Mays Business School, January 31st, 2023
It’s almost been three weeks since I arrived in Strasbourg and my experience has been great so far. With this being my first trip overseas and my first solo trip, my anxiety was through the roof when I arrived in Paris. Initially, I was worried about missing my train, getting pickpocketed, and not being able to understand anyone and I can confirm that none of these things happened! If you just ask for a little bit of help, then someone will point you in the right direction. Once I arrived in Strasbourg, the biggest difference I noticed, compared to the US, was their public transportation. You can get anywhere in Strasbourg by tram, bus, or walking. It’s really easy and cheap. Speaking of cheap, the cost of living in Strasbourg is very affordable and there are so many cool restaurants and bakeries. There is a bakery on every corner with so many fresh pastries to try. I have been living off of croissants and pain au chocolat since coming here.
Regarding school, I have had to get used to the three-hour lectures, but they are quite manageable. Professors usually give a 15 min break halfway through and it helps with breaking up class time. It is nice only having to attend class once a week. Another big difference compared to A&M is that your class schedule is unpredictable. Not every class starts at the beginning of the semester, some start and end halfway through! Also, the meeting location for each class changes every week and you don’t have certain classes every week. Though every week is different and my schedule is random, it is nice to not have the same classes every week. Currently, I am taking 18 hours abroad and only have two weeks of the semester where all my classes intersect. So far school has been very manageable.
Some culture shocks I have experienced while being in Strasbourg:
- A lot of people here don’t speak English (shocker) (note to self: practice French before coming!)
- You have to pay to use the bathrooms & water isn’t free
- Strikes happen almost every week
- Everyone smokes
- Shops close at 8 pm
- Everything is closed on Sundays
- 2-hour lunch breaks
Regarding travel, I have been to Paris, Frankfurt, and Baden-Baden in the past two weekends! I have learned a lot about the history of these regions and it is rewarding to learn about cultures so different from the one I am used to. Below I have included some photos from my travels.
Mays Business School, January 30th, 2023
My name is Cami Lidisky and I am studying abroad for an entire semester in Madrid, Spain. I have been in this city for one full week now and just started school today. In this short blog post, I hope to summarize my reasons for coming here and my greatest takeaways so far.
My travel experience was completely wild. My flights were delayed and my luggage was lost, but I finally made it to Madrid to meet my roommates in the evening. I am living with two other Mays students whom I met a few months before leaving for the program. We found an extended AirBnB in the middle of the city. It is great because it is so close to all of the fun and happening places! It is nice and busy during the day, which is great but also tends to be pretty loud at night. So far, we have done a lot of walking around the city and exploring. We have stopped into countless restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. For the most part, all of the locals here are nice. They appreciate it when tourists try their best to use Spanish, even if they don’t speak it very well. I have found that this is one of the best ways to show them respect and try to integrate into Spanish culture, which is important since I will be here for several months. I have never lived in a large city before, so the hustle and bustle and public transportation system is pretty new to me in general. However, it is not very hard to get the hang of! I have also found that food, drinks, clothes, and other products are pretty comparable in price to Texas, if not cheaper most of the time. We visited the Prado Museum for free because we are students; we are hoping that other attractions will also have student discounts!
We had a short welcome event the other day to introduce us to the expectations and values of UC3M. They emphasize academics and are known to be a prestigious university here. They also value fun. Today, I visited UC3M’s campus for the first time and started classes. I am enrolled in 3 English courses and one Spanish class. There are honestly not very many classes to choose from in the spring for marketing majors. I would have much rather taken all English classes because I am more comfortable learning in that language, but one class just did not have that option. I have not yet gone to that class, but I am hoping that it will be a great experience and a chance for me to improve my Spanish. My other business classes have many American students in them. It is super fun meeting new people and learning about other American Universities. I like hearing the reasons why other students decided to study abroad. I am sure that in my Spanish class, I will meet many international students who speak Spanish. I am excited to get to know individuals from different countries and cultures.
Mays Business School, January 25th, 2023
Arriving in Barcelona was at first a little intimidating, I got here with my family and as we were driving through the city I saw for the first time how much bigger Barcelona was than any other place I’ve ever lived before. However, once I had moved into my cute little apartment on our sweet pedestrian street with my wonderful roommate I realized that it didn’t matter how big the city was as long as I had my little home. From then on I’ve had nothing but an amazing time. We found our apartment on Airbnb and soon after moving in, we realized there were more exchange students living right above us and we have become fast friends! At orientation, we had a great time meeting people from all over the place and then hearing about all of the ways the school we are attending (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), wants us to get involved in their culture and meet other exchange students as well as their home university students.
I am currently taking 2 classes since I will be doing the two-trimester program so thankfully I haven’t felt overloaded with work at any point so far. It’s nice because there is a very obvious overlap between what I’m learning in these classes and what I have learned at A&M so it makes the transition easier. The teachers seem to be very kind and understanding and they do not seem to ever assign homework. However, the class lectures have a lot of good and necessary information so I know they will be incredibly important to attend.
As far as getting acquainted in Barcelona goes I feel we’ve done a pretty good job, we’ve found fun places to add to our daily routines and have made some awesome friends at events hosted by the university and by the ERASMUS club. We’ve gone on fun hikes and too delicious dinners with other international students from all over the world. Overall it’s been an amazing time so far and I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed by every person I’ve met and our wonderful host university!
Mays Business School, January 25th, 2023
I have been in Barcelona for about 2 weeks now on my exchange at the Pompeu Fabra University business school and I have enjoyed every minute of it! I came with a friend from Texas A&M and we have been spending so much time exploring the city as well as meeting other exchange students from around the world. The university has done a great job of connecting the other Erasmus students, putting on lots of programs to help us meet one another so those are the people we have been spending the majority of our time with. My favorite activity yet with them has been hiking to the Montserrat Monetary for unreal views and incredible history! Overall, this experience has been unlike anything I have ever participated in. Before this, I had never been to Europe or experienced such a diverse culture that is present here in Barcelona. The schedule is very different from back home in Texas. For 2-3 hours every afternoon, most businesses shut down for siesta which we have had to get used to. Plus, most people also don’t eat dinner until around 8 pm, staying out very late into the night. Another adjustment is that I am not fluent in Spanish or Catalan so there has been quite the learning curve, but I am trying to use it more every day. Luckily, many of the locals and the other exchange students do speak some English which has been helpful to adjust and get around the city. The classes just started and already there is quite a difference from our usual lectures back at A&M. The big lectures are very discussion-based, and it is so interesting to hear new global perspectives from other students on different topics in business. So far, I have had a really amazing time here and I am so excited to explore more of Spain and learn from this incredible global experience!
Mays Business School, January 18th, 2023
Wow, I haven’t said that in forever. As I prepared to go back home for the holidays, I was actually very sad to leave Madrid but happy to finally see my family. Yes, I was extremely stressed about my finals due to the curriculum being more weighed for the final rather than any other assessments I had completed during the semester. However, I would say I enjoyed the group work. I was able to meet my closest friends that I made abroad from those groups and I know I will miss them. Hopefully, I get to visit them in the future in their home countries.
Madrid had exceeded my expectations of how beautiful the country is. However, I was surprised by the diversity of the different backgrounds of those who are currently in Madrid. During my time there, I realized that a lot of foreigners seem to go to Madrid to work, teach, or study. I was able to try some Spanish food and I must say I did like the tapas but the tortilla de patatas was interesting. Other than that I was able to eat food from other cultures as well. Also, like how I previously assumed, I knew that my Spanish would be helped but it was definitely different compared to Spaniards. Definitely was an interesting experience and the funny thing is when I would video call my family, they would tell me that my accent had changed. Or that I’m using different words to express something rather than to say it in a way that they would.
My time abroad has made me a completely different person. I feel that I am a bit more organized to have my work in order and understood how to manage the study/life balance. I honestly think this is the most independent I have been in my entire life and I feel much more responsible. I’m excited to see how I will be with the start of the new semester and hopefully I can continue with my self-growth when I get back to campus.
Mays Business School, January 11th, 2023
I have to say, day 1 was just about every emotion I could imagine. I was excited, scared, lonely, thankful, and tired. I arrived in Barcelona at around 8:00am in the morning about 4 days before the start of school at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. I was able to overcome jet lag pretty fast since I stayed up (with the exception of about a 45-minute nap) the whole day with it being 7 hours ahead. That was very exhausting but worth it.
Now, I am on my third day of school and it has been a blast. To be completely open, I have had feelings of loneliness but I try to remind myself how awesome this experience is and the 6 months will be over before I know it. Through a group called ESN, I have been able to make friends from many different countries even just 6-7 days in, and hope to travel and explore with them over the next few months.
My initial impression of Barcelona was really just shock. It’s the first time that I have been outside of the United States and there are a lot of ordinary and everyday things that are different here in Barcelona and probably in Europe in general. The first challenge and shock was navigating the subway metro system with all of my luggage. I think the challenge and experience was unforgettable for me and will serve me well as I continue to use the metro, but I might recommend to anyone coming to Barcelona to hire a driver to take you where you need to go from the airport. Luckily, I had no rush to be anywhere and I had all day to do it so getting off at the wrong stop and getting on the wrong subway just helped me learn the hard way. Learning the hard way is fairly common these days I would say. But I’m beginning to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations which is great!
I hope to continue to be put in situations that allow me to think critically and practice patience. I hope to continue to meet friends from all over the world. I hope to continue to learn the Spanish language much better. I hope to continue to broaden and deepen my perspective of everything. And I hope to do all of this so that I can share this experience and help others. This 6-month exchange is much bigger than me and what I get out of it. It’s about what I get to share years and even decades down the road that will benefit many. Just grateful to God for this opportunity.
Mays Business School, January 8th, 2023
As an exchange student at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Madrid, Spain, I learned a lot about conducting business and engaging with individuals in the host country. One of the most significant things I learned was the importance of building personal relationships in the business world. In Spain, it is common to take the time to get to know someone and build trust before conducting business, and I found that this approach can lead to more successful and fulfilling professional interactions. I also learned about the importance of being flexible and adaptable in business, as the way of doing things can be quite different from what I was used to. It was important to be open-minded and willing to learn about new approaches and ways of thinking. As one of my professors noted, the drive for entrepreneurship in Spain is not as vibrant as in the U.S., this was a notable thing to get used to in the business school especially since here in Mays we place a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship.
My initial impressions of Spain were largely accurate, but I also learned that there is always more to learn and discover and that it is important to be open to new ways of thinking and doing things. Most classes continued to be taught in a more laid-back style, with much of the dialogue coming from students. Much of the discovering came from group projects where I had the opportunity to work with those from different cultures and countries. It was important to keep an open mind since their universities and schooling often taught them different ways of going about doing certain work than my education here in the United States has taught me. Overall, my time abroad has certainly changed my perspective and has helped me to become more culturally aware and open to new experiences.
Mays Business School, December 24th, 2022
Preparing to leave Madrid for the final time, I have to say that this experience has shaped me to be a more well-rounded individual. I now have a better understanding of how to complement my work-life with ample space for leisure because of the focus that the Spanish have on being out and about with one another. It seems that there is a lighter emphasis on career development that contributes to this relaxed atmosphere you feel in Madrid.
My initial impression before going to Madrid was that it would be very important to learn Spanish to be able to communicate and get along with others, but I could not have been more wrong. The people here are extremely English-friendly and often speak very well when you are struggling with your Spanish, but it does go a long way to make the effort to learn their language. Studying at an international university, you are going to meet individuals who come from all around the world to study abroad, and at times, it can be overwhelming with the culture shock you experience. To overcome this challenge, I found it invaluable to lead with the intention to understand where others are coming from to begin forming a relationship with your fellow international students. The school in Madrid was very different from the American education system. Your class grades are mainly determined by your final exam, so you may not be as motivated to put your best foot forward until the very end of the semester. However, the condensed workload and ambiguity of final exams in a foreign country do create pressure when the time comes to take your tests, so I found it useful to study 2-3 weeks in advance and attend my classes to have an idea of what the subject material would be.
I will always remember Madrid for its bustling main streets and quaint cobbled neighborhoods. Even after having lived there for an entire semester, I can confidently say that there was still so much of the city left to be explored. Saying my goodbyes after final exams, I felt as if I had built my own community of friends and had a sense of belonging in the city. The change of leaving Spain to come back home, though uncomfortable, has taught me greater independence, confidence, and gratitude. If I had the opportunity to study abroad knowing what I know now, I would still say yes in a heartbeat.
Mays Business School, September 15th, 2022
The first thing you notice about Madrid is how lively it is. There are a lot of people packed into the city and it seems like they’re always on the streets. I recall walking back home around 11:30 pm on one of my first nights and being caught off guard by how many people were at the bars and restaurants along my walk. The city has a relaxed atmosphere and it feels like their daily clock is shifted back a few hours; people eat their meals later, go to bed later, etc. Despite the considerable differences mentioned, as well as others unmentioned, for me, the small differences add up to create complexity in this new environment. Small things like laundry, finding out where to buy certain things since everything isn’t available in one place like an HEB/Walmart/Target, getting a gym membership, and many more add up to present challenges when doing tasks that would be basic back in Texas. These small things aren’t present when you’re on vacation, but when you actually live there you realize there’s nuance in everyday tasks.
My initial impression of the business program at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid has been positive. The professors have a more laid-back style of teaching and prefer the class to flow more like a conversation between the entire room rather than a lecture. One of my classes is all Spanish students, despite this class not being a business class and instead a political science class, I enjoy it quite a bit since I get to hear how Spaniards view world affairs. My business classes are filled with students from all around Europe and some Canadians, so I’m sure I’ll hear many great ideas from a wide range of backgrounds. I hope to learn from the unique perspectives of these students and be able to take some new ideas back home with me.
Mays Business School, September 14th, 2022
From the moment you set foot in Madrid, you can feel the special atmosphere that this city has created. There is an extraordinary social scene that is depicted by masses of people dining outdoors, walking alongside the streets, or just spending leisure time in one of the many parks here. I think one of the most alarming differences between Spanish and U.S culture is that overall, people here just feel more relaxed. It does not take more than a day for the casual observer to notice that Spaniards are not in a hurry to get anything done, and as a result, you become immersed in this calm feeling of acceptance. Furthermore, Madrid feels like an international hub. All kinds of people are welcome here as characterized by the warm smiles you receive when speaking with locals, who have no problem trying to accommodate the language barrier if you are still learning Spanish. Another evident difference between the U.S. and Spain is that many people walk to their destinations or use the efficient system of public transportation created by buses and metros, which creates an overall healthier lifestyle through active movement. As far as University classes go, the program at Universidad de Carlos III in Madrid is a breath of fresh air from the routine classes back home. The teaching style that I have experienced thus far has been a range from intense professors who passionately preach their teaching subject to more hands-off professors who choose to encourage classmates to collaborate and reach solutions collectively. Overall, I do not feel that the adjustment to learning the Madrid education system was anything unreasonable because of how well-prepared students at Texas A&M typically are. From this international exchange, I hope to further develop my ability to connect with others who share different views than me, and in turn, become a more well-rounded and open-minded person overall. Simultaneously, I believe that it is important to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to stimulate personal growth and that an international exchange is the perfect opportunity for an individual to encounter such experiences. Knowing what I now know after one week in Madrid, I am extremely happy with my choice to study abroad here and am confident that this was the right decision.