September, 2019 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Venice is like a floating historical masterpiece. Perhaps I am biased as I interned in Hong Kong this summer and was surrounded by skyscrapers. Though it was an amazing experience for growth and professional development, it was very overwhelming being in such a large city with hustling crowds of people hurrying to get to work. Venice is almost the opposite of Hong Kong. Though packed with tourists, it’s quiet in the morning and nights and it is filled with historic churches, museums, and buildings instead of skyscrapers.

When I walk to school in the morning, which takes me over an hour, I have to pinch myself thinking that I live here. My roommates and I, all from A&M, live right in the middle of the island while most students stay in Mestre (20 minutes bus ride from the main island). We were able to get an incredible deal on it and pay even less than those who live on mainland.

Ca’ Foscari University is a prestigious university, however, it is quite chaotic when figuring out which classes you want to take. One of them I showed up to and the professor asked how many people in the class understood no Italian whatsoever. When about 7/30 people raised their hands she said “okay great since there are more Italians then I will just teach it in that language”. I was panicked as it was one of the few English taught courses here, along with the other exchange students in the room, and the professor ended up getting in trouble for it. I even have one non attending classes which means I don’t show up to the classes (because they conflict with my other class times) and just show up to take the final after reading the textbook. It’s so interesting and bizarre how classes work in Europe, as they are trying to each students to do things themselves by offering these course options.

I have had the chance to travel on the weekends which has been an amazing experience. I get out of classes a day earlier than my roommates so I usually end up traveling alone the first few days or the entire weekend. Solo traveling can be daunting and one time I was placed in a hostel with one other guy which was creepy. However, most of the times I end up meeting the most incredible people, usually other female solo backpackers.

It had been the most rewarding and confidence-building experience of all of this- traveling solo. One girl from New Zealand that I met at a hostel last week in Tuscany told me of some of her adventures. She has been backpacking solo around the world and is only 24. One time when she was backpacking Vietnam, her and a bunch of strangers that she had only recently met got lost in the mountains. They had to survive off of the land for a few days and one of the people in their group broke their arms, having to rush to a dingy Vietnam hospital. Meeting new people and hearing about their unbelievable adventures has been the highlight of this undertaking and has inspired me to be fearless in the pursuit of my dreams. This is impactful especially in this time of my life as I am applying for jobs at the moment and graduating in May.

Venice is truly beautiful and though I’ve had to deal with the stress of many tourists here and having to apply for jobs back in the USA as a senior in college, I wouldn’t trade any of it. It is truly magical and the sunrises here are the most marvelous thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to learn more while here and continue falling in love with this city.

Katie Davis

 

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Guten Tag from Vienna, Austria!

My name is Dione Del Signore and this fall I am studying abroad in the beautiful city of Vienna. I arrived September 11th and have already made so many memories and friends. I flew from Houston to London and had about a 3 hour layover in Heathrow Airport. I thought that it would be the perfect amount of time to sit down, rest, maybe grab a coffee, a snack and wonder around for a little. I of course wanted to try the over-priced coffee in the airport. I was so excited to try a latte I didn’t even realize that the barista didn’t push the lid all the way down so I spilled a good amount of my latte ALL over my white shirt. It wasn’t a drop or two, it was probably three tablespoons. I looked around and of course a few people saw me which was quite embarrassing. So I grabbed my backpack, my carry on luggage, my water bottle and my phone and went to the bathroom to try and get it out. After that failed, my only option was to buy an overpriced t-shirt. I then realized I had no money (pounds) after going to the restroom again I then had a realization that I had my carry on luggage with extra shirts. I laughed at myself for stressing over finding a shirt when I was carrying about 10 of them the entire time. After all of that my flight was about to board, so I didn’t get to grab a bite to eat. When arriving in Vienna I had quite a bit of culture shock right away. Trying to find my luggage, finding where to be picked up and even finding the bathroom was a struggle. After a few hiccups after arriving I was picked up by a driver who gave me my keys to my apartment and drove me straight there. The drive there was about 30 minutes. The car driver had no AC in the car and the driver didn’t even roll down the windows (even when I asked politely). I hadn’t eaten in about 7 hours and was running only on small the small amount of caffeine from my latte that I had earlier spilled all over myself. I was exhausted, hungry and was about to meet my new roommate!

I didn’t know my roommate going in to study abroad–other than a few Facebook messages and following each other on Instagram. Right away I knew that we were going to get along very well. She helped me bring my big suitcases up into our new apartment and we walked into our new little home together. The apartment is nothing spectacular, the kitchen doesn’t have an oven only a stove and a microwave. The cabinets are bright orange. Even though the apartment wasn’t the “Pinterest” board apartment we all dream of living in, I think I like it more that way. Because it isn’t the coziest or cutest dorm it makes us get out of our rooms and explore the city! Danielle and I promised each other right away that we weren’t going to be those students that spend all of their time in their room on their phones or watching Netflix. We were going to make the most of every second in this beautiful city! We have kept that promise so far. I am so lucky that Danielle and I are roommates, we get along so well and we are on the same page about everything. We want to cook at home when we can to save money (Vienna isn’t the cheapest place to eat, however we have found a few great cheap spots to eat when we don’t want to cook). We both like to workout so we went on a run together and did a mini-workout. We shopped at the grocery store together, using our Google Translate app to help us discover what all of the unknown German labels mean. We figured out how to get around the city together, getting a phone plan, finding our University together and much more. I don’t think that my transition to living abroad would have been nearly as easy if I didn’t have her by my side!

I have not been in Vienna for 15 days and everyday I still get giddy over the beauty of this city. Vienna was rated the #1 place to live in the world for highest quality of living., which I can agree with 100% so far. The architecture, the history and the weather are all things that Vienna is known for. However, a few random things that I noticed after a few days is how safe the city is. Coming from Houston, Texas it isn’t the safest city in the world by any means. Walking alone at night is pretty much the worst thing you can do. Here in Vienna I have never felt so safe in a city. Even walking alone at night I feel safe which is one of the craziest things being a woman from America. The public transportation here is amazing as well. We got a train card right away which is pretty much your ticket around the city. The ticket along with an app called MOOVIT has made it such an easy transition. I can get around the city quickly and it’s pretty much free (our public transportation ticket was $75 for the semester). My favorite way to get around the city is walking. I love discovering new beautiful streets, cafes and random little shops. Especially with the beautiful weather, its been in the 60-70’s. Vienna is also known for their coffee and pastries which makes it really hard to not stop everyday and grab a coffee. Every once in a while I’ll treat myself, but if I were to do that everyday I would quickly be broke.

Lastly, Vienna is one of the cleanest cities I have ever been to. I have yet to smell trash, see trash on the street or even just see someone litter. The subways are clean, the restaurants are clean and even the bathrooms are clean!

By the way, I am currently in a coffee shop with a beautiful view. It is currently 66 degrees and sunny. The weather is incredible and I don’t want it to change!

 

Last weekend I took my first trip to Budapest. I didn’t know too much about Budapest before going. We pretty much saw that tickets were 30 euros and hostels were $13 a night and booked our trip. It was one of the best and spontaneous trips I’ve ever taken!

Budapest is known for their thermal baths, we went to these baths for about 17 euros! It was one of the most relaxing experiences ever. It is kind of weird to be in a giant “bath” with hundreds of people but it was great. The baths were really hot and they had incredible saunas as well.  I highly recommend going if you ever get the chance. Especially after walking a combined total of about 15 miles in two days.

 

 

Fisherman’s Bastion and the Freedom Bridge.

If you ever get the chance go to Freedom bridge at nighttime, DO IT! You will be be amazed by the beauty. That view could never get old.

I don’t start school until October 9th, which is amazing. It’s giving me time to meet new people, explore the city, do the cultural program, and of course take weekend trips like this last one I did to Budapest. Vienna is a very central location so you can take bus/train/airplanes for quite cheap. I booked a ticket to Venice, Italy for tomorrow night–we’re going on a night train for 12 hours to Venice. It might be a little uncomfortable being on a train for 12 hours straight, but I know it will be worth it. Plus, we couldn’t pass up the price of bus tickets and the AirBnBs.

I look forward to writing more about my experience abroad, so far the past 2 weeks have been some of the most fulfilling weeks of my life. There have been a few hard times like missing our bus to Budapest by 2 minutes and a few unexpected expenses, but overall it has been an easier transition than I imagined. I am so glad that I picked Vienna as my home for the next 3 months, I can’t wait for all the adventures that this beautiful city holds.

Bis Bald!

-Dione

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

I was lucky enough to arrive here in Prague, Czech Republic around three weeks ago. I am glad to say that for the most part, the move has been pretty seamless. Leading up to the exchange, I had conducted quite a bit of research and what I saw/read up on really fortified my stance of not being very nervous about the transition. Prague is a very safe city, with a very high number of English speakers. On top of that, my school’s exchange program has been pretty exceptional so far. There are actually around 500 students here on exchange, and there is certainly no shortage of activities, events, and trips which provided me the opportunity to meet most of the other students! The only thing that has really gone awry is the loss of some of my luggage (but hey, that can happen anywhere, right?).

Now some more about Prague. One of the first things I noticed that is very different from home is the natural demeanor of the Czech people themselves. Born and raised in Houston, “southern hospitality” is a big part of pretty much every interaction I experience. As most of you know, it can often even be considered rude not to smile, say hello, or casually check in on people that are your friends, family, or even strangers such as a cashier. That is much different here. Many people describe the Czech population as cold, short, or disinterested. I’ve actually noticed that many (especially the older) of the Czech people even seem a bit freaked out if you greet them with a big smile or casual conversation. After a bit of a short lesson in the Czech History, this became to make much more sense why. My assigned “buddy” that the school assigned me mentioned that this is largely in part of their political history. In the past 100 years alone, the nation fell victims to WW1 casualties, a German Invasion during WW2, the Communist Regime and annexation under the Soviet Union, and then after their collapse, the difficulty of splitting from Czechoslovakia into two different countries- Czech Republic and Slovakia. Most of the older people have little/no grasp of English and were around for much of these events. It is definitely interesting to see the generational differences between those who did and did not experience these events. It comes to no surprise that many of the citizens (especially the older ones) have very initially guarded personas. That being said, every Czech person I have had the pleasure of getting to know actually are very kind, funny, and good people– you just have to take the time to get to know them first.

Overall I would say that my experience as to date in Prague has been exceptional. I have met great friends, traveled quite a bit, and learned much about a foreign culture. I look forward to even further assimilating myself into Czech life, while simultaneously furthering my education and meeting people from all walks of life.

Ahoj!!

Categories: 2019, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy my name is Karina Buoy!

I am studying at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice Italy! I came to Europe on September 1st so you can say that it has almost been an entire month living abroad. Here are some of my experiences within this past month. My room mates and I came 2 weeks early so we could travel (but that’s another story)!

 

Coming to Venice was a ruckus. It was crowded but just as beautiful as I imagined. When we arrived they were having a festival and all of the water taxis from the airport were closed. Luckily all of my room mates and I arrived around the same time so we were able to figure it out together.  We ended up taking a bus and we found a guy with a boat to take us near our apartment.. Keep in mind in Venice it is ONLY walking. The first two days on being in Venice felt like the longest days ever. We were running around to figure out how to do our immigration and it just felt like forever. On the upside our apartment in Venice (in the San Marco area) is cute, we were told that it was on the second floor and we were like cool! But 2nd floor here means 3rd floor to us. So we had to carry our huge luggage up 3 flights of stairs. Every day I make that climb at least 2-3 times!

 

When we had our first welcome day around 2 weeks after we got there it was about 3 days before actual class started and to be honest it was a mess. So here the classes are you just attend and whatever happens happens. The only grade is the final and although some of the classes are in English your teacher will have a strong accent and it’s difficult to understand. But good thing is that they post the slides and all the information online. Once class actually started we found an international counselor and she helped more than you could’ve imagined. She turned the entire thing around and explained why the school was like this. She answers any questions we have and then that is when I finally understood the school system. It does take a little getting used to but isn’t that just like anytime you do something? So yeah in the beginning it was quite difficult but just ask around (A LOT) and you will get the hang of it!

 

The city here in Venice itself is very touristy. There are tons of people walking the streets every day and let me tell you the streets are not that big. On the weekends it is worse but during the week it is manageable. My favorite thing though about Venice itself is the wonderful architecture in the buildings are so beautiful! My 30 minute walk to class every day is filled with great scenery! I pass by the farmers market and the fish market every morning. The country Italy itself, is a culture shock. The kids here dress up for class every day and smoke cigs. I think just in Europe in general is a normal thing. It took a little bit getting used to but now since I feel all settled in I am getting the hang of it. I have found my way to class without getting lost, I am taking advantage of my resources I have here, and most important I am enjoying this beautiful city. I do not know if I will ever feel like not a tourist because every day brings me something new!

 

Although in the last paragraphs I talked about my troubles, I want to say that it is only the beginning and my life here has already turned around. Every day when I explore the city I see the different cultures of all the different people (tourist or not) who come and are doing the same things that I am doing. Not to mention people here has SO many dogs. I mean every day I see so many dogs and they are all so cute. The most precious things I have ever seen some people walking them, rolling them in a stroller or carrying them like a baby! I have been abroad for a little bit and I can see myself adjusting to the new way of life here! It is a wonderful thing to see because I know that I am capable to adjusting to new life changing experiences.

 

So some tips, do not be discourage when you immerse yourself into a new world because in the end wonderful things will happen. It might be hard at first but it ALWAYS gets better. Life as a kind of Venetian is turning out well and I just wish the days would go by slower. I felt like it was just yesterday when I got here! If you are studying abroad and reading this and have any questions contact me!! I can help.

 

Karina buoy

buoykarina@gmail.com

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Ciao!! My name is Kelly Duong, I’m a junior majoring in Supply Chain Management. I am currently living in Venice with 3 other Texas A&M girls and we are attending Ca’ Foscari University. When we first arrived it was very hot, crowded, and the streets were extremely difficult to navigate. We also had trouble finding grocery stores, but we made it work and found most of the things we needed. Now, every time we see a decent sized grocery store, we’re in awe.

In Venice, there aren’t any actual roads, so you either walk, take a water taxi, or water-bus. Our campus is 30 minutes away from our flat, so we decided to walk instead because it takes the same amount of time as a water boat. At first, I dreaded walking to class, but over the past weeks I’ve grown to love it. Also, the food in Italy really does just consist of pizza, pasta, and gelato but I’m not sick of it yet!

It’s my third week here in Venice and it has definitely been a roller-coaster ride. We have come across a few rude Italians, but many of them are nice and welcoming. I didn’t realize the language barrier would be so significant, but it is. I’m slowly catching on to a few Italian phrases and words. My goal is to be able to converse with an Italian by the end of the semester.

School is extremely different here, but there is a lot of freedom I love it. You don’t receive an official schedule; you don’t need to register for any classes you just have to register to take the final exam for the course. Our current schedule for the first term is Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Second term we plan on having Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday courses so I’m looking forward to exploring the country more.

The weather here is slowly getting colder and colder. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the cold weather but I guess we’ll see. Venice is beautiful and there is always something I haven’t seen before. It still feels surreal that I’m abroad, but I’m finally all settled in and getting used to the start of the semester. Being abroad has already taught me so much about myself and I’m looking forward to the next 3 months.

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Europe in for nearly a month; it’s surreal to think that I get to go to school in on of the most beautiful cities in Italy!

Traveling from Houston all the way to Venice was much easier than expected and I arrived with no problems! Arriving in Venice and having to figure out how to get to our apartment was a challenge especially because public transportation is so different here. After all, there are no cars in Venice and the vaporetto (water buses) are often as slow as walking. It was no easy task trying to navigate through crowded, narrow, walkways with two suitcases pulling them over stairs and bridges. Our apartment has no elevator so once we arrived we once again had too pull all our luggage up three flights of stairs! However, once we were settled, it was easier to appreciate Venice and the uniqueness that comes with living in a floating city.

One of the amazing things about studying in Europe is how easy it is to travel to other countries. Before class started, my roommates and I took a trip to Greece and several of the Islands, which was an incredible experience!

We arrived back in Venice ready to start classes. At Ca’ Foscari, the semester is split into two terms which means I am only taking two classes at a time! Campus is about 30 minutes from our apartment which means we get our exercise in every day. Not having the convenience of cars and easy transportation means that we walk everywhere. It’s great being in city filled with art and museums and concerts, I can wander down the street and stumble on new exhibits or old churches with amazing architecture just 5 minutes from my apartment. I’m looking forward to finding authentic restaurants, learning the history of Venice, and learning more about art in this city

through museums and exhibits!

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

One should never disregard an opportunity presented for an adventure. After all, you never know where it might take you until after you’re at the end!

It is a challenge to put into words the exact feeling which stirs in oneself and pushes those certain individuals to travel. Certainly, it is not present in everyone. Nor would this make sense for it to be: for this would encroach on the individuality of a human. But nevertheless, it is just this desire which has drawn me away to explore a new country and embrace a new culture in an environment which I would have never before imagined finding myself in.

Before my departure, people who heard of my activities for this upcoming year were so impressed by the exact place I was going. While I have no desire to take away from the grandeur of starting completely fresh in another place with a brand new culture, I think it is key to note that what has impressed itself most upon me in the short time I have been away from the States are the people whom I have encountered.

I believe that in my mind I am only now beginning to grasp the realization that my subconscious has been hinting at this entire time: studying abroad is not so much about the place or exactly what you do or where you go; it’s about the experience and what makes it for you.

I have now been in Vienna, Austria for just shy of a full week. This is following a week-long venture along the South and East coasts of Iceland en route to my Fall destination. In a city such as this [Vienna], it takes less than a day for one to come to the realization that they cannot possibly soak in all this city has to offer in a mere semester; or a year; or perhaps even a lifetime.

This place is one of culture and history. But perhaps the most enchanting part of it all is, even tracing back through the lineages of rulers and battles, the history is not stagnant but is, in fact, taking place on these very grounds which have served as the setting for conflict and compromise for hundreds of years before us.

Austria is a place which celebrates its rich history while embracing the onset of the future. Walking through the streets of the city center, it is impossible not to stop for a few moments and stare in awe at the brilliantly patterned roof of Stephan’s Cathedral, the millions of books stored in the Austrian National Library—some of which date back to the 1500’s!—or the unique combination of Baroque and Gothic era architecture which line the city streets.

Vienna is a grand place: but it doesn’t rely on a single strength to carry itself—it gives you a full sampling and then asks you what you would like more of. Whether it be food, culture, or simply a good place to get some work done, Vienna has something for everyone.

Contributing to what makes this city consistently one of the most liveable in the world is its vast amount of green space (over 51%!). Unlike… certain places (cough, A&M), during the warm summer months leading up to cold, white winters, locals and tourists alike can be found laid out on bright green park grass all over Vienna soaking in the day and the atmosphere. This is just what a couple of friends and myself indulged ourselves in during our first weekend here.

Life here is enriching. With an open mind, nothing seems out of reach.

The majority of people here live ordered lives. However, one should never count a Viennesian out when planning an adventure….

The easily accessible countryside makes day hiking (or, in German, ‘wandern’) incredibly accessible and popular. What better way to clear one’s mind than to take a train ride to the Austrian Alps and spend a day traversing the winding trails! Even if one does not wish to or have the time to travel to one of the nearby villages, there are also plenty of opportunities within the city itself such as visits to the Tiergarten Schönbrunn—the oldest zoo in the world—, wandering around the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, or even a quick visit to Prater Park (which is conveniently located less than 5 minutes walking from my flat!).

I do not know what the remainder of my semester here will hold: but I am looking forwards to a great many more adventures.

From walking through streets laced with history and music, to laying in a park on a warm sunny day, or exploring a neighboring town to hike through vineyards and taste the local wine, Vienna has no shortage of places to fill ones heart, mind, and stomach.

My words cannot possibly paint a nice enough picture for the mind and my ramblings cannot come close to capturing the essence of the adventures I have had here in such a short span of time; but one can be sure that even when caught in the midst of those times which may seem overwhelming, a bit of a desire for adventure and a willingness to step out into the unknown can sweep one away on an unforgettable and completely worthwhile experience.

Wherever a person finds themselves, there will inevitably be challenges which will rise up to face them. These obstacles may be big, they may even seem insurmountable at times.

However, it is at such times as these that the words of Tom Hanks seem most prevalent: “If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” -A League of Their Own

No one promised an easy ride and no one is promising a smooth one—but it’s the bumps in the road and the perseverance through them that are what make memories. It’s the hint of sour that brings out the sweetness in life.

Any major change in a person’s life—an exchange semester most certainly included—will certainly come with its challenges.  This presents an incredible opportunity to overcome.

My journey abroad still has quite a ways to go. It has already had its own portion of challenges and triumphs. But wherever the road takes me, I will do my best to live in the moment, to love the life I’m living, and to look forwards to the next opportunity—whatever it may be. Don’t sell yourself short when your greatest adventure may be the one waiting just over the next hill!

The Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace

 

A Quaint Church in the middle of a Vineyard hike

 

Castle in Leobendorf

 

I guess there’s this too…. (St. Stephen’s Cathedral)

 

A shot from our bird show near Leobendorf

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

My name is Madison Feldman, and I’m studying in Madrid this semester! It has been a little under a month since I moved to Madrid for the semester. When I first got to airport in Dallas, I was a bundle of nerves because studying abroad and living halfway around the world was no longer just an idea; it was about to become my reality.

 

After a nine-hour plane ride, I was surprised by how easy it was to get through customs and grab my bags from baggage claim. After finding my bags, I needed to wait for an hour for an arranged driver to pick me up. I felt quite calm given how smoothly things had gone so far. After the hour of waiting, I started walking around looking for a driver holding up a sign with my name on it. After 30 minutes of walking around, I called my student housing apartment who had set up my ride. After talking to them for 30 minutes, they were able to find a new driver who could come and pick me up. Finally, after waiting an hour and half at the airport I was in a car on the way to my apartment. The driver dropped me off and trekked a few blocks with my suitcases on the sidewalks of Chamberi, a quiet neighborhood of Madrid. After a long morning, I was finally at the place I would call home for the next four months. Despite the mishap with the driver, things had gone pretty smoothly.

 

After getting adjusted to the time change, I started exploring Madrid and getting a feel for the city. I had heard from others that Madrid is like the New York City of Spain. This saying is incredibly accurate. One of the first things that makes the city feel like NYC is the Metro. The metro is just one big subway system. There are countless lines that could take you all over Madrid. I’ve found that this form of transportation is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get around Madrid, especially if you get the student metro card. With the Metro card, you only pay 20 euros per month for unlimited rides on the Metro, buses, and trains. This is most valuable when classes start since UC3M is technically outside of Madrid. Madrid has so many different areas that can fit anyone’s needs. There’s Sol which is the center of Madrid. From Sol, you could walk to just about anywhere, and it’s a central place to meet up with friends. If you love shopping or need a wardrobe change, Gran Via is the street to go. It has tons of shops lining the street where you can find just about anything you’re looking for. This area is most like Times Square with the flashing lights and advertisements. If you take the Metro past Sol, you can go to El Retiro. This is a huge park in the city with a little lake in the middle where you can rent paddle boats. This park is free and so expansive it would take multiple trips to see all of it. If you’re looking for a nice place to relax Retiro is the place to go. My roommates and I had a picnic there in our first week and then went to the Prado Museum afterwards. I’ve found that many of the museums in Madrid are free from 6 to 8 pm, so this makes it easy to visit places without breaking the bank. Even though I’ve been here for a month, I feel like there is so much more to see in Madrid, and I’m looking forward to getting to the know the city better.

 

After a week in Madrid, classes started at UC3M. The first big thing I had to do for the university was register for classes. Registration took place on an online portal like at A&M. You are given a registration time and can pick from the classes with spots available. My main priority was getting the classes I needed that would transfer to A&M along with trying to get a schedule with no Friday classes. Compared to my roommates, I had a very late registration time and was not able to get into my first-choice classes with the best times. I was able to sign up for the finance and supply chain class I needed, however, the times of my classes were late into the evening and I had a Friday class. While this wasn’t the end of the world, I was the only one with Friday classes, which would’ve made traveling on weekends a little harder.

 

On the first day of class, my roommates and I had to take the Metro to Sol and then a train to the university. This commute seemed pretty easy, however, we found ourselves going the wrong way. I was sort of freaking out because I had intended on going to the supply chain class I originally wanted so I could speak to the professor to see if she would allow me to be in her class. My roommate and I got to the class 5 minutes late, but she wasn’t there. While we were waiting on the professor, I went onto the class registration portal and saw that there was a spot open in the supply chain class and was able to nab the spot. Because I could get into that class, I checked on the rest of my classes and was able to get into all of the classes I originally wanted. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of movement occurring in all of the classes. With that being said, I found that this was similar to A&M regarding the adding and dropping of classes; like A&M, your schedule is not set in stone until after the add/drop period closes.

 

I really like UC3M as a whole. The Getafe campus is beautiful and looks like it’s right out of a movie. There are many signs that show the building layout making it easier to find classes as well. Many of the classes are very laid-back compared to A&M and the workload isn’t nearly as much. With the way my schedule is laid out, I have plenty of time to do work after classes and still explore Madrid on the weekdays.

 

After only a month in Madrid, I feel like time is flying by and wish it would slow down. I’ve made myself a promise that I explore at least one new area of Madrid each week. I’m excited to see what the rest of this semester has in store and see where this fall takes me.

Ciao for now!

The Royal Palace of Madrid

Categories: 2019, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hi, I’m Rebecca Davidson! I am a junior Management major in Mays Business School. I am currently studying at Copenhagen Business School in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I have been here in Copenhagen, Denmark for 5 weeks! It has already been such a life-changing, transformative experience for me. Denmark is a small country and Copenhagen, the capital, is home to over 602,000 of them. Adjusting to life in another country is much easier in a city with the size and excitement of Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, there are many neighborhoods with different vibes and attractions. The main city center has luxury shopping, historic castles, and the famous Nyhavn. Nørrebro and the Meatpacking District are the younger, more diverse neighborhoods with beautiful parks and hip restaurants. My university has buildings spread across the Fredriksberg, a residential neighborhood. The city is divided by canals and is extremely bike-friendly; It is said that there are more bikes than people here. Though it was intimidating at first, I now love biking around with no place more than a 30 minute bike ride. Copenhagen also has an efficient metro system that runs 24hrs a day and is incredibly clean and reliable.

My favorite thing about Denmark is the people. I soon learned that Danes are polite, giving, warm and silly. They love to use the term hygge, have impeccable English, and love their beer. I live in a dorm with mainly Danish students and have found it to be the biggest blessing of the semester so far; I get to live alongside Danes and experience their culture firsthand. Danes are known for their Scandinavian style featuring cozy layers, minimalist pieces, sneakers, and lots of black. Denmark is governed by a sort of unspoken law called Janteloven or Jante’s Law. The main aspect of this law is, “You are not to think you are anything special.” Though this sounds dark, it is actually a beautiful aspect of Danish life. The best example is how you will see a CEO biking to work just like everyone else. It promotes generosity and humility like nothing I’ve ever seen.

My university in Denmark has really impressed me! Copenhagen Business School is one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe and is very globally-focused. Before I arrived, I had my classes and schedule already laid out. My only complaint is that my class schedule varies in time and location by week. I am enrolled in 4 classes, 2 in Quarter 1, 1 in Quarter 2 and 1 for the full semester. My classes are engaging and taught from a different perspective. My professors are experts in their field and are from all over the world from London to Singapore. I don’t have many assignments, but lots of textbook reading and case studies.

I’m really excited for the next 3 months of living here and I’m so glad I chose Copenhagen to study for the semester!

Categories: 2019, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

“If his destiny be strange, it is also sublime.” Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

There are many things to be said about emerging oneself in a culture abroad. New, wondrous experiences emerge as striking and surreal all at once. Upon my arrival in Milano a mere four weeks ago, I found myself in the unreal state of the weary traveler. Alone, I was an unrefined American in a metropolis devoted to luxury style. There I stood, at the Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by metropolitan men clad in suits and suspenders, and women boasting Gucci, Prada, and Bottega Veneta. I helplessly hassled three duffel bags, desperately directing myself towards the Universita Bocconi Residence, a whole five miles south of the city center. Throughout this ever-mesmerizing experience of wonder and confusion, I found myself to be completely lost. Lost in direction, lost in translation, and somewhat lost in mind. It what could be considered the longest (and heaviest) two hours of my life, I eventually found my way to the place I would soon call home. However, upon arrival at the Residence, my luck began to change, and my disastrous delirium would soon began fade away.

When I arrived at the student residency, I began to feel the same sense of angst and dread I first felt when having checked in to my freshman-year dorm a whole two years ago. While that sense of unease didn’t dissipate all at once, I slowly began to find that everyone else was in the same boat. As general introductions went around, the evening grew more and more lively. Before midnight, the air was filled with auras of food, fellowship, and a fond excitement for the months to come. If there is anything to be said for the international student community, is that it is a social one. Where once I felt like a strange at the table, I am now almost always greeted with open arms and a smile amongst the Bocconi International crowd. Ironically enough, despite having come to Italy, it appears that most of my companions are from the Netherlands. The Dutch students have welcomed me into their circle, with a hearty European embrace. I look forward to building upon these friendships, and developing new ones. So that one day, when I found myself in Europe once more, I will be able to share a meal with the colleagues and companions I have grown to love here.

Though I do enjoy the social scene here at Bocconi, it would not be proper to leave the education portion out of this entry. Universita Bocconi is an excellent institution, which I have found to not only provide an excellent business curriculum, but a distinct, rich cultural education. Through courses such as Management of Fashion Companies, and Competitive Strategies for Creative Industries, I am able to integrate business frameworks and mindsets into the creative, colorful endeavors. It also helps that Milan is a cultural capital of fashion, design, luxury, and art. That being said, I can think of no better place to fully immerse oneself in creative industries. Just this week, Milan Fashion Week held a runway show on campus, which drew the attention of fashion-forward students from all corners of Bocconi. In addition to creative company management, I am able to get my art fix as well. Through Philosophy of Art and Critical Approaches to the Art, I have gained insight into what truly constitutes art, and how I can better myself as an artist and aesthete. If there is any advice to be given to those reading this and thinking about spending a semester abroad: definitely save your international and general electives for the REEP exchange. It is definitely worthwhile.

One would certainly not be able to talk about Europe without mentioning travel. In the words of famed rapper Logic, “I never knew that living out a dream, meant living outta suitcase.” This statement holds true in more ways than one, and I wholeheartedly feel that a European education would be incomplete without taking a train to an unknown land. In the short time I have been in Italy, I have sunbathed on the shores of Lake Como, climbed the mountains of Corgnilia, and taken in the sunset while writing poetry in Manarola. When studying in Milan, these exotic destinations are never more than two hours away, and weekly escapes to the unknown are certainly not uncommon. However, these desirable destinations are incomplete without a fruitful fellowship to share it with. So I strongly urge those who study abroad to travel far and wide, to the corners of the earth they most desire, because true beauty lies just beyond the boundaries of one’s comfort.

In many ways than one I do still feel like the weary traveler. Like a sailor, tossed by the tides yet softened by the sands, I ride this journey into the opportunities and treasures it may unfold. I am thankful for a cultural education, for experiencing art in action and exposing me to new truths I may find along the way. However, more than anything, I am thankful for the good people, and true citizens of the world that have welcomed this stranger at their table, to dine with hearth and comradery, for new adventure on the Mediterranean horizon.

 

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange