Finding the Beauty within the Chaos

Fisher undergraduates Chris Schmitt, Gabrielle Trexler, Troy Fritzhand and Takashi Ohkura share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Nepal.

Upon arriving in Nepal, many cultural differences stood out to us. The first being how unorganized and hectic the traffic is. Despite the mayhem, there seems to be no accidents and drivers yield to each other. This was our first glimpse into how polite the Nepali people are even in the messy traffic. After arriving at the Hira Guest House and exploring around Patan, it became more evident on how respectful the culture is. Our first day in Patan, we got lost multiple times. Every time a local happily helped us find our way. Almost every local has been very friendly to us and we even got to know some of the shopkeepers around the hotel on a first name basis. The kindness and respect the Nepali people show towards even strangers seems to be rooted in their close ties to the Hindu and Buddhist religions.

Street festival in the crowded streets of Patan
Street festival in the crowded streets of Patan
Troy playing ping pong with locals on Durbar Square
Troy playing ping pong with locals on Durbar Square

A large part of what we have witnessed this week was how important religion is to the Nepali people. Along the streets, there are many temples and shrines dedicated to deities to which people bring daily offerings. We were also able to attend a celebration of the Buddha’s birthday at Swayambhunath, one of the first Buddhist temples. Many were lighting candles that symbolized unity and the spreading of happiness. We felt a strong sense of community and spiritualism from the people in attendance.

The team at Swayambhunath temple for Lord Buddha’s birthday celebration
The team at Swayambhunath temple for Lord Buddha’s birthday celebration

Some of the locals educated us on the origins of Buddhism in Nepal and how important it is to their daily lives. The good fortune Buddhist flags can be seen everywhere all over the city. According to the locals, Buddhism in particular stresses compassion, respect and kindness towards others, which was evident in how well we were treated on every leg of our stay so far. The incredible hospitality and friendliness of the Nepali people that roots from their strong religious beliefs are defining characteristics of their culture.

Lighting candles
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

During the weekend when we trekked on the Poon Hill trail, we were able to see the culture of the population that lives in the mountains. They live a frugal lifestyle that consists of opening their homes to trekkers as restaurants/guest houses, agriculture, and raising livestock. Like many of the other Nepali people, they are extremely hospitable and friendly. Every guest house that we stayed at was incredibly welcoming and provided us with great meals and company.  Our guide and porter also educated us on their culture of climbing. Many of the mountain men, called sherpas, can carry loads of up to 60 kilograms on their backs and climb the steep mountains easily while the team was struggling to complete the same task with no weight. The sherpas and porters are conditioned to climb in extremely cold temperatures and with massive amounts of weight on their backs. Many of them are former Gurkha soldiers, the most elite of the Nepali armed forces. Our sherpa, Buddhi Man, has been a sherpa for 25 years to support his family and put his daughters in college. They are hardworking and extremely passionate about climbing. We eventually reached the top of Poon Hill 3210 meters above sea level. The view was breathtaking. Hard work and being content with their frugal lifestyles are also cultural characteristics that we observed.

Buckeye Pride on Poon Hill trail

Poon Hill trail
Our trek on the Poon Hill trail in Pokhara. OH!

Arriving in Nepal and the CITTA Challenge

Fisher undergraduates Chris Schmitt, Gabrielle Trexler, Troy Fritzhand and Takashi Ohkura share their cultural and professional development experience during their 3-week Global Projects Program in Nepal.

After getting settled into our accommodations, we arrived at the women’s center in Patan on Sunday. Seitu, the representative from Aatmiya we have been predominantly in contact with, lead us to the worksite. The current satellite worksite has a centralized location in the downtown square of Patan, surrounded by various temples and historic monuments. CITTA, the parent organization of Aatmiya, is planning to shift the main production office to this Patan location from Bhaktapur, thus changing the central location for work. Upon arrival, Seitu introduced us to three of the full-time employees (called Didis) that were currently working on an order for one of their clients, Oja Moon. As a team, we immediately noticed that the center was spacious, clean, and more than adequate in comparison to other establishments and local vendors within Nepal.

We returned the next day and, considering the shift in production to Patan, started to finalize the scope of our project. We focused on confirming our key question, debated the overall scope of the project and tried to rank the priorities of the center, the project, and what the CITTA/Aatmiya brand had in mind. Branded as a women’s economic development project, we determined with the client that  the creation of more work for more women, with the mission to integrate more part-time/piece-rate women was most important. We further identified three main areas where we sought to further improve on this goal: development of an Aatmiya brand, implementing a CRM system, and growing/improving the current client base/work. In establishing the Aatmiya brand, we entertained various ideas, ranging from creating Ohio State branded products to potentially participating in various trade shows such as New York NOW.

Super Eco Brick Innovations Ribbon Cutting
Super Eco Brick Innovations Ribbon Cutting

As a side intermission from our project, the owner of our accommodations (Hira Guest House) invited us to attend the grand opening of another of his business ventures. The partnership, Super Eco Brick Innovations, is a joint-venture between investors in Nepal and a Japanese chemical company. Utilizing a revolutionary new chemical, bricks are produced by simply mixing the chemical with dirt not suitable for proper agriculture to form bricks that are molded in a specific shape for maximum insulation. Most importantly, with this process there is no need for a kiln for a heat treatment/brick firing process thus the environmental footprint is significantly reduced. In addition, the final product has far superior strength, durability, and resilience to water absorption than anything else on the market. In short, the Super Eco brick is the perfect solution for a country lacking stable, universal infrastructure such as Nepal. The ceremony thanked the various partners, investors, as well as the Japanese ambassador to Nepal, whose attendance was more than valued. The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting and exhibition of the current batch-process for brick production.

Trip to Bhaktapur Office
Trip to Bhaktapur Office

Later in the week, we visited the other Aatmiya production site in Bhaktapur, the current central production location. Here, we saw some of the same salaried Didi’s at work, as well as several of the part-time Didi’s, with whom we conducted a group interview. In this interview, we wanted to understand how the Didi’s felt about the work they were doing, what they preferred, and what they would be open to. They ended up voicing a strong opinion in desiring consistent labor, with a preference for smaller pieces, due to the fact that they would make more money per hour due to the pay structure (piece-rate). They also showed strong interest in taking supplementary classes to learn things such as computer skills. In addition to the group interview, we were able to view more of the products in their final form and packaging, which helped us visualize the current product mix that the Didi’s were producing.

Following our trip to Bhaktapur, we visited several women’s cooperatives that sell goods created by women and belong to Fair Trade Nepal, an organization that supports ethical production methods and financially transparent economic development. There, we reviewed products from competitors (quality, price, designs, etc.) and examined and compared the overall layout of the shops. This was especially helpful in determining price-ranges that are appropriate for local consumers in Nepal.

Meeting with KTS
Meeting with KTS

Yesterday, we met with KTS (Kumbeshwar Technical School) a not-for-profit with over 30 years of experience in creating opportunity and education for individuals of the lowest caste in Nepal. We spoke to the director who shared the history of the organization founded by his father and how it developed from a daycare center, to a vocational school, to the multi-faceted organization that it is today. They have vocational schools that train individuals in one of three trades: hand-knitting, carpet weaving, or carpentry, and also a textile/knitting business that creates hand-knit products, rugs, and other related goods. What we found especially interesting was that the organization is vertically integrated, with the dying process done in house as part of manufacturing. There was even a shop located within the same building that sold KTS creations, particularly production overruns.

KTS’ basic business model is to fulfill orders from multiple international clients many of whom are themselves organizations dedicated to creating economic development, healthcare opportunities and food supplementation for marginalized societies and cultural groups. (As an example, Americans might know of SERV International)  The profits generated from these orders support the other on-going programs KTS offers to the community (daycare, orphanage, primary school, vocational programs). It was quite astounding to hear about everything they had to offer as a nonprofit. And, as former president of Fair Trade Nepal, the Director lived the Fair Trade creed of transparency by generously sharing some of KTS’ more technical financials, specifically identifying margins, overhead cost application, as well as the standard mark-up by wholesalers, all of which were very insightful in regards to this line of business.

This week, we plan on using what we have learned to start standardizing the business documents used by Aatmiya and begin developing a strategy for transitioning the products into their own brand (AMA by Aatmiya). Our goals are to create more stable work for the Didi’s; standardize costing, margins, and sampling procedures; and develop a plan for finding some short term orders in the coming fall and into the following year.

All in all, we’ve had a magnificent week of gathering primary research. It is infinitely better to be on the ground asking questions in person, identifying areas of concerns, and truly visualizing goods, manufacturing sites, and the local environment over trying to learn the same from afar. We’ve learned first hand about the state of the business, the pricing of competitors and how they operate, as well as the opinions of those involved in Aatmiya. I am looking forward to what the coming week brings as we synthesize all that we have learned and produce a social entrepreneurship project of tangible value to Aatmiya.

From a Broken Phone to Having an Audience With The King Of Spain: Part I

Grant Buehrer, participating in the Student Exchange Program in Spain, tells his story of how a broken phone turned into a meeting with the King of Spain! He shares the strategies and learned lessons from leveraging the most good out of a bad situation while abroad.

Students and staff from the the exchange university delegation to meet the King of Spain listen to a speech prior to engaging in a Q&A Discussion with the King. From Left: Universidad Pontificia Comillas Rector Julio Luis Martínez. King of Spain Felipe VI De Bourbon y Grecia, Universidad Pontificia Comillas Staff and Students with Exchange Student Grant Buehrer center with navy suit and blue tie.

I was just two weeks fresh into my semester exchange in Madrid, Spain at Universidad Pontificia Comillas and I woke up to some concerning news. My communication lifeline, a Samsung Galaxy 7 smartphone, had died while I was sleeping. Although this might seem as a first-world complaint, when one finds themselves in an unfamiliar and foreign country the GPS and Maps capability of a smartphone alone are priceless. As the price of purchasing a new phone while I was in a foreign country was too high, I was relieved to hear from my U.S. based cell-phone insurance company that there was no problem in having a replacement phone shipped internationally. Excitedly I waited till the next week for delivery, anxiously checking the tracking information daily as the package traveled over land and ocean. On the day of expected arrival one of the worst sentences one can hear when shipping internationally flashed across my internet browser, your package has been held in customs.

As I quickly learned, living abroad requires one to quickly adapt to a given situation. As the news came in I raced to the internet to research what I would have to do – after nearly 10 days without a functioning phone – to retrieve the package. Over the course of the next seven days, I visited 3 separate government agencies on 5 total occasions while spending 10 hours of my life in mind-numbing government queues. I had made no progress whatsoever.

When living abroad, there are times when you realize that you are in over your head and need the support and advocacy of a trusted party, requiring you to think critically and accordingly as to who that might be. As such, I turned immediately to my exchange university academic advisor for help. After pointing me towards an International Relations office housed within my exchange university, I had a dream-team of two of the nicest and caring Spanish women I think I have met in all of my 6 months in the country helping me. Through broken Spanish we began to discuss what the issue was and began the process of correctly retrieving the necessary government documents to get my phone back.

A critical point must be made here, my ability to make it this far into the process of retrieving my phone falls back on one huge factor, learning Spanish prior to coming to Spain to a high enough level, so that I could communicate through these events albeit at the level of a fourth-grader. One of the worst attributes of the ugly American tourist stereotype is the inability to understand that not everyone speaks English in the world. That is okay, in fact citizens in foreign countries have every right to speak exclusively in their native tongue and you have to adjust accordingly to this reality rather than letting it bog you down.

As the next week passed I paid daily visits to my government-bureaucracy savior, Marta. This rekindled how much I have realized the importance of building relationships are, during this time I learned about Marta’s family amongst other things as I shared photos of my dog back home and stories. Not only from hearing others experiences can you learn lessons about the world that you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise, but it also opens dialogue between yourself and another that allows you to share your dreams, interests and goals with others.

This part is critical, as it is the bridge to the rest of the story and why I have found myself in some incredible experiences on the Student Exchange Program, and in life. At some point in our many interactions and through my intermediate Spanish, I shared my interested in the developing world and that I had previously visited Washington D.C. due to interests in International Finance. Marta immediately lit up, from what I could understand from our conversation in Spanish she had a friend that worked in D.C. that would be coming back to Madrid very soon and that I should meet him.

More time passes and I forget about the prior conversation we had regarding Marta’s D.C. connection. With luck, 21 days after my phone dying I had finally gotten my replacement phone out of customs. In my own eyes I realized that words of gratitude would not be sufficient for Marta and the other woman that had helped me. Sometimes another’s action is great enough that it requires a gift. I opted for flowers.

Thanks to the gift of gratitude I found myself once again in the International Relations office. After expressing my gratitude deeply, I remembered the conversation that I had with Marta and asked her about her D.C. connection. To my surprise he wasn’t a friend of her’s, he was actually the manager of a study/work abroad program at the University and was back in Madrid just an office away.

We immediately hit it off, as it turned out Jose was not only a long-time resident of the U.S.A. but his study abroad programs were incredibly successful at the university. As we continued to discuss U.S. politics and global affairs, Jose informed me of a few events and conferences that he was coordinating at the university. After learning a little more about me he asked if I might be able to speak at a few of the conferences regarding the U.S.A. and its culture.

I really credit the time that I spent at Ohio State for preparing me for this request. Thanks to the many opportunities I have had to present in front of professionals and fellow students through student organizations, I was prepared. Over the next couple weeks I spoke on several occasions at his scheduled events.

This is where things come full circle, as I have found through the many opportunities that I have had in my life the old adage “luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” After my final speaking engagement, Jose shocked me with the information that he was requesting that I be allowed to join a delegation from the university to meet with His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain. The delegation visits the King annually as a sign of support from the Royal Family towards globally-minded university programs. After a decade of visiting delegations to King Felipe VI, Jose said it was time for a foreign-exchange student to join the delegation, and thanks to my rapid involvement on campus he believed I was a good fit.

Forward-thinking really came in handy when preparing for Spain, I thought that I might find myself wanting to attend a formal event while in Spain. Therefore I made the effort to make enough room in my luggage for my suit, tie and dress shoes. Never did I know that I would be using my suit to meet the King of Spain!

With the event a week away, I decided to take a step back and prepare myself for meeting with the King of Spain. I had been honored to have been blessed with the possibility.

Want to know how it went meeting the King? Stay tuned for my next blog post about the meeting with the King!

Returning Home: It’s Not the Country That’s Changed, It’s Me

Now finished with her time studying for a semester at WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management on the Student Exchange Program, Colleen Sauer reflects on her last weeks abroad. From her last European adventures, bittersweet partings with friends made abroad, reverse culture shock in the U.S., to the discovery of how much she has grown and changed from her experiences going abroad. She shares her message to students considering going global: “Just do it!”

When I planned to spend the semester in Germany and realized that I would be there for seventeen weeks it seemed like the time would pass slowly, and I would be so ready to return to the States at the end.  Well, if you talk to anyone who’s been abroad for an extended period of time, I’m sure they’ll agree that the time flies by, and before you know it’s time to leave.  During my last weeks I had countless fun, bittersweet moments with my friends and started to notice how much I’d learned and grown.

I am now officially back at OSU in the States, and it’s been so fun reflecting about my time and reminiscing to willing parties!  I definitely underestimated the existence of reverse culture shock though, I can now say that it is in fact quite a real thing! As strange as it may sound, given I can usually only understand portions of what’s said in German, I miss hearing German spoken around me.  Everything also felt oddly different, it was a bit odd.  I soon realized that the US hadn’t changed–I had.  But in my first few weeks when I’ve found myself surrounded by my family and friends and having as much fun as old times, I’m reminded how much I missed them and why I came back to the US! (Granted, I had already purchased my plane ticket and my German residency permit expired the day that I left.)

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The Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France

I’ll talk a bit more about my recent post-abroad reflections later of this post. For now, I’d like to catch you up on the fun experiences I had in Germany since I last posted! My last major trip after London was to Paris over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a bit odd to not be with my family but from previous years of being with them as we excitedly called a family member that wasn’t able to attend, it was fun to be on the receiving end of that as the phone was passed around the table allowing everyone to talk to me.  My favorite part of Paris was visiting The Louvre and the Sainte-Chappelle, a highlight of those two events was spotting the Winged Victory statue at The Louvre.  An interesting fact that I often tell prospective students on my tour (I’m a university Ambassador at Ohio State, so I give tours of the university to high school students and their parents) is that what originally prompted me to visit Ohio State was the fact that they had a replica of Winged Victory at their library, and here I was a little less than four years later seeing the real thing!  That moment was so surreal.

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I nearly started hyperventilate when I spotted Winged Victory…

Another day trip I went on was to Heidelberg, Germany where I met up with my friend Troy Weider (find his exchange blog posts here!).  Troy was actually studying in Strasbourg, France at the same time that I was in Germany and we were both on exchange through the Fisher Student Exchange Program.  Two weeks before he left Europe to return home we realized that for how close we were to each other, we never met up while in Europe, so since Heidelberg was a midpoint destination we both wanted to explore we decided to take advantage of a free day and meet there.  It was much more of an exotic location for catching up than at the Union Market at OSU!  That was a fun day because not only were we able to see a beautiful town, but also relate to each other in so many ways about our adventures in Europe.

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Visiting with Troy in Heidelberg, Germany

In the final weeks of my time in Germany I stuck around Vallendar, partly due to the fact that I needed to study for exams, but also to make sure I was taking advantage of the time I had left with the friends I met at WHU.  I realized that I could come back and see Austria, Italy, and the other places on my list that I didn’t make it to, but it would be much more of a rare occasion to have all my friends from my time abroad together again.  Therefore my friends and I planned game nights complete with mini-golf courses organized around my Swedish friend John’s flat, trips to the nearby city of Koblenz to enjoy the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) there, and plenty of meals together at our favorite restaurant in Vallendar called the Goldene Ente.

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Game night with some of my closes friends

It was so hard to leave Germany, especially not knowing which of my friends I’d see again.  I’d say being the only Ohio State student at WHU was such a wonderfully independent experience, but I soon realized that no one would be returning with me to Ohio!  But of course as the tauschies said their final goodbyes we all  invited each other to our various countries, so I now have people to visit and places to stay when I come back to Europe.

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The gang during our last Dancing@WHU Dance Class

When I came back to the States I had plenty of time to reflect on my time abroad, between making a photo book for myself of my semester and telling people about my time there.  Two big takeaways from my time abroad came from these reflections, the first of them was realizing how much I coddled myself when I first arrived, and how this could have potentially hindered my experience the first few weeks.  Before even arriving to Germany I imagined myself completely freaked out the first few weeks, and to combat that I told myself that I probably won’t feel comfortable travelling until the third weekend, and that it was perfectly fine not to.  Then here I was my first Friday in Germany, being invited to join a trip to Frankfurt the following day.  Looking back going to Frankfurt for a day isn’t at all intimidating, but going would essentially be taking away that comfort blanket of the “third weekend rule” I’d previously given myself.  With encouragement from my friends I eventually decided to go and had a great time.  If I hadn’t gone, I have no idea if I would have had the courage to leave Germany for Luxembourg the following weekend, or travel alone to Marburg to visit my friend Nora during my third weekend.  In all this, I learned to appreciate the value of having people around you to push you past your comfort zone, and the importance of being able to put aside “your plan” when a better idea presents itself.

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Köln, Germany

Secondly, I can remember a point during my first week when I was having a hard day in Germany and thought about my life at Ohio State.  I wondered what I was thinking leaving OSU, where I had lots of friends, was involved on campus, and generally felt comfortable. This is a point that I strived and longed for as a first year student.  Meanwhile, here I was in Germany not knowing anyone, not being proficient in German, and generally not fully understanding how things worked here.  Later in the semester I realized how much I had grown, learned, and faced my fears.  I started to think critically about how I had previously described my life at Ohio State as “comfortable”.  As a college student, I’m at a point in my life where I should be growing, making mistakes, anything but comfortable!  If I could impart any advice to someone after what I’ve learned last semester, I’d say they should face their fears, try something new, have an adventure, be challenged, just be anything but stagnant.

Somehow living abroad changes you in so many aspects, makes you think critically about your home country and life there, and teaches you in countless ways.  When talking with students who are thinking about studying abroad I am now a huge supporter of long-term study abroad programs, because I believe that the degree of independence and submersion into a different culture is where real growth and change of perspective occurs.  In the wise words of Shia Lebeouf’s hilarious motivational speech, “Just do it!”

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Reflections on My Semester Abroad in France

After a month back from the Student Exchange Program, Troy Weider reflects on his incredible semester abroad in Strasbourg, France. He shares some of the things that he already misses about leaving Europe, the return culture shock he felt coming back to the U.S., and his message to students considering (or on the fence) to go abroad.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.17.41 PMScreen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.20.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.19.26 PMWow… I can hardly believe that it has already been a month since I arrived back to Perrysburg, Ohio, after four months of exploring some of the most beautiful places in Europe. I catch myself daydreaming about being back in the Alps, being back in a Parisian café, or being back in Strasbourg, surrounded by fairy-tale architecture, Christmas markets and all the new friends I so quickly had to leave behind.

Studying abroad was a life-changing experience, and I would recommend it to any college student who has ever had even Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.18.20 PMthe faintest interest. Ever since I was a little kid, the outside world, with its diverse people’s and cultures has always fascinated me. In elementary school, I would pour over children’s atlases and history books, dreaming of what it would be like to be in another country, exploring a corner of the world that was previously unknown to me. I finally got to know what that experience felt like in these last few months. Living in a place that’s very different, yet at the same time comfortable and unintimidating.

Things are very different now that I’m back at home. I no longer plan weekend trips to London or Slovenia, I’ve got a lot more schoolwork that I have to do, and for whatever reason, no one is speaking French! On a more serious note, it is great to be back again to see everyone who I was missing during this last semester, and after not really being in Columbus for the last eight months, it feels nice to be back on Ohio State’s campus again. Near the top of my list of things that I missed while in France, was being able to watch football (well at least so called “American football”, and luckily I arrived back just in time to watch the college football bowl season and the NFL playoffs! While at the game I was most looking forward to, did not really go as planned, it was nice to be back watching football with friends and family.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.19.04 PMDespite all the bittersweet happiness of being back home, the first few weeks back showed me that reverse culture shock really does exist. I can remember just realizing how big everything really is here: from the portion sizes to the cars to the buildings. People speak much quieter in public in France than they do in the United States, and right when I started getting use to that back in Strasbourg, I left to come back. Something that I did not really miss though was that the air feels much cleaner in the United States without the constant smell of everyone smoking cigarettes. But one of the things that I was most excited about being back was being able to have large amounts of mediocre American coffee again! I’m a big coffee drinker, and while I love the French café culture, it’s hard to find cheap coffee that is anywhere near the same size as its American counterpart, instead it’s stronger and much smaller. There is a plethora of differences between France and the United States, but these differences are really what made my trip so exciting in the first place!

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Last Travels

I love being able to reflect on my experiences during the last few months, so I figured I’d also give you all a brief recap of what’s been going on since my last blog post.

After starting classes near the end of September, I came into October with a full schedule of trips planned. My first one, and one of the highlights of my whole experience, was a trip with four of my friends to Slovenia. This is one of the most beautiful, but sadly overlooked countries of Europe. Slovenia had everything: beautiful Alps and lakes in the northwest, beautiful castles and villages, a very quaint yet cosmopolitan capital city, some of the largest caves in the whole world, and a small but beautiful Adriatic coastline. Slovenia was an amazing trip, and luckily the next weekend I got to go on a long weekend trip with my friend Julie, who happens to go to BGSU and was on the Slovenia trip as well. Julie and I spent three full days seeing the best of London! We saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and tons of free museums along the way. London is an incredible city with all its history and diversity, and I was very lucky to cross that one off my bucket list. Then the following week, the University of Strasbourg had its Fall Break and I got to go on the trip of a lifetime, a 10-day trip through Europe with my dad. While my dad and I had always loved to travel together, he had never been to Europe before, and this was a great opportunity to show him around my “temporary home”. We met up in Paris for a few days before taking the TGV high-speed train to Strasbourg. Once there I gave him a 36-hour “best of Strasbourg” tour, with stops at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the European Parliament, Petite-France, the European Parliament, Orangerie Park, lots of sauerkraut and tarte flambées along the way. Then the next morning the two of us rented a little French car, a black Renault Twingo, and started a 6-day road trip through the heart of Europe. Starting first in Ribeauvillé, a small medieval town along the Alsatian Wine Route, we visited my French friend Hakim, who gave us a day-long tour of his hometown and the castles and villages that surrounded it. Hakim was one of my closest friends who I met in Strasbourg, and we luckily met during my first week in the city when I was lost trying to find the laundry room. I asked this random student in the main building where to do my laundry, and after showing me the way there, we ended up talking for an hour or so in both French and English, and then we started hanging out a few days later. Getting to see this region with a local made the experience much more unique, and since Hakim had several friends and family members working at the local wineries, we ended our day with a few tastings and cellar tours. From here, we spent the next day in the Swiss Alps, making a four-hour stop in my favorite Swiss city, Lucerne, before driving the high mountain Klausen Pass through the heart of the Alps. After several hours of the most breathtaking scenery, we made it to the micro-country of Liechtenstein, where we saw the main castle, got a “VIP tour” of the nation’s parliament, and ate at what seemed like Vaduz’s most happening restaurant. Then we left the Alps behind us and made it to Munich, where we spent the next day biking between parks and beer gardens past old reconstructed churches and palaces. Munich was amazing, but I was most excited about the final leg of our trip, the Czech Republic. I had made a lot of friends from this country during my time in Strasbourg, and Prague was always at the top of my bucket list of places to see. During our short two-day stay we drove to Plzen, where my friend Petra gave us a list of cool breweries and sites to visit in her hometown, then we visited the imposing Karlstejn castle en route to Prague in time to catch the sunset. Prague lived up to my expectations and was one of the most beautiful cities that I visited in Europe. Between the Prague Castle, the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and all the local pubs, restaurants, and hidden spots that I was told to visit by my Czech friends, Prague proved to be a memorable stop. The last day of our trip, we drove back through the Czech Republic and Germany, before I sadly had to say goodbye to my dad the next morning, but while his European vacation was over, my adventure continued.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 9.19.39 PMIn the last half of my stay I went on several day trips with my “host family”, was interviewed by French radio about the American presidential elections, continued spending time with my new friends, and went on several more weekend trips to Colmar, the Alsatian Wine Route, Heidelberg and Nancy. The biggest trip of this last leg was a spontaneous trip to Amsterdam with a French club at the university, where we biked along the canals, ate tons of local delicacies, and took in the nightlife. Also one of the biggest highlights of the last month in Strasbourg was getting to see the cities world famous Christmas market. Over the last few years this 500-year market with 300+ stalls selling everything from hot wine and local foods to ornaments, has been named Europe’s best Christmas market. The city was beautiful festooned with lights and decorations, and during December more than a million tourists packed the city center and added a different energy to Strasbourg. After an extremely busy last few weeks of exams, traveling, and saying goodbye to friends, I left Strasbourg for Paris on December 18th. After a whirlwind 24-hour stay in Paris, which I now feel I know better than almost any other city after 5 trips there, I boarded my plane to head back to Chicago to once again see all my friends and family back home.

I know that was a very brief recap of months worth of adventures in Strasbourg, but it definitely helps to illustrate all the fun that you can have exploring a new country and culture. Besides the enjoyment of just being over there, my semester abroad gave me a greater appreciation of different cultures, an amazing opportunity to improve my French, and the ability to exchange beliefs and ideas with new friends from all over the world. I’m very grateful for my time spent in Strasbourg, and I’m already looking at opportunities to return there again.
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Welcome to 2017 Freshman Global Lab

Faculty Director for 2017 Freshman Global Lab, Professor Knemeyer, recounts his first trip to Germany and talks about what he hopes students will find in the city that the New York Times ranks #10 in its 2017 “Places to Go” list.

Over the past decade, I have traveled to Germany more times than I can remember and Hamburg has become one of my favorite places to go.  In fact, I now consider it my German hometown.

My first trip to Germany didn’t include a stop in Hamburg.  Instead, I the visited the more known destinations of Munich and Berlin.  However, during soccer’s World Cup in 2006 I was able to get tickets to a match in Hamburg.  I figured I would apply to a less well-known city in order to improve my chances.  Thank goodness I did!

As a logistics professor it is easy to fall in love with this picturesque port city.  I have taught courses there, I have studied language there, I have discovered relatives there, I have taken lots of Fisher students there, I have made life-long friends there, and most importantly I have grown as a person there.

The view from our classroom in Germany.
The view from our classroom in Germany.

One of my personal goals is to provide opportunities for Fisher students to expand their view of the world we live in.  As someone who grew up in a small town in Ohio, graduating high school with 40 other students, I had a very limited understanding of what it meant to be part of a global economy.  Travel, and more importantly, purposeful travel is a great way to open up a much broader view of what is possible in your business career.  The goal of my program is not to go on a vacation, but to provide an extended period of time to immerse yourself in a distinct culture and learn about business concepts in a place you can experience them firsthand.

Hamburg 03
In Hamburg, Logistics and International Business are all around you.

Hamburg is of the busiest ports city in the world. We will explore the city, from the Holy Roman Empire to WWII, from sweet Franzbroetchen to the local flavors of the Night Markets. Around every corner a new adventure awaits!  The city’s outstanding transit system, water tours and bike rentals provide easy access to the world class museums, diverse neighborhoods, lively music scene, great restaurants, and other wonderful activities the city has to offer.

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The city offers an exciting mix of old and new.

This program will allow you to take two of your core courses (International Business and Logistics Management) while spending four weeks in Germany.  I am very excited about sharing a town with you that I have grown to love!  You will learn about some important knowledge needed to succeed in global commerce, you will experience a different culture, and you just may learn something about yourself as a person as you learn what it is like to live in a place outside of the United States.  I will be there to help, but you must take the first step by applying to our program.  I look forward to you joining us on this exciting journey.

Intro To Ireland – The Return

This is my last post as I am now home in Ohio! It’s weird being home and not being able to wake up and walk to Trinity, but after four months it’s great to see friends and family again. Though, I did prefer Dublin’s winter weather to Ohio’s. The snow was a major plus but the temperature could be better.

Trinity

To anyone thinking of going abroad, after my experience, I would highly encourage it. Exchanging is way more than seeing sites or mastering a language, but those are great pluses. It’s the friends you make and the once in a lifetime experience that you will remember your whole life. Since I grew up in Ohio and have lived here my whole life, it’s an amazing feeling to know I have friends not only in Ireland but spread across the world. It also boosts your confidence in your ability to travel and adapt to new situations. Think about it. If you can survive in a foreign country, entering a new company culture will be nothing even if it’s across the pond. Personally, I would love to work abroad one day, but always felt like that was a huge daunting step. Now that I have lived abroad I know how it feels, how the adjustment period goes and that it wouldn’t be as daunting as I thought.

One of the biggest highlights of my exchange was getting to go to a Gaelic football game at Croke Park, the main stadium that all finals are played in. I have grown up seeing these games and the stadium, but going to a game as a local was amazing. I’m sadly still not 100% sure of the rules but got to experience something that I only could in Dublin, Ireland. Even the less glamorous parts, like getting there was exciting as I knew the bus system and the city well enough to do it without help.

Game

One big piece of advice I would give to anyone is to stay organized! It can get overwhelming during the application process and while abroad. If you apply to Trinity the process is slow, so don’t panic if it takes longer than others. Other than that don’t forget to explore outside of the city your in and have so much fun.

Intro to Ireland – Packing

Packing you life in a few suitcase it tough, but Grainne Hutchinson, attending Trinity College on the Student Exchange Program, share some tips with you as she packs up her life in Ireland.

As my time in Ireland wraps up I thought I would give helpful tips on how to pack your life up when your time abroad has come to an end. It’s a tedious process and a kind of sad experience, but a happy good sad. I also strangely love to pack so I know a few tips.

One major tip I would give is regulating what you buy abroad! Make sure to keep in mind what you buy either has to fit in your suitcase or get left behind. Bringing an extra bag so that you have extra room on the way back is a great way to accommodate all the purchases you will make abroad. Because have no doubt you will be acquiring souvenirs no matter how hard you try. You’re going to want your exchange school’s attire, aren’t you?

Another tip is to pack early and slowly at the end of your time abroad. You have a lot of stuff so packing the morning of your flight or even the night before is not a good idea. Maybe start packing the week before and focus on all your souvenirs and stuff you won’t need in the next week. Also start gathering stuff you don’t think will make the cut home; if you have time, you can donate them to charity shops like Oxfam, basically the British version of Goodwill. All the kitchen stuff and bedding you will buy can be donated to charity shops or left for the next students who go abroad.

Oxfam

This is also a great time to narrow down your wardrobe, especially if you need room or weight in your suitcase. Keep in mind if you didn’t wear it while your abroad and have a limited wardrobe you probably won’t wear it at home. When packing to leave the U.S., bringing things that you plan to donate at the end will help with the room in the suitcase at the end.

My room all packed up.
My room all packed up.

Other great packing tips include rolling your clothes instead of folding them; witch helps with space and wrinkles. Putting socks in shoes to save space in your suitcase, especially if you’re putting them in your carry-on. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane; you can always take them off as well as your bulkiest jacket. That’s all for now!

Intro to Ireland – Last Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intro to Ireland – Brexit

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

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

Hist

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

Nicola

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

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

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