January, 2014 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

I have been in Maastricht, The Netherlands for only 4 days now, but a lot has happened! When I first arrived, I was surprised to see the rural the area around Maastricht. Between Brussels, Belgium (the airport I flew in to) and the city of Maastricht, The Netherlands there is a lot of open space and small towns. Usually it is dreary and rainy here, but the weather has been awesome. It made for a beautiful drive in!

Maastricht itself has about 120,000 residents, but the city seems much smaller than that. Everywhere I have to go is 20 minutes or less by foot. Pretty much everyone here has a bike, so I am getting a second hand one in a few days (people LOVE the second hand market here for furniture, bikes, etc). I am attempting to learn my way around the city, but it’s kind of hard. There are a lot of traffic circles and old churches that all look the same! So far, I have figured out how to make it the the grocery store, some small shops, and to the school of business and economics (where I will be taking all of my classes). Hopefully the city will start to make more sense soon!

All of the exchange students in the School of Business and Economics had orientation Thursday and Friday. The school operates A LOT differently than Mays. Instead of the large lecture style that I am used to, at Maastricht University they use problem-based learning (PBL). PBL has very few lectures (sometimes only 1 per semester), and the rest is made up of small group “tutorials”. These tutorials are basically discussions of about 10-15 students that group together and use a “scientific” method to discuss the subject material. I have only had an example tutorial so far, but I think I will enjoy the different learning style. In Maastricht we only take 2 classes at a time. I’ll be in Maastricht for 2 “periods” which will equal a total of 12 hours of course work.

One of the greatest things about Maastricht University is the large number of exchange students from all over the world. Maastricht does a great job of organizing events for exchange students the week before classes start. I’ve met people from dozens of different countries, most of which live in the same building as me. It is really interesting to talk to students from different countries to see what their school/life is like back home.

The only let down so far has been the food. The Dutch aren’t exactly known for fine cuisine. I guess I will have to travel to find some good eats! Their redeeming quality though is friendliness. I can easily ask someone for directions (luckily most people speak English), so that has been very helpful.

Classes don’t start until February 3, but I am very excited! It’s all so different here, but it’s definitely a blast!

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

It’s crazy to think that I’ve already been here in Strasbourg for about a month. I feel like I’ve already seen and experienced so much but I’m so excited for the coming months. The town of Strasbourg is so cute and the perfect size. We have bakeries and flower shops on every corner, an incredibly easy public transportation system, and beautiful cathedrals and squares. Everyone has been so friendly too. Our second week here, we had a orientation week for all of the international students with activities every afternoon/ night. We were able to become friends with people from all over the world and form a really cool friends group.

The classes here are VERY different from A&M. I’m taking 8 classes, which correlates to 4 classes back home. They’re all pretty fun classes, like Wine Marketing and Luxury Brand Management. They’re heavily group work and presentation based, which is very different from lectures at A&M. It’s also cool because there are people from all over the world in class. I recently did a group project with 5 other people and I was the only native English speaker. The classes have been really interesting so far, although the scheduling has been a challenge. Some weeks I might have class for 20 or more hours, some weeks only 2. For example, this week, I only had a class on Tuesday from 2-6pm and that was it! The University of Strasbourg is actually really big (the second largest university in France) but the business school is pretty small (about 2600) and located in one building, separated from the main campus, kind of like Wehner. I’m living in a dorm just across the street from the business school. It is so convenient for rolling out of bed and heading to class (especially when I have 8ams). The dorm isn’t the most luxurious (twin beds, community bathrooms, a super shady laundry situation) but I definitely can’t complain because of the location.

The food here has been amazing- the stereotype that all the French eat is bread, cheese, and wine is definitely true and I’m not complaining. There are a lot of cultural quirks that I’m getting used to, like people taking 3 hour lunch breaks or restaurants opening at 8pm. It’s just a very different lifestyle here, which has been very cool to experience.

As far as traveling, I’ve covered 5 countries in a month- crazy! So far, we’ve been in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and are heading to Austria later today. It is so easy and fun to travel and I can’t wait to do more of it. My photos won’t upload! I’ll try to figure out how to post some later!

Categories: 2014, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Bonjour!

Today marks one month that I have been in Strasbourg. I guess that time flies when you are having fun because I don’t feel like it has been a month at all. Strasbourg is incredible!!! I love the architecture, food, language, and especially the people. Everyone is soooo sweet here!  The students at our host university have helped us out so much and have even planned a couple of trips for us! Everyone has been very patient with my sub-par French skills and have been eager to help me.

I love the public transportation! It makes getting around so simple, fast, and eco friendly! I love that the city is so compact that you can usually walk to wherever you need to be if you do not feel like waiting for the bus. The city has made such a huge effort to be environmentally friendly. You have to bring your own bag to the grocery store, or you have to pay for your own! All of the cars are tiny and a lot of people walk, ride bikes, and use public transportation.

It is crazy how even the little things are so different: electrical outlets, toilets, light switches, pillows, the way that they number floors, kisses on the cheek instead of hugs, the phone making a beep noise instead of a ring, furnaces instead of central heat, nutella instead of peanut butter…I could go on and on. All of these little things have a way of coming together and making you realize quite how significant cultural differences can be in ways that you definitely did not see coming.

This leads me to my favorite class!!! Cross cultural issues in human resource management! I absolutely love the opportunity to dig into the cross cultural issues that have much bigger impacts on international business than I realized before my semester abroad. I like most of my other classes too, but this one is definitely my favorite. A close second would have to be my french class. My professor is so enthusiastic and hilarious. I love every minute of his class and have already learned a lot from him.

As hard as it might be trying to communicate with someone who does not speak any English or trying to fit your square pillow into your rectangular pillow case, or trying to ignore the GIANT craving that you have for Dr. Pepper, it has all been completely worth it. There has not been a day that has gone by that I have not noticed some cultural difference large or small that has opened my mind up just a little bit more to the differences in the ways that humans “across the pond” choose to live their lives. I am learning so much about business, culture, and even about myself! And I have Texas A&M, Mays Business School, and my scholarship donors to thank for it! What an incredible opportunity this is!

Until next time, au revoir!

petite france crepes

 

Categories: 2014, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Has it been four weeks already?! A lifetime of memories have already been made and this is only the beginning of it all. It will be incredibly difficult to recollect all thoughts I’ve had thus far, but here’s goes:

Pre-departure: Before leaving, friends were visiting and sending well-wishes for my travels abroad. Honestly, the last couple of days were so swamped with running errands and making sure all travel documents were in place, it really hadn’t hit me that I would be leaving home for 5 months. Everyone would always ask, “Where are you going to visit while in Spain” or “You’re going to have the most amazing time”, but imagining myself here was so difficult because I knew NOTHING about Barcelona or the culture. It was the first day of January and last-minute tasks were being completed and as I began to compile a list of phone numbers and addresses in case anything happened, my dad checked my flight information and checked me in. That’s when he realized that my flight was approximately 5 hours before I had thought it would be…oh and the best part was that I HADN’T STARTED PACKING. How does one pack for 5 months? After a couple laughs and some yelling about how “irresponsible” I was, I began rummaging through my closet and took over the entire living room just figuring out what would be practical to take. My best friend, Sonali, came over to help and 4 hours later, my bag was ready!

THE DAY OF DEPARTURE: TODAYYYYYY! I know it’s hard to believe but it STILL hadn’t hit me. I felt like I was just going on a vacation for some time, but as I said goodbye to Sonali (Yes, she came over at 8 am to wish me safe travels, the sweetest I know) I just kept thinking, “wait, I’m leaving??!”. It became unreal when I had to leave my dog and unimaginable when I was about to enter security after leaving my dear family. I don’t like being publicly emotional but this was easily the most difficult thing I had to hide while saying goodbye to them. I DIDN’T CRY THOUGH (people know I have that tendency, but that’s a completely different story)! Finally after getting through security, I got to my gate that would fly to JFK, that would later connect to the last leg taking me to Barcelona! A couple hours later, I was at JFK and almost 5 hours and a VERY expensive last American burger, we were finally 7 hours from landing. The travel time took twice as long, but the wait was SO worth it when I finally arrived in the beautiful land of the Spaniards! Okay, now the blog gets more interesting…

Arrival: Just to summarize, I made my way into the city and to our NEW APARTMENT! It was so exciting to finally meet Karlee, Leah, and Sarah to begin our new chapter. Our apartment is located right next to the Parc Ciutadella, which is also just a 10-minute walk to Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF- our university)! It’s also very close to several metro stops and the beach. After moving in and for the next few days, we visited different restaurants on La Rambla and Port Olimpic, two extremely touristy parts of the city. Exploring the city and getting accustomed to the social culture was definitely one of the most eye-opening parts of the first couple of weeks. The lifestyle here is, as many people already know, much more relaxed. We rarely see people glued to technology while going from one place to another, which is one of my favorite parts. All the history and culture in the small streets really allows us to soak in the atmosphere and local habits of the country. They’ve even have ‘Siesta’, a period during the day where small shops and pharmacies close. Pretty cool until you stab yourself with a knife while cooking and won’t stop bleeding…yeah, NEXT TOPIC.

The Girls: Alright, so I know my pictures may as well answer this question but just a sort explanation. I’ve traveled here with three other AMAZING women: Sarah Wallace, Leah Mendes, and Karlee Scheel. We’re all business school students and met through our study abroad decision since we’d all be attending the same university. We had only met a couple times before actually arriving in Barcelona just to plan out living situations and of course out of excitement. Words can’t explain how close we’ve become in four weeks. Our personalities are like pieces to a puzzle and we all get along so well. Reciting inside jokes are daily rituals and certain habits have already rubbed off on one another. We’ve also invented games that have sparked an interest in our friends here; people think we’re crazy but it has made our experience here so much more hilarious! I really couldn’t have lucked out on better girls to study with; I love them.

Sagrada Familia/Tours: It had to be done! The last day before classes were about to be spent as tourists (we sort of pride ourselves on how we’ve become locals since we’ve brought out our Sacagawea). We spent the whole day touring the Catholic Church and taking a bus tour around the city, ending at Montjuic, a hill overlooking the city! Barcelona isn’t as historically significant as cities like Rome or Berlin would be, but the rich Spanish culture truly gives the city an identity of it’s own. This is when I fell in love with the city!

Welcome Week/Classes: The first week of the trimester had begun, so school was more relaxed at this time. Classes had begun but exchange students were given a week to “test out” their schedule, then later add/drop what they wanted to change. Us girls utilized that week to meet other locals and exchange students. It was probably my hardest week because I was incredibly homesick and socializing was not a priority on my list; honestly, I just wanted to go home! I know, it sounds awful, but once we settled in it was time to face the anxiety of a new semester and new friendships. Luckily, the Erasmus Student Network, an organization present at universities all around the European Union to help integrate locals with other exchange students, planned out a whole week around the city to introduce us to each other through various social and service activities. Every night there would be an event either at a restaurant or a pub. All of the amazing people we got to meet are mainly from other European countries and will be living here until the end of June…and EVERYONE knows more than two languages. So much respect and envy. We realized it’s very common and since then, we’ve all made some degree of effort to learn Spanish and different phrases from different countries. It’s amazing how a group of people from different parts of the world can encourage you to learn a little more about unfamiliar cultures. Once welcome week ended, ESN continued to host weekly activities like karaoke and night’s out at different venues. THESE nights have been the most memorable ones by far. In fact, this past weekend was spent with all of ESN members and coordinators in Lleida, where we all spent time in a deserted farmhouse playing fun games. One of the most fun nights ever, no exaggeration. Part II will happen next in Madrid! All of us are ecstatic to visit the capital and spend some more time getting to know one another, especially if it’s like the previous trip. *Additional details can be provided upon request regarding this weekend and other nights; there are just too many thoughts to write out!*

The Food/Daily Thoughts: Before coming here, people would tell me Spanish food is NOTHING like Mexican food from Texas; slightly ignorant of me to even try to make any connection I know, but there must’ve been a similarity right? NO. Tapas, Patatas Bravas, Sangria, Paella, to name a few, are common foods and drinks found here. The food is delicious but definitely something that took a while to get used to. Since Barcelona is a coastal city, Seafood is everywhere and EVERYTHING tastes like it. Even the Chicken. I mean, I do like seafood and Salmon here and there, but not when my pasta or salad tastes like a fish lives in it. Not complaining, but definitely a hurdle especially being the foodie that I am. Secondly, menus don’t explain the ingredients very well. A salad will say there is lettuce, dressing, olives, etc. in it, but when your order comes out, “SURPRISE: TOMATOES!”. That was just an example but it’s definitely something we now expect. Last thought: the language barrier was highly underestimated. Everyone would ask if I knew Spanish and all I could respond with was, “Oh yeah, I know a few phrases from Spanish 3 in high school like, ‘Tengo Hambre’ “, but I was in for a surprise. Cab drivers, employees, and workers only know Spanish and a daily conversation with any of these people is the most awkward and confounding encounter. Imagine a simple job, like getting a haircut or withdrawing cash, becoming a 3-hour excursion that involves getting directionally lost and additional costs at the metro station. I should’ve been more prepared as a foreigner but it’s definitely a humbling learning experience. Lesson learned: English is not a Universal language.

The People: As mentioned earlier, other exchange students that are also in ESN have such interesting lives! Some are completing multiple degrees and it’s great seeing that other young adults are just as, if not more, ambitious than people from back home. Everyone here is always eager to go on an adventure and explore the city. I always thought I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, but it’s nothing when you hear stories of people backpacking across borders with absolutely no connection to the outside world. One thing I’ve learned from meeting all these people is that even though everyone comes from different places, we can all agree that a conversation about a stranger’s life becomes the most interesting story you’ll get to hear. Karlee, Sarah, Leah, and I have become so incredibly close in the past month and we’ve gotten to meet the greatest group of people already. We know people in our classes and have a handful of friends that we’ve gotten to know so well that we’ve even considered trying to extend our trip (sorry parents).

**DISCLAIMER**: THIS IS ABOUT TO GET REALLY CHEESY AND DEEP.

You always hear that people participate in a study abroad to visit a new city and meet new people. Although, that IS partially why I have come here, it goes way beyond that. Living in the same city for more than 13 years and following a set academic plan (middle school, high school, college, etc.), I felt like my life had become very similar to everyone’s around me. I love to visit new places and experience a different lifestyle, I mean I don’t even get tired of visiting my close friends in Austin, but living in a completely different country AWAY from my reality was something I decided I should experience as a young adult. I don’t like change or being away from people close to me, but I knew that by doing this I could start a different life elsewhere, as well as force myself to struggle through all the drastic changes. To conclude: it was hard at first but it’s easily been one of the best life decision’s I have made yet (first being attending A&M of course, WHOOP)!

The END: An incredible past four weeks! Not much studying done (or really required) but learning so much about other people and their cultures. We’ve already made so many international friends and hundreds of memories that others won’t find even half as funny. The next two months are basically planned out with different trips and visits around the city! I can’t wait to talk about my experience more but until then, Salud!

P.S. Just a few pictures!

Montjuic!

Montjuic!

View from our apartment's terrace!

View from our apartment’s terrace!

Trip to France! Laduree :)

Trip to France! Laduree 🙂

Night out with great friends!

Night out with great friends!

ESN Integration Weekend in Lleida, Spain

ESN Integration Weekend in Lleida, Spain

 

 

Ritika Harchekar

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

¡Hola!

I’ll be spending this semester in Madrid, living just south of the city center (Puerta del Sol) with a host family, and attending Universidad Carlos III. Margarita, my host mom, doesn’t speak any English, so I’ve already gotten a lot of practice in Spanish. Strangely enough, the most difficult part for me so far has been talking about food; we chat about books, movies, and school all the time, but the food has been a bit of a challenge. I’ve only ever studied Spanish in literature classes, so there are a lot of names for foods and appliances that I just didn’t know. Speaking of which, the food here is amazing! In Spain, it’s more common to have a big lunch around 2 o’clock (during siesta, when most places actually do close for a few hours in the middle of the day) and then a light dinner closer to 9 or 10. Tapas are great – I wish we had them back home! Here’s a fun fact: in quite a few of the places we’ve been, a glass of wine is cheaper than a soda.

Just outside the Palacio Real

Just outside the Palacio Real

UC3M’s exchange student program has done an awesome job setting up events for all the international students to get to know each other – there’s been something every night for the past two weeks! I’m having a blast getting to meet people from around the world and being surrounded by so many different languages. A few of us got together one night, and between the ten of us, we could speak seven languages (almost everyone spoke at least two)! I especially enjoyed our trip to Toledo last Sunday – the city was beautiful and full of history.

Toledo

I got really excited about all of the Don Quixote allusions throughout the city (Toledo is the capital of La Mancha, after all).

Don Quixote

We also just finished our first week of class! It’s very different here – every class has a practical component worth 40% of the final grade (it seems like it’s usually a presentation of some kind), and then a final exam worth 60%. I know it’s only been a week, but there doesn’t seem to be as much homework assigned here (I’m certainly not complaining). I’m taking Marketing Management (MKTG 321) and Art History (my visual and performing arts credit) for sure; the other two are still up in the air. Registration was pretty hectic, and I have until Monday to decide. Very few of us got all the classes we wanted, but the professors here have been extremely accommodating so far about letting us join their classes or swap sections. The practical section of my marketing class is a simulation program, and we’re all competing for grades – I’m excited to see how this goes!

That’s all so far – thanks for reading!

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hello! My name is Leah Mendes, and I am spending the semester studying at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, a city in the Catalonia region of Spain. Through this REEP Program, I have the opportunity to take classes in International Business and Marketing, practice some Spanish that I never typically speak at home, and earn a Certificate in International Business through Mays. Barcelona is absolutely wonderful, and I’ve been busy getting to know the city- this has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, and nothing I see fails to amaze me. I know that these three months are going to fly by so quickly, and I’m going to soak up as much of it as possible.

I have been so excited about my classes so far, and even though they haven’t been too demanding yet I know I’m learning a lot. I was able to take classes I would normally enroll in at A&M without falling behind, and they cover a lot of similar concepts but everything is taught from a global perspective. I am enrolled in two marketing management classes, a consumer behavior class, and an operations management class, all with excellent professors. Registration was a little bit frustrating, because a majority of the exchange students didn’t get the classes we requested (I got two out of four of mine, but they’re scheduled at the same time.) However, after the add/drop session I was able to get all four that I needed. I feel like I’ve finally gotten into a routine for school, so I’ve been able to venture out to more sites and have a bucket list I’m working on. Even when I’m not intending to go somewhere cool, I find myself stumbling upon breathtaking places- it seems like everywhere I turn, there’s another beautiful cathedral, monument, port, or quaint street filled with little cafes and shops. Not a bad place to live. Additionally, we’ve been able to see quite a few of the typical “touristy” sites- La Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, Barceloneta Beach, Parc Guell, etc. My roommates and I (who are also from A&M and studying at UPF) made a trip to Paris a few weekends ago, and attended a retreat in the Spanish countryside with the other exchange students from the university. We have a few more trips planned in the coming months. I can’t wait to explore more of Europe!

Using Spanish has been humbling to say the least, but also really exciting. I am a Spanish minor, so that was one of my main motivations for choosing this country for my study abroad experience. I had heard mixed things about learning it in Barcelona because this region of Spain speaks Catalan in addition to Spanish, but I’ve been able to use it everywhere we’ve gone and have had some great conversations with people, so I think I’m making progress. Disregard the times when I’ve used the wrong word or the person has replied in English. I signed up for a non-credit Spanish class at UPF that is helping tremendously, and I have a wonderful conversation partner I found through a program at the university. I am also in a group project for one of my classes with all Spanish students, which has allowed me to practice more business-related terms. Barcelona is such an international city that most people speak at least a tiny bit of English too, but I’ve been trying not to use it with locals unless I have to. That being said, a majority of our friends here are exchange students from all over the world, and English is the predominant language spoken among that group. We have met people from about 30 different countries, and all of them spoke at least two languages. Talk about motivation! I absolutely love how many different kinds of people there are here though and have enjoyed being able to talk to them about their countries and cultures.

A few observations about the Spaniards- first of all, their whole pace of life is at about 50% of what it is in the US. I guess when you live somewhere this beautiful you want to stop to take it all in, because they walk. so. slowly. It sometimes rivals a crawl. They take much more time eating meals, have multiple courses, and start dinner around 10pm. It’s also really rare to see “to go” anything. They have siestas in the middle of the day when everything closes around this city so that people can rest. In general, people just seem less tense. I have so much respect for how fully present they can be, and that they take time to appreciate and really experience everything. I’m learning to become better at this, and am thankful to not be constantly rushing, especially when I’m surrounded by so many incredible things. Thank you for reading about my experiences, and I will keep everyone updated as the semester continues!
1489231_10152201175729789_1309492073_n

1551645_10152201169429789_1412376032_n

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I cannot believe that tomorrow will mark one month of being abroad. I have been having the time of my life and am so happy that Texas A&M and Mays Business School have so many opportunities to go abroad! The students at EM Strasbourg are so nice and helpful, it made the transition very smooth. After the students from the Bureau de l’International picked us up at the train station, they were nice enough to let us stay at their place until our dorm opened.

School is definitely different than at A&M. Classes change times, days, classrooms and even buildings from week to week so you have to be very flexible. Some classes just have one final exam, and some just have group projects. Not having the pressure to study for tests every few weeks, actually makes me more engaged in the class. Having classes with international students from all over the world make the classes that much more interesting!

Since I have been here, I’ve crossed the Rhine river to have lunch in Germany, taken a day trip to Colmar, France, and weekend excursions to both Luxembourg and Switzerland. This weekend we have planned a road trip to Salzburg, Austria to see where Mozart lived and of course the areas where The Sound of Music was filmed. CAN’T WAIT!!!

Strasbourg, France

Categories: 2014, France, Reciprocal Exchange

DSCN0642

Howdy! I have been in Copenhagen for a week now, and I am already in love with everything here. One reason I picked CBS is because the school works well with the students. For example, I was able to have a buddy who picked me up from the airport and I can also hang out with. I would have been absolutely lost without her. They also have optional social packages so I am able to meet many international students and do really fun activities with them. I came here not knowing anyone, and by the second day had great friends.

IMG_4614I have traveled a little around Copenhagen and have made one day trip to Lund, Sweden. There are always people in the dorm who are willing to go with you, so I never have to worry about traveling alone.

It is now January 29th, and it is my second day of classes. Classes work very differently here than back home. There are no grades except the final. I have three courses in quarter 3 and one in quarter 4. The classes are twice a week and about 2 and half hours long (two breaks in between, thank goodness). The lectures are informative and useful for studying. I plan to keep up with studying so I do not have to cram once finals come around.

That’s all for now!

-Catherine Neil

Categories: 2014, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

Well, what can I say? Just over 3 short weeks ago I began my 8 month study abroad experience and it has already been, in a word, incredible. I will be at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom until the end of June, and then move on to some personal travels around the rest of Europe for two months during the summer. Here in Lancaster I am living in a flat on campus with 5 other people and another 6 in the other flat on the same floor. I was nervous going in, but there is more than plenty of room for everyone and all of my flatmates have been incredibly welcoming and hospitable. I can already tell that we will be friends for years to come.

The sun setting on the city of Morecambe

The campus itself is much smaller than Texas A&M’s but it makes walking to class a lot quicker so I’ve got no complaints! Nothing on campus is more than about a ten minute walk and a short bus ride will take you into town easily. The amount and (relative) easy of public transportation has been one of the biggest changes for me since I’ve arrived here in England. Just from the bus stop on campus I have already been able to journey to the cities of Chester, Morecambe, and Manchester – all very interesting places in their own ways.

I have already had so much fun and I know that as the term progresses I will get to experience and learn some amazing things that will allow me to grow and excel both personally and professionally.

Until then I’ll be having some more fun in Liverpool this weekend and at Manchester United Football Club’s stadium “Old Trafford” this Tuesday!

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, United Kingdom

I’ve been in the moderately sized town of Jonkoping, Sweden for about two weeks now. I honestly cannot describe how amazing, beautiful, exciting, and fun it has been. I had heard many stereotypes of Sweden before my journey, and I was hesitant to believe them. “Sweden is just freezing cold and the sun sets at 3:30 PM.” “Everyone in Sweden is tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and beautiful.” “Swedish people just club all of the time and listen to DJ’s play House music.” Well I hate to say this but all of those stereotypes are so true. The weather started off in the 40’s but the temperature is dropping and snow is starting to fall. I can’t complain though. I love the snow and cold especially coming from Texas where it snows like once a year. And the people are all beautiful, dressed well, and fit (and blonde). And I have been in new student orientation (like Fish Camp) for the past two weeks and our group leaders have taken us to a different club every night. Yes they play house music everywhere.

My backyard!!!

My backyard!!!

Anyway I live in a dorm overlooking Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in Sweden. I live with 60 international students, only 3 of which have grown up speaking English. The language barrier is sometimes an issue but it is mostly just humorous. Living with people from other countries is actually my favorite part. The Italians are teaching me how to cook and the Mexicans are helping me with my spanish. The multitude of other nationalities are influencing me as well but in other ways.

some new friends downtown!

some new friends downtown!

 

welcome dinner

welcome dinner!

I must say that the Swedish lifestyle is very different from that of a Texan. Everything here is so clean, simple, environmentally friendly, and safe. Everyone rides bikes, but no one locks them because the crime rate is so low. The Swedish standard of living is very high so every establishment is nice, clean, and sophisticated – even gas stations. You get money from recycling bottles and cans, and the printer at school prints on both sides of the paper (resourceful). I would never eat at a 7/11 or a McDonalds in America, but I would go there whenever here! All 7/11’s have bakeries and gourmet food.  Coffee shops are very prominent because Swedes spend time in the afternoon to meet friends and eat coffee and pastries. This time is also known as “fika.” No one needs to worry about the calories though because we walk everywhere! Now I just need to figure out how I can spend the rest of my life in this country… next time you hear from me I may be married to a Swedish boy. Fingers crossed!

Thanks and Gig’Em,

Bronwyn

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden