March, 2017 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

March 6, 2017

Hello again from Nice!  This past month has been incredible.  I feel very comfortable living in Nice now as I know my way well around the city and feel very comfortable with the culture.  Unfortunately, learning French has been more difficult than I expected.  I am in a beginner’s French course and do a little studying via Dual Lingo on my own but it is very difficult to practice.  Our entire group of exchange students all speak English together even though there are only three Americans.  Even when I try to practice French with a French person, they immediately recognize that I am not fluent and start to speak English with me.  This has made it hard to progress but I am slowly making progress none the less.

My school schedule has slowed down significantly.  I had a time-intensive course the first month of my exchange but now that that class is over, I meet for class maybe three times a week.  This is great for going to the beach and for traveling!  Each one of my classes involves a group project.  In the two months I have studied at EDHEC, I have done more group projects and group presentations than I have in my two and a half years at Texas A&M.  There are also very few grades at EDHEC.  Our final grade in each class is usually comprised of one or two group projects and a final exam.  This system is nice because it removes all the trivial homework assignments, but it is also a disadvantage because I will not know how I perform in each class until I receive the final exam grade at the very end of the semester.

The weather in Nice is slowly warming up and I am spending more and more time at the beach.  The beach is not like the beaches in Texas.  Instead of sand, there are smooth stones about the size of your fist.  There are other beaches along the French Riviera I have visited that have normal sand as well, however.  The Mediterranean Sea is also beautiful and the water is a vibrant blue.

I have also been busy traveling.  So far, I have skied twice in the French Alps, visited Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, Orvieto, Monaco, Eze, and various other towns along the French Riviera.  Traveling like this has been completely new for me but I have loved every second.  I also have a 10 day break coming up where I have trips booked for Paris and Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day.  In the coming months I also have a spring break and trips booked for Germany, London, and Spain.  I am very excited to take on these adventures and share my experiences in my next post.

I am close to being half way finished with my exchange now.  I feel like I have been in France for longer than two months but I also do not want this trip to end by any means.  Every day is a new adventure and I am extremely excited for what lies ahead.

Categories: 2017, France, Reciprocal Exchange

We are currently in between terms at Ca’ Foscari. The exams for the third term were as easy as I thought but I honestly wish the classes were more challenging. The simplicity of classes has given me more time to travel and I have no complaints in that regard. In the eight weeks I have been abroad I have visited seven countries and counting. I’m thankful to be learning about different cultures while getting to experience them first-hand. More than anything I love trying the many different types of food. Our fourth term kicks off next week and the studies will continue!

 

Categories: 2017, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

February 5th, 2017

Hello from Nice!  I arrived here on the 5th of January and have been here for one month now.  I am studying finance at EDHEC Business School and will be here for roughly five months.

The first day I arrived here in Nice, I definitely experienced culture shock.  Everyone was speaking a completely new language and the city/architecture was completely different from anything I had ever seen before. The culture shock slowly wore off over the first two weeks as I got comfortable with the new environment. I slowly began to orient myself in the city and learn how to get around.  I use lots of public transportation to get around Nice via tram, train, city bus, and city bike.

I quickly met new friends at EDHEC, most all of them are international students and not the French students.  It has been an incredible experience to hear everyone’s perspective from their different countries and to compare experiences. It has also been a challenge learning to communicate with everyone because not everyone speaks great English.  We have a strong group of friends and have already planned to take some trips together.

School has been great so far.  The facility itself is nice and modern and it is located directly behind the airport on the beach.  Every class I have a view of the sea and private jets landing in the airport.  The content of the material has been somewhat difficult.  Several of my classes are very challenging while others are a breeze.  All of my classes are finance courses except for a French language course and Researching France which is specific for international students.  EDHEC functions on a very different schedule than A&M, however.  Some classes will be intense for 2-3 weeks and be finished.  Other classes will meet for three hours one day and will not meet again for several weeks.  This schedule has its pros and cons.  Often times it leaves large gaps in my schedule which leaves time to travel which is great.  On the down side, though, it is difficult to keep up with classes because they are not on a routine basis.

So far this semester has been an incredible adventure.  I have already traveled to Amsterdam and I plan to make many more trips throughout the semester.  I am excited to dive more into the French culture and gain perspective throughout the rest of my exchange.

Categories: 2017, France, Reciprocal Exchange

March 21, 2017

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

I have been in Madrid for 2 months now and I feel right at home. This city has everything anyone could need and then more. During my first month here, I went to most touristy places including: Sol, which is the center of the city and one of the most important places in Spain. Retiro Park, the perfect place to relax and get away for a few hours. And Prado Museum, a legendary museum in Europe.

For the last month I have tried to enjoy the city as a Madrileño. From the simplest things like riding the metro and actually knowing where to go without using google maps, to watching a soccer game at a bar with Real Madrid Fans (even though I am a die hard FC Barcelona Fan, the biggest rival of Real Madrid).

A couple of weeks ago, Poli, one of my friends from the U.S. came to visit me for his spring break. I felt like his tour guide in my hometown. We love to try new food so we went to great restaurants in Malasaña, a neighborhood known for their great bars and food. Poli loves Real Madrid and going to one of their games was one of his biggest dreams, so even though it was really hard for me to go to a game at the Santiago Bernabeu,  I went with him. The experience at the stadium is like no other (OK, maybe Kyle Field gets a little louder), we got to watch a soccer game in one of the most iconic sports venues in the world. Fans live the game like they are part of the team, you can hear a lot of cheering, criticism of players and definitely a lot of whistling towards thee referee, which is the way of booing. If you come to Madrid this is definitely an event you cannot miss!

 

As far as school goes, I had my first really stressful week studying for midterms. I had 3 midterms during the same week, including 2 on the same day. It felt like studying for accounting 327 and finance exams for the same day, definitely not the most fun part of the trip, but a great learning experience. Exams in Carlos III are very challenging for the classes I am taking,  for multiple choice exams points can get taken off for missing a question, which is not very common at TAMU. I ended up passing all three of my midterms, two of them with good grades and the third not as well. For the upcoming weeks I will  be working with different groups for final projects. All of my classes have a project at the end of the semester and involve all of what we have learned during the semester, I think this is a great way for us to review our material learned and actually apply our new resources.

As for my last trip outside of Madrid, I went to Mallorca and  Barcelona last week. I met with a couple of friends, who are studying abroad in Barcelona, at the Mallorca airport. We walked around the Island for the first day and saw the most important attractions in the center of the city. The second day we decided to rent mopeds and ride them to the best beaches in the island. I had never ridden a moped before, but let’s say I am pretty good riding a bicycle, which is pretty much the same thing. During this day I saw some of the best places I have seen in Spain, beaches were beautiful and people were great. Even though many people would not think of going to this Island, I would recommend 100%.

 

 

 

 

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

 FC BAYERN, FC BAYERN, FC BAYERN MUNICH MUNICH:
To be honest, I’ve never really given much thought to soccer. It’s a slow paced sport with players constantly looking for an opportunity over making plays. Compared to football or basketball, it was always a bore to me. But, to the Europeans, it’s their major sport; with Real Madrid and Barcelona dominating La Liga, the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League, and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. But I made the decision to go watch a game live and find a team to support, so why not go see Bayern Munich live? So the first week of February, my friends and I did so. With region of Bavaria (which is Bayern in German) having the coldest winters in all of Germany, it meant that we were going to have a trip full of icy winds and near freezing temperatures.

Neuschwanstein Castle, now that was a sight. It actually went above and beyond my expectations. The grandness of the interior of the castle shined brightly along with the outside of the castle being surrounded by forest and snow. Not to mention the 40 minute mountain climb fulfilled my workout requirement for the rest of the semester (ice prevented any sort of public transportation to go up the mountain roads). Within the castle, the Byzantine, Gothic and Medieval influences really defined the castle. With it’s intricate murals and even a throne and chandelier made of pure gold with an assortment of jews, I was blown away. Even just walking into the kings room I was awed. Despite being the size of a college dorm room, the hand carved bed canopy, sink, desk, and even walls showed it’s Gothic history and the time and craftsmanship needed to make them. Everything displayed the grandeur of the whole palace as a whole (even if we couldn’t take any pictures).

View of Neuschwanstein Castle while walking up the path!

The Dachau Concentration Camp really taught me a lot about concentration camps. I originally thought that all the camps were used for the same reason, with Auschwitz being the most well know (as that was really the only one I remembered off the top of my head). Turns out that Dachau was the first (and the model) camp and was (and essentially was maintained as) a political concentration camp. Meaning that despite them having gas chambers, they were used only as disinfections rather than mass murder. Two interesting facts that I gained from the trip was that punishments were given out by other prisoners, with punishments being essential to camps as that was how they controlled the prisoners. It showed me the past of BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen, Germany’s biggest car companies. Another way for the Nazi party to have control and take advantage of the prisoners was to offer them as cheap labor for said companies. For only a few cents, they could ‘own’ the prisoners for a few weeks till they were to be ‘replaced’. They eventually had to pay after the end of World War II, but the price they paid seems so small for a company who profited off the expense of their ‘employees’. This tour ended up being a great eye opener for me in regards to how concentration camps were ran.

Plaque commemorating the liberation of Dachau.

The BMW Museum was, in simple terms, shiny. To me, past c     ar models and such aren’t of much interest to me. It’s really the recent, and concept, models that do. How shiny they look, how sleek they are, how fast they go; these things are what makes me interested in cars (and BMWs). While at the museum, We got the opportunity to actually sit in a BMW M6 and see a Rolls-Royce Phantom up close (but couldn’t go in it sadly), which were the highlights of the museum. What can I say, car history just goes in one ear and then flies out the other as a shiny new BMW.

A beautiful Rolls-Royce Ghost sitting out of reach.

Finally, we get to the game. Before this trip,I had no clue of which team to go watch. Luckily, my roommate being Portuguese, knew a bit about football in Germany and told me to watch a Bayern Munich game over a Frankfurt or Mainz game. Other than my knowledge of HOW to play soccer from playing it all of elementary school, I knew nothing about the professional league. So going into the game, I was pretty excited about getting the chance to actually experience the atmosphere of a live game, especially one of the best teams in the world. There’s not much to say about the game but that home section, which is located behind one of the goals, was the whole reason the stadium was loud. The whole 90+ minutes of the game was filled with their cheering and songs. Compared to Kyle Field, it’s not as loud or as fearsome, but it still instills fear within the opposing team. My only suggestion, other than to experience a game live if you haven’t, is if you choose to go watch a football match, or ANY other sports match for the matter, don’t complain about people talking in a normal voice behind you. Yes; I’m talking to you, elderly couple who decided to shush us every time we wanted to talk about the game in the most normal, indoor voices.

Everyone getting ready for a Bayern Munich game!

Test 1:
Fortunately for me, EBS is a bit of a weird school. With classes once a week and only one exam and project, it ends up being non stressful for me compared to having 4 exams and weekly days of classes back home. Unfortunately for me, that means those two things weigh into my grades a lot. Reflecting on my first ever test from EBS (if you exclude the German A1 test). Despite it being a written test, the school, and teachers, failed to mention what kind of written test. It’s not really fun when you end up having to write short responses to 9 questions compared to multiple choice questions and some fill in the blank (as was the German test). Not to mention the fact that you have to write in pen, prompting me to have to rewrite my whole test in 20 minutes. It certainly was an experience.

I AMsterdam:
I’m going to say this off the bat, Amsterdam is my favorite city I’ve visited thus far. The closest way to describe it is that it’s similar to New York. It’s a city that constantly has something going on but without all the congestion that New York has. Add on the canals and the mixed atmosphere of all the tourists and residents here and you get a city that seems like an amusement park.

There’s a lot to see in Amsterdam, including the small village of Zaanse Schans. For landmarks, the one that really stood out the most was I Amsterdam. Yea there was the King’s palace, but seeing the sheer amount of people just mobbing the sign really showed how important it was to the city. As for museums, The Van Gogh museum and Dali museum were both amazing and eye opening. In the Van Gogh museum, I actually learned a lot about Van Gogh’s drawing style; how he was heavily influenced by peasant lifestyle and other artists. While in the Dali museum, I learned that street art is now a thing and that they really didn’t have many Dali artworks. I guess you win some you lose some. But, the last museum was my favorite, and my personal choice. The House of Bols; Netherland’s oldest producer of Jenever, which is essentially the father of gin. Alcohol, especially cocktails, have always been of interest to me. My personal goal, that goes along with traveling, is to try out the local/national liquor of each nation and learn a little about it if possible. Smelling and seeing how each of their different liquors are made and seeing the history of Jenever really showed the history of the Netherlands. The windmills were interesting but didn’t really click with me. If it was less windy and happened to be during the spring, the view might’ve been way more preferable to me. But the high winds injunction with a very bleak sky made the trip interesting but not extremely special to me. The final, and probably my most favorite thing, was the canal tour. Getting a boat ride on a canal is always fun and a unique way to view the city. Along with the city lights, the soothing ride really gave us a different view point of Amsterdam. Not to mention, learning little small trivia facts about this city is always fun.

The town of Zaanse Schans and their windmills!                                                 The famous I Amsterdam sign! There was too many people to get                                                                                                                                          a picture in front of it.

Brussels Part 2:
Going back to Brussels wasn’t on the top of my list. I planned on wanting to go back (since it was literally dead around New Years) so at least I got it done early on. With my friends wanting to try and buy some Belgium chocolates, and with me being the pro of Brussels city center, I ended up being the tour guide for us on our search for chocolates. To be honest, the main reason I was fine with going to Brussels was because it essentially was a compromise with my friends. We go to Brussels and then we can go see the Binche Carnival, which is renowned and even proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Though, unlike Germany’s Carnival, Binche’s was a lot more calm. They both have a lot of drinking and celebration, but while Mainz was more focused on their parade and everyone being drunk out of their minds, Binche is more about tradition. It’s a tradition and great honor to be involved in the parade as a Gille, a clown-like performer who wears a giant ostrich plumed hats, to have the opportunity to throw oranges at the crowd. These oranges symbolize good luck and many people even devise ways to catch them; from a wooden target with a net and hanging off of street lamps to be a better target, it essentially becomes a fight for whoever gets the most oranges. It certainly was a sight to see and caught me off guard, but I enjoyed trying to get more and more oranges.

A police and his horse at the Binche carnival having fun!

So, remember the time that you wanted to go to Luxembourg?:
Funny story about Luxembourg. It all started when I brought up the idea of going to Mainz, or Cologne, for Carnival with my friends. They both shot it down, saying that they wanted to visit Amsterdam, Brussels, and Luxembourg. I was fine with Amsterdam, despite them not having a Carnival due to their Protestant background, Brussels was ok since I got to see the Binche Carnival, but Luxembourg was just a big question mark. I wasn’t completely against it, but I also wasn’t for it. With it being the most expensive EU state (thus making everything expensive) and the 20th smallest sovereign state in population, I was not appealed by the idea of going there. Despite its constant downpour, we managed to see the most important landmarks. The Casemates du Bock, which was just a giant maze where I could hide around a corner to scare my friends; the palace, which I thought was a hotel; and Norte Dame Cathedral. All within 30 minutes. But that’s not where the fun part starts! We end up getting to a bus stop to get to our hostel, which was 20 minutes walking and OVER a highway. It’s interesting to hear that one of the few hostels in Luxembourg doesn’t even put into consideration how people would get to the hostel in the first place, with our makeshift path being the only way to get there. And to put the cherry on top, our shower ended up being in the same room as the beds (which I was sharing with two girls) making it just inconvenient for all of us. And to put the cherry on top of the cherry, I also happened to cut myself on my razor going through my bag. This trip shall forever be the trump card I pull on my friend who wanted to go to Luxembourg, “So, remember the that time you wanted to go to Luxembourg?”

St. Jean du Grund at Luxembourgh!

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Last week, my best friend from the states came to see me! It was crazy feeling like I was welcoming her into my town. I love hosting people normally, and this was no different! We managed to see all my favorite things around Madrid (Including a day trip to Toledo!) while she was here; I was in my element with the opportunity to show someone around! She took this picture on our day trip to Toledo. 

There were definitely some crazy things that I noticed while my friend Sarah was here. Most prominently, I noticed that there are many novel things here in Spain which I now take for granted. For example, Iberian ham and paellas are so commonplace to me now! When did that happen? It took me by surprise every time Sarah needed an explanation of Spanish foods. Before she came, I had never considered how many foods I must have learned about when I first arrived! Another thing that stuck out to me while she was here was that I have a list of things that are important to me about Madrid. I insisted that we see all of my favorites while she was here… It was a pretty long list! The Prado Art Museum, Retiro Park, Malasaña, the Royal Palace, and Toledo were some things included. Here is a picture of us on boats at Retiro: 

Sarah and I also made friends with the sweet flower lady Nancy at El Rastro, the weekly flea market! 

 

 

Also, I can add a new favorite now! We went to a Real Madrid fútbol game, it was SO FUN! I have never felt so much a part of the Spanish people than I did at that game. This is a bad picture, but it was an intense game!

Something else that has been on my mind a lot as I reflect on February is the amount that I miss Madrid when I am gone. My friends and I often travel on the weekends, but I love Madrid so much! We have decided that our friend Mikel is going to have the best semester by far because he stays in Madrid on the weekends. Spain is a very special place, why would I leave? Every moment I have here is my favorite, undoubtedly. Let the traveling end and the more thorough enjoyment of MADRID begin! I love everything about this city and this culture and these people. In fact, I love it more every time I leave. I am thrilled to have the rest of the semester here, I will enjoy every moment so sincerely! I am confident that I picked the best city to study in; I miss it like it’s actually home.

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hej!

As of today, I have officially been in Europe for 9 weeks! And guess what? I’m currently writing this blog post on a train as I make my way to Florence! My friends from A&M are on spring break right now and we all decided to meet up in Italy for a week. Thus far, I’ve hit Budapest, Belgium, Iceland, Paris, and now Italy. Each city I visit is so different and unique from the last one, but so beautiful and interesting on its own. I don’t know how else to describe Budapest other than to say it’s crazy fun. Belgium is great if you want to gain ten pounds in four days (seriously though, all I ate was waffles, chocolate and fries). Iceland was incredibly beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I never thought I would fall in love with Paris, but I did. And so far, Italy has been nothing but amazing (especially the gelato).

Street food in Budapest…So delicious!

 

most incredible waterfall in Iceland

 

The Grand Place in Brussels

 

 

Here’s me channeling my inner Lizzie McGuire and tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome

 

CBS is on a quarter system so the Q3 classes that I am in are finishing up for the quarter and the finals will begin in about two weeks. Both of the Q3 classes that I am in are essay assignments that are required to be about ten pages long, so once I get back from Italy I will be locking myself in the library to complete the assignments.

I’ve been exploring Copenhagen more and I’ve even wandered around downtown by myself after class a couple times. Sometimes, I feel like you appreciate and see the city in a different way when you’re on your own. There’s this really amazing place near Nyhavn (the colorful buildings on the canal) called Paper Island which is filled with about 30 different food trucks and it’s so delicious and cool! It reminds me of home in Austin will all the food trucks. There’s also this really cool street called Stroget that is filled with a bunch of different stores, restaurants, and souvenir shops. “Shwarma” is also something that is really popular. Its Mediterranean food (kebabs, gyros, wraps, etc.) that are on every corner and it’s so delicious! It’s super cheap too! Shwarma is definitely something that I’m going to miss when I go back home. Me and my friends here also went to an FC Kobenhavn soccer game and it made me miss football season at A&M.

FC Kobenhavn

 

Nyhavn

 

I’ve heard about study abroad experiences from friends who where in other countries, and not to be biased, but Copenhagen sounds the best. It’s such a chill city with great vibes, I would bet money that it’s going to become a hot spot destination in a couple years.

I only have three more months in Copenhagen which makes me so sad! Home sickness hasn’t hit me yet and honestly I’m not really sure it will. I have a few more trips booked in April to see Auschwitz and another trip booked for Latvia and Estonia. But, I think those might be the last that I do because I want to spend more time in Cope because it’s honestly such a great city. I already know that I will be back in the future to come back.

Talk to you later!

Categories: 2017, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

I’ve been in Madrid for about two months now, which feels crazy because it’s all gone by so fast. I’ve gotten my routine down for school and commuting and feel more acclimated to the city. I’m taking four classes, two of which are business classes taught in English, and the other two are related to my Spanish minor. None have been too difficult so far, with reasonable quizzes and group projects and not a ton of studying time needed. It also helps that my classes are only pass/fail, so I’m not striving as hard to get an A in all of the classes and instead am focusing more on enjoying my overall experience with the school. However, the one thing I wish for would be to meet more Spanish students. In my classes there are more international students than students actually from Spain, so I’m still talking in English a lot at school and at school events. However, I recommend for anyone studying in Spain that if you’re comfortable with your Spanish, take business classes actually taught in Spanish to meet other Spanish students and speak more.

Every week we’re still discovering new things to see and do in Madrid, and every time I’m loving Madrid and Spanish culture even more. We usually get tapas and dinner every week, and always try new places to eat. At restaurants we talk to each other and the waiters in Spanish and usually order multiple plates for us all to split. The food never fails to amaze me, and I keep trying new things. Food and drinks are definitely things to appreciate here, and sometimes we’ll be at a restaurant for more than 2 hours. I probably eat out a lot more than I should but I got no regrets. One week we went to a Real Madrid football game, which was such an incredible experience. The atmosphere was crazy, the fans were super hype, and it was something you just have to experience if you’re in Spain.

 

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

March 5, 2017

Howdy Ags! I can’t believe it’s March already. Please accept this blog post as a little snippet of my life in Copenhagen during February, along with my sincere apologies for the delay. I think at the very least you should know life has been SO great that I hardly noticed the months change a couple weeks back. Even though student life creates some routine in my day-to-day, there is still never a dull moment between lectures, making new friends, adventures in the city, and excursions beyond Denmark’s borders. We’ll get to those things later. But first, I have to talk about an overarching theme for the month of February….

Cold weather.

Now I realize that anything is cold compared to College Station, but having lived in South Bend, Indiana during undergrad and in Denver, Colorado before starting the Mays MBA, I certainly am familiar with “real” winter. That being said, the Copenhagen cold took me by surprise! I now realize there were a couple of factors at play. Firstly, the winter weather here is chaotic. Just when you’ve bundled yourself up for the cold, rain starts pouring down. And once you’ve gotten your umbrella, the rain turns into snow. This coupled with cloudy short days makes dressing for the weather, and staying chipper in the midst of it, kind of hard. Second, I’ve never been a pedestrian/bicycle commuter in a very cold place. In the absence of a car, everyone really is forced to carry on through all of the elements. Have you ever ridden a bike as fast as you can against wind? Against rain?? Against snow??? For your sake, I hope you never have to. But it certainly builds character! Jokes aside, I think the winter weather helps explains how the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”) has carved out such a critical place in social culture.

Hygge explained: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy

As an outsider, even I am still figuring out exactly what hygge is. However, if I had to put it simply, hygge is a combination of coziness, warmth, and intimacy created by nesting and retreating with your friends, family, or even alone. This takes on various forms depending on who you are, but it almost always includes candles, dim lighting, blankets and pillows, and whatever beverages and foods are your comfort. Even simpler put, hygge is getting out of the cold and into the warmth to find some simple personal contentment. When the alternative is being pelleted with unpredictable precipitation, I choose hygge too! Haha

My version of hygge

It wasn’t always so cold though. And when it wasn’t, my exchange friends and I took advantage. I’ve spent countless free days in Copenhagen’s museums and meandering along the waterways that cut through the city center. Also, pastries. Lots of Danish pastries. And as a student at CBS, I’ve also enjoyed just being a member of the university community. By attending on campus panels, playing pick-up soccer matches, and studying in the various cafes around campus, I’ve gotten to meet a variety of non-exchange CBS students. As in most cases, I’ve found the community to be smaller and less intimidating than it seems, with faces becoming more and more familiar. Most recently, a local Gymnasium (a Danish hybrid between high-school and associate’s degree) just north of the city requested an exchange student come speak with some students about cultural differences between Denmark and the outside world. I volunteered to speak with two Ordrup Gymnasium classes, and as it turns out, I actually benefited a lot from learning about their academic system and youth culture.

Ordrup Gymnasium talks

Ordrup Gymnasium talks

We talked about the perceived outgoing nature of Americans versus the more reserved Danes, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift vs. Drake, drinking culture (the legal purchasing age is 16 in Denmark!!), and everything in between. The students were curious and open, but most impressively, well informed. One of the key takeaways for me was that as a nation of 5.6 million, it is encouraged if not critical, that Danes know a lot about what is happening in the rest of the world. Much of what happens in America ripples (very quickly) into their lives. If I’m honest with myself, my worldview was nowhere near as perceptive at that age, so I left the school very impressed.

I’ll round things out by talking about one of the biggest perks of Europe – everything is relatively close. I’ve been able to get to France, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and the UK on a student budget, and it’s been fun to compare those cultures not just to America, but to Denmark, which now feels a little like “home.” The gymnasium students I spoke with asked me what’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from all of my travels (both on this stint and other treks abroad). I told them this, which seems to ring louder and louder true – The more countries I visit and people I meet, the more I am convinced that more connects us as people than separates us. This is a core reason for my love of travel, and also one of the biggest benefits of being a traveler. It’s nice to feel that oceans away, things can still seem familiar and that people my age share similar ambitions and challenges, interests and passions. It creates a lot of optimism for what we as future professionals can accomplish back at home and across borders.

Bergen, Norway

Nice, France

 

Until next time…

Isabel

Categories: 2017, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

This month was full of good times with the new friends that I have made and also old friends. I was lucky to go to Berlin one more time to see my family and also meet up with some friends that I had made in poland. This weekend was filled with sightseeing and kabab eating. I was also able to see for the first time the east side gallery where they have the Berlin wall with paintings and also a new museum in Potsdam which is a little out of Berlin but also one of my favorite places in the region. The next weekend was carnival which is a celebration before the start of lent mostly celebrated in the southern and western parts of Germany because of the Catholic influence. The biggest cities with carnival are Cologne as number one and then Bonn, Dusseldorf, and Mainze as second. I was fortunate to go to carnival in Cologne and we spent three days there with the parades and partying in the streets that was crazy because everyone is dressed up and having a good time. Another great thing that I was able to go to was a Champions league game!!! I went to see the second leg of the Borussia Dortmund vs Benfica round of 16. It was one of the best experiences that I have had this year and I will never forget it! I have always dreamed about going to a Champions league game and now my dream was realized and with a great show with one of my favorite teams, Dortmund, beating Benfica 4-0! I have had a great month and next month I plan to travel to Italy and Spain to visit some good friends. Until next time.

-Diego

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange