September, 2016 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Tomorrow marks mine and Vienna’s one month anniversary, and WOW- what a month it has been! It has taken me four weeks, but I think I’ve finally wrapped my brain around the fact that I’m here to stay for a while and not just on a brief vacation from which I’ll be returning shortly.

I arrived in Vienna on the first of September, and since then it has been a constant whirlwind of adventures. In the last short month I have traveled to Prague, Melk, Graz, and Bratislava, toured various castles and palaces which look like they belong on the set of a Disney or Harry Potter movie, climbed to the top of several hills (and experienced several very rewarding views), tried new foods, and met so many people from every country imaginable. WU offers a pre-semester orientation program which began about a week after I arrived. Through the program, I’ve had the opportunity to see so many parts of Vienna (and Austria in general) that I didn’t even know existed. If you have the opportunity to do a program like this, I would definitely recommend it! It will give you a chance to meet people and become acquainted with the city before you’re thrown into classes. The orientation basically consisted of one or two activities a day including palace tours, museum visits, and other cultural activities. Each activity lasted a few hours each day which gave us plenty of time to explore things on our own as well. Today marked the last day of the 3-week program, and Monday marks my first day of class at WU. Believe it or not, I’m pretty excited to begin the actual “study” part of my study abroad experience. I can’t wait to meet my classmates, experience education from a different perspective, and most of all, finally begin learning how to speak German! The month of September has been a month of overwhelming change, but it’s one that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

As for the culture shock, things here honestly aren’t as different as I imagined them to be. Aside from the incredibly ornate architecture and the German language, there are only some small differences, but nothing you can’t get used to. For example,

  1. People here tend to be a lot less friendly than in the states. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just in the sense that they keep to themselves more. However, if you need help with something, most people here are very kind and are more than happy to help if you just ask!
  2. Customer service isn’t nearly as prevalent here. The waiter’s job is to take your order, bring you your food, and give you your check (only after you flag them down and ask for it)
  3. Most restaurants/cafes prefer for you to pay in cash, and you always have to ask to split the check when eating out with other people.
  4. The food has probably been the biggest adjustment for me. Austrian meals mainly consist of red meat, potatoes and bread. It is very rare that a meal comes with a side of veggies. Thankfully, there are plenty grocery stores and farmers markets where you can buy your own!
  5. People drink beer and coffee like we drink water
  6. The street food here isn’t sketchy at all. Definitely try the doner kebap and the hot dogs. You won’t regret it.

A few helpful hints:

  1. Thankfully, almost everyone here does speak English, but I would definitely recommend at least attempting to learn German. Not knowing it makes reading menus and going grocery shopping very difficult, and it also makes for some very awkward interactions with cashiers…
  2. The public transportation system here is actually very easy to navigate, especially if you download a magical app called Quando
  3. Don’t bother filling your suitcase with American food, because you can actually find a lot of it here including peanut butter, Oreo’s, burgers, and even Mexican food if you look hard enough!
  4. The weather is actually pretty warm until late September, and most facilities don’t have air conditioning, so I would definitely recommend buying an electric fan once you’re over here and packing more summer clothes than you think you’ll need!

I’m beyond excited to learn even more about Vienna and its culture and to see what the rest of my semester has in store for me. Until next month, Auf Wiedersehen!

Biking through the city

Exploring the city with new friends!

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Belvedere Palace

Austrian Parliament

Austrian Parliament

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Karlskirche

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Naschmarkt

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The view from the top of Kahlenberg

Categories: 2016, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

Madrid Ayuntamiento

It has been a month since I arrived in Madrid and the experience could not be better. Whether is the food, people, architecture, culture or all of the above, Madrid has been extremely welcoming.

I am currently attending Universidad Carlos III located in Getafe, which is a small town about 30 minutes by train from the center of Madrid. Every year, the university hosts around 1000 international students from all over the world. Most of these students prefer to live in Madrid and commute to Getafe because they find more things to do in Madrid, which I completely agree with. Professors at the university are very helpful and most will work with international students to accommodate assignment dates if notified in advanced.

It is also worth mentioning that there are various interesting places around Madrid that make great one-day excursions such as Toledo and Aranjuez. I plan to travel around Spain and really immerse myself in its culture, and I’m excited to see what the next few months have in store for me.

 

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

It’s the middle of my sixth week in Sweden and I love it! I am an exchange student studying at Jönköping University in Jönköping, Sweden. The week before classes started, all the new students participated in an orientation program complete with overalls (uniforms that specify what students are studying based on color), games, and groups. Think Fish Camp minus the Texas standard of appropriateness. The week was a well planned sequence of events that helped me meet people and learn about Swedish culture.

The second week I started my classes at the business school called JIBS or Jonkoping International Business School. There are a few blatant differences between JIBS and Mays:

1. We call our professors by their first name
2. Classes are at least 2 hours long
3. There’s a 15 minute coffee break in the middle of class
4. Class times are different every week
5. Courses are taught by a team of professors

Things that are still the same:
1. Tons of group projects
2. The professors are knowledgeable and excited about their subject matter

The semester is broken into quarters here. People typically take two classes each quarter. I’ve chosen pain and enrolled in three so that I can graduate on time. I appreciate that the classes here are focused on practical knowledge. In my entrepreneuring class we simulate the process of launching a business by creating a product, a pitch and lots of feedback sessions. In consumer behavior my incredibly enthusiastic South African professor does an excellent job of introducing new, controversial, topics. She never reveals her opinion, so we are free to explore and critically evaluate the new material. Finally my industrial distribution class keeps me on my toes. I hear everything from the “evils” of Walmart to the strategy behind Swedish grocery stores.
My favorite part about attending JIBS is that every day I interact with people from all over the world. My dorm of approximately 24 people houses over 10 nationalities, and classes are just as diverse. Seeing the world through another country’s perspective is a privilege more powerful than a textbook. Two weeks ago I grew frustrated when my international teammate did not seem to listen or participate in a group discussion. A few minutes after the event, he asked me what life was like in Texas. I was caught off-guard but I explained the incredible glory that is life in Texas. Then I asked about his home. As I explained and listened, my frustration faded. The event was not any less aggravating, but in that moment my teammate’s curiosity and willingness to share reminded me of his humanity. It reminded me of the capacity for humans to care about and appreciate others as an individual. We have more in common with our global peers and our neighbors than we realize.
My time in Sweden has made me desire that my American peers would take time to remember that we do have more in common with each other than we have different. I wish everyone in America would intentionally consider one another first as people with meaningful lives. I wish that we could shirk the fear of the differences that our global neighbors or our nation has. It breaks my heart to read the New York Times every morning and see the strife of race relations as headlines day after day. Yet it scares me even more to think that we might be waiting for the government or legislation to take care of a sensitive issue that neighbors can fix.
My classes here have given me the freedom to explore new subjects and the privilege to learn from global peers.

 

Jönköping Business School

Jönköping Business School

First day of school at Jönköping University.

First day of school at Jönköping University.

My Swedish family!

My Swedish family!

Jönköping University in the fall.

Jönköping University in the fall.

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

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It’s my third full week here in Hong Kong, China, and I can say that I absolutely love it here. I’m attending Hong Kong University of Science and Technology this 2016 fall semester, and this country, school, and culture is something I think everyone should experience.

The school here is a fraction of the size of A&M’s campus. The school houses around 8,000 undergrad students and about 1,000 graduate students. That’s probably at least the size of one of our majors at A&M. With such a small student base, the quality of the information taught is impressive. They have world-class professors with outstanding backgrounds, and with a small class size, allows more attention to each individual student. I’m actively engaged in all of my classes, and the great thing about it, its actually fun. Plus, on top of that, the campus is just down right beautiful. The campus sits on the side of a hill overlooking Clear Water Bay and the many small islands that are visible. I kept saying to all my fellow peers, “It’s almost like I’m staying at a resort instead of actual college!” All I can say is that this place is pretty great.

The Asian culture is very complex to say the least. From the experiences I’ve had so far, the locals here at school are welcoming with open arms. Everyone here is extremely kind and knowledgeable about a lot of things going on in America. Some of which I am embarrassed to talk about, such as our presidential race, and the racism. However, The people here are as curious about my American/Mexican culture and me as I am of their Chinese culture. I’ve been invited to a few dinners where they treat me as a guest and share with me some of their tastiest of food. The food here is different than the Chinese food that westerners are familiar with, but its even better, and sometimes weirder! On top of their food, they have a rich a beautiful history. I’ve traveled to a few of their historical landmarks, my most recent to date was the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery. It was 431 enlightening steps up a mountainside with hundreds of golden Buddha’s paving the way. At the top was a lavish Buddha temple and at the end was a final statue under a waterfall. Even with all those agonizing steps, the journey was well worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

This is just my first month here in Asia, but it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. This weekend I’m actually traveling to Bangkok, Thailand, so the adventures keep coming. I seriously cant wait to see what else this beautiful part of the world has to offer.

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Categories: 2016, China, Hong Kong, Reciprocal Exchange

First few weeks have been a blast!! The university (WHU) has such a good integration program to get you to meet new exchange students (called tauschies) and also to meet Germans going to the school. I have met so many amazing people and we have already made trips to Colonia and Koblenz with the group of friends. I am learning more german every day and the classes I am talking are really interesting. I will keep you posted (sneak peak, there will be a trip to Berlin this weekend and more pictures to come)

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This first picture was after a the city tour of Vallendar.

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This picture is from a typical German restaurant where we had dinner after the regional tour that included wine tasting and a hike through the vineyard.

 

Yours Truly,

Diego Malagamba

Categories: 2016, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

I arrived in Bergen, Norway on August 3rd with my family. My first impression of Norway was that there was a certain “freshness” to the air. The weather in Bergen is a bit more rainy and chilly than Oslo (where I currently live), but I put on a rain jacket and a warm hat and I enjoyed the crisp air as a refreshing change from the Texas heat. Bergen is a very European feeling city on the water with colorful houses, plenty of shopping, and quaint markets with beautiful nature surrounding it.

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After spending a week in Bergen with my family and exploring the extravagant fjords on our vacation, my family moved me into my apartment in Oslo. August in Oslo is warm and sunny with the temperature resting in the 60’s for the most part. It’s lovely!

BI is an incredibly modern school that I find to be beautifully built. The first week is called “Fadderullan” which is a week of activities and parties for you to get to know fellow international students as well as Norwegian students. Heads up, Norwegians DEFINITELY know how to party!

Fadderullan

Oslo has a city feel, but if you take the metro a few stops outside of the city you can find some great hikes, parks, and lakes. Norwegians love to be outside, so if you’re an outdoorsy person, this is the place for you! The nature is absolutely breathtaking and the school offers a lot of opportunities to go on group hikes and travel to famous nature spots around Norway.

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Pros:

  • Norway is BEAUTIFUL
  • The weather is perfect in August
  • The people are super friends and willing to help. Not to mention everyone speaks English (Thank the Lord because Norwegian is a weird language that is difficult to learn)
  • BI is structured in a way that caters to international students and gives you plenty of opportunities to travel and explore Norway

Cons:

  • Norway is expensive. Eating out is difficult and it’s much more common to have friends over to eat a home cooked meal.. or a frozen pizza called Grandiosa, the unofficial meal of Norway!
  • Going out for drinks also gets pretty expensive. If you enjoy drinking with friends get used to “pre partying”, which is drinking before going out for drinks since alcohol is less expensive in the grocery stores and government regulated liquor stores.

Norge

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

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The Little Mermaid Statue is one of the international symbols of Copenhagen and commemorates the fairytale written by famous Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen.

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Nyhavn is the most iconic location in Copenhagen! The “New Harbor” is home to colorful houses, wooden ships, and the canals of Copenhagen.
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Amarger Strand beach is located just outside the inner city and a quick metro ride from CBS.

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Rosenberg Castle is surrounded by beautiful parks and is home to the Danish Crown Jewels!

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Biking is an important piece of life in Copenhagen, the most bike-friendly city in the world.

I’ve been imagining my exchange since before I started at Texas A&M! When I was 17 I knew I wanted to study abroad during my undergraduate degree. No matter what I thought it would be like, it is so much better!

I finished my sixth semester in College Station in May. I was in the routine of College Station and Texas A&M. I knew what to expect, where to go, and what my life was like. Moving to Copenhagen, I’ve experienced something new every day! I arrived in Copenhagen on August 18th with introduction programs starting at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) on August 22nd. I settled in my apartment, went grocery shopping, and waited out the jet lag.

When my Danish language crash course started, I didn’t know what to expect. The program is a voluntary course exchange students can choose to participate in at CBS. To embrace Danish culture and to come to Copenhagen a week before mandatory events started, I chose to take the class. Danish is notorious for being difficult. Words are often spelled with twice as many letters than what is pronounced, there are three unique Danish letters, Æ, Ø, and Å, and the pronunciation is simply difficult. Though I struggled with Danish, I found many friends in my class! Also, to accompany the language courses were social programs provided by CBS. Above all, I met so many international students from all over the world!

When considering whether or not to participate in voluntary introduction programs on an exchange, I highly recommend doing it all!! Finding a friend group is very easy, getting acquainted with the new culture is made simple, and above all it’s FUN! CBS has a great program for incoming exchange students, particularly because there are so many! CBS is truly an international school.

Categories: 2016, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange