September, 2021 | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Howdy everyone,

I have been in the United Kingdom for about three weeks, and I can honestly say that I am loving my time here! I am currently staying in a dormitory at the University of Nottingham where I will be participating in a semester exchange program and even living here is so completely different than back in the states. From the food served (definitely miss my mom’s Mexican dishes and Taqueria El Sol in Bryan) to the slang used, it has been quite an experience being able to get accustomed to everything here.

I arrived in London, England around 3 weeks ago at Heathrow Airport on a Monday early morning and IMMEDIATELY decided to spend the day traveling and enjoying my time around the great city, even though I was experiencing serious jet lag and had not slept at all. The airport was around an hour bus ride to Central London (where I had booked an Airbnb) but it was so worth it, as I was able to see the transition of the great plains to busy roads the closer we got to London. As soon as I got to my Airbnb, I quickly showered and headed to Tower Bridge, where I had lunch at a famous diner near the Shakespeare’s Globe. I spent that day walking as much as I could in the 8 hours that I had, making sure I Facetimed my parents every once in a while to try and make them experience what I was doing.

Following day – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DAY! For those that know me, know that I am a huge football fan, and one of the clubs that I support is Chelsea F.C., and I had the opportunity of attending the first Group-stage match against Zenit F.C. It was so odd to so many people that I spoke to in the stadium how I was able to get a ticket; I was sitting on the best section of Stamford Bridge next to fans that have access to Sport Passes for the last 30 years (there is a wait-list for people to purchase a Sports Pass of over 15 years, pretty crazy!) Chelsea won 1-0 that day, a memory that I truly will never forget.

That week I had the opportunity of visiting all of the great tourist sites in London, eating amazing food/falling in love with fish and chips, attended football stadium tours and British museums, and had a 1-day getaway trip to Oxford. To be honest I had no idea how big Oxford and its colleges are, and how gorgeous their architecture is.

Now that I am at the University of Nottingham, I am making sure to be able to explore the city as much as I can, meet new friends, and get ready for school. Our university gave us 2 weeks of “Howdy Week” which are meant for first-year students to get accustomed to the university and attend events to meet new people, and I took advantage of that. I have friends that are from many countries in Europe and Latin America, and I think that is one of the best things to have while studying abroad, even than traveling a lot. My friend-group likes to call ourselves, “The International Group”, because of how diverse we are – there’s an American, Mexican, Chilean, Peruvian, British/Spanish, and Italian.

University begins on October 4th here, which is so odd to me because I have been texting friends from back home and a lot of them had exams already, and I am barely starting next Monday. Overall I am having such a good time here, and I can’t wait to have way more experiences and create many memories.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, United Kingdom

The first two weeks in Prague have flown by but not without many surprises and adjustments along the way. About 16 hours of travel from Texas, I finally landed in the Czech Republic after months of anticipation. In preparation, I watched many YouTube videos, stalked various Instagram accounts, and joined multiple Facebook groups to better grasp what this new city would be like. While I tried to prepare myself, there is nothing quite like seeing and experiencing it for yourself. Coming to this city, I was captivated by the numerous spires and causal castles in the middle of the town. Each building was so beautifully built and each door held so many stories. I was reeled in by the rich culture that oozed out of every corner of this city. With its beauty, there were also a lot of surprises, mostly because I was setting up to live in an entirely new and different country.
My first surprise was that thankfully most everyone in the city center spoke English. While I had hoped to pick up some Czech language by the end of the stay, I am more than grateful that I could communicate with ease. Along with that, locals here were extremely nice and welcoming to tourists (and students). Everyone I came across was very friendly and willing to help with directions or recommendations. The city was catered towards tourists, but during this season of life, there weren’t many tourists there. When speaking with locals, we found that this is the first time in a while that Czech locals were able to come to the city and experience that life again. With the number of tourists being shockingly low, we also happened upon some of the best weather this fall. The first week I spent being a tourist and noticed how affordable this city was. The currency in the Czech Republic is called Koruna (or Crown for short) and one US dollar is worth about 21 Czech Korunas. This meant being a student in this city was more than ideal as we could explore without fear of overspending.
Now very different from the US, there were hardly any Big Box stores, and there were a lot of small markets or specialty stores. This created a struggle when looking for dorm essentials, and left me missing my not-so-local Target. There were plenty of restaurants and pubs however, and a huge variety of food. Coming to Prague, I was worried about how my diet would change but there were numerous options available. While dining at new places, I noticed that the Czech love their beer. They consume a hefty amount of beer and often have long lunches just eating and drinking. They have a lot of local breweries and many tourist destinations showcasing their glorious pilsners. Many of the orientation week activities from the university incorporated brewery and winery tours, highlighting this aspect of their culture.
When being a tourist came to an end, jumping into a new university began. My first impression of the university centered around its size. Coming from the mammoth of a campus that Texas A&M has, this university was much smaller and closer to the city. This also means classes are smaller which makes it easier for exchange students to meet one another. Again, everyone was extremely nice on campus and there were many orientation events set up for us to participate in. While I just jumped into my courses, they often include seminars that were new for me. Going from a lecture to a seminar and sitting in three hours of content is definitely a new adjustment. The program overall seems highly focused on furthering our real-world knowledge and our participation in the subjects themselves. The professors all seem passionate about the content they are teaching, and extremely engaging which helps with those long class hours. I am eager to soak up their knowledge and take in the new learning environment this university provides.
Overall, my two weeks in this country have been amazing and full of many happy surprises. I am excited to immerse myself in this new culture and experience lessons from across the world. See you in 3 months, College station!

A view of Prague from the Petřín Lookout Tower (the mini Eiffel tower of Prague)

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

Whenever I told my friends and colleagues that I was going to do a study abroad in Venice, Italy in the fall, the most popular reaction I was responded with was that it is a touristy destination, the canals and streets would be nasty, and after a while there wouldn’t be much to do on the island. As the summer went on, I was starting to get influenced by these ideas and was not as excited to come here anymore. However, class registration at A&M was closed and there was no turning back considering other logistics had been planned as well. To my pleasant surprise, upon arrival, I was warmly welcomed by our Airbnb host who is the kindest person ever. In addition to the friendly people, we met within the first few days, the island itself is like dream land.

 

I arrived in Venice 10 days before school started and had some time to explore the city and a couple other countries in Europe. Venice is a small island, but there are multiple islands around that can be accessed by “vaporettos” or water buses. Everything over here is aesthetically pleasing to look at and the architecture and roads have so much detail, making the walks to class exciting (it’s a 30-minute walk from San Marco).  Being here for the past three weeks has made me realize, contrary to my prior notions, that there is a lot to do once you integrate with the local community and make friends. I joined the ESN network which is an organization for all international students doing semester exchanges or EU students doing their Erasmus. They host multiple events every week and it allows students to get to know their peers that are going through similar culture shocks. I’ve met a lot of students from other countries in Europe that I hang out with and have had a chance to explore some other cities in Italy with them as well.

 

Some of the biggest differences from the U.S are the fact that we drink cappuccinos and espresso after every meal with no added sugar. It has been hard getting used to drinking coffee so late in the day, but my body is starting to adjust. The classes I am taking here are all master’s level classes, but they seem much easier that the bachelor level courses at A&M. I would highly recommend finding a “buddy” from the list that the university here sends and asking them to help you register for classes, as the university logistics are probably the most complicated thing I have encountered. It’s weird trying to figure out the system as everything is in Italian and they do not send over instructions on how to register for classes. At one point I found myself sitting in class, listening to an Italian lecture even though the syllabus said that it was taught in English. At the bottom of the page there was a little side note saying that they no longer offer it in English, so I would read the fine print before registering for a class. So far, my time in Venice has been nothing short of amazing! The Italians really do know how to have a good time and do not take life vey seriously.

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy!

I’m currently attending Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy, for the fall semester of 2021. I have been attending classes for a few weeks now, and my first impression of Ca’ Foscari is that it has a highly welcoming atmosphere. All the people I have met so far have been very helpful and accommodating to me as a foreign exchange student, which has made it a lot easier for me to adjust to a new country. The professors here are all very knowledgeable and seem to care about their students genuinely. There are many similarities between classes here and at Texas A&M, but there is a different grading system and one exam in most courses. For instance, I must choose to be either an attending student or a non-attending student in class, and my grade will count differently for each. Some courses require group projects, which has been an excellent opportunity to meet other students from different backgrounds.

The city of Venice is like no other. Since living in Venice, the biggest shock I’ve experienced is that public transportation consists entirely of water taxis. The Vaporetto (a boat) is the primary means of getting around Venice and is the sole alternative to walking through the streets. This city also has no shortage of delicious places to eat. When people say all there is to eat here is pizza and pasta, they aren’t lying! However, I’m not complaining because Italian food is one of my favorites! During my first few weeks of studying abroad, I discovered that getting lost on the island is very easy. But I’ve slowly gotten used to the layout of the island, and I’m hoping by the end of the semester, I will know my way around! One of my favorite things to do here is going to watch the sunset while sitting on a dock. This is not only a great way to relax, but it gives me a chance to take in the beautiful island!

Studying abroad in a beautiful city like Venice is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I have enjoyed every moment of it so far!

Jessica Johnson

The Grand Canal!

The BEST gelato!

Sunsets on the dock!

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Today marks over 3 weeks since I have been living in Venice, Italy! Before I arrived in Venice, I was filled with a lot of anxiety about how this trip would go, and how I would be able to adjust to a place that is so foreign to me and that I know nothing about! But let me tell you, ever since I have been here I have felt so comfortable and have felt so at home! From the second that I stepped foot onto this island, I fell in love with it. I find that the Italian culture is so welcoming, even to someone who doesn’t speak any italian like me! The language barrier can definitely be a problem sometimes, but I find that even just learning a few common phrases can help you go a long way here in Venice.

The biggest differences that I have noticed so far between here and the U.S. is in efficiency. I find that here in Italy, the Italians are not worried about being efficient with their time, with their food, or with their infrastructure. For example, Italians like to take their days very slow, and are usually not on time for anything like how we are in America! They show up 15-30 mins late to things, take hours to eat dinner(no kidding), and have a lot of down time to rest during the day. The way they prepare their food is also very different here than in America. Here, everything is made on the spot, fresh and from scratch, and is served in small quantities. In America, food is usually pre-made in large portions in order to serve the customer more quickly and efficiently! Also, the schooling system here is very different than America. Professors often do not provide a complete syllabus, expecting you to remember/keep up with the due dates for classwork. Also, here at Ca’ Foscari, usually around 80-100% of our overall course grade is based on the final exam in the class, which can be very stressful. But other than that, I have really enjoyed getting to sit in a classroom with people from all over the world, hearing their perspectives on things and how they differ from my perspective.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Venice, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds!

Ciao!

 

Categories: 2021, Italy, Reciprocal Exchange

Bonjour! My name is Carson Turner, and I am currently an exchange student at EM Strasbourg business school, in France, for two semesters. As for a quick description of Strasbourg, it is a city that could truly be called a city of many tongues. Walking around city quarters such as Petite France or the around the grand Notre Dame cathedral in the Coeur de Strasbourg, the building which was once the tallest in the world, it would not be unusual to hear French, English, German, and other languages all being spoken in the span of about five minutes. Strasbourg, being situated on the border of France and Germany, has been influenced greatly by the two cultures. It is also the site of the European Parliament which represents twenty-seven different member countries, and twenty-four separate languages. This cultural diversity makes Strasbourg an exceptionally fascinating place to take part in an international exchange.

The placement of the city in the center of Western Europe, and its history make it an attractive place for international students from around the world to study as it is known for being a prominent place in the scene of international politics and business. In my brief time here I have encountered students from Hungary, Germany, Ukraine, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, China, South Korea, and of course France itself. Each of these students has had a different perspective on the world and their studies, which have really broadened my cultural horizons. 

My time in France has also grown and challenged me as an individual. I’ve had to push myself to operate in an environment where my native language is not the primary means of communication. Not only has this greatly improved my understanding of the French language itself, but It has also brought me much humility, knowing that I am truly at the mercy of the patience of others.  This, perhaps, will be the truly beneficial part of my exchange. When you are in your home country, you have a sense of control. You know the ways of the land, the language, and customs. You have social contacts and understand the little things that ensure you are able to get by without too much difficulty. However, on an exchange, you lose many of these things, and while the receiving University does much to ensure you are in a good position to acclimate to your new environment, it is ultimately up to you to push yourself into integrating with it. 

My experience so far in Strasbourg has been an incredible one. I’ve seen beautiful sights, and tread on streets that people 500 years my senior carried on their daily affairs. I’ve met people that are completely foreign from my traditional circle of potential encounters, and I’ve had to humble myself to adapt to the local culture. While my stay is far from over, I’ve already grown much as a person and am thoroughly grateful for the experience in which I am undergoing. For anyone who is considering going on an exchange or even a longer exchange such as myself, I would very much challenge them to take that step and fully commit to it. Don’t just stick to what you know, but step out into where you are not comfortable. Spend time around locals and people from different nationalities. Make an attempt to learn at least the basics of the regional language of communication. As the French say Prendre votre courage à deux mains, you will be surprised how much you grow when you no longer have guard rails to hang to. 

 

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy, my name is Zachary Schwertner and I am studying at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) for the semester. These past two weeks have been absolutely crazy but in a fantastic way. It has been a great change of pace getting out of College Station and making my way down to Vienna, the capital of Austria. My first few days were hectic, adventurous, and full of new lessons. I visited most of the tourist locations, like the famous Schönbrunn Palace, The Hofburg, and the massive Prater park. Still, I find it hard to believe that I will be spending my next four months here. Here are a few pictures:The Hofburg A street view of St. Stephen's Cathedral Schonbrunn Palace Gardens View of the Gloriette from the gardens of Schnbrunn Me in front of the Gloriette Friends and I in front of famous fountain

From my limited time here, I have gotten to meet some of the students that go to WU (pronounced VU). Mostly, they are all part of the Erasmus Buddy Network, an organization that helps incoming exchange students acclimate to life in their new environment. Everyone that I have met is super friendly and nice. Through meeting them, I have met several other exchange students from around the world. I have formed a close group with some people and we plan on traveling a lot and just doing a lot of things. I am looking forward to all that will come!

As for actual school, my university does not start until October 1st. It is weird seeing friends back home already in class and about to have their first test. However, I have still had the chance to go to the university, as it is only a 20-minute commute away (which is honestly not that much time at all in Vienna). The campus is beautiful, the people are lovely, and I am very much looking forward to the school year.

Campus

Reminiscing on the differences between my life at Texas A&M and my life here in Vienna, there are a lot of things to say. Firstly, while missing home, I am still so thankful and glad to be here exploring this amazing city, experiencing Austrian culture, and meeting these unique and friendly people. There is a whole other world out there than College Station, Texas, and the U.S.A. Every day, I find myself comparing Austria and the U.S., but truthfully, it’s really hard to put into words. Sure, everybody speaks German here, eats different food, does different daily activities, and uses amazing public transportation to get around. However, honestly, there is just a lot more than that. Some things just have to be figured out by actually going there and living. I encourage everyone who is reading this who has the opportunity to study abroad to do it. Go to new places, meet new people, and find out yourself how rewarding it can be.

Innsbruck famous houses

 

 

Categories: 2021, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

I can’t believe I am finally here. I had been crossing out dates from my calendar for two months now, and today I finally arrived at my new residence Cergy, France. When I first arrived in Cergy I was a bit shocked because it was not what I expected. When they told me I would be moving thirty minutes away from Paris, I imagined Cergy would be a little glamourous and a picturesque town; however, it is an industrial small town. Nevertheless, once you get to know it, you will fall in love with it.

Even though there is not much to do in Cergy, when you have a group of friends you can make great plans. There is a lake beside the port, which has a couple of restaurants and bars, where you can go with your friends and have a picnic and watch beautiful sunsets. We normally go every afternoon to the lake to walk around, or walk towards the ax-majeur and eat at the stairs, and if you are lucky you might even see the Eiffel tower from here.

Nevertheless, once you get bored of the lake (which you won’t) you have Paris thirty minutes away. During my first week in Cergy, I went to Paris every day. If you go abroad check the transportation card your city offers you. Because when I arrived in France I didn’t know there was a pass (the Navigo pass) that would allow me to use all methods of transportations in Îlede- France. But after some friends told me about this pass, now I can travel to Paris and all small towns surrounding it for only $75 dollars a month, which is nothing compared to the daily ticket to Paris. Being close to a big city is the best part of being in Cergy, because you are experiencing the same university vibe that we have in TAMU with only students but at the same time you are also living the Paris life because trust me you will be going to Paris at least three times a week.

The one thing that really differentiates ESSEC from TAMU is the long class periods. Most of the courses in ESSEC are 3 hours long with a 15 minute break. However, because the classes are really small, about 25 students per class, the classes are really interactive and you get to meet all of your classmates. What I also really like about ESSEC curriculum is that instead of giving homework or midterms most of your grade is based on participation or group projects. However, my favorite part of ESSEC is that inside the school you have a bar where all students get together during the breaks or after school and you get to meet people from different cultures.

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy! My name is Curt Leland, and I am studying right now in Strasbourg, France! This is my first time in Europe, so moving here seemed pretty dramatic at first. Although it has been amazing to see and learn so much every day and so far, culture shock has only been sprinkled into moments and is not overwhelming.
Firstly, let’s talk about the country as a whole. France is a place that seems to have it all. Mountains, coastline, fields, huge cities, and random lakes all around as well. I am looking forward to exploring the vast differences simply of the landscape of this country. People here are also very proud of who they are and their language. This was something that intimated me at first because I hardly know any French, but I am pleasantly surprised by those who have been helping me along the way. One time I was confused at a grocery market, and the cashier did not speak English but searched around to find someone who did so they could help me. This was a wild experience because, being in Mays business school, I am used to wanting to step up and fill in communication gaps. I had become that gap which was humbling. At the moment, though, most of my experience is still just with the city of Strasbourg.
The city of Strasbourg is unique because of its location. It is so close to the border of Germany that our public transit goes over the border as well. Strasbourg has been in German and French territory multiple times over its history, so the building and culture are a mesh of both. The region this city is in even has its own dialect, a mix of French and German. I have loved this because the town is beautiful with not only different centuries influence, but also different country’s as well. The city is very busy all over, yet slow at the same time. People are always outside being active, yet somehow resting at the same time. This culture seems to define work-life balance vastly different than the United States, and I am thrilled to submerge myself and learn the same hopefully. Also, kids are everywhere. In college station, I seem to go weeks without seeing a single child, but not here. I love seeing kids being able to walk home from school by themselves or playing around in parks. The city seems to have the same feel as a safer small town which I love. Lastly, about this city, there are hardly any chains or big brands. The streets are filled with local shops and markets to the point where there is no way I could try everything even if I went somewhere different every day. This is nothing like I am used to seeing.
To continue zooming in a little closer, I want to share some of the University of Strasbourg. I am in the Ecole de Management school here, which is their business school. My program is for all foreign exchange students with the common language of English. Our classes are in English as well as socials and informationals. The first week of orientation was confusing and not organized well, but I also think I was viewing things through an American perspective of over communication and preparation. Being able to speak English here is such a blessing. It allows me also a group of students to practice French with who are in a similar language level. I have not started classes yet, but they will only be with foreign exchange students, which is a great opportunity to learn to work with those outside my culture. It does separate me somewhat from the French culture, but for one semester, I am so thankful to be able to be exposed to so many different perspectives.

 

Best,

Curt Leland

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

My name is Kylie Hofmeister and I am doing a semester exchange in Strasbourg, France! I have always loved traveling and learning about cultures different than mine, and have been dreaming about studying abroad since high school. I can’t believe I am finally here, it feels surreal! I’ve been here for about two full weeks now and had orientation last week. It’s been a whirlwind! Today is actually my first day of class at EM Strasbourg Business School, so I am feeling quite excited and interested in seeing how my courses here compare and contrast with those I have taken at Mays.

Arriving in Strasbourg went smoothly, even with the pandemic and restrictions associated with it. Here in France, we are required to wear masks at all times while indoors and on public transportation and must receive a “health pass” from the French government in order to patronize most businesses and restaurants, which shows either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. Otherwise, Strasbourg has felt quite open and welcoming, and I’m glad that I didn’t allow the conditions of the pandemic to inhibit me from taking this opportunity to study abroad! It has been great so far, although I definitely experienced some culture shock during my first few days. I don’t speak French, and while many in Strasbourg know some English, the French are very proud of their language and aren’t quick to use English. It was difficult to do small things at first, such as ordering a coffee or checking out at the grocery store, but already in the past two weeks, I’ve been able to pick up simple phrases that have helped me get around! The language barrier was overwhelming and stressful at first, but I have now grown to embrace it and am excited to see myself learn and improve in my French over the semester! I have already enjoyed immersing myself in French culture through trying different foods, practicing the language, and familiarizing myself with the history of Strasbourg. The school also offers many different sports that we can sign up for weekly, and I have already taken two that have been taught entirely in French! I was able to follow along visually, and actually found the challenge to be quite fun!

The international advisors and Dean of EM were very excited to welcome us at our first orientation meeting, and it helped everyone to feel more comfortable and better prepared to begin the semester. Each course here occurs just once a week but lasts three hours, which may take some getting used to. Something that feels different about France and Europe in general is the degree of emphasis on exchange programs and immersing yourself in other cultures. Many international students whom I’ve met can speak 3+ languages almost fluently and are highly encouraged, if not required, to do Erasmus, which is an exchange within the EU. While I was required to take 2 years of a foreign language in high school, I wish schools in the U.S. would require much more. It also just isn’t very common among my friends back home to participate in a semester-long exchange, and I wish that it would be more normalized and pushed back home. Regardless, I am so thankful that I have been given this opportunity through TAMU, and I think that the courses will be great! I am very excited to learn and grow an international perspective and in conducting business throughout the semester. Not only will I learn about my host culture, but also so many others through the other international students that I meet! I can’t wait to share more about my adventures, experiences, and courses in France. Until then, Au Revoir!

(enjoy these photos of beautiful Strasbourg!)

Petite France Views of Cathedral River views!

me

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange