January, 2015 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Well it’s already the end of January here in Strasbourg, and I absolutely cannot believe that a month has gone by! These past four weeks have passed so quickly, but France has already found a special place within my heart in such a short span of time.

For starters, it’s absolutely beautiful here. Strasbourg is a city rich in culture and full of history, lovely architecture, and wonderful people. I was a bit hesitant coming to France without knowing any french what so ever, but the people here are very patient and you can pick up simple phrases that are useful fairly quickly!

Classes here are great as well! The schedule is extremely different from A&M with my shortest course lasting 2 hours each time it meets and the longest lasting 4, some which I only have once a week. However, I already completed one of my courses within the first week of school! It was an intensive course, so we had it for about to 7 hours a day from Tuesday through Friday the first week, but then we were finished with it! My other classes have interesting schedules as well, with some not even starting until March!

Another great thing about EM Strasbourg is the emphasis they put on making sure that the international students are given multiple opportunities to meet other students within the business school the first couple of weeks that they’re here, which is great! I’ve already made so many wonderful new friends from all over the world and have loved getting to know them in the past few weeks.

Well that’s all for now, but I can’t wait to write all about what the next four weeks have to bring!

Sam

IMG_1919 IMG_1923

Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange

barca2

The end of my first month in Barcelona is coming to an end. That´s crazy!! I actually feel like I live here now. I am going to try to the best of my ability to condense some adventures of the days that have stuck out to me- there´s a lot so this might turn into a novel.

To give a little background information, I am a junior at A&M. This study abroad trip is my first true time out of the country.

My arrival

The first moment that was monumental on this trip was my first moment in Barcelona, my arrival. Upon my arrival, I was terrified. My landlord said he was going to send a shuttle to the airport to pick me up, but I was scared I wouldn´t be able to find my apartment from where the shuttle would drop me off. To make matters worse, my roommate wasn´t able to arrive until a week after me so I was completely alone. Luckily, I accidentally arrived on a huge Spanish holiday.

January 6th is a day called the “Day of Epiphany.” It´s very similar to Christmas except children receive gifts from the three wise kings on this day. From how eeringly quiet the airport was when I landed, it didn´t take long before I had an epiphany of my own and realized I did not arrive on an ordinary day.

I say my arriving on a holiday was lucky though because my landlord was unable to book a shuttle. That meant he had to come to the airport to pick me up. It was such a relief seeing a sign with my name on it. My landlord´s name is Albert. He´s the best! He took me straight to the apartment and told me all about the “to-dos” of Barcelona. It was so nice not having to worry about finding anything on my own. He also told me I could ask him if I needed anything at all because he knew I was there all by myself. That was extremely comforting. After he left, I knew I needed to find my university, but I was too scared to leave my apartment.

I checked my email, and I had an email from a “language partner” I signed up for through the school. My language partner´s name is Lluis. In his email he asked when I would want to meet up. I really needed to find where the school was because I had orientation the following day, so I asked if he could meet that night. He didn´t realize I had only arrived to Barcelona that day, and immediately came over to help me find the school. I´m still in shock he did that! To reiterate, it was a huge Spanish holiday. He lives 30 minutes away, so that was very nice of him to take time out of his family time to help me. He showed me where Universitat Pompeu Fabra is; the walk is beautiful! Below is a picture of the walk to the school. Our meeting was short because he needed to get back to his family. The rest of the day I was exhausted, so I went to bed early.

barca

Eventos Desgraciados 

After my first day, I had quite a few unfortunate events happen. But, I don´t really want to go into the details because that would just be super negative. So, I´m going to list them out instead.

– Registration. Never again will I complain about  registration at another school. I´m still actually not positive what my schedule is, and this is the fourth week of class.

– It took me two days of being by myself in Barcelona before I was violently throwing up. The nerves caught up to me. I felt awful!

– I was robbed of my phone, and credit card. 🙁

I still don´t have a phone. And it got stolen with .02 seconds of me setting my purse down… while my body was still touching it! Not all Spaniards abide by the Aggie code of conduct. It has genuinely stunk not having a phone. I lost all my pictures etc. But, good news is my new phone should be coming in the mail anytime now! And Albert (my landlord) felt so bad for me that he gave me one of his old phones AND he got my roommate and I a washer. Did I mention he´s the best?!

– The ticket system at the metro system ate my money. Not really a big deal, but this happened within the same week I lost my credit card, phone, and was sick. At that point I just wanted to go home.

BUT I´m glad I didn´t!! I have met amazing people and have had many awesome adventures that have overshadowed that one terrible week.

Adventures 

When my roommate arrived the adventures began!

– We took a bike tour which I HIGHLY recommend to everyone!! We learned a lot about the history and main tourist sites of Barcelona. And side note- our tour guide thought it was hilarious we were from “College Station.” She was crying she was laughing so hard. Also, a huge political movement in Catalònia is the want to be independent from the rest of Spain. Another guy on the bike tour from Washington said, “Hey, that´s kind of like the secessionist movement in Texas!” …………. *no comment*

– SO MUCH GOOD FOOD. At every restaurant, there are tapas. The best ones are potatos bravas. Tapas are small dishes similar to appetizers. Basically, you order a variety of different entres and split them amongst the table.

– The Sagrada Familia is AWESOME. Antoni Gaudi has some amazing architecture around the city; it´s funny because a lot of the Barcelona natives think he´s overrated. We saw another work of his at Casa Batllo, which is a house inspired by a dragon.

– I love Sagrada Familia, but I think my favorite cathedral is still the Catedral de Santa Eulalia. This cathedral is dedicated to the life of Eulalia, she was a 13 year old girl who died a martyr. If you get the chance, google the story. She´s my hero.

– Park Guell has incredible sights. This was mine and my roommate´s favorite place so far. There are so many trails you can go down, and the house Antoni Gaudi lived in is here. He lived by meek measures which is inspiring. There are so many admirable people that inspired the city of Barcelona. It has truly inspired me!

– Montjuiic has incredible sights. It was the perfect spot for a picnic. 🙂

– Last semester, I met a group of REEP students that came to A&M from Spain. We met up with one of them one night, Tomas. It was so nice to see a familiar face in Barcelona! He is still obsessed with A&M which was hilarious. He sang the Aggie fight song in his Spanish accent.

– On the subject of friends, having a language partner has really come in handy! Lluis showed us an awesome spot to get gelato. He´s also informed us of some weird cultural differences between here and the United States. One that stuck out to me is that here they consider Obama extremely conservative. I thought that was funny!

Can´t wait to see what the next two months hold! 

There are many other sights we have seen, and there are many sights still to see! There is plenty on my to-do list, I can´t wait to see what these next two months have in store!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hej!

Well it’s been a week since I arrived here in Copenhagen and I’m finally getting settled in! I was most worried about the flight (I’m not the biggest fan of flying), but it actually wasn’t that bad. I arrived a day early and couldn’t move into my apartment, so my “buddy” let me stay on her floor in her apartment. Quick side note- I’m SO thankful that CBS has a buddy program that matches exchange students up with a native to Copenhagen. There would have been ZERO chance of me actually getting to the right destination if I didn’t have her help. She quickly explained the public transportation to me, and took me to get my Visa finalized. What a stress-reliever! A couple of days after I arrived, she invited me to her cousin’s birthday party. I got to a experience an actual Danish birthday, and I loved it! We had all of the traditional cakes and pastries, along with homemade hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. It was fantastic! Since then I have been locating my classes on the campus and have begun preparing myself for courses to start. I also had the chance to visit downtown Copenhagen and locate a few of the touristy attractions. It was very cold, so I’ll be glad to visit again in the spring when thDSCN0241e weather is much warmer.

Today I went for a run, and while I was out it started snowing! I was so excited because we hardly ever get snow in Texas, and if we do it’s usually ice. I was filled with such joy that I started running faster down the street and held out my tongue to catch the snowflakes (I’m sure the locals thought I was crazy), but that’s okay! This city is beautiful and the snow has made it even better. Tonight I’m going to visit a friend from Germany who I met earlier this week. She is throwing a get-together, and I’m very excited to meet other exchange students here at CBS. It should be fun exchanging stories and learning about there culture and background. I’ll have to provide an update on how it goes! As for where I’ve traveled, so far it’s only been in Denmark. I’m planning weekend trips for myself later on in the semester, but I’m trying to keep my budget in mind and not overspend. There are many ways to provide yourself with a nice trip here, but unfortunately Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities to live in, so I might not be traveling as much as I expected. That’s okay though, I’m thrilled to be in this city and get to experience all the culture and picturesque-scenery it has to offer! That is all for now, I will be updating y’all again soon! Hej-Hej!DSCN0253DSCN0267

DSCN0244

Categories: 2015, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

So I meant to save the first post as a draft, but I think it posted anyway, so sorry for the oddly timed ending. But to continue, Vallendar is a very small town and there really isn’t all that much to do. The nearest city is Koblenz, and that is where the mall and other shops are all located.

One of the biggest surprises of my life came when it was time to register for classes. Instead of being on the edge of my seat, constantly refreshing the page to type in CRN’s like my life depends on it, registering here was a piece of cake. I literally just clicked the check mark next to the course, and Wa-Bam, I was signed up! I guess it’s just one of the perks of going to a school of about 1300 people. Let me briefly explain the way that German classes go. First of all, the semester is broken up into quarters. So each course consists of about 6 lectures (lasting 3 hours each) and one final exam. The system is definitely different, but so far I have nothing to complain about. My schedule allows for many 3 and 4 day weekends, so travelling shouldn’t be too difficult.

And that leads to the next topic, my first travel experience!! The destination was Belgium, and it was a solid group of 9 Tauschies. Belgium is right next to Germany, so we could easily go by train and it was an easy first destination for inexperienced travelers. Anyway, the trip started off with a bang when we missed our first train. I said that pretty casually, but it was actually a huge pain to deal with. We basically had to get on a whole new set of trains (including trains that we didn’t exactly have tickets for…) and the conductors were not very pleased. Just missing the train by 3 minutes set us back 3 hours. It could have been worse, but luckily we made it to Brussels early in the afternoon.

The first thing anyone should do when arriving in Belgium is to get a waffle. I’m serious, Belgian waffles are a household name for a reason. After devouring my strawberry covered explosion of everything that is good, we walked through the city.

Waffle

 

 

 

The Grand Plaza made the trip worth it in itself, as I was able to lay my eyes on some of the magnificent European architecture.

 

Gig'em

And the hostel we stayed at was the complete opposite of what I expected. We had 3 private rooms and actually had very nice rooms, and it was less than $20 bucks for the night! The popular spot in town was a bar called Delirium, and there we were able to meet a bunch of fellow exchange students studying in Belgium. In fact, I met a guy who lives like 10 minutes from my house in Dallas! Small world, huh? Also, here’s the picture of the famous little boy in Belgium

Little Boy

 

 

 

After doing Brussels live, we made our way to the beautiful city of Bruges. It is a city that is near the coast, but definitely a hot spot here tourists.

Bruges

 

Here we found what was a way more common hostel to live in. But it was still a nice place to stay for a bargain, so I had nothing to complain about. Here, we definitely went on full on American tourist mode. We climbed the bell tower that had about 4oo steps to see a view that was pretty breathtaking. Okay, well maybe I was still out of breath from the stairs, but nonetheless it was incredible. Also, they had more chocolate shops than I could have ever kept count of and had a very nice selection of post cards. By far this was the more attractive city, and we got to see a lot more of the town due to its very small size. Maybe the highlight of the trip was watching what appeared to be two geese racing in the water. I guess the Belgian geese are competitive? Who knows! 

Chocolate

If you couldn’t guess, there were a ton of waffles in Bruges too, including this amazing waffle stand

Waffle Stand

 

All in all, the trip was a great first one to have! We learned to navigate the train system to perfection, well except for the two guys who couldn’t get off at our last stop and had to ride the train an extra two hours. Other than that, it was pretty minor (but also really funny). So there is the status report, and the next one will come after we spend 4 days in Amsterdam! To conclude, here’s probably the most artsy photo I will ever take. And it was in Belgium. Thanks (and sorry) for reading, but all is well here in Germany!

 

Shooting Star

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

In my last month in Asia you might say I saw more than in any one of the three preceding months. I’ll start off with the wonderful week I spent touring my parents around Hong Kong, then talk a bit about my interesting trip to Beijing, and finish up with my amazingly enjoyable excursion to India.

First things first let me say I am extremely proud of my parents for making the journey all the way from Houston to Hong Kong. I had quite a few people who said to me before I left that they would come visit, but my parents actually came through. I spent the whole week they were here touring them which luckily for me happened to be my dead week at HKUST. To make things even better my only final wasn’t going to be until a week after they left, so I’d still have plenty of time to study. While the majority of the things I did with them were things I had already done, there were a few awesome new experiences for me. My favorite new place I visited while touring them was the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas in Sha Tin. Just in case you’re wondering, yes, there actually are 10,000 Buddha statues at this temple. There was also a gorgeous temple in the district Wong Tai Sin, and a place called the PMQ (Police Married Quarters) that we visited that were certainly worth while culturally enlightening stops. I’d warned my parents to practice using chopsticks since most places in Hong Kong didn’t have forks readily available, but it was obvious they must not have taken me too seriously. I spent our first meal together literally putting noodles into their bowls because they were unable to grab them. It was honestly like something out of a comedy show where I was the parent and they were my children. By the end of the week though they got it down and were able to eat their meals without my assistance. The week flew by and my parents who had never truly been immersed in a foreign culture got to experience places and things that they both never thought they would. All and all it was an amazing week, and I couldn’t have been more blessed to have had the opportunity to introduce them to a new side of the world.

 

Wong Tai Sin Temple

Wong Tai Sin Temple

Sha Tin Temple of 10,000 Buddhas

Sha Tin Temple of 10,000 Buddhas

10,000 Budhhas cont.

Sha Tin Temple of 10,000 Buddhas

Dinner with my parents and friends at Mr. Wong's

Dinner with my parents and friends at Mr. Wong’s

 

Beijing was an interesting place where I found my perceptions didn’t quite match my expectations. Not in a bad way necessarily, but it was an eye-opening experience for me to see how drastically different it was from Hong Kong. Quick word of advice for anyone planning to visit Beijing, avoid going in the winter unless you enjoy freezing cold. I mean in the five days I was there the temperature literally never rose above the 20’s (below 0 Celsius for everyone outside of the US). Aside from the frigid temperatures Beijing was overall pleasant as I got to see the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and of course the Great Wall of China (just to name a few things). For me, the Great Wall was the icing on the cake. There is something so satisfying about walking along the wall that extends for miles out of sight in both directions. While Beijing is an extremely safe city you do have to watch out for conmen and women here and there, so be sure to do a quick read on common scams. It’s best to follow the old rule your parents gave you when you were a child and “don’t talk to strangers.” I found the food in Beijing pretty delicious (often quite spicy actually) and in some places even cheaper than Hong Kong. While you will definitely struggle to find restaurants (or anyone for that matter) who speak English, there are plenty of restaurants that offer pictures of the food items on their menu, so you should be okay even if your Mandarin isn’t up to par. This actually brings me to a funny story about my very first meal in Beijing. My German friend Fabian and I were feeling adventurous (as always) so we walked into a tiny hole in the wall restaurant nearby our hostel. With our Chinese character recognition skills having improved due to our Mandarin course, we were feeling confident about being able to read the menu. We immediately recognized the character for meat “rou”, but we didn’t recognize the preceding character that indicated what kind of meat it was. Long story short, it turns out we were eating donkey meat, which I must admit is surprisingly delicious. I would have to caution anyone like me who loves eating street food just to be careful where you eat in Beijing, as I did have just one incident where I had a bit of stomach ache after some yummy pancake wrap looking thing. Beijing was quite a pleasant experience, and truly eye opening on just how enormous and diverse China really is.

Donkey Tacos in Beijing

Donkey Tacos in Beijing

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Tienanmen Square

Tienanmen Square

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

With meinem deutschen Brüder

With meinem deutschen Brüder

India was everything I expected and so much more. If you’re like me and love spicy food then prepare to be in food heaven. The majority of curries (or gravies as they are typically referred to) have at least a little kick to them, so there’s no need to worry about a bland meal in India. I would also like to say that contrary to everyone’s warnings that I would get sick in India if I wasn’t careful, my stomach was perfectly fine the entire time. Perhaps the main reason that India was so amazing to me was because I was staying with my friend Sampriti (who I met in my Mandarin class in Hong Kong) and her family for almost an entire week. I got to experience India in a way that would have been impossible without them. They were the best hosts I have ever had the pleasure of being a guest for, as they treated my German friend Johannes and I as if we were their sons. We began our trip touching down in Delhi, then went straight to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Fatephur Sikri, then returned to Delhi and saw the Qutub Minar and the Red Fort, then went to Jaipur to see the Amber Fort, and finally returned to Delhi where we did a little bit of exploring before leaving back to Hong Kong. The Taj Mahal was in my opinion every bit as majestic as you could imagine with immense detail in every nook and cranny of the massive marble palace. One thing that I found absolutely fascinating was the multiple forts I visited. Walking through the extensive corridors I felt as if I was literally in the movie Aladdin, or (for all my gamers out there) the game Assassin’s Creed. As with mainland China I would have to warn everyone about people who are trying to take advantage of you in India. However, I actually found Indian people to be some of the friendliest and most helpful out of all of the countries I have visited. Like China, India is massive with many diverse regions and in the future I will definitely return to spend more time exploring other parts. Once again I would like to send a very special thank you to the Dwivedy family for being the most gracious hosts that anyone could ever ask for. I only hope that one day in the future I will be able to repay their kindness.

 

Floating Palace

Floating Palace

Bikarnevala

Bikarnevala

Delicious traditional Indian home-cooked meal

Delicious traditional Indian home-cooked meal

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

The Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

3 Friends, 3 Different Continents, 1 Priceless Moment

We are 3 friends from 3 different continents sharing 1 priceless moment

Hong Kong was my third choice out of four possible locations I was looking into for studying abroad. Before I came I had never thought of the city as somewhere that I wanted to live for four months. Now all I can think about is how much I miss the diverse culinary scene, the beautiful mountains and dense jungles, the superb ocean view, and all of the amazing people I met there. Of all the places I have been in the world outside of the US, Hong Kong is the one place that I can actually see myself living and working happily. It hurts to have to part with a place that became home for me, but I have a feeling that I will find my way back in the future. I want to thank everyone who made this dream a reality from my family, my friends, my amazing advisers, and the generous donors of the scholarships I received. Without all of your support and love, I would not be where I am today. One of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine says, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” So read as many pages of this world as you possibly can, and don’t be afraid to discover something new.

Categories: 2015, China, Hong Kong, Reciprocal Exchange

I have been living in Germany for about 3 weeks now and I can honestly say it has felt like 3 months already. I absolutely love it here so far and I am so excited to have at least 3 more months in Europe. Anyway, before I get lost in all the things to come, I need to document what has already happened in this semester. So naturally, let’s take it all the way back to the airport in Dallas. My mom dropped me off the morning of December 29th, ready to send me off to Munich, to be in a whole new country to spend the beginning of the New Year. I’m not exactly an expert traveler (to say the least) but I adopted the famous saying from Friday Night Lights to reassure myself along the journey (Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose-if you haven’t seen this TV series, then do yourself a favor and start watching tonight)

Airport

So I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t exactly know my way around an airport and doing it all alone was actually kind of fun when I ran into a few challenges. The weight limit for my large red suitcase is 50lbs. I knew it would be a close call, but the suitcase came out to be 56lbs. Great, just what I needed. So to avoid an $100 fee, i took the hiking pack out of the suitcase and decided to just take it as a carry-on. So I get to the terminal, and soon see that the flight to Philadelphia is gonna be a tight one. This turned out to be a great thing because the airport officials started asking passengers to “voluntarily” check more of their bags (to save as much room as possible). So being the great noble servant that I am, I gladly walked up to have two more bags (my duffle bag and my hiking pack) checked for free! Definitely saved me a lot of money, and the issue was resolved.

Moving forward, the plane rides were fine and the international flight had a great selection of movies. So I actually didn’t sleep at all on the flight, and I arrived in Munich already pretty tired. Luckily a german couple that I met on the train helped me find the place to buy metro tickets. To get to the apartment I was staying at (Elizabeth Elliot-you rock), I had to ride on 3 different transit systems (The S Bahn, the U Bahn, and then the regular city bus). Not to mention I was practically walking into a blizzard going on in Munich and it was a solid 15 degrees outside. Whoop, especially because my tennis shoes were very well equipped to handle to inches of snow…Nevertheless, Munich was still a great time, and the German absolutely put on a show to start of 2015. I promise they were shooting fireworks for 3 hours straight and it was quite the site to see. So here is a glimpse of what a snowy covered Munich looks like.

Munich

 

 

After a few days, the next stop would be Vallendar (where WHU is located). It took an 11 hour bus ride, but I made it into Vallendar safely! So the apartment I am residing in has a very strange nickname that all the german kids use. I live in a 17 story senior residence center. This building is triple the size of any other building in Vallendar (which is good because not very hard to find my way home). Anyway, it was first established for assisted senior living. Now, they allow about 50 international students share these living quarters with them. So after some context, the german kids call it the the “Death Tower”. It’s mean, so you can imagine why they call it that. But my single bed apartment is actually very nice, and besides the very steep walk up the hill, I very much enjoy living here.

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy!

Or Bonsoir,  as I have learned in my 3 hour 5 p.m. French class. (Because it is good evening and that class is ridiculously late.)

I’ve been in Nice France for about 2 weeks now, and it is absolutely breathtaking. The beach, the mountains, even the buildings are beautiful! I live near old town nice or basically I live in the city center. It is always bustling and lively. There is a stretch along the main street Jean Medicin where the tram runs that is a lot of shopping and stores. Its about a 12-15 minute walk to the beach and an hour and 10 minute walk to school. I unfortunately learned this on the way to our welcome session last week because I didn’t know where to buy a temporary ticket and we were purchasing passes at school.  I has not withdrawn any euros as my atm card wasn’t working. I know Karlee you’re off to a great start aren’t you. At the welcome session though I was able to buy a city pass for the bus and tram and boy did that make my life easier.

The first 2 days I didn’t leave my flat and I survived off granola bars and sleeping. I was jet lagged and confused. I didn’t understand a thing people were saying and finally when I got hungry enough to leave it was almost 7 p.m. and a little too late for my tastes in an unfamiliar place. So I ventured all of one block to the KFC I found on google maps thinking it would be familiar menu items and easy to order. I was wrong. I chose the two items that were easiest to pronounce and just said a la carte hoping they wouldn’t ask if I wanted fries or a drink so i would look so clueless.

I’ve settled in now and am happy to report I have not been back to KFC since, nor any other typical American fast food chain for that matter. Speaking of fast food, the McDonalds here is over 5 euros!! Who in their right mind would pay that much for McDonalds??? However, I must admit some exchange students say its supposedly better quality then back home…..we will see. Now on the topic of things that are different here….well for one I’m not used to seeing people wear tennis shoes and skinny jeans so often but its definitely a thing. It makes sense with all the walking they do. But what doesn’t make sense is the coats. In Nice we are on the beach. Yes it is winter but its quite warm for winter, at least it is during the day. A light jacket or long sleeves should do the trick and yet its completely standard here for EVERYONE to wear thick heavy coats as if in NYC in winter. They’ve GOT to be sweating under all those layers and they don’t take them off! They suffer through it like champs.

I’ll be posting pictures soon. It’s so beautiful here though I know they won’t do it justice.

Au Revoir!

Karlee Reese

IMG_5063Nice IMG_5072

The Promenade de AnglaisPromenade De AnglaisIMG_5069

Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange

December rolled around and instead of bringing gifts, it brought finals. Unfortunately, I prefer gifts, but it was now crunch time. It is true how people will tell you that studying abroad truly does fly by. Before I had time to comprehend the brevity of time left, I was forced to focus on the exams ahead. I’m not sure if I had mentioned before, but WHU only has one exam at the end of the quarter. Therefore, it is rather difficult to benchmark how you’re doing. To add to the stress, the grading is relative so after you return from traveling and see your fellow German students not having had moved in the library, you can feel a little bit of stress haha.

Fortunately, I kept diligent and was ready to get my exams over with. Finally, the day came and it was time to see where I stood. I sat down for my first final, which encompassed both of my International Capital Markets & Derivatives and my Asset Management courses. Our group was given a three-hour block and both test and told to start. A&M does their testing system a little bit differently and I would definitely say I prefer A&M’s style. After finishing the first exam and realizing I was only half way done and my brain was fried, I was forced to keep going. Thankfully, everyone else was in the same boat. Before I knew it, our time elapsed and we were forced to throw our hands up and test booklets down. The hard exams were over. Thankfully, staying diligent paid off as I now sought to finish strong and begin studying for my last final in 10 hours.

Surprisingly, my German final proved to be the hardest exam as the 10-hour block was unfortunately not enough time. Thankfully, I was able to do well on the other exams and am banking on the other grades to bolster the final. As I write, my exams are being graded and unfortunately, this will be my last post so the results will remain anonymous.

In all honestly, this month was mainly consumed by studying and preparing for coming home. Mid-way through the semester, I decided to change my flight and come home early to surprise my girlfriend. Initially, I was scheduled to come home the 21st of December. After figuring my finals schedule, I was able to move my flight to the 15th of December. Amongst studying, I was putting the pieces together for my grand surprise. Along side studying and planning, I also sought to finish and gather all the gifts I intended to bring home.

By the end of my exams, I had both in place. I had a special room set up for my girlfriend and friends in place to lure her there. Before I could indulge that moment, I packed up and took off to my last trip before my flight with my best friend there, Bas. Bas and I met up with another Aggie studying abroad to take on the Frankfurt Christmas Markets. Frankfurt, I believe, is the largest Christmas market in Germany. Therefore, we made sure to get our hot wine, sausage, and gifts.

IMG_2667IMG_2654

After thoroughly enjoying the Christmas Markets, I made my final arrangements and made the trip to Frankfurt airport where I would be heading home. When I had said earlier that I was bringing home gifts, I might have down-played that. The Lord had put on my heart to try and re-create our old Christmases. Since my parents split, I knew my siblings wouldn’t say it but there was a consensual unsaid understanding that our financial situation could not support our typical Christmas charades. I was destined to take full advantage of that and shatter their expectations. Therefore, I found myself wearing 5 shirts, 3 jackets, one jacket around my waist, 4 pairs of sweats, a pair of jeans, anda pair of shorts as I attempted to make room for my gifts.

Contrary to my attempts, I found my main bag weighing 33kg and had to pay a hefty fee to get it on the plane. Knowing what was ahead, I didn’t flinch to give up the money in order to follow through with my plans. To say I was sweaty by the time I got on the plane would be an understatement. I was gross. Lugging the excess clothes and luggage through the airport led to a tough ride home for the passengers near me.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by an emotional reunion with my family and scurried to get everything in place and drove to College Station. As planned, my girlfriend ended up where I wanted her and I was able to hold and kiss what I had missed for four months. I was home. I was happy. I will not forget Germany. I look to use the hardships to implement positive change for the future. Never forget. Never take for granted. I am home. I am happy. I am content. God bless and I hope you found my posts helpful!

Merry Christmas!!!!!

IMG_2732 IMG_2721

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

If you didn’t know, WHU is split into two quarters within a semester. Conversely, if you were in good ole’ Vallendar, there would be no way of not knowing. The streets have been cleared and the libraries filled. As the first Quarter’s exams rolled around, Vallendar transformed for a short period of time. Studying abroad came to encompass it’s name as each Tauschie was truly studying abroad. Thankfully, my only exam was in German for this quarter, so I got to skip out of some the madness. My Structured Problem Solving course was only case study and my International Capital Markets & Derivatives exam got moved back to the next quarter. Fun Fact: Germans say they’re “writing an exam” on whatever day the test is. Knowing that I had some down time while everyone was studying, naturally I started looking to travel in what will probably be the most ideal time.

Therefore, I found myself asking some of my favorite groups to travel with what they were thinking about doing and stumbled upon Amsterdam. In my previous post I wrote about going to Hamburg and didn’t segway into the Amsterdam trip as I believe it jumped into my next month. Therefore, I’ll start where I left off. After Hamburg, we took a train to Amsterdam where I would go through the most surprising of experiences.

To preface, my faith is everything to me. While in Vallendar, I wasn’t able to find a church of the same denomination and thus, hadn’t been able to go to church since my arrival. Therefore, when I joined the trip my friends had planned and found out we were staying at a Christian hostel; I was excited to say the least. Upon arrival, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I was excited to see whether or not the Hostel truly held my same beliefs. To my delight, I found out they did. The staff was comprised of volunteers who would work for a semester and do mission work. To add to my surprise, I found a volunteer that was from Dallas. Within the hour, I was able to join their faculty bible studying and was left feeling rejuvenated.

IMG_1518

The following day, we ventured out into Amsterdam. First, we took stood in line to experience the historical Anne Frank House.

IMG_1538

The wait was well worth it as we peered into one of history’s darkest moments. Following Anne Frank’s house, we visited Vondel Park and did some sight seeing of Amsterdam’s landmarks.

IMG_1586

 

When Sunday arrived, one of my fondest memories was finally being able to attend a church service with the hostel’s faculty at a Hillsong Church plant. If I’ve appreciated anything throughout this experience, it has been the deepening of my faith. Having my ability to go to church pulled out from under me, I learned to depend on the word, prayer, and podcasts. Therefore, I did not take for granted this special moment and experienced the community of the church in a different way that I look to implement into my church at A&M.

IMG_1559IMG_1561

The next quarter began and a new set of classes came underway. I took Asset Management, Real Options, and continued with German. Thankfully, I was adapting to WHU and was able to take that into my next courses which turned out to be harder. Throughout the next quarter, I studied and worked on interesting case studies and was able to learn a lot and utilize excel in a new and refreshing way that WHU provides. I loved how adept WHU students become with this essential function in finance and hope to compound some of the learning I garnered.

Finally, I was able to take my favorite trip to date with what I call my “Hong Kong Crew.” Truly, these became some of my fondest friends and I was appreciative for any time I was blessed to spend with them. We first immersed ourselves in one of Poland’s saddest cities Krakow. We were fortunate to get up early and be some of the first to arrive at Auschwitz’s concentration camp.

IMG_1701

The weather complemented the mood of our trip as we got to explore a darkened time in our history. We were short on time so we unfortunately weren’t able to spend as much time as we wanted, but I was taken back by the display of hair taken from the inmates upon arrival as well as the monument to the Jewish religion. After leaving, we were only able to visit Birkenau (Auschwitz sister execution camp) for a few minutes before taking the bus to go to Poland’s Salt Mines.I loved the Salt Mines, but one image within stuck with me and it was the main room and chief exhibition below.

IMG_1873

After Poland, we took a night train and ventured out to the Czech Republic. Arriving early at Prague, I was taken back by the beauty of the city. Prague truly is grandiose in nature. At times, I felt like they got bored so they chose to adorn ever square inch possible. You would pass meaningless store adorned with beautiful statues depicting various events. After checking into our hostel, we mapped out our attack on the city and got to work.

We visited nearly all of Prague in one day. We stopped by Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, multiple churches, and even visited a Ice Pub. The first church we stopped at turned out to be filled to the brim with gold and gorgeous statues.

IMG_2109IMG_2426

Following that, we visited the renown Charles Bridge which did not disappoint. It was heavily saturated with art, statues, and beautiful views.

IMG_2051

Passing the bridge, we came to the Prague castle, which resembled the exterior of Cologne’s Dom (Cathedral) heavily. Conversely, the interior was adapted to Prague’s culture and unique design. At night, we even got to visit a local attraction called the Ice Pub.

IMG_2221IMG_2354IMG_2359

Finally, we visited a site where you could get a panoramic view of the city and finished with some of Prague’s local cuisines.

IMG_2302IMG_2397

This month was by far my favorite having had adapted and taken part in two of my favorite trips to date. I look forward to next month where I get to finish the semester and see my beautiful girlfriend and family! Until next time!

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

So after much convincing and persuading, I was actually able to extend my trip until a few days after the New Year’s! I expected to make friends during my time in Spain, but I hadn’t imagined myself actually extending my trip by 10 days just to spend time with them and make this amazing semester last a little longer! In the end, I am so happy that I made the decision of spending the holidays in another country. While I did miss my family and friends back home, I knew that spending such a special time like the holidays with this unique group of people was essentially a once in a lifetime opportunity.

After the stressful time of finals passed, I felt like I was finally able to enjoy Madrid again, which at this point definitely feels like my home away from home. The first half of December flew by since I spent most of my time just preparing for final papers and exams. I was able create some final last memories with my friends, since people were beginning to go home. I was incredibly sad to say goodbye to my Costa Rican roommate, who had become one of my closest friends throughout the semester. However, I know if I ever find myself in Costa Rica, I have a place to stay! I have to say, one of the best parts of this entire trip has been just making friends with people that I otherwise would have never met if I hadn’t decided to spend a semester in Madrid. I feel so happy that I met such a group of different and interesting yet like-minded people. While we all had different backgrounds and unique traits because of where we grew up, we all shared the same passion for life, travel, and ambition.

Christmas was a completely different experience than I had ever had before. I spent Christmas Eve at my friend’s apartment in Plaza Mayor, which is sincerely one of the most beautiful places in all of the city. Instead of the traditional turkey and ham that we eat in America, this time I found myself eating chicken, risotto, salad, king’s cake, and gluhwein. I had a lovely time with my friends, whom I will always remember as my Spanish family.  We spent the night laughing, chatting, and we may or may not have had a 30 minute lip syncing session to songs from our childhood (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, etc.).

New Years was another sweet experience in which I was able to try out a very uniquely Madrid tradition. At midnight, my friends and I went to the plaza Puerta Del Sol (the center of the city) and counted down until the New Year while eating a grape for every second when it was 12 seconds until 12:00. I guess you could equate it somewhat to the ball dropping in NYC.

Now that my trip is at an end, I can’t help but think how insanely thankful I am that I followed through with my dream of studying abroad in Spain. I always knew it was something I wanted to do, and finally doing it just reaffirmed the notion of living the life you imagine for yourself. My experience was everything that I imagined for myself and more. I made connections with people from countries all over the world, visited breath-taking sites, learned more about myself and the world, and created memories that I will always look back on for the rest of my life.

I’m already dreaming up the next way that I can visit my friends and travel to new places. Spain will always hold a special place in my heart, and I already miss this beautiful country that gave me so much.

Blog Pic 1 Blog Pic 2 Blog Pic 3 Blog Pic 4 Blog Pic 5 Blog Pic 7 Blog Pic 8

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain