October, 2016 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

It is now nearing the end of October in Vienna, Austria. The leaves have changed colors, the sun has hidden behind a seemingly constant covering of clouds, and I can sincerely say that I have no idea where the last month has gone. My time here has officially exceeded its halfway mark, and with that comes a strange feeling that can best be described as a combination of sadness and comfort. I am missing my loved ones more and more with each coming day, but the thought of leaving this place that has become my home in less than two short months is too much to bear. Many changes and new adventures have come about since my last entry. I wish I could discuss all of these adventures in great depth, but that would require a lot of time on my part (and a lot of patience on yours), so for the purpose of this blog, I will spare you the details and simply discuss what I have learned over the course of the past few weeks.


LESSON #1: FEAR NOT

Throughout my life, I have always lived more on the cautious side. As much as I hate to admit it, I have never been the person that fears nothing and throws caution to the wind. That being said, embarking on this whole study abroad adventure was a pretty big deal for me, especially considering everything that has been going on in Europe as of late. My parents certainly weren’t exactly thrilled with the thought of me frolicking all around Europe, and I certainly don’t blame them. Before I left the States, I had several people telling me to be safe and reconsider taking so many side trips. I also had several telling me that letting the current situation keep me from doing the things I wanted to do would be idiotic. Honestly, I found myself somewhere in the middle of these two viewpoints- wanting to “throw caution to the wind” but also wanting to keep caution in my back pocket.

There were several places that I had always wanted to go but that my parents didn’t feel comfortable with me going right now. Upon my arrival in Europe, I had pretty much decided on only traveling to the “safe places”- the ones untouched by conflict, but after being here for a little while, that began to change. I want to let you in on a not-so-secret secret- the media tends to make everything look worse than it actually is, which in turn strikes a lot of unnecessary fear into a lot of people. I’m not trying to downplay the situation and say that everything in the world today is perfectly dandy, or that you shouldn’t be careful and watch your surroundings. However, I do hope to ease a few worries, whether you are a future traveler or a parent of one. I have done quite a bit of traveling in the past couple months and plan to do quite a bit more. I have taken trips with only one other girl friend, and I have flown by myself, and I can honestly say that I have yet to feel unsafe anywhere I have gone. I have friends who have traveled all over, and I have yet to hear of anyone feeling like they were in an unsafe environment either. On a whim, I decided to join a friend in London, a place I had originally crossed off my list, and if I had let fear keep me from going, I would have missed out on experiencing a city that completely stole my heart.

So, if there is a place that you have always dreamed of going, don’t let fear stop you! Obviously, you should use your best judgement and avoid putting yourself in a situation that is clearly dangerous, but spending a semester abroad is the perfect opportunity to see the things you have always dreamed of seeing. Chances are you won’t have the opportunity to do so again for a while, so I challenge you to throw caution to the wind (but also keep a little bit in your back pocket), and I promise you will have an incredibly rewarding semester!

LESSON #2: MAKE IT YOUR OWN

It’s probably not news to you that everyone is different. We all have different personalities, different passions, different priorities, etc. I think it’s incredibly important to keep this in mind during your semester abroad. Studying abroad is a big decision that everyone makes for their own reasons. Some do it to learn about a different culture, to learn a different language, to be independent, to pursue their goals of a career in international business, or even just to spend a semester partying (yes, there are those people). I would encourage everyone to think about why they are choosing to embark on this journey before they leave, and keep it in the back of their mind throughout their time overseas. As for me, I wanted the ability to explore places I’ve never been and experience different perspectives. However, upon my arrival I found that a large majority of exchange students here just wanted to go out to clubs every night and sleep all day. At first I felt guilty every time I didn’t want to go out because I wanted to wake up early and do something the next day, but then I remembered the reason I came here. I had to remember that this is MY semester abroad and that I should do what’s right for me in order to make the most out of it.

Do the things that make you happy. Travel to the places you want to travel. Spend time with the people you enjoy spending time with. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing. Own your time abroad. It’s the chance of a lifetime to go out and do the things you’ve always wanted to do, so make the most of it and make it your own.

LESSON #3: GET TO KNOW YOURSELF

There is truly no better way to get to know yourself than leaving behind everything familiar and moving to a foreign country. At times it can be scary and oftentimes difficult to leave behind the life you knew and trade it in for a new one for a few months so to speak. In College Station, having time for myself wasn’t really a thing. I was always either in class, studying, at a meeting, at dance practice, spending time with friends or the boyfriend, never really finding myself wondering, “Well what the heck am I going to do today?”. Coming here, this was a strange thing to experience. With no organizations to join and a much lighter course load, it’s something you experience quite frequently. At first, I kind of despised it. I’ve always liked being busy and often feel guilty having a day all to myself, but I recently learned that having time to myself, for myself, by myself is a pretty amazing thing. I absolutely adore spending time with the people I’ve met here, and I cherish the trips I’ve taken with friends, but I’ve also learned to cherish those moments when nothing is going on and I have free time for myself. Today I went to a really cool coffee shop where I wrote in my journal and began typing this blog post, and then I went and strolled through a park with hot chocolate in hand. By myself. And loved it.

Before coming here, I never really thought about studying abroad as a chance to get to know yourself, but it’s turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of this semester. So as silly as it might sound, I would encourage everyone studying abroad to hang out with yourself every once in a while. Go explore the city on your own, or even take a solo trip if you’re up for it! It’s an awesome chance to reflect on everything you’ve done and learned and to appreciate your surroundings from your point of view.


I am so excited for all of the exciting things I get to experience in the coming month including:

  • Halloween
  • Taking a trip with an old friend who is studying in Denmark
  • Hosting my mom
  • Celebrating Thanksgiving with friends
  • Christmas markets

I can’t wait to share more in a month! Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

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Sacher Torte and coffee from Cafe Central

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Finally experiencing a real Fall

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Light show at Museums Quartier

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Exploring the City Center

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Stadtpark

Categories: 2016, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

After my second month of living in Hong Kong and exploring Asia, I have to say that I’ve made quite a lot of memories with great friends. I’m currently writing this while I’m visiting Seoul, South Korea and it’s so amazing here. I’m honestly always amazed how in Asia, they have such great, amazing food yet still stay skinny and fit! Also, the people here are just so friendly and nice to visitors and locals have always welcomed us. It’s been an eventful week, but its not quite done for me yet. Two days after I go back from this trip, I’m going to Tokyo, Japan for five days as well. As much as I’ve been surprised and grown to love Seoul, I’m most excited about Japan. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Other than my travels, since my last blog I’ve been able to explore more of Hong Kong as well. Around mid October, my parents came for my birthday week to visit me. I was more than happy to see them, but it was a bitter sweet time because it was the same week as my mid terms. Despite that, I was able to show my parents all the ins and outs of the city. We also even booked a tour to visit places that are not even known to most locals. My Birthday fell on a Friday and we ended up going to Macau, China for my 21st birthday. Macau is pretty much the Las Vegas of Asia. It was loads of fun and never would I have thought that I would be spending my 21st birthday in Macau.

On the flip side of things, I’ve actually been focusing more on my studies here. The exams here aren’t a walk in the park. Sure you only need a C to get credit, but HKUST isn’t one of the best university’s in the world because its easy. Sometimes I think I actually study as much as I do back home! Even with this new realization, I just make sure to make sure to enjoy my time here in this amazing part of the world.

 

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Categories: 2016, China, Hong Kong, Reciprocal Exchange

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Ciao from Milano! It’s hard to believe that today is will mark the 63rd day since I departed from the good ole’ US of A. If you are reading this blog because you are considering studying abroad, do it! Take the plunge. By no means is it always easy (or else everyone would be doing it), but so far it has proved to be one of the most rewarding and awe-inspiring experiences of my life.

If you have already decided to commit to a semester abroad, and are simply perusing this post to see if Bocconi University in Milan is the correct place for you, keep reading. It is my goal to structure my posts in a way that communicate to you a clear and realistic description of the various aspects one should consider when choosing their host university and city.

Overview

Milan is a thriving, bustling metropolitan city. In my opinion, the feel is similar to a smaller and less sprawling New York City but with more Italian charm. That being said, urban Milan is a completely different feel from many of the other Italian cities that you most likely will visit during your stay here.image Compared to the rest of Italy, Milan is much more fast-paced and cosmopolitan. The fact that Milan is the fashion capital of the world is apparent the very moment one hopes off the plane. The level to which the average individual dresses themselves is shown in an astounding display of street fashion. If you do come to Milan, leave your Nike shorts and Comfort Color T-shirts at home.

The City

Although it is a polar opposite of College Station, it did not take me long to adapt to the ambiance of Milan. At first, the level of graffiti is shocking, and things might seem “dirtier” or more crowded than what you are used too (especially if this is your first time in Europe), but you will adapt. The day I moved in, I remember being completely underwhelmed with my apartment and neighborhood, but now I have grown to love it!

Milan boasts an excellent public transportation system. To get around you can use the underground subway or the above ground trams (unlimited pass for students for 22 euros per month, or 1.50 per ride), participate in the “bike share” program, or take an occasional taxi (especially if you are coming back very late after a night out on the town). Walking sometimes proves to be the most efficient means of transportation, and I would recommend trying to condition yourself back at home before your departure (I’m not joking)!

As far as what to occupy your time with in Milan, there is more to do than you will have time and money for. The two major touristy sights are The Duomo and The Last Supper. The former you can see anytime and all the time, but the latter is usually reserved at least a month in advance, so be sure to plan ahead.
The nightlife in Milan is incredible. During your first few weeks, I would recommend seeking out the Erasmus Student Network, which is an association for exchange students (primarily European Union ones, but everyone can participate) that will host various mixers and events almost every night of the first few weeks. This is a entertaining and surprisingly economical way to meet your fellow exchange students while everyone is still looking for friends, and you get to visit many of the nightlife hotspots in Milan.image

Aperitivo is the Milanese “happy hour”, which I’m sure you will become familiar with. Usually for 9-12 euros you get a drink and access to the open buffet. Although the food usually isn’t the Italian food you dreamed of, it’s decent enough to make a solid dinner. My favorite aperitivo is at a restaurant called Maya in Navigli. Erasmus will also host these and “10 euro” nights at various clubs (or only 1 euro if you do not wish to drink), with these you will get 2 drinks and entrance into the venue. Go! It’s fun!

The Locals

The Milanese have a reputation for being quicker paced and less friendly than Italians from southern Italy. While in some aspects this stereotype has been true, this has not always proved to be the case. Milan is a business-oriented city, and most people on the streets are trying to get somewhere quickly. Although I have had a few unfortunate run-ins with rude Milanese, the majority of people are friendly and helpful.

Academics

Bocconi is one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe, therefore your classes will require some effort. Ironically, I am taking all 4 of my electives in one semester so it is possible that level of my courses are slightly less challenging than the norm. Choose your courses strategically, and begin getting as many approved for transfer credit with TAMU as early as possible. Spend the time thoroughly completing this process the correct way, and you will thank yourself at registration. At Bocconi, as is true for most of Europe, the majority of your grade will come from one final exam in December. It is up to you to study during the progression of the course and be prepared to succeed on the final exam.

Fellow Students

Since you will most likely be taking your courses in English, there will be loads of other exchange students in your courses. I love this aspect, because it has allowed me to meet people from all corners of the world. However, there will probably be very few Italian students in your classes, and although in personal conversations they are nice and polite I find that the large majority of the local students have very little interest in forming friendships with the exchange students. Don’t take this personally because Bocconi hosts about 900 exchange students each semester.

Accommodations and Everyday Life

For living arrangements, my friend and I decided to forgo the student housing in exchange for a private apartment. Personally, we are pleased with this decision. Although it requires more research before your departure we pay less than rent for the student housing for better accommodation. Our one room loft is small but conveniently situated right along the larger Navigli canal. This area (Google it) is the center of most nightlife, and we have really enjoyed living here.

I would recommend purchasing an Italian phone plan while you are here. They are much more affordable than our American plans, and trust me, you are going to want the data. You can use Whatsapp and Skype to talk to your family and close friends, and with a data plan you don’t have to wait for wifi to post your snapchats and instagram pics! ? More importantly, you won’t be as lost in all the cities you may choose to visit.

Simple things like going to the grocery store and doing laundry are different here, but you will grow accustomed to your new lifestyle. For example, you have to bag your own groceries at the supermarket and then carry them home. We have a large reusable bag that we utilize. Once you have to carry your own heavy groceries home, you learn to start purchasing less and begin to make more frequent trips to the local supermarket. I will write more later in a different post about some of my tips for surviving your “chores” in Milan;)

Travel

Since Milan is located in the north portion of Italy, it offers convenient and cheap access into other countries. Airfare is more reasonable in Europe, especially if you plan ahead accordingly. I would recommend trying to plan your major trips about one month in advance. Keeping up with everything is hard, but push yourself to be organized and in the long run you will save time and money. The Centrale Train Station in Milan also offers many trains to all parts of Italy (usually with Trenitalia).

I signed up for something offered by Trenitalia called the “cartafreccia”, which allows you to purchase tickets at half price. Since I have purchased probably 15 train tickets, this decision has really paid off. In order to complete the online form you will need an Italian Tax code called a “codice fiscale”. To receive this you will have to go the appropriate government office and wait for your turn in the bureaucratic process. Slightly annoying, but worth it!

Finances

If your parents either won’t or are not able to pay for everything: get a job and work hard now, apply for as many scholarships as possible, and save save save save your money. Because when you are here, I promise you are going to want to spend it having back to back once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Usually, the biggest expense of study abroad students are their travels. Planning ahead can help you save money, so try your very best to be organized. If you are trying to travel as cheaply as possible, it’s time to let go of some of the luxuries you are used to. Traveling cheaply means you won’t always get to take the fastest means of transportation, or always eat out every night. You may have to stay in some Hostels that are less than ideal, but it’s ok. You will survive.

Conclusion

If you are looking for the most immersive and cost effective (and I believe fun) study abroad option, then an REEP exchange is the program for you! Milan is an enjoyable city, and Italy is a beautiful country. I have also genuinely have appreciated my time at Bocconi.

Categories: 2016, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

November first marks two months that I’ve been in Vienna and the exact halfway point of my time here. The initial shock has subsided and I have settled into my new home and new routine. But, while my original expectations are still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share with you the things I didn’t expect about studying abroad.

Getting sick

Traveling is really hard on your body. Planes, trains and busses are all riddled with germs and bacteria left by travelers from all over the world. This paired with sleepless nights and less than desirable eating habits (read “doner kebap for the third time this week”) can leave you feeling sluggish and worn down. I personally have been sick a couple of times this semester and everyone I know has caught a bug at least once. Definitely not ideal. I have a few tips below for how you can avoid being stuck in bed.

  • Bring ALL of your medicine. Really, if you’ve used it in the last year, bring it. There is almost a 100% chance that where you are going they will not have your favorite brand or maybe even have it at all.
  • Emergen-C is your best friend. Have it with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Don’t be afraid to call a doctor. The CISI insurance you have to buy will cover any medical expenses. Just be sure to call the number on your insurance card to set up an appointment. They are extremely helpful! When I had the flu, they sent a doctor to my apartment within an hour at 11 o’clock at night!

Know that you may not end up visiting your dream place and that is okay!

When I was planning for study abroad my number one travel destination was Amsterdam. After trying and trying to plan a trip and almost buying a plane ticket that was way too expensive I finally accepted that it just may not work out this time. Instead, I searched for any flight from Vienna and picked one of the cheapest. In a few days, I leave for Bucharest, Romania, which I can assure you was never on my top destination list. But what other time is there to travel to Romania and explore Transylvania. So, plan and do all of your dreaming, but when it comes time to go, keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to go off of the beaten path. It may turn into the adventure of a lifetime!

Doing things alone and loving it

I love meeting new people and spending time with friends, but there are few things more rewarding that doing something totally on your own. In fact, when it comes to spending a day at the museum or wandering through a park, I have come to find that I prefer to be alone. I would definitely challenge everyone studying abroad to be a lone wolf for a day!

Missing my hobbies

In College Station I am in dance and poetry organizations and spend the rest of my free time playing music or reading. I found it a little difficult to pack the things I would need to continue practicing those things abroad. One of my biggest pieces of advice would be to leave a little room in your suitcase to bring the things that make you happy. If I could reassess some of my packing choices, I would’ve brought a few more books and maybe tried to squeeze an instrument in!

Another option is to learn a new hobby! Without my usual arsenal of artistic outlets, I have taken to running or visiting museums in my free time. Again, just keep an open mind and roll with the punches.

Self-care

Mental health care is so so important while studying abroad. I think a semester abroad kind of gets this reputation for being a semester-long vacation, but it truly is one of the most challenging semesters of your college experience. It is often difficult to cope with being so far away from everything that is familiar. You will sometimes feel alienated and alone. Your usual support system is thousands of miles away, and while they offer encouragement and love it is really important to realize that almost 100% of your support and self-care has to come from you. I am currently working on putting together a guide to self-care while abroad. When I complete it, I will post a link in the comments!

Parties Abroad

There is this idea that international students party all the time. At the beginning of my time here I would feel guilty if I didn’t go out every time there was a party or outing. I felt as if I was somehow missing this quintessential experience that every international student should share. But that is crap. Believe me, there will be plenty of parties and you will go to a lot of them. Just realize that going out in Europe is expensive. Drink specials are almost non-existent in Europe and every club has a minimum 10-20 euro entrance fee. By the end of the night you could easily end up spending 50 euros. Think about the things you could do with 50 euros!

This experience is whatever you want it to be

Don’t stick to the status quo. Be intentional about planning your time here. Some students are just here for the party, and that is great for them. But just because people around you are going out every night doesn’t mean that that is the recipe for a successful semester abroad. Spend some time and think about what you really want out of this experience. What could you do here that you will remember for the rest of your life? What could you do that will challenge you? Get to the root of why you chose to do this. Really be intentional about the things on which you chose to spend your time and money. This is your experience and your time. When people ask you what you did during your semester abroad, just be sure you have a story that you are excited to tell.

 

Now, because I must: A photo gallery

 

Roaming the city center at night

Roaming the city center at night

The Belvedere Winter Palace. One of the smaller galleries, but certainly one of my favorites.

The Belvedere Winter Palace. One of the smaller galleries, but certainly one of my favorites.

Perfect fall running weather.

Perfect fall running weather.

Categories: 2016, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

Ciao a tutti!
(Hello everyone!)

 

Today marks the end of my fifth week studying abroad in Milan, Italy, and I could not love it more! I can truly say I have had the best few weeks of my life. The experience has been an unforgettable one. For anyone in doubt of studying abroad, I know it may seem a bit scary at first. Yes, you will be over 5,000 miles away from home, seven hours ahead, living in a completely different culture, and listening to a language you may not understand, but believe me, every part of that is definitely worth the adventure! In only these past five weeks, I have adapted to this new lifestyle and absolutely love it.

img_8479…I mean, what’s there not to love about pizza and gelato every day? ?

 

 

La vita come una studentessa Italiana (Life as an Italian Student):

Bocconi University is a great and prestigious school. Classes are challenging and quite different from back home. Most of the classes here are structured by only a final exam, therefore, that comprises your semester grade. Although this is extremely helpful during the semester for traveling, you must know how to micromanage your time. Even though there are no exams, studying throughout the semester is very important because trying to cram everything a few days before the exam will not suffice. However, not all classes are structured this way. In fact, in my case, only one of my classes is as such. In my other classes, I have midterms, group projects, and finals. My professors are all very nice and understanding. As well as my classmates, so making friends in class is easy.  Oh, but lectures here are very, very long! Classes may be only once a week, in turn causing lecture to be three hours long. However, I have found all my classes interesting and sitting through lecture has not been an issue at all. (And we get a 15-minute break?)

I live in one of Bocconi’s dorms, Residenza Isonzo, and have found it a very comfortable and convenient home. I was not expecting that since I had never lived in a dorm before and wasn’t sure I could get accustomed. Yet, the rooms are quite big with good closet space and a large desk. Everyone is very friendly. The doormen greet me with a smile every time. I have made many great friends here, actually, my closest friends whom I hang out with most of the time. Which also makes it very convenient because we can walk to class together or back home after a night out. I was paired with an amazing roommate whom has become my best friend here. We each have our own room, which is very opportune because she goes to sleep early and I go to sleep late. Isonzo is the newest residence built, therefore it is very nice, clean, has wifi, a mini fridge/freezer per room, AC and heater, and a gym. So for anyone considering living in the dorms, I would definitely recommend to try to get this one. You do have to register as soon as registration opens though because Isonzo fills up very quickly.

 

img_6841La vita come una Milanese (Life as a Milanese):

Life in Italy has been splendid! It has been my favorite European country and I would not want to live elsewhere. Italian people are extremely friendly. They are very warm and welcoming and have made me feel at home. I am always greeted with a smile and a “Ciao, bella!” I have not felt such a warm, friendly vibe as Italy’s in other European countries I’ve visited. As for culture shock, it really has not been bad at all. I have actually found Italian culture to be very similar to mine back in Mexico. Which I think is a huge factor as to why I have not become home sick.

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At my favorite pizzeria: Piz!

As expected, the food here is amazing. Being a huge fan of pizza, you can imagine that living in Italy has truly been a dream come true!?I have had the best pizza of my life, some extremely good pasta, and delicious panzerotti. Panzerotti are deep fried calzones, filled with your choice of cold cuts. Milan is a beautiful city full of surprises. Even though I have been living here for 5 weeks already, I always find myself in new, beautiful areas. I love just walking around, with no set destination, and exploring. Today, my morning class was canceled, so, as I was walking back home in the rainy, cold weather, I decided to enter this cozy, warm café I spotted. “Perfect spot to write my blog,” I thought.

 

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Translation: While everyone in Texas is still in shorts

The weather here changes very drastically, something we’re actually a bit used to in College Station. Mornings are cold, afternoons are warm, nights are somewhere in between. For the most part, September was warm, around 75 degrees. Yet, from one day to the other, it dropped to around 55 degrees. This cold doesn’t stop Italians from dressing very nicely though. Which, I guess, could have been foreseen as Milan is the fashion capital. Nonetheless, we are not accustomed to seeing girls in dresses and heels for class back in the States.

As for transportation, Milan has a great and easy to understand system. There are metros, trams, and buses all around the city. I purchased a metro card, which works for all three and is only twenty-two euros per month. With the help of our beloved friend, Google Maps, you exactly what to take, where, and at what time, to get to and from destinations. I do walk a lot here though. A lot.  So, be prepared to get in a little cardio while living here. But hey, after all that pasta, those extra miles come in handy!

 

Overall, I have enjoyed every single day of this journey. Whether it consists of studying and doing homework at a cute café, or hopping on a train to explore Italy, every day has truly been an adventure. In my next blog I will talk about my travels and the perfect destinations to explore near Milan.

 

Some more pictures of Milan:

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Because it’s not all pizzas & pastas that Italy’s good at.

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Milan’s streets during Fashion Week

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Castello Sforzesco

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Arco della Pace Fun Fact: If you walk directly straight for many, many miles from here, you will reach Paris’s Arc de Triomphe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrivederci, a dopo!
(Bye, till next time!)

Andrea Valdes
TAMU ‘17

 

13 Ottobre, 2016

Categories: 2016, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

In Sweden, the semester is divided into two quarters. Today, I sit quite pleased with myself, because I have finished the first quarter classes. Here are a few of the things I learned.

  • Dead days, or the glorious reprieve of classes before finals, are not universal.
  • Everything, including actual test taking, is done in an orderly manner in Sweden.
  • The standard question to gauge success is ‘do you think you passed?’

It’s amazing to me that passing is considered a success in Sweden. However, the stress of international members in group projects, unfamiliarity with Swedish professor’s standards, and 8 weeks of an intense pace curriculum have helped me understand this passing mentality

One week we were in first quarter classes, the next we were taking finals and the following week we will start new classes. I’m not used to the successive progression of academic events. America has conditioned me to think of finals as the end all be all, necessitating a month long break after successful completion.

Here’s how my first quarter classes went:

  1. Entrepreneuring. This course completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. The whole course investigated the process of entrepreneurship. So accordingly my classmates and I had to create a venture idea, interview a Swedish entrepreneur, and create lectures to cover various entrepreneuring topics.
  2. Industrial Distribution and Retailing. Supply chain management with a dash of marketing. We looked at how to evaluate a supply chain’s efficiency and understand channel member’s perspectives. Highlight: guest lecturer from IKEA.
  3. Consumer Behavior. This was my favorite class. We examined the motivations for consumer choices in the marketplace. That means we looked at everything from classical conditioning, theories of planned behavior and tons of advertisements.

These were not the traditional classes I would have taken if I had completed my final semester at A&M. However, I appreciate the fact that every day I had the chance to see a world beyond my perspective.

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Swedish monument

Jonkoping University

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Beautiful autumn leaves!

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

Barcelona is special. Ever since I stepped foot in Barcelona, I knew that amazing memories were going to be made. So far I have had so much fun and met amazing people. I find myself falling in love with the city more and more as the days pass by. It definitely does not bother me to walk to class everyday. I live in the city center in a section in Barcelona called Gracia. It is a section full of life during the day and night. About two weeks ago I attended a FC Barcelona football game. It was such an amazing experience and definitely a dream come true.

Soccer game!

On the other side, school has been a bit confusing. It is definitely not like Texas A&M University at UPF. They are not as organized and signing up for classes was a bit more difficult. At UPF we have seminars, therefore, we had to plan accordingly because they overlapped with classes. Thankfully, I am now three weeks in my classes. I have had an immense amount of fun and learned many things as well.

One of my favorite parts so far is meeting people from all over the world. I am shy, therefore, starting conversations at first it was uncomfortable. It took a huge amount of courage from me to just say hello. I am happy with my progress. This studying abroad experience has really brought the best in me.

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Barcelona never stops surprising me. I been visiting all the touristic and local places, and there is still a huge amount of things to do left. I can truly imagine myself living here. Before coming, I knew that I was going to like this amazing city, but I never expected for me to fall in love with it so quickly. I am beyond excited to see what the remaining of this trimester holds!

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

If you are going to come to Germany, I 100% recommend you plan your trip so you are able to be here in the end of September to the beginning of October. The simple answer as to why is the biggest beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest. I have a German friend that I met in his semester abroad in Texas A&M. He lives in Stuttgart so I gave him a call and he let us stay at his place for the weekend. This started the weekend off right because we went to the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world on Friday which is in Stuttgart. It is called Wassen and it was a blast because it is not as touristy as the Munich Oktoberfest and twice the number of Germans. Saturday came around and we were in Munich to see the original Oktoberfest. It was amazing to see so many people having fun and we stayed there the whole day. After a much needed weekend of partying in Bavarya, I hit the books and started preparing for my two midterm presentations and a few tests.

Until next time,

Diego Malagamba

Categories: 2016, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Getting into the swing of things in Copenhagen has been way easier than I thought.  Coming as the only student from Mays Business School was a little scary for me. I was worried about not knowing anyone and experiencing things without someone to understand how I felt. But Copenhagen has been welcoming, friendly, and a joy to live in.

Studying abroad is not only about the classes, but truly experiencing what it is like to live in a new country, getting involved in the city, and starting a new life of sorts. Life in Copenhagen is busy, but relaxed.  Cold, but cozy. And above all friendly and inviting to me. I can’t truly describe how I feel about Copenhagen. It makes me so happy to live here and go to school. I found it easier to be involved here than at Texas A&M, which is saying something!

The exchange program at CBS organizes events weekly, and they are fun and truly a time to get to know many different people. I am also involved volunteering at a women’s shelter for prostetutes working in Vesterbro, which is something I never thought I would be doing. Being a part of the community in Copenhagen is so important, and has really allowed me to feel like I live here, not like I am visiting for six months. I am also part of a church in Copenhagen that is truly after the hearts of this city. To show them the joy and peace and forgiveness of knowing Jesus Christ. Hillsong Copenhagen has really helped me feel like I belong in Copenhagen, helping me develop a love for the people here.

Studies at CBS are new to me. The school is organized into quarters and semesters, meaning that some classes only run from September to October, some from October to December, and most from September to December. I am enrolled in one class that ends in October. This class has been exciting and moves really fast.

I enjoy the lecture style of most of my professors and the engagement Danes show in their studies. Danes read every assigned reading, and also the “suggested” reading. And there is so much reading, about 150 pages a class, I would estimate. Having the students show such dedication for their studies has inspired me to be more engaged as well. I read more here than I ever did at A&M. I also participate in lecture more. Professors are encouraging of questions, even those that contradict their teachings. At CBS, professors are at the student’s level, we call them by first name and have real discussions.

The greatest and most obvious difference between classes at CBS and those at Texas A&M is the way students are assessed. Rather than taking an exam every few weeks and submitting papers and homework assignments as well, students are simply assessed at the end of the course by various exam types. The most widely used exam types at CBS are oral exams, written exams, and individual and group project exams. While studying here, I will experience all four.

Because there is only a final, I’ve found myself so much less stressed, and more able to participate in activities outside of school. At A&M I was always on campus from early in the morning to late at night, going to three classes a day and then joining organization meetings in the early evening, then studying really late into the night for the inevitable exam I had that week or next. Instead, studying here I am able to have a much more varied schedule. I can make it home to cook dinner or even go to lunch in Malmo, Sweden. I love the freedom not having constant exams allows.

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I still spend time in the library, which is a beautiful example of Scandinavian modern design! I read for classes, meet up with friends to plan trips and weekend activities around Europe and Copenhagen.

Above anything, if you are considering studying in Copenhagen, DO IT. It is an amazing experience.

Categories: 2016, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

Oh yeah, Milan is home!

I’m currently writing this blog from my little apartment in Milan, Italy! It is a crazy feeling knowing that I’ve been living and going to school here for the past 6 weeks.

First off, if you’re reading this blog because you’re unsure if you should study abroad, please do it! It is an experience that I think everyone should have at some point in their lives.

Well, where do I even start? Milan is an amazing city, and Italy is easily my favorite European country. The people, environment, and beauty that this city and country have to offer easily make it a great option to study abroad.

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Drinking some tea on my balcony while hanging up my laundry to dry

School

To start off my time in Milan, I took an Italian Crash Course taught at Bocconi University, which is the university that I’m attending. If you don’t know Italian and will be at Bocconi, I highly recommend taking it! You get to meet a lot of other exchange students, which is a great way to quickly make friends!

For the most part, I spent the month of September traveling around Italy since I only have classes from Tuesday to Thursday. But the days that I spent in class were long days. Although school is not the most fun thing in the world, it is incredible going to class with students from all over the world. The insight that you gain from their experiences and knowledge is seriously invaluable. I’ve met some of the brightest students here.

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The Duomo!!!

People

I feel like the Italian people are on a wide spectrum. Since Italy is a young nation and split by so many regions, it depends on which city and part of the country you’re talking about.

As far as Milan is concerned, the people here are fast-paced. Milan is a major metropolitan city with some of the most fashionable and hardworking people you’ll meet. They walk fast, don’t smile as much, and cut you in line to get to where they need to go.

But the students that I’ve met from all over the world are amazing! It’s so awesome to be able to say that I have friends from The Netherlands or Brazil or Canada or Singapore. Easily my favorite part of being abroad thus far is the people I’ve been able to meet.

Food

Although the food has been great, I miss food from back home! Tacos, Chick-Fil-A, What-A-Burger, please send some over. I would trade 10 pastas and pizzas for a taco from Mad Taco or Torchy’s. Haha. But seriously, I eat so much pasta and pizza here because that is seriously the norm. I thought people exaggerated about it before I got here, but it’s the truth.

Milan and Navigli (the area in Milan that I live in) is well known for its aperitivo, which is a concept where you pay for a drink and the buffet is included. It is a great deal to socialize with friends after school and get some food.

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Catch the tram from all over town!

Transportation

If you’re going to be living here, you’re going to have to choose a mode of transportation. Those include biking, metro, or walking.

If you choose to bike, it’s a good deal! You pay around 28 euros and get everywhere quickly. I personally travel via the metro, which is very easy to navigate and takes you everywhere that you need to go. If you get a metro card, you are allowed to use the metro, tram, or busses. You pay 22 euros a month, which is a steal in comparison to how much I spend back home on gas.

 

All in all, this first month rocked. I seriously cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store!

Categories: 2016, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange