Global Business Expedition participant Allen Jones gives his reasons for visiting Israel during his time as a Working Professional MBA at Fisher College of Business.
Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about traveling to Israel. I was considerably older than most of my WPMBA classmates. I have a wife and three children who, at the time, were 13, 12, and 10, and I have a full-time law practice. And, of course, the State Department had issued travel warnings to U.S. citizens for portions of Israel. Nevertheless, I was driven by the missed opportunities of my college years, and off to Israel I traveled over the 2016 Spring Break. Let me share three reasons why I think you should participate in Innovation Israel too.
Go to Israel because the business climate is innovative and learner friendly.
I landed in Israel on a Saturday afternoon (the Jewish Sabbath), and we left for our first business meeting the following morning. We met with two companies each day from Sunday through Thursday. That may sound a little daunting, but consider the value of the opportunity to meet with company executives who, for the most part, were candid and open to answering questions about strategy, competition, marketing, intellectual property, etc. Many of the executives with whom we met did not even bristle at being challenged by our questions. My favorite example is a company called Somatix that uses data collected from wearables to help smokers quit. We raised a number of challenges related to data collection, privacy, and user rebellion that the CEO very calmly considered and addressed. The business experience alone was worthwhile.
Go to Israel because the culture is stimulating.
To my surprise, Israel was very western. Every Israeli I encountered at hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars, smoothly and happily transitioned to English. I never felt remotely unsafe in Israel too, despite the fact that our media often sadly portrays Israel as a war zone. You might be surprised to learn that Jews and Muslims live and work with one another peacefully every day in Israel. We also enjoyed a highly educational Shabbat dinner with a young Jewish family during our visit, and lunched one afternoon in a Druze village on Mt. Carmel. The Dead Sea was neat too, but do not feel bad if you decline the urgings of your classmates to enter the sea and cover yourself in its slimy mud – I didn’t. The highlight for me, as a person of faith, was our tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. However, even if you are not a person of faith, the rich history and significance of Jerusalem is overwhelming.
Go to Israel because it is a visually stunning country.
The Mediterranean Sea and coast are absolutely beautiful. The Israeli-invented drip irrigation systems have turned barren desert into lush fields of agricultural products. The view of the Mediterranean from the ridge of Mt. Carmel while looking down over Haifa is breathtaking. Every bus ride was an optical adventure. Oh, and I almost forgot, the food is amazing.
Do not let your graduate school experience end without a trip to Israel. Take advantage of the opportunity now and get academic credit in the process. Experience business in another culture; intimately experience another culture; experience beauty in another part of the world; and get to know some of your classmates better in the process. Don’t wait – Go now!
Samir Mohan, a graduating Working Professional MBA, reflects on cultural history and modern business during his time as a participant in Global Business Expedition: Israel.
“Wait, Samir, you’re going where?! Israel?!? What for? But isn’t it… dangerous…? Is Ohio State making you do that to get your MBA? No? Well, what do you hope to learn there?”
I wanted to learn how it is possible for a country less than half a century old and roughly the size of New Jersey to, despite all odds, thrive in a global economic context and at the same time presume to teach Americans the meaning of ‘audacity’.” Still, I found it equally true—and easier to explain—that I wanted to challenge myself and blend my central Ohio education with a true World View of business.
My trip to Israel was as revelatory as it was astounding. Truthfully, I had never paid much attention to happenings in the Middle East because of the stark cultural and geographic divide between our climes. My decision to go on the Global Business Expedition to Israel was partly a leap of faith—“do something extraordinary before you graduate”—and partly because it aligned perfectly with my professional aspirations in innovation and technology. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask “how” and “why” to leaders of multi-billion dollar firms, as well as entrepreneurs not much older than myself at red hot startups.
Each day we woke up early to attend early business meetings in virtually every corner of the country, and each night we stayed up late to experience Israeli nightlife. We visited places and touched things whose names are capitalized in holy texts. We pressed our tour guide and Professor Shenkar to explain the at times exasperating inconsistencies between cultural factions in the region. Why do they mask Made in Israel labels? Why are parts of the country so segregated along ethnic and religious lines? What are the Gaza Strip and the Iron Dome? Indeed, I experienced first-hand the extreme emphasis on security; however, it did not take long for the sight of armed guards to become “the new normal” for most of our group.
I could at once see a platoon of hardy female IDF soldiers guarding Jerusalem’s Dung Gate and a group of Hasidic Jews rocking back and forth in kinetic prayer at the Wailing Wall. We toured the construction site of a state-of-the-art public and private sector research megaplex in the Negev Desert, and peered through smoked glass as lasers cut medical stents with micrometer precision in Jerusalem. An Israeli VC’s CEO described his firm’s multi-million dollar investments in Israeli startups over the past decades as I ogled his achingly beautiful wristwatch and wondered if I had some semblance of his chutzpah—audacity.
I travelled 7000 miles from home armed only with an open mind and a handful of case analyses on companies in the Startup Nation. What I observed there and ruminated on while floating on my back in the Dead Sea at the end of the trip, was Israel’s incomparable duality of worldwide cultural historical significance and modern day business relevance.
A month has passed in Strasbourg, France, as Troy Weider has been lucky enough to explore the beautiful French region of Alsace, Germany, and Switzerland. Along the way he has met tons of new friends from all over the world and settled in to his life at the Ecole de Management Strasbourg.
Wow time really flies by! It feels like just yesterday that I boarded the plane in Chicago to start my adventure of a lifetime on the Student Exchange Program. I’m actually starting this post after being in Europe for exactly one month, and so far I have been lucky enough to take a few trips outside of the Strasbourg area.
After just a few days in the city, I got a group of friends together to go to Europa Park in Rust, Germany, which was only about 40 minutes away by bus. Europa Park is the 2nd largest theme park on the continent, and each area in the park is themed after a different European country. The park was beautiful and it contained some of Europe’s largest roller coasters, so my trip there was definitely a highlight. Amusement parks are not as common in Europe as in the United States, and I was telling all my new friends in the group about parks that I go to back home: Cedar Point and Kings Island. My European friends were so surprised to hear about how many huge roller coasters that there are in Ohio, and Cedar Point was generally something I mentioned when describing my state in general. Even though I’m used to amusement parks, my day at Europa Park was one of the best of the trip. I got to spend time with a great group of people that I had just met three days ago, and thrill rides have a great way of bringing people from all backgrounds together. On top of that, Europa Park is really fun and we were lucky enough to go on a day when the weather was beautiful and there were hardly any lines for the attractions. The highlights of the day for me were definitely the two biggest rides at the park, Silver Star (reminiscent of Diamondback at Kings Island) and Blue Fire (a unique launched coaster that was Iceland themed), as well as the beautiful theming and landscaping of the park, which differentiated it from amusement parks back home. So overall, this was the first of many fun day trips.
The next weekend I was asked to go on a trip to Switzerland by two friends who had been on the Europa Park trip. There were nine of us in a van that we drove throughout the country, and we basically did the Grand Tour of Switzerland in three days. Along the way we visited the 5 largest Swiss cities (Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne), the beautiful lakeside town of Lucerne, Switzerland’s iconic Chateau de Chillon, and the breath-taking Berner Oberland region. While I knew that Switzerland was going to be beautiful, the country really exceeded my expectations. Switzerland is packed with beautiful scenery, and it is very different from the other places that I’ve visited so far. All of the Swiss towns and cities that we saw were pretty similar, they were quaint and very clean, they were situated on a lake or river and generally both, they were surrounded by mountains, and they had pretty old town centers. As nice as these cities were, most of them were fine to see for just a couple hours because there were not all that many sights. My favorite part though about Switzerland was all the landscapes that we were surrounded by. We saw dozens of lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and villages, and everything really was overwhelmingly beautiful, but a couple of the places really stood out. My favorite town that we passed through was definitely Lucerne, and although we only really had 30 minutes in the city, it was enough to make me want to come back. Lucerne was the quintessential Swiss city, situated on a lake at the mouth of a river, surrounded by the Alps, and the city had the prettiest old town with a fancy old wooden bridge that spanned the river. The most beautiful scenery though, was in the Bernese Oberland, which is in the center of the country and surrounds the town of Interlaken. We stayed in the perfect Swiss village of Iseltwald, and our hostel gave us the most incredible view, and we even got to try the local fondue the next day. Everywhere we went in the Bernese Oberland was beautiful, so much so that in fact we decided to chose the word “époustouflant” (‘breathtaking’ in French) as our “word of the day”. In all we spent three days discovering Switzerland, and it was an awesome way to spend the weekend.
This last weekend I had the opportunity to go on two more short trips, and this time I went to Stuttgart and Freiburg in Germany. Like I said before, Strasbourg is right on the German border, and I only need 10 minutes on the tram and bus to get to Kehl, Germany. Most locals in Strasbourg go to Kehl to buy there groceries, so I’ve actually been to Germany four times this week between the shopping and the day trips.
Last Saturday I went with a group of friends to the big Oktoberfest celebration in Stuttgart. While it isn’t the original festival that is in Munich, it is the second biggest celebration of its kind in the world, and its much cheaper and closer than Munich. A word of advice, when traveling in Germany, you can buy a group pass for each region of the country which gives you 24 hours of unlimited train travel for a low price. For example, since I live right on the border of the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg (which Stuttgart is the capital of), our group bought a 5-person group ticket for 38 euros total, so we could take a bus across the border and then take unlimited train trips while paying only 7.50. Other ways to save money while traveling are by looking into budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet), taking bus services (Flixbus!, a German company that serves most of surrounding areas) or looking into discount passes for the train companies. I saw on the French website for SNCF (the national railroad company) that they were having a deal on their Carte Jeune, a discount card that saves around 30% per train, where they were only 25 euros instead of 30, and within two trips I already recovered the 25 that I spent. Surprisingly, though, this deal was not displayed on the English language site, which is a very French thing to do, so look out for better deals on the French language site.
Getting back to my trip, I can say that Oktoberfest was even more fun than I expected it to be, and it felt like a huge state fair on steroids. There were several massive festival tents filled with people who were all dressed up in local costumes to dance, sing, eat and drink together. Every tent had a band that played music for the festival, including a few traditional drinking songs that they repeated every 15-20 minutes. Besides this, there were roller coasters, bumper cars and huge rides everywhere, so I had a really fun day in Stuttgart. After returning back to Strasbourg that night, I came back to Germany the next day with a different group to visit Freiburg, the main city in the Black Forest. The famous Black Forest is a large area of mountains and dark, thick forests that line the German border with France, and the area is filled with interesting old towns. Freiburg is a historic university town, that is reputed to have the best weather in all of Germany. We spent the day exploring the towns famous cathedral, old town center, and hiking the hills that overlooked the city. As expected, I had an awesome day with everyone in Freiburg, and it was great to be able to explore another interesting city.
The biggest highlight so far though, was all the amazing people that I’ve been able to meet at my host university. When I arrived in Strasbourg, I was the only student here from Fisher and I did not know anyone in the whole country. Luckily though, within my first few hours of being here I got to make new friends from all over the world. I have always loved studying about Europe and all its different cultures and peoples, but it was cool to finally have the opportunity to be exposed to this interesting part of the world. I have met French people, Danes, Czechs, Slovaks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Colombians, Brazilians, and many other nationalities that I would have never had as much contact with in the United States. Everyone here has been so open to meeting new people, and it really feels like freshman year all over again, except that everything is in French and there’s better food. I love being able to meet people from all over the world and everyone who I’ve met here has had different life experiences from myself, but what has stood out, is how much we all have in common. That is why it is so important when you travel abroad to get out of your comfort zone. Everyone here is so eager to meet new people and all you have to do is introduce yourself and embrace the challenge of meeting new people.
These new, exciting experiences are what I live for, and I am so fortunate that my first few weeks in Europe have been this enjoyable. Whether its ordering lunch in a local restaurant, sipping coffee on the café terrace, buying a French phone plan, meeting people from other countries, or even mountain biking in the Vosges mountains with a guide that speaks only French, these are all memorable experiences that studying abroad has afforded me. I hope to update you all soon on my further adventures, and until then I’ll keep travelling and learning in this beautiful corner of the world. Thanks for reading.
Freshman Global Lab 2016 in Switzerland & Italy. Alexandria Jackson, a rising sophomore in the business school, gives her top 5 “To Do’s” for students when traveling on Freshman Global Lab.
Traveling with the Freshman Global Lab was not my first time out of the country, actually visiting these two countries I was able to visit my fifth continent! But traveling on a Global Lab was a little different than my previous travel experiences. Here are my tips to make sure your time goes by as smoothly and productively as possible.
Tip 1: Packing
A tip for deciding what to pack on a business trip like this is to make sure you have the essentials—your business clothes. The next thing to consider when packing is to bring versatile pieces. This makes it easy for you to fit more things in your suitcase and the ability to mix and match when in country! Another tip for packing, specifically for the girls, is to not forget to toss in a sundress! It will come in handy when you get to go on a night out or to dinner. Lastly, make sure you have comfortable walking shoes for both your business shoes and causal shoes. We walked so much in Europe around different cities that having comfortable shoes is a must!
Tip 2: Traveling
Wear comfortable clothing and easy to slip off shoes to the airport! Nothing is more frustrating than someone who cannot get their shoes off in security. Also, keep your ID and passport handy you will have to present it to multiple people. On the plane, try to get some sleep because the time change when traveling internationally can be hard to adjust to. When in the country make sure you enjoy every minute of it, this may be your only time visiting these countries! On this trip we had a lot of long bus rides so try not to fall asleep during those long bus rides and listen to the tour guides. You will get to see and experience some great things while in country such as the beautiful scenery.
Tip 3: The Business Visits
The main reason for the trip is business, therefore pay a lot of attention in the business visits. Not only can you gain valuable information about how businesses operate in Europe but also you are able to figure out which business specializations you are and are not interested in. In this trip we visited many logistics and finance companies, and I realized that these are two specializations I am not interested in. However, I realized during the chocolate factory tour that I was interested in marketing. As we were touring the facility I was able to talk to our tour guide about why they package their chocolate the way they do, such as the packaging color and font. This affirmed my interest in the marketing specialization and allowed me to look more into marketing. The chocolate factory just so happened to be the best business visit on the trip!
At the factory we were able to tour the facility and pour our own chocolate!
Tip 4: Keep an Open Mind
I know that going into international travel with people you barely know seems crazy, but don’t go in with any pre-conceived notions about them! Enjoy the trip and get to know everyone, you will meet some great people on this trip! I made great friends on this trip and we still get together even though the trip has ended! Depending on the country you will be visiting you will most likely experience some sort of culture shock. I think it is a good idea to understand a little bit about the country’s culture and customs before you travel the country. Also, fully immerse yourself in the culture! Try new foods, talk to the people, and to get the most out of the trip!
Tip 5: Enjoy the Trip
Although business is the main objective of the trip you have to enjoy the country from perspective of a tourist! When we were in Switzerland and Italy we asked the locals for the best places to eat and shop! The people in both countries were very friendly and helpful when we asked them questions. In Switzerland we actually met a group of college students who sat and ate with us where we both shared what it was like to be a college student in our home country. When in country make sure you eat all you can! In Italy we ate gelato every day and sometimes twice a day!
I hope these tips gave you a piece of mind about the Freshman Global Lab trip! By following these tips, the most daunting parts of the trip should become a breeze! Enjoy your trip!
As Grace Hutchinson starts her semester at Trinity College in Ireland, she shares her first adventures landing on the Irish island. From starting at her new school to traveling to amazing sites in Ireland.
For Fall Semester 2016 I decided to embark on the adventure on the Student Exchange Program. I chose Trinity College Dublin, located not surprisingly in Dublin, Ireland. I should tell you this is not my first visit to Ireland so I didn’t experience the usual culture shock (i.e. outlets must be switched on for them to work and driving on the other side of the road.) I actually have dual citizenship with the U.S. and Ireland as my father moved to the states for work, were in an adorable fashion he meet my mom. I have traveled to Ireland throughout my life visiting family, but I really wanted the chance to experience what normal long-term everyday life was like. You never really see the whole story of a city’s when you are a tourist. I was kind of shocked to find that a few students also studying abroad here were in the same situation as me, and had similar stories of visiting family throughout the years.
When I got my acceptance letter I started to worry about the logistics of finding classes and how to register for them, knowing that the European school system would be very different from what I am used to at OSU. How would I get to campus and navigate the paper-based registration system? I was directed by past exchange students to take a look at the Semester Startup Program (SSP) and would recommend it for anyone thinking of exchanging to Trinity. The SSP program helps international students not only get a good intro to Trinity, before the mass of students arrive, but also includes lectures that cover Ireland’s history, culture, and global connections. I have learned some things that even my dad didn’t know. For example, did you know that Ireland was one of the only countries in Europe to consistently have gender equal migration? We also visited some amazing sights including Croke Park, Trim castle and the Hill of Tara. Those are all must see places for anyone venturing to Ireland. (Croke Park: the national stadium where all GAA finals are or the All Irelands. GAA sports include Hurling and Gaelic football.)
Some of the work you will have to do in SSP is the graded assignments, three papers to be exact, as well as lectures every day. They haven’t been too overwhelming and I have to admit they have been a great introductory to U.K. spelling and Trinity’s Citation Policy as well as prepare me for school to start. My papers so far have been on W.B. Yeats and Robert Emmet, two people I really didn’t know about until this class. But don’t worry there has been plenty of time to explore and we have already wondered outside Dublin to the seaside town of Dalkey. We saw castles and boats but no dolphins. It also was not raining for our day of exploration which in Ireland is a very rare thing indeed.
When I first saw Trinity as a kid I though it looked like a castle, I really couldn’t imagine it as a school. Now that I am here and classes are about to start I still can’t see how people stay focused when the campus is so pretty and historical. Trinity is a lot smaller than OSU and it is completely fenced in with about three ways in, so I am really looking forward to the day when I learn how to avoid the many tourists that come to Trinity daily. I must now accidently be in so many trip photos. As of now, though, I’m currently working on my final paper for SSP and trying not to worry about signing up for classes, which I can’t do until the week before they start.
Alex Rhodes, junior in Public Policy Analysis & Political Science, gains new appreciation for private sector profit maximization in the decision making process during his participation in the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab.
As a student studying public policy, I must admit I was quite interested in the implication of public actors in achieving the level of sustainability that I and many others had presumed Denmark and The Netherlands to have. I believed that private actors, or firms, were quite limited in their ability to widen the scope of their analysis of their own functions to incorporate or internalize negative externalities like pollution. I was taught that it is often only the government that can force businesses to consider the environment.
I was entirely mistaken.
Certainly the role of government cannot be overlooked. When we went to Aalborg University, several presenters fused sustainability ideas with application of public policy. We discussed a previous project one of presenters had worked on: a public biking path. We discussed how a cost benefit analysis of the path was created, how the argument for its construction was created and changed throughout the process of its enactment, and we learned how its effectiveness was statistically measured and analyzed. It was one of the most interesting discussion lectures I’ve attended in my undergraduate career.
However, I soon realized I hadn’t given enough credit to potential of the private sector. I realized that under very unique circumstances, circumstances like those experienced by Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, firms can create radically innovative business models with sustainability and profitability to boot.
The Eco-Industrial park consists of a host of factories and firms that have assembled themselves in one location based off of one principle: their inputs are the same another’s outputs, or vice versa. That means less dumping of waste materials into landfills, less pollution from trucks transporting waste material to its resting place, etc.
But don’t mistake this park as being created to be “green”; I quickly learned after arriving that it was created almost solely for monetary reasons. Having only to ship outputs/inputs of a factory down a street instead of across a city means less cost to the business. These businesses just wanted to add a few more dollars to their bottom line. Surprisingly, similar to American businesses, the most sustainable businesses in the country I once recognized as one of the most eco-friendly countries didn’t prioritize the environment in their business model; they just wanted an easier way to maximize profits.
I truly believe that there must exist a catalyst to speed up the creation of unique circumstances that lead to profitable and relatively environmentally-friendly businesses. Perhaps due to their nature, businesses will always prioritize profits. They may just need to augment how they go about earning their profits. Perhaps the government can help them do this.
In studying the successful sustainability of Denmark and The Netherlands, Robin Iritz got a lesson in design theory with FCOB’s Sustainable Business Global Lab.
A culture of thoughtfulness sits behind every feature in Copenhagen, Denmark. The same can be said for Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I traveled these cities in May 2016 as one of 25 climate-conscious Buckeyes. We observed innovative design at each carefully planned city corner.
In the US, sustainability is still securing its legitimacy as an essential consideration in our evolving communities. In Northern Europe, it’s always been in the culture. Our group visited seven influential businesses and universities with the goal of understanding how Europe continuously tops the environmental and social well-being charts. Put simply, what makes these guys so good at solving complex public problems?
It’s all in the design.
It seems as though Danish and Dutch cultures are focused on doing things absolutely right. Everything right. Objects, traffic patterns, personal interactions, all of it is designed with a specific purpose and function. Our group understood this at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen where the principles of sensory experience, functionality, and reflection were presented as important features of successful product-service experiences. This kind of design theory can be applied to any product, service, and professional interaction to create a meaningful experience. At Nordic Food Lab, it was applied to distilling grasshoppers into a nutrient rich soy sauce alternative.
We saw design again in the rapidly developing island Amager in Copenhagen where sustainable architecture is absorbing population growth and minimizing the environmental impact of greater population density. We saw design in incredible works of art throughout the many museums we toured in our free time. Design shined from the steel bridges crossing the river and canals in Rotterdam. The bridges are designed to look like the ships passing through Europe’s busiest port city.
My friends and I spent nights in hotel lobbies trying to figure out how to make sustainability as attractive in America as it was in our host cities. After tossing around ideas of flashy advertisement campaigns and political calls to action, we realized that nobody ever “sold” sustainability to the Scandinavians. Rather, it developed there out of geographical conditions, availability of natural resources, and a culture of collectivism. To instill such values quickly in Americans is a lofty endeavor. However, I think that our constraints are changing as a result of climate change and social and political pressure. The changing environment could catalyze innovative technology and community development in such a way that we develop our own brand of sustainability. What American Sustainability will look like is up to how we understand and adapt to our unique challenges.
Understanding the European’s approach to sustainable design has taught me how to deconstruct a problem and build the solution from its parts. Their responses to ever-changing limitations are at once inspired, effective, and efficient. My time in Europe was eye opening and a total blast. (Did I mention how well designed the nightlife is?) I couldn’t bring the culture of sustainability home but what I bring back to OSU this fall is a new point of view and a cool group of peers who know what it’s like to glimpse into the future.
David Drummond shares his highlights in Hong Kong, as he studies there for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. From the mixed culture, accessibility, and the many ways to spend your free time, he points out what makes Hong Kong a special place to live in.
Hong Kong really is one of the must-see places in Asia. The tourism board touts it as “Asia’s World City” because of how many different cultures can be represented in one city. It is also one of the safest, and I think by far, the most accessible cities in the world. It has to be the easiest of cities in Asia for westerners to integrate into because of how much English is both spoken and seen. Since my arrival, here are the major highlights so far that have helped form my picture of Hong Kong:
Highly accessible. Hong Kong’s transport system is extremely easy to get to know and get used to. The MTR (subway) service stretches across most of both Hong Kong island in the south and Kowloon in the north. It is easy and cheap, especially with a student discount, to travel anywhere in the city. If you cannot get somewhere by MTR you can find a double-decker or minibus to take you closer. All of these options usually cost less than 10 HKD (about 1.3 USD) and take the Octopus card, the most effective tool of mass transit EVER! You can put cash on this card just about anywhere through 7-11’s or McDonald’s or at any station and can even use it to buy food at many restaurants. If you’re in a hurry you can take a cab, which only takes cash, but still are fairly cheap compared to big cities in the U.S. and you only have to worry about them understanding you (Often speak no English). For such a big city, over 7 million, it hardly feels very crowded.
Take advantage of good weather. In Hong Kong it rains a lot or the fog rolls in and you can’t see much. I’ve been told that the summer can get very hot and humid. But when you get, every other week or so, a stretch of sunny days there’s so much that you can do! From beautiful views over the city in high rises or the peak, to hiking the many trails and hills of the island and country parks, Hong Kong has much more than a city can offer. Around 70% of the land in Hong Kong is outside the city and much of it is easy to get to by bus. Spectacular views await as you hike on down to the sandy beaches in the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island and spend the afternoon eating Thai food and drinks! I’ve climbed mountains, met monkeys, and traveled to far away fishing villages all within a short trip away from downtown or campus. Campus is only about 45 min away from downtown and less than one to two hours away from the best beaches, hikes, and scenery it has to offer.
Vibrant nightlife. Like any major city, Hong Kong has its nightlife district. Lang Kwai Fong is where people young and old congregate around a few blocks to enjoy the night, but head on up to SOHO and you find streets lined with unique restaurants with every taste you could be looking for. This is much more for the expats and young professionals where you can find any kind of cuisine of your choice. There’s always a new place to explore. The food scene is incredible. With so little space to work with, there is a huge variety of unique restaurants with food from all around the world. If you love to eat you’ll fall in love with the city. I have yet to get really into any music scene here but I have seen a few jazz clubs about.
Cultural crossroads. With the English no longer in control, Chinese culture may be becoming more dominant, but there are sizeable western expat communities and Hong Kong will always try to be the place to bridge East and West. British is no longer the upper-class standard, but you can find the influence still. I’m reminded of this when I see signs in English and walk past elegant western-style facades. There are definite pockets of the city which cater more aesthetically and culinarily to expats. However, when you walk through the markets with hanging fish and roasted ducks, see people chatting over a bowl of hotpot outside of a small dai pai dong, or walk through the crowds of Filipino domestic workers relaxing on their day off in Statue Square, you are reminded of the unique Asian cultures here. The little things also stand out, like having your card handed back to you with two hands or occasional subpar customer service (tipping is not very common). It’s harder to feel out of your comfort zone here, but you experience enough of the local and mainland Chinese culture to keep you interested to ask questions.
Shop till you drop. And you thought consumerism in America was the world standard? There are literally malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong, attached to the MTR and major buildings. Markets, with street food, abound. It’s definitely fun to wander through the malls and down the back alley stalls and wonder, who all buys this stuff? It is a city that only exists because the British wanted to sell things, mostly opium, to the Chinese. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the downtown of Kowloon you’ll find a lot of premier shopping and lots of mostly Indian men looking to advertise watches, suits, shirts, coats, bags, etc. I am really curious how many people respond well to being followed and touched by these guys asking if you like nice watches over and over! Shopping is definitely in the culture here. I heard from my roommate that a local girl mentioned that her usual holiday was going to a mall and just spending the day walking around and getting little bites to eat at lots of vendors. She didn’t understand why he would go on vacation and go windsurfing or water skiing!
Hong Kong offers a beautiful and vibrant experience where safety, accessibility, and comfort bring you back, but from where you can travel to a wide swath of nations in Asia with ease. Over my first two months here, I have experienced a beautiful and unique city which bridges East and West. In some ways it is struggling to hold onto its Western identity as China tries to gain influence, but I have gained a great appreciation for how the two cultures can work together in interesting ways. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting to learn about a multicultural Asian city with many of the comforts of home. It really is a the perfect location as a home base to see the diverse nations in the region. Asia is your oyster, and Hong Kong is the pearl.
About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong
More than the beautiful buildings and the breathtaking landscapes, Melanie March says that the highlight of her time in Thailand is the people she met while on the Student Exchange Program. Find out what is so special about the people in Thailand, South East Asia, and how it has become a life-changing experience for her.
I have been many places since coming to Thailand. I have been to Cambodia where I was taught that the problems I face daily are nothing compared to what others face everywhere in the world. I have been to Khao Yai that has shown the natural beauty of Thailand as well as the destruction that humans have caused. I have also spent hours in waters more clear and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I have been in the mountains of Laos that are slowly being taken over by tourists and backpackers but have also given me some of the best views of places untouched by foreigners.
What has really amazed me most here are the people.
The people that you meet in Southeast Asia are some of the greatest that you may ever have the opportunity to meet. Every person has their own story to tell and their own reasons for traveling here. Some are soul-searching and trying to figure out what to do in life and others just need a change of pace. I’ve met people who “just felt like doing something new” and other that weren’t happy with where their life was going so they decided to take a break and throw themselves into Southeast Asia.
I can hardly express my gratitude to these people and what they have taught me. From the exchange students who all have their own unique background to the Thai students who have been more welcoming than I could ever have imagined when I left months ago.
I have met people during my two months here that have changed my perspective about this world. These people have shown me kindness that is often unseen in the world nowadays and I believe the friendships I have made here will last me much longer than the trip.
So what I am trying to say that this experience has been life-changing. Asia will humble a person and remind them that there is more to life than just collecting objects. There are people out there to meet, conversations to have, and memories to be. It is just a waking reminder to live each day to the fullest so you can look back on life without regret.
About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.
Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!
Brad Schulze reflects back on the wonderful four months in Italy on the Students Exchange Program. It was challenging, inspiring, eye-opening, adventurous, but a life changing experience that he learned more about himself then ever before.
They say time flies when your having fun and that couldn’t be more true than this past semester. Here I am, sitting in the Baltimore airport, eating Chipotle for the first time in quite some time, waiting for one more connecting flight to head home. Finals are over, the packing is done but it still hasn’t hit me that it has come to an end. It is weird to think that exactly four months ago I sat in the same airport but headed in the opposite direction with a sense of uncertainty on what to expect. What would Italy be like? Would I make new friends? Would I have fun? Well now I can say I sit here with nothing but certainty. Certainty that I had the best four months of my life. Certainty that I have made friends for life. Certainty I learned more about myself in four months than in 21 years of life and certainty that Italy and Europe treated me well and that I certainly will be back.
If you had asked me about a year ago from today where I saw myself in a year; the answer would have been finishing up finals at OSU and headed home for the holidays. Instead, in reality I was headed home from an experience of a lifetime. I had spent four months in a foreign continent traveling and experiencing different cultures, gaining worldwide friends, learning from teachers across the globe and learning more about myself than ever before.
How many 21 years old are lucky enough to experience the things that I did? I got to bike across the Netherlands countryside, biked through Barcelona, ate Belgian waffles in Brussels, sipped on a few Guinesse’s and listened to live local bands in Dublin, took a trip back to the Roman Empire and visited the colleseum, visited two of the worlds most famous churches, La Sagrada Familia and Milan Duomo and of enjoy a nice Roman sunset. During the week I got to go to dinner and hang out with kids from around the world. Learn some deutch, spanish and italian. Plan a thanksgiving potluck for 30 people and have a Turkey Bowl. I got to pick up a job tutoring two young Italian kids in English and grab coffee once a week with my italian language partner. The list goes on and on and on.
An experience like this really put things in perspective and teaches you so much. Really makes you realize just how big the world is and just how many awesome places and awesome people there are. Makes you realize just how small, in reality, Ohio State is. Made me realize that while living in a foreign country is a scary thought, it is quite possible. Hard to describe but being alone in a country, planning classes, studying for exams, requesting Airbnb’s and just being on your own really is an accomplished feeling. Makes other daunting tasks not seem so hard. Really just teaches you that the world is big and the opportunities are out there, and with some motivation, are very doable.
It felt like a blink of an eye and was very hard to say good bye to my “temporary” life in Milan and hard to say good bye to all the great people I met. So many thanks to go around to so many people for such a great four months. To all my friends; especially my parents for all their support and of course The Fisher Student Exchange Program. Studying abroad had to be the best experience of my life up until this point and I hope an opportunity to return presents itself in the very near future. I never would have thought the experience would have been this great. It fullfilled and surpassed every expectation I had. From traveling to making new friends and learning a new language it was an A++. Made friendships that will last a lifetime and a part of me will always be in Milan, Italy. To a great four months and until next time.
Thanks Europe for the time of my life.
About the Author: Brad Schulze, Senior, Finance, Student Exchange Program- Italy