July, 2016 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Even after living for several weeks in Beijing, I continue to get surprised. I was at McDonald’s one day getting an ice cream. I saw the green colored ice cream on the picture menu, and craving mint ice cream, I ordered it. However, it was far from mint ice cream. It was green tea flavor. (I had to throw it away).

Or for example, I am still in aw of what people drive in the streets. Once, there was a girl on the back of a motorcycle who was dragging her suitcase behind her on the road (as shown in the picture). Or once, there was someone who was literally driving a small boat on wheel. It even had a license plate!

These small contrasts still catch me by surprise and never fail to make me laugh. It is something I definitely am going to miss from Beijing.

As my time in Beijing is coming to an end, I’ve been reflecting on my time here.
Experiencing living in a new foreign country is amazing. It made me appreciate my parents even more because for the first time in my life, I experienced a fraction of what they must have gone through when the left India, left their home, their family, and all they’d ever known behind to start a better life in England. Sometimes in Beijing I would get really homesick, but it was okay because I would be home in X number of weeks. But for my parents, this new place was their home now. This experience made me appreciate the journey my parents went through because as amazing as living in a new city was, it was still hard, and it was only for eight weeks.

Beijing has been amazing to me, and I can’t wait to come visit again.

Categories: 2016, China, Reciprocal Exchange

Excited to go home, but sad to leave the month long experience of a lifetime has come to an end. My absolute favorite part was still all the new friends I was able to make. It’s quite amazing how easy it is to be outgoing when you’re faced with possible loneliness for an entire month.

However, besides all the new Facebook statuses I will have the pleasure of reading for the rest of my life from my new friends, I was also able to discover some distant relatives. Quite a while ago a distant great uncle of mine out together a family tree including addresses. This was so long ago that I was not ever represented on it. My mother’s third cousin sent a letter to my mom wanting to connect with some of her more distant relatives. Her son was also interested in studying abroad in Texas at some point (they live in Sweden). His school actually has a program with t.u. (hissss), but I’ll get back to that later. My mother and her third cousin Maria began emailing and discovered they had a lot in common. Eventually it was settled that Maria and her family would come visit us in Texas while I was in Norway, and towards the end of my trip I would visit Maria and her family in Sweden.13754386_1729046950645489_8116482587907943936_n

Now, back to t.u. (hissss), my mother set up a tour of both A&M’s and t.u.’s campuses because southern hospitality knows no bounds.

Later on I finally made it to Sweden. I took the wrong train and ended up paying a pricey cab fare, but I did not miss my flight, which felt like quite an accomplishment. When I met my fourth cousin, Maria’s son, Fredrick he and his father were wearing A&M wristbands; and Fredrick should me all of the A&M paraphernalia that he received from my mom and from the campus. I would not be surprised if he ended up there for graduate school, or at least I hope he goes their for graduate school. One can always use another Aggie in the family.

My mother also found a picture my grandmother took when she was in Norway. It looks different now with more buildings and trees, but it was special for me to be able to walk where she must have walked such a ling time ago.img1469278641558

I am currently on a giant airplane heading back to TEXAS! I am praying that my last two years at A&M allows for another study abroad, but if that is not the case then I suppose I will have to backpack through all of Europe on my own. Being in a student exchange rather than a faculty led trip has definitely given me the confidence to venture out on my own to far off places I had never before dreamed of exploring.

Thanks and gig’em

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

“Reverse Culture Shock: the unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of one’s home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.” Well my friends, this symptom is very much alive and well once you come back from a study abroad exchange semester. But the personal changes I have experienced, the friends that I have made and the places I have seen are well worth this “shock”. Living in another country has taught me so many valuable lessons that I know will be an asset to any company I become a part of. Deciphering English from foreigners taught me patience and understanding. It also increased a desire in me to learn a new language. Traveling to new countries, either with friends or on my own taught me independence and adaptability. Often new countries had very different transportation systems that we had to navigate, languages we had to learn simple phrases in, currency we had to convert and customs we had to learn. Each country is unique and has its own identity and that itself was a fun yet challenging thing to discover upon first arriving. For example, in Prague beer is cheaper than water. Austrians are just crazy and love their Spritzer and outdoor activities. In Spain, going to brunch is just as important as going to church and they will stay out until sunrise. The Greek are very proud to be Greek, Peta bread is life and cats are everywhere!! Creative problem solving when things went astray was also another important skill I acquired. Going to a place and just going with the flow and making the most of each day was something I strived to do. Being able to be flexible and adapt to different plans is imperative in a fast changing business environment. There were also opportunities each day to live out some of A&M’s core values like leadership, respect and selfless service. I was initially surprised by how many homeless people I saw around Vienna. Austria has open borders and so not a day would go by that you didn’t see refugees asking for money. My friends and I started getting into the habit of taking our leftover food from restaurants to-go and giving it to homeless people on the way home or leaving sandwiches for people on the subways.

I’ve been home for a few months now and thankfully social media and email have helped me keep in touch with my friends. It is sad to be apart but exciting to know that we have the opportunity to travel anywhere for a reunion in the near future. I am already looking into going back next summer and working abroad at some point in my life. I have so much more insight now on the rest of the world and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to expand on that knowledge.

Until next time Vienna, danke schön!

Schonbrun

      WU

Austrian tree

Categories: 2016, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

The school has been amazing at Strasbourg as well as the trips traveling. However, I would love to dedicate a post to the people I have met on our trip, and what I have learned about the,. From other fellow exchange students, to local french students, to random people we met in other countries, I have learned something about myself, them, or business through the many conversations.

When it comes to the other exchange students, it is really cool to realize how similar people are. The students struggle with the same things we Aggies do such as being unsure about our career paths, or disliking certain classes, or having too much fun when we need to study. It is really cool to realize how we are all still people even if we are from different countries. In my opinion, though, it is even cooler to see how we are different and yet get along so well. I had the chance to learn things about addressing the Asian culture versus the Hispanic culture or how to understand the French’s leniency versus the German’s  strictness. The conversations I had with my friends from other countries were priceless.

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The interactions didn’t stop there. I was also able to hang out and talk with a lot of local French students which was awesome. Even though some of them were just using me to practice their English, we became good friends and I was able to understand their interests and goals in life. I had the chance to talk about their perspective on the business world and how the French would approach consumers versus how the Americans would. This was especially cool because I began to see how important it is to learn someone else’s culture before you start partnering up with them. I still get to talk to them through social media today.

The last thing I would like to talk about as far as people interactions go would be with the people wet met while traveling. We met different exchange students, some of them Americans, from different places around the world. It was interesting to compare programs and experiences about what it is like to be educated in different places. One of the coolest conversations we had, however, took place in a bar. We met a man from American who recognized us because of our southern accents. After talking through the things we had in common, we got the chance to talk about his business and his choices which brought him to work internationally. This was great for me to experience because I was able to see the things that could be done to not only advance my career, but experience the world at the same time. Not only that, but this proved to be beneficial networking.

The people we had experiences made this trip as great as it was. And whether in Strasbourg or anywhere else, it is great to build those relationships and learn from each other.

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Categories: 2016, France, Reciprocal Exchange

13718036_1052537171468741_439966456_oSo Dublin is pretty neat. It is such a beautiful city with so many neat sights to explore (and food to eat). I initially took this trip to experience a different culture and Dublin was such a great introductory to that. Ireland has a lot of similarities to America, and yet the way the country functions and how people perceive their local environment is very different than what I am used to or expected.

There are a lot of wonderful cultural differences though, for example they say certain phrases a lot. Phrases such as: thanks a mil, that’s grand, and what’s the crack (crack means fun). People in my office tend to say cheers to everything and I have yet to figure out if it is a thank you or just an acknowledgement.

Additionally, Irish office culture is very different than ours. While everyone is still very professional, the people focus less on formalities than Americans do. Emails are addressed more casually, starting with a ‘Hi’ rather than ‘Dear’. Intros to emails often start with ‘I hope you are well’.

 

 

 

 

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This past weekend I got to go to the botanical gardens. There were several greenhouses and they were filled with plants from all over the world. Most plants were labeled with their country of origin and their names. The insides of the greenhouses had a diversity of rooms that ranged from rooms that made you feel like you were in a jungle to rooms filled with cacti and succulents. Outside of the greenhouses there were rose gardens and really beautiful trees. Honestly, the botanical gardens are seriously underrated and if you ever happen to be in Dublin, you should check them out.

 

 

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13621884_1052536548135470_1257793467_oWalking around the city you find random art everywhere. That space fox was all the way down a random street in Dublin City Centre. I don’t understand it, but it is very aesthetically pleasing.

 

 

 

 

 

13717914_1052536664802125_243273048_o13709610_1052536824802109_90216659_oThis serves no purpose, but this is the best ice cream (gelato) I’ve had all summer. I asked to try 3 flavors. I tried three flavors. I got all three because they were too good. (In case you were wondering: white chocolate, cheesecake, mint chocolate-chip, and yes I ate it fast enough that the flavors didn’t mix.)

Categories: 2016, Ireland, Reciprocal Exchange

This month was a little more hectic than the last few ones. I did a summer school program through Hohenheim, which counted as a class, but it was quite the load. In a good way. This month was also exam period, so I had a few things going on. I was on campus for most of July!

This summer program was really great though. We had lectures every morning, and depending on the schedule we either had another lecture in the afternoon or we got to tour some firm in the Stuttgart area. This was such an awesome opportunity to see first hand how german businesses work. We visited a few start up firms, the porsche factory, the Stuttgart Stock Exchange, the European Patent Office, and the biotech industry in Heidelberg. My favorite places were the stock exchange, the patent office, and the Porsche factory. We got to do a simulation at the stock exchange, which I thought was great. We traded stocks as if we were the market leaders-it actually helped me understand how that type of stuff works now! Or at least a better feel for it. These are just things that I would never be able to do if it weren’t for this program. Our lecturers were also great and extremely knowledgeable; this year was focused on innovation and start ups, so it was nice to learn about something totally new. I’m not very interested in that kind of stuff, but it’s nice now to have some background now in those topics.IMG_1963IMG_2063IMG_2316

While in Munich, we visited the Nymphenburg Palace and Dachau. Dachau was unbelievable. I got this weird feeling-it’s absolutely morbid but you’re just sort of amazaed/shocked at the same time. It’s chilling being in the exact same place where such horrific things happened. We also went to Tuebingen one day. This town is also so cute! Very similar to Esslingen in my opinion. Very traditional-cute old houses, cobble stone streets, wood everywhere. The river also runs through the town! They also have markets on Saturdays with fresh foods-it’s delicious!  Our last day we celebrated with a wine tour in a vineyard nearby in Fellbach! It was so cute. We visited a little wine cellar, and the owner took us through the vineyard and gave a few of the local wines. I couldn’t really understand what they said, but all the wines were delicious! It was a nice way to end the semester and exams.

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Besides the summer program, I still had to study for my exams. It was the same old same old, but it was kind of cool studying in a palace. The library was beautiful actually-but no AC. I still don’t get that! It gets miserable and stuffy very quick when there is no AC. Another thing I will never get use to!

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Categories: 2016, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

What is the hardest part about traveling? You are lost in a new country, with a new language, not aware of social norms, misreading people you thought you could trust, and adjusting to completely new way of life. And sometimes you might even forget your passport and miss your flight or take a train in a foreign country for 45 minutes in the wrong direction or even finding yourself nearly homeless on Easter in a tiny city where nobody speaks English. But were those really the hard parts? These issues challenged me to think creatively and independently to resolve them, and when you finally get it all sorted, the feelings of confusion and frustration are replaced with the complete highs you experience from knowing that you were able to figure it out on your own. You meet new people from all over the world, from all different walks of life and gain a perspective you could have never imagined before. You make beautiful friendships with people in your program and together you come to understand what it means to start alone in an entirely foreign place, and to learn, to change, to grow. From all the late nights that ended with sunrises to the all-day park picnics, I fell in love with all the best parts of this glorious city. And just when you are starting to feel like you have got some roots planted in the new place you love so much… it all just ends. The realization hit as I started to book plane tickets to my next destination and my final plane ticket home. The moment of returning home, the one we all imagined in our heads since the day we left but suddenly, you do not feel ready anymore. You think of all the people you have gotten close to over this time and feel sad, but you realize that now you have these people in your life for the rest of your life and look forward to the future opportunities of visiting them in their hometowns.

You start your 32 hour journey home and think about everything that has happened in the last six months trying to process everything and replay all the best parts in your head. For the first two weeks, you are the new shiny object that is finally home and you share with everyone your best experiences and things you have learned. You return to your childhood home and the swing of “normal” life and realize that really nothing has changed. Inside your mind you are thinking to yourself “look how much I’ve changed?” But everyone around you only remembers the you that you were before you left. You begin to wonder how you could possibly get anyone else to understand what you have just been through, but then you realize they just can’t without experiencing it for themselves. All we want to do when we get back from an experience such as this is leave again, they call it Wanderlust but really I think it is the desire to get back to the people that speak the same language. That doesn’t mean English, German, Chinese, or even Hebrew, but a place where people know what it feels like to be scared, confused, and alone, but also completely happy and whole in a foreign country and then come back to their “home” and feel more lost than they ever did in the most foreign of places they have visited.

Categories: 2016, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

 

Keeping myself from bursting into tears as I hugged my mom at the airport to say goodbye was when it became real for me. I was about to get on a plane and go to a different country alone. Shaking I made my way through the security line with no problems. The plan was to fly to Newark, New Jersey. Then from there we would head to Oslo.

This was not only my first time going out of the United States, it was my first time to fly alone- hence why I almost broke down when my mom told she could not go any further. I think subconsciously I was expecting her to be there until I arrived in my dorm at the BSN.

I was not alone for long though. After changing flights I sat next to a girl going to the same summer program as me! Upon arrival we discovered that we were also going to be roommates for the entirety of our summer adventure.

Celebrating the 4thThe rest of the people I have had the privilege of meeting range from thirty-nine different countries, and because of this trip I can now confidently say that I have made a friend from every continent!

Academic wise, this management class is very similar to MKTG 321. The end project was selecting a product from your home country and marketing it to Norway, but prior to this project we spent a week focusing on Norwegian culture. Norwegian culture is fascinating, with their shy tendencies and their complete avoidance of sitting by others on the bus. However, I believe I enjoyed listening to my fellow students compare their culture to my own. Even just comparing cultures with people who live in the US but not in Texas.

SjoaNorway is an amazing and beautiful country, despites the fact that it is ridiculously expensive. My favorite thing about Norway is that everyone speaks English! Most signs are written in Norwegian, but I have not asked anyone for help that could not speak English, at least not yet.

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

Photo Jan 12, 9 12 17 PMAt this point I have made it back to the States, but I feel like this is still an important part of my experience abroad. The trip I had taken did not end when I got back, but the relationships with the school and students still continue. I would love to tell you how the last four months are still impacting me.

The people that I met abroad have been my favorite part about my trip by far. The relationships I developed are still growing. I have connected with my fellow students through social media, email, and other forms of communication. This is huge because I still get to learn about the unique qualities of each culture a country possesses. Through keeping in touch with my classmates, I get to see how they act and live in their home country. This allows me to see how they value relationships and careers in their lives which in turns teaches me about how to maintain a good friendship with them. The continuous networking I am participating in also provides me with opportunities to find different career paths in different countries. I am not sure IMG_4139what I would like to pursue yet, but I enjoy having the many options.

The other big thing I am experiencing the reverse culture shock. It is weird to think I am uncomfortable at the moment with being back in the States, but this feeling has allowed me to observe the American culture. I am seeing the different ways people interact with each other as well as how they do their jobs. This is essential because it has allowed me to notice the small ways I can connect and form relationships with the people around me. The relationships you develop will lead to good business practices for sure.

The school has also been good about keeping in touch with me. It has been nice to see a school follow up with their students to make sure they hear the students’ voices and strive to improve their system. The school really cares about educating young adults even after they have left the country.

I am happy to be back home, yet I am already missing the way of life in Strasbourg. I’ll be back soon.

Categories: 2016, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Well it’s officially time for me to return to the States and start a new job. I can’t express how much I am going to miss Europe and the lifestyle here but I also look forward to starting the next chapter. As a graduate student I think I probably had a bit of a different experience at WU. For example, I was the only American and with the exception of one Canadian (in a single class) all students and instructors were from Europe. I was somewhat surprised to find that both students and professors were highly interested in the U.S. This was especially the case in the classroom, where I was frequently asked to comment on class discussions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m awesome, but I think this was a result of the demography/composition of the class and the strong global influence of American corporations. In any case, this put me in an interesting position and plenty of entertaining conversations and group dynamics. Sometimes American students report being mocked overseas (probably mostly in a good-natured way) but this was simply not my experience. If for some reason you are worried about that – just read the journal before travelling. Europeans tend to be more knowledgeable about politics and international affairs. So read up so you aren’t one of those “stereotypical Americans” overseas.

What did I learn? My communication and interpersonal skills were tested and absolutely benefited from this experience. Not only in speaking with people who were less than fluent in English, but also from appreciating cultural differences. Germans for example tend to be more assertive in group dynamics. Once you understand this is nothing personal you can adapt your personal style as needed. If you find this frustrating, just remember you will run into similar personalities in your future workplace. Classroom dynamics were also very different in Austria: MBA classrooms in the States are more adversarial and assertive – take a position, make recommendations, defend with debate. In comparison the environment at WU was much less spirited. Improving soft skills (i.e. communication or being more flexible and adaptable) is probably the most valuable part of a study abroad experience. And believe me, traveling through Europe provides PLENTY of opportunity to work on this stuff. Case in point, I’ve also become more assertive in my travels. Americans seem to want to apologize for everything, but over here, you have to be more to the point. Be prepared to have to push your way into lines or cram into public spaces such as trains.

I made a lot of amazing friends from all over the world and feel very blessed to have taken part in this program. If you are still deciding whether or not to study abroad, I definitely recommend it. You will have a blast and will probably never have a better opportunity to grow and learn about yourself. These sort of experiences challenge your mental models and help you become a better person. Just be sure and embrace the culture once you arrive and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone; that’s kind of what it’s all about. Some of my favorite quotes talk about living your life in a state of “expanded curiosity” and feeling at home in the world no matter where you are. Try and do this when you travel, and if for some reason it doesn’t seem like you are finding what you are looking for, find instead what is there.

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange