 1-4. I’ll stay on campus all day, breakfast at 7/11, and lunch at the canteen. At the end of the day, I’ll usually head home, get a quick nap in (the heat takes it out of your body) and usually do some homework at night or spend time with my friends.
Wednesday: Class 9-12. Sometimes I’ll stay on campus and get lunch at the canteen (it’s so cheap, food is on average 30 baht=$0.90) and maybe go to the library for some work. Sometimes we’ll go do something after school, a couple days ago we went and did laser tag after class which was so much fun! At night, we usually all hang out on the rooftop or play cards in someone’s room. Sometimes we’ll go check out a live band, or hang around at an event around Bangkok; there’s always lots of concerts and lots to do in the area. If you have a Facebook, start RSVPing to a bunch of events and you’ll see the hundreds of things to do in Bangkok all the time.
Thursday: Class 9-12, and after class I usually always head home after an exhausting week of class and take a nap. If we’re going on a trip, we usually always leave at night, or if my friends have already gone, I’ll usually leave right after my class and head out. If not, we’ll enjoy a nice night in Bangkok, maybe staying in and watching a movie or walking around a nice new neighborhood.
Friday: If I’m not on a trip, I’m spending a lot of time with my friends. Since the majority of people have class Monday-Thursday, Fridays are usually off for everyone. We usually go somewhere and do something fun, or take the time to explore somewhere new in Bangkok. There’s so many places to get lost in the city and so much to do, minus the pricey taxi rides.
Saturday: We’ve used Saturdays as a day to start exploring new restaurants all around Bangkok. Unfortunately there’s almost no restaurants around Amarin, so we’re usually forced to go outside of our neighborhood, but there’s a ton of nice restaurants in Khao San. If you’re on the road, check out Ethos Vegetarian Restaurant, May Kaidee, and Taste of India! Even Burger King, their veggie burger is absolute amazing. They’re some of my favorites that I’ve been able to find just by wandering around and exploring.
Sunday: Many times Sunday is the day we’re getting back from a trip so it’s filled with lots of laundry, cleaning, and showers. I know that doesn’t sound glamorous but not all of Student Exchange is. If we’re not traveling I’m usually still doing homework and getting ahead for the weeks that I am traveling since it’s nearly impossible to get homework done while you’re backpacking. We also go to Yimsoo Cafe and hang out and do homework!
Ohio State Senior Peyton Bykowsk shares some of her favorite moments while abroad on the Student Exchange Program in Vienna this November. Including Christmas Markets, travel to Italy, visiting the Museumquarter, and end of term classes at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU).
Greetings from Vienna! This November has been one to remember. Classes have been busy and full of fun projects, Museumquartier has opened some amazing exhibits, the legendary Christmas Markets have opened, and a trip to Italy topped it all off! Here are some photos of the month.
Christmas Market at Rathausplatz
Friends and I at the Rathausplatz Christmas Market just a few days ago. Christmas markets are my absolute favorite, this is just one of many in Vienna! They are incredibly festive, fun, and full of great gifts and treats.
Rathaus is is the City Hall building of Vienna and it is one of the most spectacular buildings in the city (especially when lit up with Christmas lights). For more information regarding the different Viennese Christmas markets, here is a link.
Travel to Italy
This November I traveled to Italy where I spent 2 days in Rome, 2 days in Florence, and 1 day in Milan. The trip was incredible, filled with good food, amazing history and incredible beauty. Below are a few pictures from Rome and Florence.
Museumquarter is one of the most interesting parts of Vienna with several large museums in the area, and it is directly across from Hofburg Palace. They have some incredible exhibits, and you could last for hours in just one of the massive museums in the platz. Here is a glimpse inside the Fine Arts museum, its incredible interior, and a link to their webpage!
End of Term Classes
As the semester is nearing towards the last month, classes are certainly busier. Here is a picture of a typical classroom set up at WU. This day was a study session for an exam where many peers got together to study and quiz one another in preparation.
Vienna has been a spectacular choice for my study abroad experience. It is hard to believe I am nearing on my last month in this amazing country. From the interesting history, incredible beauty, amazing people and peers, and all of the fun culture that I got to dive into, Vienna was certainly the best choice for what I wanted to gain from the entirety of this experience. I look forward to a December filled with more Christmas Markets, continuing to build relationships with peers, and, most importantly, one of a kind experiences.
In travels to Vienna, Austria during the fall of 2017 on the Student Exchange Program, senior Peyton Bykowski discovers the importance of understanding business etiquette and professional interactions on a global scale.
The United States has very strict and regulated guidelines on how we conduct business and how businessmen and women interact on a professional level. Austria, based on research and experience, has similar, preset guidelines and standards that are to be met. If anything, there are firmer guidelines in how a student interacts with his or her lecturer, how to act and dress in business situations, and how Vienna itself provides resources for its students to find jobs and careers.
In the classroom at WU (Wirtschaftuniversitat – Vienna University of Economics and Business), it is fairly informal, surprisingly, in terms of business conduct at a business school. During presentations it is not required to dress business formal or business casual as it is at Ohio State. Presentations occur weekly for many classes, so having to consistently dress business professionally can be tedious, so it is not required or even asked of the students to dress up. However, there is more respect in terms of the student-teacher relationship. Students address the lecturer as “Professor” unless told otherwise. At the end of the class, the students knock on the table as a respectful notion to the Professor to thank him/her for teaching them today.
Many students also use the professors as a networking opportunity. As this is a small university, the students often have the same Professors multiple times for different classes. And since the classes are never larger than about 40 people, they tend to get to know them well. Similarly to Ohio State and the U.S., Professors allow insight for students on the business world and potential opportunities or careers to pursue. Many students often keep in contact with their university professors as a means of networking as well.
In terms of career events, Vienna has several for the city, but rarely are they specific to WU students. WU does have an online career and job portal similar to Fisher’s, but for large career fairs Vienna has two main events: Meet Your Job, which requires 1 application submitted to a student who is then matched with different company’s for short interviews at the fair, and Career Calling, which is a large company expo similar to the Fall and Spring Career Fairs at Ohio State. However, these fairs and events are much more relied on in Vienna than they are at Ohio State. Many students need them in order to find their work experience, as connections in the business world are not as utilized in Vienna. In the U.S. it is an unspoken rule that business students need internship experience before graduation, and then need professional work experience before attending grad school. In Austria, and most of Europe, it is not as necessary for students to have undergraduate work experience as they transition directly to grad school post university graduation. This was an interesting difference, as I can see value to both courses of education.
In regards to business etiquette and interactions in Vienna, there are not many differences than the U.S. I think the largest difference is in regard to the blunt nature of Austrians. Professors tend to interrupt during student presentations to offer feedback and thoughts; whereas in the U.S. and at Ohio State, it is more typical for a professor to hear the presentation through before offering feedback. Similarly to the U.S. though, Austrians greatly value punctuality and seriousness. This then relates to the importance of first impressions. First impressions weigh heavily on Austrians and so it is important to know the proper professional interactions before meeting with the individual(s). This would include the proper dress codes, not only for professional interactions but for dinners, the dress codes of certain facilities (i.e. Opera), etc. Overall, Austrians are conservative in terms of business etiquette and in nature when received by others.
Researching and experiencing different business etiquette practices has been really important to my understanding of global business. Understanding different practices and actually practicing them are completely different. I have always known how important it is to do your homework on the people, company, and culture of individuals I am meeting with, whether it be for a collaborative assignment, job interview, etc. However, remembering my homework on Vienna’s professional etiquette has helped me to understand what it is actually like while here. WU offers a lot of incredible resources to aid its students from all over the globe further their careers. Whether that’s the EBN group or Career Fairs for Viennese students, WU students are extremely successful and help new students to a new country learn quickly.
It was important for Talia Bhaiji to go on the Student Exchange Program on a budget. She selected Thammasat University in Thailand for lower costs, applied to multiple scholarships, worked with Financial Aid, and managed to get her semester fully funded. Read how she was able to pull that off!
This post is really important to me and share in hopes that it will help future students fund Student Exchange. I’ll explain my process of participating on the Student Exchange Program and how I was able to get it completely funded and pay no money out of pocket!
Researching the Program
I began looking into Student Exchange during April of my freshman year, exactly 6 months before I applied during October of my sophomore year, and a year and a half before I left in August of my junior year for study abroad.
After I went through these links, I looked at average cost of housing/food/life in each place using online data from Numbeo and Expatistan, two websites that give you amazing data! I had a couple ideas of where I wanted to go but wasn’t entirely sure, so the numbers helped reinforce just how much I would have to spend there.
When I first met with the Fisher Exchange Coordinator, I expressed my interest in Student Exchange, and I asked her candidly what the cheapest place I could study abroad was. She told me it was Thailand, and gave me a budget sheet that a previous student had made to share. This student had written down EVERYTHING she had done; the food she had eaten every day, how much money she spent on trips, etc., everything was on the document for me to read. After crunching her numbers and creating my own spreadsheets and budgets, I realized that if I got scholarships, I would be able to do a Student Exchange Program. This is how I decided I was going to Thailand and began to do my research about Student Exchange.
My first things to do were to make sure my classes lined up and I would graduate on time, and the second thing to do was make sure my finances were accurate. I did my 4 year plan and had the Exchange Coordinator review it. Once I knew my classes line up, I really did a lot of financial planning for this. I did as much research as I could online and after I had done a budget estimate, I double checked it with the Exchange Coordinator as well. I also met with a previous student who did a semester in Thailand, to ask her about the trip and see if she had any advice for me. She was one of my best resources, and helped me out so much. We reviewed her excel spreadsheet, I was able to ask her average costs of rent, food, transportation, and traveling, and then I asked her general tips about packing, the weather, being away from home, and what her general expectations were going into the program.
Applying to the Program
Once I had decided I was going to Thailand, the hard part began.
In September, I met with the Exchange Coordinator again to talk about the reality of this happening and make sure that I was on track to get everything done in time. I submitted my application for the program which consisted of: an approved 4 year plan by my academic advisor, a letter of recommendation by my international relations professor, and statements about why I wanted to go. Shortly after, I received my acceptance! A large part of me knew I was going to go, so right after I submitted my application in early October, I began applying for scholarships immediately. Fair warning about this process: The programs are first come first serve and usually only take a maximum of 1-4 people each location. The year I applied Thailand took 2 people. APPLY EARLY!
Applying to Scholarships
Here are the scholarships I received and where I looked for them:
I first clicked on the Office of Global Business’ Funding Your Global Experience page. It should be your FIRST place to check when you’re looking for scholarships.
I applied for the Office of Global Business’ Scholarship and the Robert Bartels Scholarship. I then emailed my recommender immediately and got a copy of the recommendation letters for the Bartels Scholarship. I was lucky to receive both of these scholarship. APPLY FOR THEM IMMEDIATELY. These scholarships have been the biggest asset to me while I was abroad, and I wouldn’t have been able to go abroad without them.
After I had exhausted the Office of Global Business’ opportunities, I went around to other OSU resources to find more scholarships that were available to OSU students. I’m an honors student, so I looked at the Honors and Scholars Enrichment Grant.
2. I applied for the Honors & Scholars Enrichment Grant. I didn’t receive it, but it was good exposure to get me in the zone for applying for scholarships.
Afterwards, I went through the rest of the options that OGB had put on their website. I went to OIA’s website and applied for a couple scholarships there. I applied for the Asian Festival Scholarship, as well as the Firebaugh Scholarship. I didn’t receive either of them.
3. I then went and applied for a USG Scholarship, and was lucky enough to receive 1 of them that covered my flight to Thailand.
Afterwards, I went to Fisher’s website and looked for general scholarships that could help me out with tuition. I also went to the main OSU Undergraduate site and applied for the Special Eligibility scholarship too. I definitely checked the websites multiple times to make sure I had applied for everything that I was eligible for. Your work and efforts really will make all the difference. I actually didn’t apply to any outside scholarships mainly because I wasn’t eligible for the majority of them, but I know a really big one is the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which gives money to Pell Grant students who are studying abroad.
After that was done, I waited to hear back. I also went to the Office of Financial Aid and had them confirm that my current OSU scholarships would be applicable for my semester abroad in Thailand. They confirmed that since I was in fact still paying OSU tuition while abroad, I would be receiving all my scholarships and loans. This is very important and you should make sure to confirm your scholarships will transfer over before you leave.
After I confirmed my scholarships and loans would work out, I waited to hear back from my scholarships and was lucky enough to receive 3 of them! They have covered so much of what I’m paying here and I am so thankful.
If you have any questions about Thailand, Student Exchange, or Financial Aid/Scholarships, please reach out to me at email@example.com. Thank you for reading!
While attending Thammasat University in Thailand on the Student Exchange Program, Talia Bhaiji was also able to visit Vietnam. Join her journey visiting the cities Ninh Binh, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Sapa.
This semester has afforded me a lot of time to travel due to the schedule in Thailand. Unfortunately, the King of Thailand passed away in October last year and the country went into mourning for a full year. The king’s cremation was a week and a half ago, and since Thammasat University is near the Royal Palace, we were awarded a week off from school. During this time, my friends and I decided to travel to Vietnam for 11 days. That’s hardly enough time, and I was only able to see 4 cities and only one region of the country. I know 11 days sounds like a lot, but there are people that travel Vietnam for 2.5 months and say that they still weren’t sure they had enough time. Either way, I had an incredible time and highly recommend Vietnam.
Vietnam was unlike any other country that I’ve seen before. I flew into Hanoi and spent the night there before taking a bus in the morning to the city of Ninh Binh, home of beautiful archipelagos and apparently the filming location for one of the King Kong movies. I traveled here alone and made some friends who I spent my time in Ninh Binh with. It was a small, chill little town and I was able to relax a bit and enjoy my time.
I did a boat tour of Tam Coc, which is one of the main attractions in Ninh Binh, and was absolutely in awe with all of the beauty on the water. Unfortunately, since I was not there in April or May I didn’t get to see the yellow blooming rice fields, but nonetheless it was still breathtaking. After my time in Ninh Binh, I took a train back to Hanoi and met my friends there.
Hanoi was absolutely breathtaking. It was a huge mix of French architecture and tons of French cafes. I didn’t realize how much of Southeast Asia the French owned. They had so many territories and it’s still so present today. Hanoi also had a huge blend of Western and Vietnamese food. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of vegetarian food there. My first day I walked around, accidentally stumbled upon a local market, ate some authentic Vietnamese pho, and went to a rooftop cafe. We were able to look out over the entire city and witness a really cool festival going on.
Afterwards, we went down and joined in on the fair and it was so magical. The streets were filled with people, music was playing everywhere, snacks were being sold on the street, and everywhere I turned people were dancing and having a good time. The weather in Vietnam was much more mild than in Thailand, so it was really pleasant to be outside. We sat down with some locals and enjoyed some drinks as well as we people-watched.
The next day we went to the Temple of Literature, which is Vietnam’s first university, and it is one of the universities dedicated to Confucius. I also hadn’t realized the influence that China had over Vietnam, so this really opened my eyes to that as well. It was also really exciting to learn about how education had started in Vietnam and how the principles of their society had been built around this university.
After the temple, we made our way over to a cafe and hung around the city. We then walked over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and tried to go to the Ho Chi Minh Museum, except it was closed. (If you are in Hanoi, please go, I’ve heard it’s well worth it!) Afterwards, we booked our tour for Ha Long Bay and were on our way!
I only spent one day in Ha Long Bay, and I’m not really a beach/boat person, so it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, and it also cost me $30 for a day tour, which I thought was a rip off, but you can’t travel there on your own. The town around Ha Long Bay has nothing to do, and you have to pay to get out on the water. Ha Long Bay was absolutely stunning though and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archipelagos here are also absolutely stunning, and we got to kayak around them which was an absolutely amazing experience. Afterwards, we ate on the boat, and headed back to Hanoi for our overnight bus to Sapa.
The sleeper buses in Vietnam are really nice and we were able to recline and enjoy the night. Unfortunately the drivers in Vietnam are a bit more reckless than in the U.S. and the roads are bumpy. Also the differences on the buses in Asia is that they will stop and pick up people in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had buses stop on the side of the highway and randomly pick up people, who then slept on the floor. Asia is so different!
Sapa is a small mountain town known for trekking, and it was absolutely breathtaking; it may be one of my favorite places I’ve visited in all of Asia. It was also 48 degrees Fahrenheit, so be prepared for it to be very cold. We got off the night bus at 5:30am and got some really good pancakes for breakfast; Vietnam is really into pancakes for breakfast. Afterwards, we headed over to our homestay and stayed with local people in the city. The first day, after a quick nap, we did some trekking around the town up to the Hua Thao Village. Maps.me saved my life here! We were able to follow the path on the map and trek. Unfortunately, it had rained a lot and it was quite slippery. I really worried about falling (and I definitely did a lot) but it was very cool to learn that the treks were made for the village people not for tourists to trek. It made the experience feel more authentic and it was so cool to meet the local people from the villages along the way. We got to stop into a couple houses and seeing how people lived was amazing. Of course, they all have phones, but they’re very self-sufficient in how they live. They produce all their own food, manage their own animals, and provide for themselves. It’s amazing! After a couple hours, we finally made it to the top of the mountain and it was breathtaking!
We went to sleep that night in our mosquito nets in our homestay overlooking the mountains. In the morning, we woke up to the sounds of roosters and crying babies (the homestay family had a new baby) and went down to get some pancakes with honey and chocolate and condensed milk. Afterwards, we met our tour guide, who was a local girl in the Lao Cai village and was 20 years old, which was the same age as me and my friend Hannah. She talked to us about her life in the village and it was very different from ours. She is 20, with two children, and told us how common it is for people in her village to marry at 15 and have children shortly after. She told me about how they don’t have electricity and how different their lives are. She has never traveled outside of her village as well. It’s so crazy! We started our trek in the morning and along the way 3 village women decided to join us. It was a scary trek so it was nice to have 4 guides helping us around. I truly think they carried me up the mountain. All my clothes were super muddy but it was so much fun. When we made it to the top, we got to see and trek through the rice fields, and the trip was truly breathtaking, probably one of my favorite activities throughout this entire trip. We came back, hung out with our new friends at the hostel and had a good night sleep.
Afterwards, we had a nice day off, so I was able to catch up on my pictures and do some homework (yes I’m in school!) and the next day we headed out and went back to Hanoi. While we were in the town center of Sapa, we were able to visit an old cathedral, hang out in some of the cafes, and spend some time relaxing under the Christmas lights. It was absolutely amazing.
I ended my time in Hanoi and was able to pick up some really cool souvenirs for my friends and family. Vietnam was beautiful and I will never forget it.
Choosing to travel to Santiago, Chile during the 2017 Autumn semester, junior Phil Koch gives his impressions about Santiago and Student Exchange life at University of Chile’s business school (aka. FEN).
Santiago is a large city with a population of about 7.3 Million people, a comparable size to New York. Overall, I enjoy living in Santiago, mainly because I like the hustle and bustle of large cities and the opportunities to explore (food, culture, neighborhoods etc.) a variety of regions (My two favorite cities are Tokyo and Mumbai). If you love large cities and lots of people and feel comfortable with the size of Columbus, living in Santiago is perfect for you. My favorite place in Santiago is Cerro San Cristobal in Bellavista. This is a large park situated near the center of Santiago that is one of the highest points in Santiago with great views to the Andes and over the entire city as well as tons of green space situated very close to FEN! If you choose to study in Santiago you will definitely enjoy spending many sunny afternoons in this park. Even if you are just passing through Santiago for the day, Cerro San Cristobal is definitely worth the trip and short hike to the summit.
Some of the things you should keep in consideration if you are thinking to come to Chile are the smog and earthquakes. Santiago’s smog can become quite bad at times and when looking down on the city from the Andes it looks almost as if the region is covered with a thick white cloud hovering just a few thousand feet above the city. Although you will notice it at first if you choose to study in Santiago, in reality it is not too bad and much less inhibiting than Beijing, Delhi or even Los Angeles for example. Earthquakes are an almost every-day occurrence in Chile and it’s something that is so ingrained into the culture and daily life that people are rarely interrupted by them. My first experience with an earthquake was during my first class in Santiago, during my International Management class. With many of us in the class being foreign exchange students hailing from many regions ranging from Europe to Asia to North America, when we felt the shake we were all looking around the room at our peers as if to question “What’s going on?” while our instructor continued to teach undeterred. I later learned that these tremors are so common in Chile and that the infrastructure is specifically built to withstand them, so they are not seen as a large problem. I do not bring these tremors up to dissuade anyone from a study in Chile, I only bring them up so that you can be aware of their prevalence and not be caught off-guard as I was to these largely harmless natural events.
Which region of Santiago you choose to live in will be the determining factor in what kind of city experience you have. For example, Las Condes (on the East side of the city) is one of the nicest areas to live in but it’s also the most expensive with a picturesque backdrop of the snow-capped Andes peaks not far beyond these homes in the hills. There are cheaper areas far from FEN such as Pudahuel which are comprised of mostly working class people. I include this information because your level of Spanish proficiency truly dictates where you can live as very few Chileans (~4%) speak any foreign language. Even if you have very limited proficiency you can definitely still study in Chile (as the FEN community is conversant in English, you will have no problem) but it will be more difficult for you to live in certain areas (lower income) as you really won’t be able to communicate effectively. However, if you have a decent level of proficiency and want to improve your Spanish then your accommodation options are much more open.
FEN a division of the University of Chile is a highly ranked business school in Chile and Latin America ranking within the top five of the entire continent. I took three courses in English and one in Spanish. In my experience, I found the courses in English to be just a bit easier than those at Ohio State because the courses were less quantitative (although this depends on what you take). I found the course in Spanish to be very difficult due to the language barrier so really asses your Spanish abilities when selecting classes. The faculty here are quite good and I learned a great deal about the Latin American region (Politics, Economics, and Demographics) and point of view of conducting business. For instance, I learned that Chileans and more holistically Latin Americans, tend to be very collectivistic. Satisfying the needs of the group is much more important than those of the individual. Additionally, decisions are made based on the cumulative group needs (whether family or business) and do not have a focus on individual needs as they do in the United States. I absolutely loved my schedule at FEN (also a quite common schedule I understand) where I had full days on Monday and Thursday and one class on Friday. FEN has a nice and compact campus situated in a very central location. I found for one semester it is a welcome change instead of having to run from building to building like at OSU! Lastly, I will close by saying you may need extra effort to engage with Chilean students because of the language barrier and because Chileans naturally tend to be a bit isolated and detached from outsiders. In my experience I did not find this to be such a large issue as there are one hundred international students here from all over the world that still expose me to international perspectives. All in all, if you speak some level of Spanish or would like to learn and you are looking for an exciting city to call home for a semester, give Santiago a serious look!
Abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Thailand, Talia Bhaiji shares her travels to Myanmar and her favorite places she has visited!
After my weekend in Cambodia, I took a 2 week break from traveling and then made my way back out of Thailand to Myanmar! I was surprised how much I loved Myanmar and would highly recommend it to anyone who is in Southeast Asia.
There was almost a point where I was considering scrapping my trip to Myanmar and it’s because of the current issue with the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims. In the far west of Myanmar near the Bangladesh border, the Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted for nearly 20 years now. The world didn’t learn about it until the military regime left Myanmar, but the persecution had been going on for years before. Basically, Myanmar is very Buddhist and very traditional, and with the Rohingya Muslims coming in, it caused a huge religious clash. Because of this, the Rohingya people are not recognized as real people and have little to no rights in the region. I knew about this and felt I’d be personally liable if I participated in tourism for the country while ignoring the intense humanitarian problems going on. A friend of mine had already gone, and after doing my research (as well as with his advice), I read that if you don’t go, you are not helping the local people, rather you’re hurting them and it’s incorrectly directed anger. When you travel to Myanmar you should avoid funding government activities, rather look into being a sustainable tourist and helping the local people. It’s not fair to the local people to not travel to Myanmar because of the government’s actions; either way they’re hurt by this. With this in mind, I decided to do my research and head to Myanmar.
Our first stop was in Yangon, the capital city, and I think I fell in love here. Our hostel was 200 meters away from the Sule Pagoda, the center of Yangon and a beautiful landmark seen all throughout the city.
We were right in the heart of everything and got to experience so much. There was so much Indian food in Myanmar, due to the influences from India and Bangladesh, and it was also mixed with Thai food, so I loved getting to eat food there. There’s a lot of ethnic populations in Yangon and the food is so authentic. We took some time doing a walking tour around the city and got to see the train station, a park, a famous cathedral, and a really cool market. Our first night there we also accidentally stumbled upon a fair for the Lighting Festival of Myanmar. During this time, many Burmese people get off work and are free to travel around, so the city was completely packed. It was so amazing to see everyone all together.
After our time in Yangon, we tried to book some bus tickets to the ancient city of Bagan, but since so many Burmese people were on holiday, everything was booked. This was one time where I wish I would have done some more planning, which is usually the opposite in Asia. Although there are different travel styles, what I head on the way to backpack well in Asia is to book your ticket into the country, get your visa, and book one night in a hostel. The rest of your planning (buses, hostels, tours) you should do while you’re in the country and with locals and tourists who have already done the activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t do our research to see that everything was so busy that week, so we struggled during the whole trip to plan things well. Plus, my companions were a lot more laid back than me, and I struggled with that too. I’m a planner by nature, and when things go awry I tend to panic. Finally, after wandering the streets, we found a travel agency and were able to book a bus to Inle Lake.
Inle Lake was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. We all rented a boat for the day and it was $5 a person, which was amazing. I was taken to an authentic silver shop, a handmade cigar shop, and a bunch of other places with traditional Burmese handcrafts. It was absolutely amazing and something I highly recommend. There’s actually a village in the water and the people get around by using boats everywhere. It’s reminiscent of Venice but so so different. They also have limited access to technology and to the outside world; it was quite refreshing to see how they get by and how their lives are so different.
After we went to Inle Lake, we took a day van to get to Bagan. The driver sped through the mountains and swerved on the edge of the road. It may have been one of the scariest car rides of my life. Either way, we made it safely to Bagan and were able to enjoy the beauty of the ancient city. Bagan is known for having nearly 2000 pagodas and they’re all very close by. There used to be around 10,000 but so many of them got destroyed by nature. It’s really sad but there’s still so much beauty in the city. We spent the whole day in Bagan and had a nice picnic at one of the pagodas.
Finally, we finished our touring in Bagan and made our way back to Yangon. Here I finished all my shopping and was able to get some really good Burmese noodles in a nearby shopping mall. We also went on the local Yangon Circular Train and enjoyed the sights of the city.
Myanmar was surely somewhere not to be missed and I’m so happy I could go. I did have my concerns with the Rohingya crisis going on, but after learning about the situation more and deeming it appropriate to travel there, I ended up going and don’t regret it. As a country that was largely oppressed and hidden from the world, I think it was so important for me to go and see it. It was also very budget friendly and I found myself spending way less money than expected! Overall, Myanmar is definitely less touristy than both Thailand and Vietnam, which I definitely enjoyed, and I really found myself so much more immersed in the culture than before. My unpreparedness made me a little bit uncomfortable, but I definitely learned to be adaptable and more flexible when things didn’t go right, which was super helpful in the future when I was trying to adapt to Thai Time in Thailand.
Talia Bhaiji shares her observation of Cambodia, a side trip, while she studies abroad in Thailand on the Student Exchange Program to Thammasat University.
One of the first trips I did while abroad on the Student Exchange Program to Thammasat University, Thailand, was my weekend getaway to Cambodia. I remember sitting in the cafe near Amarin Mansion (my apartment building) and deciding on a whim, “I think I’m going to Cambodia next weekend!” I booked my bus (8 hours across the border) and booked my hostel in the middle of Siem Reap. I was there from Thursday to Monday morning.
I made it across the border fairly easy and after a couple hours made it to Siem Reap. I got dropped off in the absolute monsooning rain (rainy season hits Asia really really hard) and caught a tuk tuk, which is a little 3 wheel vehicle used to get around, to my hostel. I have to say that I was pretty nervous as I was traveling without a sim card, but their English in Cambodia was pretty good, so I didn’t encounter too many difficulties. Once I got to my hostel, I hung around at the hostel for a bit, and then forced myself to befriend some really cool Australian sisters who I ended up spending my entire weekend with!
We were able to go to Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious monument on earth. We woke up at 4:30 am, caught a tuk tuk at 5 am, and made our way over to catch the sunrise at Angkor, which was absolutely spectacular. It was packed with people, and super hot, but it’s also one of the most well known monuments on Earth, and the architecture and vast beauty of it was like nothing else.
Afterwards, we made our way over to Bayon temple, which is known for having all of the faces on the temples.
Finally, we went to Ta Prohm, which is famous for being in the Tomb Raider movies, and is very recognizable by the trees that cover the temple. It was so cool to see so much of history and to be surrounded by such untouched beauty.
At night, we walked around Siem Reap and visited the infamous Pub Street as well as the Siem Reap Night Market, which was really amazing as well. There’s no real downtown, or real “city” in Siem Reap, which was surprising to me as Siem Reap was the capital and it felt very empty. There are some shorter buildings, but if you go, you’ll see that there are no office buildings, absolutely no skyscrapers and it feels mildly abandoned. Google has very few images of Siem Reap as a town as well, which was quite odd to me. All that pops up is really Angkor Wat when you search for Siem Reap.
In the mornings, we ate breakfast at some of the cafes around the city and had lots of expensive Western food. There were a ton of French bakeries, so I was able to get baguettes, croissants, and lots of cheese, but I really didn’t see much Khmer food which was very surprising to me, but after I did some research about Cambodia I was able to figure out why. The experiences with the war wiped a lot of the culture away, which is why it was so difficult to find native Khmer things/food in Cambodia.
I got to do a lot in Siem Reap and it was really cool experience, but Cambodia was really not what I was expecting. To be fair I only spent a weekend there and I was only in the capital, but there was still a fair amount of the culture that I was able to absorb. Cambodia has a sort of emptiness to it that I couldn’t seem to figure out. I did some research on their history to understand and found out that in the earlier centuries (14th, 15th) Cambodia and Angkor, the capital city, were a powerhouse and had incredible infrastructure. Later on in Cambodian history, they were owned by the French which made a lot of sense as to why they had so much French influence in not only their food, but their architecture, and also on some of their advertisements, menus, etc. But I still couldn’t figure out why it felt like there was something still missing in Cambodia. Yes, there were small buildings and stores but it felt like there was almost no one there. As I was talking with my Australian roommates, they brought up the Vietnam War and said that they had seen the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and had seen the destruction that the US, Vietnam War, and the Khmer Rouge had done to Cambodia, and how the country had never been able to recover. I began my own research and was appalled to learn about it.
Apparently, the US had a huge role in bombing Cambodia, during the late years of the Vietnam War in an attack called the Cambodia Campaign, followed by the Khmer Rouge which brought a huge massacre, torture, and forced labor in the country. I leaned that there was no aid from the US to help Cambodia in its devastating years. If you want to know more about the history, you can find information here.
Learning this history, it made me so ashamed to be an American; here in Cambodia these people love America, love to speak English with us and even use the US dollar as their currency! They celebrate the day that the US ousted the government and put in a new leader and yet we left them with no aid.
Because of this history (our bombings, the war, the Khmer Rouge), Cambodia to this day has been unable to recover and will need some time before it can get back to where it was before. All of these actions occurred within a 10 year period, so it almost impossible for Khmer people to rebuild a destroyed country. While I was there I also took some time to watch “First They Killed My Father” which is a Netflix documentary about a young girl’s experience in the Khmer Rouge. It changed how I see my country and how I see myself. I was ashamed to know that I had barely learned about this in school, and that was probably due to the fact that the US lost the Vietnam War and didn’t want to dwell on its failures.
This trip really made me think about my country and about how our actions affect the rest of the world. I felt humbled to have gone and wouldn’t change my experience for anything. I will say that it did teach me that I need to start doing research before I travel somewhere; I know people told me to do that and I brushed them off with the assumption that I knew far more than I did. When I got to Cambodia, I was mildly embarrassed to not have known any of the history of the war, which is still so relevant to them. It also taught me to be more aware of the actions of America, and how I’ll be perceived as an American. It made me want to be more educated and understand my country’s history better, especially since it does affect so many people.
If you’re in South East Asia I encourage you to go to Cambodia and check out Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields, if possible. But if you do go, please do your research about the Vietnam War, about Cambodia’s history, and be prepared for a life changing experience.
On her very first time outside of the U.S. traveling to Vienna, Austria, senior student Peyton Bykowski finds out that WU is worlds away from Ohio State. She shares her exciting times on the Students Exchange Program attendning Vienna University of Economics and Business Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (WU) during fall semester of 2017, and the cultural differences she has discovered so far.
I have never traveled outside of the United States before hopping on a massive plain to Vienna for 4 months. Was I nervous? Absolutely. No matter how much reassurance I had received from research and personal stories, I was still scared to fly across the ocean in to an unknown experience. I was nervous I would get lost and lose my way. I was worried about the language barrier, since I do not speak German. I was also scared of traveling alone, as I had never done so for a long journey or period of time. But, I had done my research on Vienna and the university, WU, and had a basic idea of its layout and modern feel as well as what the city would be like. In regards to WU, the new WU campus was built in 2013, but the Vienna University of Economics and Business was founded in 1898. The campus contains only 6 main buildings in 25 acres and is only 10 minutes walking distance from one end to the other. In total, the WU campus is about the same size as the Fisher College of Business alone (WU is a bit bigger in terms of ground covered but not by much). Considering that Ohio State is one of the largest universities in the U.S., WU’s size in total was a bit of a change.
As mentioned, the new campus was built in 2013, so it is extremely new and up to date (pictures below). The campus had many architects, but was primarily designed by the famous modern architects Zaha Hadid and Laura Spinadel. As a result, the campus is extremely innovative; with a spaceship-looking library, a rainbow building, and other edgy buildings. It is extremely clean with a lot of coffee shops and eateries for those gaps between classes. However, because it is so small and tuition is free in Europe due to high taxes, the campus doesn’t contain the kinds of facilities expected in the U.S. For example, the campus does not have a free gym, so you must make your accommodations elsewhere (i.e. McFit). To make up for it, the campus is extremely friendly and easy to navigate. It has all of the latest technology and is truly meant to foster educational experiences, not just facilitate lectures.
There are also some different practices I have noticed on campus before my arrival and during my stay here. At Ohio State we have regulated schedules, with your week looking pretty much the same as the week prior and the week to come. At WU, that is not the case. Classes tend to be longer (2-4 hours on average) with classroom changes every week and irregular times. Some classes will be regulated (same time, same day every week) but classrooms may change weekly. It is vital to check every week to ensure you have an understanding of which rooms you are to be in, at what time, and for which classes. Going through the syllabus early for each class is important, as it can help prepare you for your stay here in Vienna and allow you to make proper travel arrangements.
Another noticed difference is the typical dress code, not only at WU, but in most of Europe. While there is no actual “dress code,” students tend to have a more dressed-up wardrobe when attending classes. This can be from jeans and a sweater to a skirt and blazer. I have never seen sweatpants or athletic-wear on campus, as you do not come to class to lounge or work out later on campus. It can be seen as disrespectful to professors to dress poorly, so knowing that “looking good” was a quick tip I was glad to learn early. There is also no “school spirit.” I rarely see students sporting WU apparel, which is the opposite at Ohio State.
Some other practices and administrative differences are in the grading scale and post-lecture ritual. The grading scale at WU is 1-5, with 1 being an A and a 5 an F. In regards to post-lecture ritual, is it customary to knock on the table once the class is finished. This is seen as a “thank you” and is a sign of respect to the lecturer. In my first class the knocking occurred and I wasn’t sure what was happening. It wasn’t until my German language course later that week that I learned about the knocking after our class went over classroom customs.
Being on another part of the world has being a new, and exciting, experience for me. In some regards I knew what to expect, and in many others I didn’t know. Overall, while there are a lot of differences between Ohio State and WU, I am thrilled to have chosen Vienna. While the campus and classes are extremely different to what I am accustomed to, WU was the perfect campus to have that experience of something completely different. The professors are kind and helpful. They are extremely accommodating and, most importantly, want you to enjoy your time here and will help in whatever ways they can. This is a very international school, and the professors understand the challenges of being either from another country or being an exchange student. The students themselves were extremely inviting and aided in getting me situated around the campus and in my classes. The campus is friendly, fresh, and a wonderful place to be. When coming to a new continent, let alone a new country, WU- Vienna was the perfect choice in finding the right combination of a new experience mixed with a place I could easily call home.
Just off the flight arriving in Madrid, Spain, Danny Rodgers shares his first interaction with his host country, which welcomed him with a fellow Buckeye alum from 1976! He describes his first month on the Students Exchange Program, attending Universidad Pontificia Comillas, and putting his language skills to the test.
The adventures of moving to another country.
Stepping off the plane in Madrid, it still had not registered with me just how far I had traveled. Bleary-eyed and rather tired from my 3 flight jaunt from Chicago to Boston to Frankfurt to Madrid (things we do for a good deal) I set off for baggage claim. We had just spent the last hour or so circling over the Spanish countryside due to heavy storms, so I was quite happy to finally be on my feet and walking. Fortunately, airport processes are rather universal, so collecting my bags and heading for the taxis was a rather straight forward task. This would prove to be where my travel expertise ended as from that point on, I was in uncharted waters. I felt a mix of excitement, curiosity and uncertainty heading out of the airport since this was my first time ever traveling to Europe.
After a couple of tense minutes waiting, my bag to finally showed itself and I set off for the taxis. I walked out of baggage claim expecting to pass through customs but before I knew it, I was curbside. Later did I realize that the passport control I went through half asleep at 6:30 am in Frankfurt was where I was stamped in to the European Union. Lufthansa did a great job getting me this far, but now it was my turn to take over the reigns. First up was finding a wifi connection. The beauty of traveling in the 21st century is that we are equipped with the world’s greatest travel companion: the smartphone. When I’m traveling, the number one must have app I would recommend is Google Maps. I use Google Maps nearly everyday for directions, checking train times, or even reading restaurant reviews. That being said, the smartphone is pretty much just a fancy calculator without an internet connection. Struggling to find any sort of connection, I began walking to other parts of the airport. Not having any luck connecting, I got on an escalator hoping the upper levels may have a stronger signal. On the escalator there was a man a bit ahead of me who was looking in my direction. Did he recognize me? Was he on my flight? I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t take long to find out when he looked at me again:
7 minutes into my semester abroad and I run into a fellow buckeye. This is why every buckeye should travel in an OSU sweatshirt; the community of 500,000 living alumni is no joke. I’m a firm believer in good omens, and right then I knew I was in for a great semester. John was a 1976 graduate of the OSU dentistry program and was in Madrid for a conference. We had a great conversation about all things OSU and took a picture to send to John’s friend, a Michigan grad, to prove to her how buckeyes are everywhere.
It’s been just over a month now and Madrid is starting to feel like another home. I have settled into my classes, become acquainted with the neighborhood and feel more confident speaking Spanish. It really did take about a month, as there are many more dynamics at play upon starting a semester here compared to OSU. Whether that be shopping for a Spanish SIM card or adjusting to eating dinner at 9:30 pm, these extra differences made settling in a bit more challenging. Switching to a Spanish SIM card was one of the first challenges I faced. As I mentioned earlier, the smartphone is the essential tool for traveling. Because of this, I needed to set up my SIM card as soon as possible. I started researching my options and narrowed-in on a plan I felt would work best. Now it was time for the fun part. When I walked into the store, I began to worry: What if they don’t understand me? How do you say gigabite in Spanish? Fortunately, I quickly realized I was more than capable of completing the transaction. I left the store with more than just a SIM card, but rather a boost in confidence. These challenges became significantly easier to overcome once I changed my perspective. Instead of looking at them as tasks that are a burden, I viewed them as opportunities to practice Spanish or a chance to put my problem solving skills to the test. That made all the difference.
As I look ahead to the next 3 months of the semester, I know that time is going to fly. With all the logistics of moving abroad behind me, I can now truly begin to make the most of every single day. My number one goal for this semester is to truly step outside of my comfort zone in regards to speaking Spanish. I aspire to use Spanish in my career, and the only way to improve fluency is to practice. Thankfully, every day provides opportunities to use the language, so I believe it is a very realistic goal. Studying abroad is a grand opportunity that has been a dream of mine ever since I set foot in the Study Abroad Expo my freshman year. I’m excited to go into detail in my next entries about everyday life here and how very different it has been.