March, 2015 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

March is coming to an end and so are classes for Easter Break here at WU! It feels like we have barely started and we already have two weeks of freedom to travel. No complaints!

The month began with a series of really bad luck on my part including having my debit and credit cards stolen while on a train to Venice. I learned that, while studying abroad, that often you get put in situations you never would sitting comfortably at home. Expect the worst and come prepared for that! It’s very hard to always keep this in mind when you’re used to a much safer culture in that sense but it’s vital! I’ve been thankful in quite a few situations that I brought a back up cell phone, have several ways to get money, and always have backup cash.

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Budapest

March was all about getting reacquainted to the side of student life that is studying as well as traveling to border countries! Austria shares a border with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy AND Switzerland and has an extremely small country this means all are so easy to get to. It is one of the many perks of this country. In March we visited Venice and Budapest as well as got a look at Bratislava, Slovakia while receiving our visas. I also got to see the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria – the setting and filming location of Sound of Music as well as Mozart’s birthplace. Every single place I have visited have been great experiences.

Classes at Wirtschaftuniverstät Wien are structured very differently than at A&M. While technically you meet an average 3 hours a week just as we do back home these 3 hours generally happen all at once. Some classes even combine several weeks worth of hours into just a few 9 hour days throughout the semester. A 3 hour class will have a 15 minute break where you can go get food at one of the several places on-campus that serve food (I swear, there are more markets, bakeries, and restaurants on campus than classrooms) or get €0.85 coffee out of the vending machines. Classes consist of lectures like back home but also incorporate much more group based work and active participation. It’s a different way to learn but I am getting used to it quickly!

As it is getting warmer the city is getting increasingly beautiful! Running along the Danube river or walking around Naschmarkt (a huge flea market that is open Monday through Saturday) I am constantly taken away by the city. In the next month I hope to further explore the city and around the city – the Vienna woods is apparently an amazing place to hike.

As for the Viennese culture – as much as I love it and am beginning to acclimate more and more every day it never fails to be a challenge. The language barrier is especially difficult. Entering someone’s country and expecting them to use your language instead of their own is not something I like to do. Of course learning English here is extremely common and you will always find someone that will be able to understand and communicate with you. I have learned to find the German interesting language however and really hope by the time I leave I have picked up a good amount of it!

That’s it for March! It was a month of traveling and classes and another great one for study abroad!

Categories: 2015, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

Bonjour!

Referring to the title of this blog post, France has really come to feel like home to me. When we travel outside the country on weekends, the language feels even more foreign to me than French is, and when arrive back in Strasbourg, I truly feel like I’ve “come home”. Often when I hear French being spoken around me in wherever foreign country we are in, I think “Oh thank GOD someone speaks French”……I don’t even speak French. It just goes to show you how homey places can become once you’ve lived there for 3 months.

So, obviously, March is my third month living in France and we’re nearing the end of my study abroad. (I know, crazy right?!) I still have to pinch myself when I wake up in France every morning. As much as I want to go home-home, I know I will be aching once I leave. The weather is becoming more and more pleasant with each passing day. The sun is out, the weather is in the 50’s/sometimes 60’s, and I’m actually beginning to see flowers – it’s lovely!

As I write this, all of my classes have come to an end. (And were ONLY in March, how cool is that!?) I have 2 finals to take that are placed sporadically throughout April… this means the only class in April are my tests! Awesome!

My other wine class, Global Wine Business, ended with a field trip to Kentzheim (an area of Colmar, France). So that makes two French wine classes – both with field trips to wineries and wine tastings… cool, huh?

Oddly enough, March seemed like it was more of a “slower” travel month than January and February were. We took weekend trips, as opposed to week-long trips, and I even took a weekend off of traveling and just stayed in Strasbourg. So here are the places I’ve been and the people I’ve seen….

Normandy, France. After the fun-but-hectic week we had in Portugal and Barcelona at the end of February, we were too tired to do any “big traveling” for the first weekend in March. So, seizing the opportunity of studying abroad in FRANCE, we decided to venture over to the west coast and visit Normandy Beach and the beautiful Mont Saint-Michel. We saw the Mont on Saturday and spend the day visiting the island. The island dates back hundreds of years and is unique in the fact that it is a “sometimes island”. Meaning, when the tide is out, the island is surrounded by mud (that tourists, myself included, enjoyed walking in as far out as we could!), but when the tide comes in, the Mont is an island and is only accessible via bridge. Sunday was the day we visited Omaha Beach and the Normandy cemetery and memorial. Omaha looked like any other beach, but when you think about what happened there so many years ago and the American lives lost, it’s really something to be solemn about. The American cemetery was absolutely beautiful as well, and I’m so glad I got to go over there during my time in France.

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Venice, Italy. On March 13th, my boyfriend Brooks flew to Strasbourg for his spring break. This was one of my favorite weeks so far… it was so great to see him after 2 and a half months! We spent that weekend in Venice, just the two of us. Venice is, in a word, beautiful. The canals are as cute as they are in pictures, and there are just so MANY of them! On the first day it was raining, but both Brooks and I agreed that the rain almost made Venice even more perfect! I loved just walking around and going from canal to canal. We went to the tourist-y areas, San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, and on the last day we we took a water taxi over to Murano. Murano is an island off of Venice known for the magnificent glass-blowing. Murano was so, so pretty and it was the perfect side trip. Italian pizza is pretty good, but I still am a firm believer in pizza made in America. Like I’ve said before, we do food really well!

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Amsterdam, Netherlands. Oh man, Amsterdam was TOO cool. The red light district is wild! I didn’t really research anything before I went to Amsterdam, so needless to say I was astounded with the culture. We did a ton of fun things during our 4 days in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was rainy and dreary, but boy was it beautiful. (**the pic of me in the window below…don’t worry, it’s just a museum!**)

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So there was March! It went by as fast as it seemed. A week or so ago, I bought my ticket home (May 17). As sad as I am about leaving Europe, I know it will be wonderful to be back in my actual homeland. April and the beginning of May are going to be the best months yet! We have so many vacations planned… A few of us girls are going to the south of France in the beginning of April to visit Nice and Monaco.  Then spring break is the next week, and we’re headed down south to the Italian coastline and cities of Naples and Sorrento. I’ve been to Naples before and it’s just beautiful and Sorrento is right on the Almafi coast – one of the top places I wanted to visit this semester. After that, we finish our spring break in Ireland for 4 days! Just a couple of days ago, my friend from A&M and I booked flights to Prague and then to Budapest for the beginning of May (Budapest is the #1 place I wanted to visit on study abroad so I am STOKED). Around the 7th of May, my parents fly into Paris and I take a train over and meet them. From there, we spend a couple days in Paris, go south to the south of France (again!) and spend a handful of nights on the scenic coastline of Villefranche. Then we head up to Lyon, the food capital of France, to spend a few nights there and eventually finish our trip in Paris once again. From there, I am officially U.S.-bound! These upcoming months are FULL of excitement!

#blessed,

Lauren

Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Still loving Germany!! Though not quite up to par with the friendliness of Texans, I have been pleasantly surprised by the random kindness of strangers. Maybe it’s because we are here in this very small town on the Rhine, but smiling and greeting strangers in the street isn’t uncommon. And I cannot count the times that someone has helped me.  Though, in most larger cities throughout Europe, I would compare the atmosphere more similar to New York City in that everyone is busily on their way and there are tourists everywhere you look.

I would really recommend interacting with locals as much as possible. They can give you priceless advice on things to see and places to visit, and also provide you with a glimpse into their culture. One way that I have been trying to learn more about the places I visit is to use sites like Airbnb, which is basically apartment sharing. We used this on our trip to Amsterdam last week. It was really cool arrive at the apartment that already felt like a home (rather than a boring, simple hostel!) and our host had left a nice packet for us! She had compiled information about Amsterdam concerning the best places to eat and the best walking tours and museums to see etc. It was a unique opportunity to learn more than the tourist guides would tell us.

One preparation that I wish I would have made before coming here would be to research more about this university. While it is good to learn a lot about the country (and the language, if possible), I think I overlooked the college itself. WHU has so many resources for such a small university! There are seminars and finance conferences and even a conference where they bring in awesome speakers and do workshops to explore social entrepreneurship ideas (SensAbility- the largest social entrepreneurship conference in Germany). In addition to all of these special events that happen throughout the semester, the career office is always sending out newsletters and hosting events for students. And the cool thing about this is that it is also for exchange students.

I also wanted to mention classes again because I have been learning so much! During lectures we discuss cases about businesses all over the world and it is interesting to hear the opinions of my German classmates. They provide unique insights into both German and American companies that I would not have considered. I just worked in a group for my class, Organizational Change, and we were give a company to analyze. The company, BASF, has been instituting a change to redefine their image as a chemical company. What I found most fascinating about this project was the depth of research that we did and the comprehensive nature of our presentation. Also, the fact that the company was founded 150 years ago in Ludwigshafen—only about 80 miles south of where I am here in Vallendar—really added an authenticity to the work and I felt very proud of our final presentation.

I am especially loving random history lessons about Germany, through my classes and through travel. I recently went to Trier, the oldest town in Germany! There is so much to see there, including Roman buildings and ruins, an Amphitheater from 100AD, and the massive Constantine Basilica.

Inside Constantine Basilica!

Inside Constantine Basilica!

Porta Nigra-- ancient Roman fortification

Porta Nigra– ancient Roman fortification

Inside the Amphitheater

Inside the Amphitheater

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Hello again,

This March has been abundantly hectic. I have done quite a bit of travelling and have tried to explore some other part s of the country. A couple weeks ago a few of my girlfriends and I visited this awesome northern city named Tromsø. This is probably most well known for the Northern lights sightings and dog sledding. I was very fortunate that my group took a tour to a very remote part of the country and were able to see the lights in all their glory. I hate to say this, but they don’t look very much like what you see on your postcards. They are not that green, at least not the ones I saw. They are big and bright and they dance perfectly across the sky. I can just imagine being a pioneer or a Sami and believing they were the spirits’ way of reaching us.

happy northern lights pic

We were also lucky enough to see the arctic cathedral, which was as gorgeous as you can imagine, and very quiet.

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While there we also visited the Tromsø Kunstmuseet (an art museum) and another art gallery. We also got the opportunity to see the University of Tromsø museum, and the Polar museum; both of which I highly recommend, as they cost together about as much as a cappuccino. We wandered the city a lot and walked the harbor and sat in cafes and even saw a Norwegian boy band in city center. Needless to say, although Tromsø is a more remote part of Norway, it is quite accommodating and has lots of fun and quick things to do.image_1image_2

The very next week my my Mom and younger sister came to visit me and we took the famous train ride to Bergen. It was long but absolutely beautiful. We even saw Finse (the famous area where Star Wars Episode VI was filmed). When we arrived in Bergen is was quite rainy, as is usually the case for Bergen.

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But, like Tromsø, there were many things to do and it was just a really fun city to be in. The first night we ate at a restaurant named Enhjørningen, and let me just say it may have been the best food I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. We got two different types of fish, one a Link and one a Hake… I don’t even like fish.. usually. It was just so delicious and so rich and beautiful. We were actually recommended this restaurant by the mayor of a Gol ( a town between Oslo and Bergen). He actually told us to order Bacalao, which is a traditional Norwegian dish made from dried salted cod and served with bacon and cheese. I will go back and try it one day but again, the choices we made were superb. While in Bergen we also took a short fjord cruise where my younger sister was thrust under a waterfall in full fisherman’s gear and made to catch the water. It was intimidating I’m sure considering the freezing temperatures outside. That day we also went to a local fish market where they cook what they catch, or don’t depending on what you want. They even sell something called “Princess Caviar” and it’s hot pink! My little sister had Prawns which are basically shrimp ut they’re so sweet, they almost tasted like lobster. I definitely recommend going there as it is quintessentially Bergen. Our last day in Bergen we went on one of their hiking trails up a mountain, which you have to do if you’re ever in Bergen. The forests there truly look like a story book. Every corner you anticipate a troll popping out, or a moss covered rock to awaken.

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There are still so many places to see here and I can’t wait to visit them all. At any rate, I hope you are all enjoying your time in Texas or abroad! Until next time.

Categories: 2015, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

This month school started.  I organized my schedule so I only have classes on Fridays and occasionally Thursdays.  This way I have five to six day weekends to travel.  We noticed back when we were registering, that courses here are set up very differently.  For example, you may have class once on Friday for three weeks straight and then you are off for the next two weeks and then you have three more Fridays until you are done with the course.  So some of my classes only meet six times and another one of my classes starts in late May and only lasts two weeks!  It is pretty great so I definitely recommend WU if you want to travel a lot during your exchange.  The catch is that there is plenty of outside work.  It is not overwhelming compared to our workload at A&M, but you do get homework.

On a non-academic related note, Vienna is becoming a second home.  After long trips, I get excited to come back to Vienna, to sleep in my own bed, and be in familiar territory again.  I know my surroundings, how to get around, and grocery shopping is becoming routine.  I will say my appreciation for 24-hour stores, like Walmart, and 24-hour restaurants, like Fuego, have drastically increased.  Although having to shop at different stores for different items is not totally a foreign concept to me, I have gotten used to the luxury of superstores after living in Texas.  I mean how genius is it that I can buy shampoo, duct tape, and some flour all in one place?  I really miss that.  I also really miss Tex Mex.  I did not realize how much Mexican food I ate on a weekly basis but apparently it was a ton because the cravings are strong.

The majority of this month I have spent travelling.  I started the month in Budapest.  I have been there twice now to visit my friends and plan to go again in April.  It is great to see them again and be close by.  It is a nostalgic place for me since I went to elementary school there and have a lot of fond memories.  I also took a road trip to Fussen, Germany, which is where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located.  We rented an automatic car with Enterprise, which came with a handy navigation system.  It was great to drive around Austria instead of taking trains because it offers a different experience.  We also drove on the Autobahn in Germany.  Just make sure you are insured!  I am not so unfortunately my friend did all of the driving.

IMG_3162_zpsixuwzf9d Liberty Bridge, Budapest

Bavaria is gorgeous and I highly recommend visiting if you love nature.  There are so many outdoor activities you can do and the Bavarians really love to partake because seriously, I have never seen so many people outside in the snow.  Although Neuschwanstein Castle is beautiful, it seemed more like a touristy gimmick.  It was very gaudy inside, there is not a lot of history since it is so new, and the prince who was supposed to live in it died before it was completed so no royalty has lived there (or at least for very long).  I thought for the €11 student ticket, it was a little disappointing.  If anything, walk up the hill to the castle and view it from the outside.  The walk has great scenic views.  The neighboring town, Fussen, is definitely worthwhile.  It is supposed to be a fun summer location because there is a lake you can swim in and plenty of resort-style accommodations.

20150307_151918-1_zpshlhqjsh7 Driving to Fussen

IMG_20150308_211341-1_zps3qk6hlj3 Neuschwanstein Castle

10383882_10153179845997867_1553759689043109899_n Fussen

On our road trip, we also drove to Salzburg and Hallstatt.  Salzburg is gorgeous as always.  I have been there before and it never gets old.  A lot of people go to Schloss Hellbrunn for the famous gazebo where Sound of Music was filmed.  Little do they know, Austria’s coolest playground is in the same park and it has a zipline!  Definitely check that out.  Halstatt is by far my favorite place I have been in Austria.  It is a small town on Halstatter See (a lake) with amazing views and a quaint, Austrian charm.  It is very tranquil and quiet, and there are not too many tourists.  We went in off-season though so I cannot speak for spring or summer.  It is almost too perfect, complete with swans swimming in the background.  The swans are very friendly by the way; if you talk to them, they will walk right up to you!  I do not know how you would get there without a car or a tourism bus.  There could be a train station nearby.

10644602_10153179846197867_1126034843955647311_o Salzburg

Snapchat-5950371803956846632_zpsur4usm2d  Hallstatt

11079562_10153179847247867_6613669032042602878_o Hallstatt

That’s pretty much all I have been up to this month.  We are going to Rome this weekend and ending the month in Crete for our Spring Break.

Categories: 2015, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

Finals have started and sadly, they´re a lot harder than I was anticipating. I have my final two tests next week. While I´m excited to be done with school and start my summer vacation, I´m also dreading the end of finals because that also means that I will be leaving to come back to Texas. I´m in a little bit of denial that I am leaving Barcelona in 9 days. I feel as though I am about to leave another home.

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Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Things I´m Going To Miss

  • The culture– I´m going to miss the way everyone in Barcelona greets each other, with one kiss on each cheek. I´m going to miss the way people invite you into their homes so warmly, and have hearts oozing with generosity. I´m going to miss being around the Spanish and Catalan language. I´m going to miss the random protests. The protests were always friendly, but I found them amusing. At one point during this month I wasn´t able to go to class because all the students decided to ¨protest¨and not go. I was not complaining about that.
  • The food– I am looking forward to having Mexican and junk food again, but I am going to miss tapas, paella, sangria, and churros and chocolate.
  • The scenery– I love going on random strolls and finding myself gazing at random buildings. The architecture here is breathtaking, I´m going to miss seeing Gaudi´s work everywhere. I will also miss the beach. The beach quickly became my favorite place to go, and I am going to miss constantly making up excuses to spend hours there. Even the most boring alleyways had interesting stories to tell, and I am going to miss constantly being surrounded by the mixture of modern and antiquated buildings throughout this city.
  •  The activities– It is impossible to be bored in Barcelona, and I am going to miss constantly finding new things to do. I was able to climb the mountain with the breathtaking view, Montserrat, this month. Hopefully I´m able to hike up the other mountain, Tibidabo, at some point before I leave. There are many museums to go inside of, many cute little markets to walk around in, and many events constantly taking place. This month I also went to carnival, which is the equivalent to Mardi Gras. That was a night I will never forget.

tapas2 churros and chocolate beach

Tapas and Sangria, Churros and Chocolate, Beach 

bubbles  gaudi  montserrat

Bubbles, Gaudi´s Casa Batllo, Montserrat

carnival Parc de la ciutadella

Carnival, Parc de la Ciutadella

Things I´m Not Going to Miss

  • The general feeling of unsafety– I can´t express how excited I am to be back in Texas where I don´t have to assume that every person around me is waiting for a chance to rob me.
  • My apartment– While the apartment I stayed in during my time here is considered quite nice and roomy compared to others found in Europe, I can´t wait to be back in Texas where I have a dishwasher, a dryer, air conditioning, and more storage space.
  • The expenses– I´m ready to go to a restaurant back home where water is free. Here, water more often than not costs more than alcohol. I can´t wait to no longer be thirsty while eating my meal because I´m worried about conserving my water.
  • Street Performers– I know this is a random one to put, but people dressing up as statues freaks me out personally. My roommate thought they were funny so I think I might be alone in this distaste.

Overall

Overall, I cannot put into words how much this experience has meant to me. I discovered a lot about the world, but perhaps most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I´m capable of being independent and I can´t wait until the day comes when I can greet this sense of independence again. So, rather than say adios to Europe, I intend on saying hasta luego. I may never get the opportunity to spend 3 months in Europe again, but I will return one of these days. I look forward for that day to come.

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Time flies…

Hello again from Strasbourg, France! It is completely impossible to grasp that I have already been in France for two and a half months! I swear the month of February literally went by in the blink of an eye! They weren’t lying at the beginning when they said to make the most of each moment while you are here because before you know it you will be heading back home!

February and the beginning of March have been more low key months in comparison to the January. In January I was constantly trying to figure things out such as the public transportation, where to buy food, how to pay all my student fees, I was running around like crazy. But with time all of those stressful tasks have become daily mundane tasks that I complete without even thinking about. Classes have been very steady. I go to about 3-4 classes each week. The difference with school here though is that so far all we really have to do is go to class and take notes. There are no quizzes, no homework, they barely even take attendance. It makes it difficult to actually do work when it is needed. EM Strasbourg focuses a lot on group projects I have had 2 so far and have 2 more this month. As frustrating as they can be, you do learn a lot, especially working with other Erasmus students from all over the world. I did have a few “mid-terms” at the end of February and those were also frustrating because the teachers here are very vague on what will be on the exams and barely even tell you how it is formatted (essay/multiple choice etc) so it makes it very difficult to know what to study. I am personally not impressed with the business school and really miss the quality and efficiency of Mays Business School back home. Last week we found out the offices completely messed up the dates of final exams and scheduled them during the week we were told was Spring Break, you can imagine the panic as we had all already made travelling plans.

Towards the end of February we got a week off of school for “winter break” and our group of merged Americans took a trip to Portugal and Spain. We flew to Porto, took a car to Lisbon, flew to Barcelona, flew to Paris, took a train back to Strasbourg. If I can give any advice it is to NOT go to so many different places in just one week’s time. We were all absolutely exhausted by the end of this trip and the travelling costs really did add up. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this trip very much! My favorite place was Portugal! Porto was such a cute small town where we were able to do a river cruise, shop the local flea markets and enjoy a pub crawl with the hostel we were staying in. Lisbon was absolutely beautiful! We went to visit a historic castle at the top of the city right around sunset and the view was breath taking! We also had a VERY good hostel here (Lost Inn Lisbon) for only 10 euros a night! Can’t beat that! Barcelona was personally my least favorite part of this trip. I think it is because of the part of town we were staying in as well as our horrible hostel. Note to self: don’t choose the 222 bed mixed gender room. The culture of Barcelona is VERY different! If you are walking up and down the main street during lunch time the restaurants will have a person out front who will literally block your path trying to convince you to eat there. I wasn’t even hungry, so this became very annoying.  Our hostel was apparently much more of a party hostel… the main floor turned into its own club around 10 pm but here is the real kicker… people did not LEAVE to go out to the clubs until 2 am! They returned about 7 am.  Given that Barcelona was at the end of the trip a few of us were exhausted and just wanted to stay and sleep, which was nearly impossible due to the odd hours of their nightlife. All in all, a very big learning experience. Barcelona had some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life and the Sagrada Familia is a MUST SEE!

Porto, Portugal River Cruis

Porto, Portugal River Cruise

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Spain

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Spain

Lisbon Castle at Sunset

Lisbon Castle at Sunset

Caba de Roca, the most western point of Europe, Day trip from Lisbon

Caba de Roca, the most western point of Europe, Day trip from Lisbon

barcelona beach

Barcelona Beach

 

I would be lying if I said that at this point in my time abroad (months 2 and 3) that I have not been homesick. The beginning of this experience is such a stressful and hard period that you tend to wonder if things will ever get better. For me there were just so many things I was unaware of and people who never knew the answers to my questions. As time passes and you learn your town and the culture you will be spending the next few months in, IT DOES GET EASIER! There are several things that I miss back home and didn’t even realize I would. Such as: free refills, service in a restaurant, the Texas heat, a normal sized affordable cup of coffee, the convenience of having a TV, internet/wifi/texting everywhere I go. There are several more differences that I come across often but I have to remind myself “It’s just their culture Kelsey”. I am thankful to have skype and social media to keep in contact with my friends and family, but I have also found that talking with people back home can cure and cause homesickness. Be careful with how often you reach out to the states, it is easy to find yourself so wrapped up with the happenings there that you miss out on what is happening right in front of you in your new home country. I love when my friends reach out and tell me how much they miss me, but it also makes me wish I was there and not here so easily. Keep in mind you are abroad for a reason and that they will all be waiting for you when you get back, don’t rush the return.

Sorry for such a long post! There is just so much to share! It is currently the middle of March and I am trying my best to write a paper and work on two group projects ahead of time because the next three weekends I will be travelling! Paris, Amsterdam, and Southern France. Before coming abroad I thought I would get to see 2 or 3 countries, well it is looking like my final number will be 7! The travelling is the best part, so save your pennies to make it happen like I did!

Until next time!

Kelsey McLeland

Strasbourg, France

Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange

WHU is a private business school in the Rheinland. With a student body of about 1,300 (smaller than my high school back home!) it seems to be an incubator for young entrepreneurs.  A year is broken up into four quarters, so I was there for two quarters in the spring. A course is usually about 6 lectures and one final exam, and the classes are spread out on random days of the professor’s choosing. The professors are often also professionals that teach on the side so the schedules are not as regular as at A&M. This also means that these sporadic classes are extremely long and loaded with information, so I am very grateful for the 15 minute break in the middle! On the bright side, my schedule allows for many 3 and 4 day weekends, so travelling shouldn’t be too difficult.

In my Strategic Management class with Professor Oetinger!

In my Strategic Management class with Professor Oetinger!

German students are amazingly well balanced in terms of school work and partying. The students at this small school sure like to go out and have a good time with friends, but they are also very dedicated to their work. It’s exciting to be in such a renowned business school, learning alongside students from around the world. I love this chance to see a common topic of study from so many varied perspectives.

View of Burgplatz, on campus

View of Burgplatz, on campus

With that said, there are definitely some differences when it comes to working in groups. When we meet in a study room to work on a project there is very little “small-talk.” It can be a good thing and a bad thing. True, we go straight to work and get things done, but I wouldn’t mind a little insight into their lives and perspectives. Also, I think it would be helpful for them to understand the educational background that I have and my personal study habits and skills.

Similar to the US, exam time is taken seriously. In fact, three to four weeks before finals, the bar and club begin to clear out and you even see less people on the street because everyone is holed up studying! And, of course, there’s never an empty table at the library.

And that’s all I can think of for classes and studies right now! Until next blog, auf Widersehen!!

Categories: 2015, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Approaching the halfway mark in my study abroad experience means things are starting to really pick up! So in other words, this post is going to concentrate on the “studying” part of studying abroad. In my pervious post I held off on talking about school at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid a.k.a. Carlos Tercero a.k.a. UC3M because everything was still all so new to me. Now that I have been enrolled at UC3M for a few weeks, I feel like I have a better understanding of how things are done here vs. how things are done in the States based on my experience at UC3M so far.

An Aggie in Spain

An Aggie in Spain

My classes consist of two electives Art History II and Contemporary History of Spain and two business courses Marketing Management and Marketing Research.

Building at UC3M

Building at UC3M

With that said, here are a few things that have stood out:

  1. Navigating Aula Global (the online website, or Howdy Portal equivalent) can be tricky. Signing up for classes on your own and just a few days before classes start on a completely new website was beyond frustrating. Luckily, I got all the classes I wanted, so I must have been doing something right!
  2. Grades consist of few a projects, presentations, and exams. This was not really that new to me but I still would say that this is a bit different than how things are done at A&M. For example, in Art History II our final grade consists of a presentation, a paper, and the final – all of which was completed in the second half of the semester. In Contemporary History of Spain, our final grade consists of two 5-page papers and one 25-page group paper.
  3. Grades are put in basically… whenever! This was completely new to me!! At A&M I was used to turning in an assignment or completing an exam and having my grade available within days, and sometimes even hours! We are midway through the semester and I have yet to have a single grade uploaded in at least two of my courses. This completely baffles me! How can students go through an entire semester and just barely be figuring out their grades towards the end of the semester!
  4. Many teachers just read off their PowerPoint slides in lectures. Two out of four of my teachers have fallen into this trap and many of my friends have said the same about their teachers. In my opinion, paraphrasing PowerPoint slides would make lectures more interesting and engaging but when a teacher just stands at the back of the class and reads off of their PowerPoint print out then lectures start to blur together.
  5. Working in a group projects is a must. All of my courses have a least one major presentation or paper completed in a group. Staying on top of group projects while trying to accommodate for everyone’s busy traveling schedule is really difficult to do. I will say that the neat thing about group projects is that you get to get close to your classmates easier when forced to work in a group. I have met some of the coolest people through working in my group projects!
Train Station in Getafe

Train Station in Getafe

Lastly, if you are planning on studying at UC3M try to not live in Getafe. This is strictly my opinion, but let me explain why I think you should stay away form living on campus (or near campus). Getafe is a beautiful small time city but there is not much to do there compared to living in the city center of Madrid. If you live in the city center then I think you feel more inclined to do fun sightseeing, eating, or exploring in Madrid.

I hope this helps… hasta luego!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Wow! It is somehow already March! The weeks just seem to fly by here, and it’s so bitter sweet because while I cannot wait to see my family and friends, my heart is also starting to face the reality that it will have to say goodbye to Strasbourg pretty soon.

I feel more and more at home in Strasbourg with each passing day, and it’s crazy to think about how the things that used to seem so foreign at first have become the norm in so many areas of life. This is true of so many things such as the people, food, transportation systems, and even the colder weather that would have seemed unbearable in Texas! Spring, however, has arrived and it’s wonderful to experience more sun and warmth as the weeks progress. Flowers are starting to bloom, things look a little bit greener, and the people seem to be coming to life a little bit more as well! Springtime really is such a beautiful thing!

Other than the weather, classes are going well also! I just finished another course a couple of weeks ago, and I’m about to start one this coming week, which is crazy considering the fact that we only have a few more weeks left of classes! It’s been fun getting to know more people and making new friends each week in class too. There’s just something special about this opportunity to spend a semester with other students from all over the world who are each so different and yet share this common experience. It really does bring people together in ways you wouldn’t believe and wonderful friendships emerge as a result of this time!

 

In addition to school, I was also able to travel a bit this past month too! We went to Portugal and Barcelona over winter break, which were both beautiful, and I went to Marseille for a couple days this past week and am currently in Nice! There are just so many lovely places to visit in Europe, each one so unique and full of personality! I also got to go to Paris and visit some friends of mine last weekend as well! We got to explore together and talk about life, and it was so nice to hear about things going on back home for them while simultaneously realizing that Strasbourg has slowly become the home that I will get to tell people all about when I go back to Texas! Another praise is that I was able to attend Hillsong church while in Paris, and it was too great! That is one thing that I’ve really been missing from home: my church fam. Needless to say, it was an absolutely wonderful weekend, and it was so nice to see familiar faces and have that community and a taste of home. So so grateful.

IMG_4276

Other than that, I’ve just been trying to take in as much as I can while I finish out the semester! Reaching the half-way point makes you think about making the most of your time while you still have time left. Some things that I’ve learned while I’ve been here and that I wish I have told myself before I came are

1) that no matter how confusing/crazy things might seem, it will work out and there’s absolutely no need to worry. Just take a deep breath and enjoy the moment you’re in. This includes leading up to the trip as well!

2) Try to learn at least a little bit of the language of your host country before you come over if you don’t know any. While you will probably catch on to simple phrases pretty quickly, there’s so much to be said for being able to have a simple conversation with somebody in their native tongue. I cannot count the number of times when I’ve so wanted to be able to just ask people how their day is going and just talk to them about life, but the one thing separating us is the language barrier, which could have been easily overcome had a taken a bit more time to learn some conversational french before I came.

3) This one is for those on the other end of the spectrum who actually know some french/whatever language they speak in the country you’re going to be living in. Be bold, and don’t be afraid to speak it! Yes, it may take a bit of time to adjust to actually being able to use the language you’ve learned in everyday conversation, but step out in confidence and just do the best that you can from day one! The people in Europe are oh so gracious when it comes to you making an effort, so just go for it!

Alright, that’s all for now, but I’ll be sure to give you another update in a few weeks!

Sam 😀

Categories: 2015, France, Reciprocal Exchange