October, 2019 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Howdy,

As I continue my life back home and prepare for graduation, I am constantly reminded of the good times I had in Milan and traveling Europe. Getting the opportunity to learn at the University of Bocconi was such a privilege and I am very pleased with the professors, students as well as the campus.

Living in Italy certainly had its differences than what I had grown accustomed to. For starters, the language barrier is still very prevalent, especially with the older generation of Italians. This sometimes made traveling and eating at restaurants more difficult than I would have liked. Most of the Italian students I met were very kind and welcoming when they realized I was an exchange student from the United States. However, some locals were annoyed at my lack of Italian vocabulary, which is very understandable. Another nuance I noticed while living here was that no one is ever in a rush. I seemed to be the fastest walker in the streets and had the most urgency out of anyone I had seen. This can be attributed to the Italian culture of living a generally low-stress life and maintaining relaxation. It was quite the change of pace to the fast moving life I am used to in the US.

Having the chance to travel to multiple countries in the span of a few months is an experience I will forever cherish and I will never forget the friends and memories I made along the way. I still keep in touch with the friends I met there and hope I can return to see them again sometime down the road. As much as I missed my family and friends back home, I was rather content with the life I was living in Milan. Now that I have been home, I often think about where I would like to travel next, whether it be in Europe, or on the opposite side of the globe. I am eternally grateful for the experience to live abroad for a semester and would highly recommend anyone else that gets the chance to do the same.

Categories: 2019, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Oh, where to even begin. I am a bit late to the ball game, but better late than never. It was so difficult leaving Strasbourg, France and honestly, Europe in general. As a child, I frequented Ukraine and other European countries during the summer to visit family, and have had an itching to live in a European country since then. While it was nice to see my family and friends that I hadn’t seen since 2018, it was very bittersweet to leave my French city / second home. I miss the bakery I went to every morning on my way to class, being able to walk everywhere and/or rely on public transportation (the tram system in Strasbourg), and speaking French on a daily basis. As many have heard, the French are not exactly keen on speaking English, although a decent amount are able to. It is important that in business AND in general, one makes an effort to at least show respect or interest in the language, even if you are unable to speak it. To do this, one can learn a few basic words (thank you, yes, please, etc.) and use those in addition to their typical [English, for example] vocabulary, which would show respect towards the French language (as you are in their country). When in Rome, do as the Romans do! Luckily, I have been learning French for 7+ years, so did not have an issue with this. Furthermore, the French people are very prideful (which is not a bad thing!), as is evident in their products. When at a supermarket (such as Auchan), you are able to see that most products present are from France; the French are patriotic in terms of their consumption.

On another note, the French are also very professional. There is a large distinguishing factor between casual and professional, especially in terms of attire. Even in the classroom, your typical French student is dressed to impress (girls are wearing pantyhose+skirt+blouse+coat and guys are wearing coat+scarf+pants+button up). I can gladly say that I did not wear a T-Shirt even ONCE during my 6 months in France and traveling, other than to sleep in. The French value eloquence – a quality that I have also come to appreciate.

In France, work is work and lunch is lunch – unlike in the US, where eating time is rushed and we have a “let’s get to it” mentality. As many other European countries, the French value their time at the dinner table or at a cafe during lunch. It is a time for conversation, polite or passionate exchanges, and the satisfaction that only a meal can give. The French also tend to be very well-cultured: knowledgeable about wine, art, and fashion (so feel free to read up on these so that you can better relate with a client if need be!).

Strasbourg me manques beaucoup.

It is not a goodbye, but a see you later!

Until next time Strasbourg/France/Europe,
Sophia Rahimeh

 

Categories: 2019, France, Reciprocal Exchange

I write sitting in a quaint coffee shop located on the stunning campus of Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien or WU. This is the largest business school in Europe and revered amongst Europe to be an incredible place to garner an education. With that being said, I have yet to really experience being a student on this modern campus, because even though it is October, I started class yesterday! Consequently, this blog is going to be a bit different.

The past few weeks have been filled with traveling and making friends here in beautiful Austria.

My trip to Austria was preceded by exploring the country of Iceland. Because I was flying to Europe anyways, I figured I would take advantage of WU’s late start time and do a little bit of wandering before landing. I am a photographer but taking photos in Iceland is so easy anyone who takes a picture looks like a DSLR champion. My incredible companion John Burke (who’s insightful experience is readable a few posts earlier) and I decided to camp through the chilly September nights. Needless to say, Iceland has its name for a reason, and I quickly learned that I do not have the insulation of a polar bear. Despite the chilly nights, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to take photos in a place that I used to only dream of going to. This would not have been possible if I stayed in comfortable College Station.

After the wheels of my Austrian Airlines Jet scraped the foreign pavement of the Viennese airport, I was quickly integrated into the Cultural Program. The program is sort of like Howdy week, but a lot less “red-ass”. If you are reading this and planning on hopping over the big pond (the ocean) to Vienna, then I definitely recommend spending the money for this program. It has been the main source of my friendships here and we did tours of places and cities I would not have done otherwise, but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed. Like, would you think of booking tickets for a bird show in Melk? Didn’t think so.

Once the program ended, I felt like I was starting to get a grip on the city, but you’re only in Europe once. So, I have tried to travel a good amount. Now, as I mentioned before, I am a photographer, and my travel agenda looks a bit different than most people’s here. I love beautiful cities, experiencing culture, and eating different foods as much as the next guy, but if you put a ticket in my hand…my plane is taking me to the rural regions of God’s green earth. I have some pretty exciting plans lined up and in the works for this semester but have already seen some sweet places.

Last weekend I was able to go to the Zillertäl with a friend and hike up to a hut in the range. Our journey began with me taking to long gathering my equipment at our train stop and gazing at my friend zoom by on the platform as I was still on the train (going the wrong way now). It took me about an hour to get back, but what’s a journey without some surprises? Speaking of surprises, our steep climb began with incredible cloudy skies and pleasant weather, but as we approached the latter third of the hike it started snowing. And when I say snowing, I mean we were in a blizzard the White Witch from Narnia would be proud of. I almost lost a couple fingers from frostbite and was loving the squishing of my cold wet socks as we crested the mountain (remember when I said my agenda looked a little different?). Pictured is a good doggo thriving even amidst the storm.

We made this journey with an Indian man named Harsh who loved taking phone pictures and commenting, with a thick accent, on how the hike was more like “the world’s tallest staircase”. We stayed the night and I woke up to capture the sunrise, and boy was it worth it. Below you can see a picture from this surreal moment, with Harsh in frame.

We then hiked down the mountain with new friends: Harsh, Fatai (from South Africa), Latta (from Finland), and Christine (from Russia). I share this story to show how the preliminary parts of this study abroad have been regularly filled with people from radically different locations. Somehow moments like this are normal over here. Getting to know others from some of the craziest places is part of my daily routine, and that is not just in the Austrian Alps, the cultural program is called the “cultural” program for a reason. Getting to know people from all around the globe has been the most unique parts of my study abroad experience thus far.

In Iceland I shook hands with Josh, a glacier guide who used to mush dogs in Norway. In Zillertäl my shoulder felt the enthusiastic grasp of Harsh as he expressed his delight in having a traveling companion. I recently greeted my Italian friend Elena: one kiss on the left cheek and another on the right (I was then warned that the Spanish do it the opposite way, which could humorously and embarrassingly result in a kiss on more than just the cheek). Within my first month of being here, I have greeted kind hearts from at least 27 different countries, yes, I counted. And even though I have encountered drastic differences in lifestyle, beliefs and personality I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t at least say hello. Although approached differently, the meaning rarely changes. Whether it’s the popular German “Guten Tag,” Dutch “Hallo,” or a kiss on the cheek, I hear people saying: “I see you, despite our differences.” So in the spirit of seeing the world and the people in it, Shalom from Vienna.

Here’s to seeing others,
Colton Shorman
@cshormy

Categories: 2019, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange