May, 2022 | Semester Exchanges Blog

My semester abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland was nothing short of amazing. I made so many wonderful memories and friends from around the world and went on exciting adventures throughout the 4 months. I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to do a semester abroad. I grew both personally and professionally in several ways. My confidence grew and I became more independent and surer of myself. By going out of my comfort zone to make new friends, learning how to use public transportation, navigating airports and unfamiliar places by myself, and more, I developed valuable life skills and boosted my confidence.

At first, being away from my home, family, and friends in a foreign country was a bit daunting and overwhelming, but I was able to adapt to my new environment and become increasingly self-reliant and mature. I felt challenged and empowered by overcoming new experiences. I discovered a ton of things about myself and realized just how capable I am. I worked on group projects with people from different countries and backgrounds as my own which allowed me to learn about new perspectives and develop cross-cultural awareness. I also improved my communication skills when engaging with individuals from Ireland and other international students.

One of my goals was to truly immerse myself in the culture and traditions of Ireland, and I achieved that. I interacted with the locals including my 5 Irish housemates, ate traditional cuisine, watched Gaelic sports, listened to Irish music, participated in Irish traditions and customs like making a St. Brigid’s cross on Saint Brigid’s Day (Imbolc), and traveled all around Ireland. My favorite and most interesting class I took this semester was Irish Folklore, where I learned about the customs and folklore of Ireland. For anyone going abroad, I recommend taking a class like this to learn firsthand about the history and customs of your host country! Additional tips I have for students going abroad include: try not to overpack (plan in advance), dress in layers, do not buy a new phone right before you go so you can get a local SIM card (you can only unlock your phone for a local SIM if your phone is paid off), join clubs and societies, go to campus and city events, eat and buy local, and above all else enjoy your time and live in the moment (your time abroad goes by so fast)!

The University of Limerick is an incredible school to study at. The campus is beautiful, accommodating, and an oasis of nature. The professors and students are friendly and welcoming, and since it is an internationally focused university, you can meet and work with people from all around the world. There are various clubs and societies to get involved and meet new people with shared interests. UL Global is extremely supportive and helps international students during the entire semester to be successful. There is an International Buddy Program that matches incoming international students with a student volunteer from UL based on similar interests. I loved my buddy/mentor and buddy group because we got along so well and hung out a bunch. My mentor helped me settle in and gave me useful tips and advice.

Among other events and activities, UL Global also set up seven Saturday day trips for students to easily tour Ireland. The trips were to the Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle and Cork City, Killarney and Torc Waterfall, Dingle, Dublin, Galway, and the Aran Islands. I had such a wonderful time on these trips with friends and was grateful to go to 6 out of the 7 trips, only missing the Dublin one because I was going there later when my family visited. In addition to exploring Ireland, I traveled to other countries in Europe, including England, Italy, Spain, and Greece. I experienced incredible new foods, customs, people, landmarks, and other wonders while traveling and had some of the best times of my life.

Ireland and the University of Limerick surpassed my expectations and initial impressions. The weather was pleasant the majority of the time, the food was amazing, and the people were so kind and helpful. It was a nice change of pace with more free time and less demanding than school at Texas A&M, but still worthwhile and I learned valuable lessons. While abroad, I gained a new perspective on the world and a better understanding and appreciation of other cultures. I expanded my worldview and became a better global citizen. I will use the skills I developed while abroad in work and school to become a well-rounded leader able to engage with diverse individuals.

The memories and friendships I created made for an unforgettable and rewarding 4 months. My time in Ireland was exciting, fulfilling, and life-changing. I experienced new cultures and grew as an individual. This experience changed me in more ways than I could have imagined. I knew studying in a foreign place was going to be fun, but I did not foresee the extent to which I would enjoy it and thrive. I am a strong advocate for studying abroad and could not recommend it enough. My time abroad expanded my outlook on life and led me to want to pursue an internship and/or a job abroad. It is bittersweet going home because as excited I am to see my family and friends (and eat Tex-Mex), I will miss Ireland and the new friends I made. I love Ireland dearly and hope to come back soon!

The pictures attached below are of me at the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle (where I kissed the Blarney stone and received the gift of the gab).

Categories: Ireland

When I left for France, I didn’t have much of an idea of what my study abroad would entail. I figured I would have fun, travel and meet new people, but I had no idea how much this experience would have changed me. The amount of confidence and independence I have gained was something I don’t think I would have gained if I didn’t take the chance and study abroad. I was able to meet new people who were vastly different from me and travel with them, or even traveling solo. All these things gave me confidence and experience in planning, putting myself out there, and just overall confidence in myself. 

Furthermore, my understanding of France and its culture had altered as well. I thought many people would be the stereotypical French, standoffish and rude. While the standoffish part was correct, as many French students didn’t put themselves out there to introduce themselves in classrooms, the rudeness factor was completely wrong. Even in simple encounters in stores, most were always kind and willing to speak some English when I was having trouble speaking French. Although some Parisians did live up to my initial judgments. 

One of the things I was most happy about was my location in France, Strasbourg. It was the perfect mix of history and culture, and still had a city scene. In addition, the architecture and it being considered one of the European capitals, I never got bored of exploring it and learning all that I could. With its large cathedral that can be seen from miles away, everytime I came back from traveling, I’d see it in the distance and knew I was home. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock when I arrived, and I think it was because Strasbourg didn’t overwhelm me. It was a sweet city that wasn’t dangerous or a really big city. The people were kind and it was easy to get into a routine and become comfortable with the area. 

My study abroad might have started off on the wrong foot, but it quickly became my favorite college experience, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Categories: France

I truly had the most amazing time living and studying in Strasbourg France. Now that my time is over there I have started to digest and reflect on my time abroad! The cultural lifestyle has definitely impacted me. I feel less stress in terms of rushing to complete my life goals and feel like I have had so many more opportunities for me to explore, especially abroad. I have even considered moving abroad for work, which is a thought I had before going but now I see as a real possibility. Through my French class and day-to-day living, I really have an understanding of how business is conducted here and how they work day to day. All of my professors were french and more often than not we would get to class at the same time, if not them after me. You are considered on time when the class time starts so no worry to get there way before the start time, (but also don’t show up more than 5 minutes late). In restaurants, there were many times when we stayed past closing and I had to wave down the waiter to pay and go home. 

I feel like my biggest learning adjustment was all of the travel I did abroad. Traveling by train was totally new to me and felt foreign for the first few months. But thankfully the train always showed up and once aboard it was so peaceful. Everyone is always very respectful and tends to themselves during the ride. I really benefited from public transportation and miss it now that I am back in the states. 

While abroad I was able to visit 13 countries and countless cities. My eyes are truly opened to the world around me and I have a new appreciation for cultures I did not know before. One of the largest impacts of my trip was the food. Trying new and traditional foods was so much fun and really made up a lot of my travels. I feel encouraged to try new things and look more into other cultures. Another thing I learned was how enforced the EU mindset is among EU countries. Students are highly encouraged to go abroad and learned that in most friend groups everyone studies abroad. I definitely have encouraged my friends back home to consider it if they have the chance to!

It is crazy to think that part of me already misses living abroad and being surrounded by a language I only somewhat speak. I feel that studying abroad was a healthy challenge that pushed me to be more independent, creative, and resilient. I was definitely tired a lot of the time but in the moments in between I was experiencing once-in-a-lifetime adventures. I am so thankful to have gone on this semester abroad and encourage others to do the same!

Categories: France

I cannot believe my semester in France is already coming to an end! The last 4 months have been packed with so many amazing adventures and I have absolutely loved it! My schedule this semester gave me a lot of free time for traveling and enjoying the cultural things within Strasbourg like visiting museums, going to French movies and seeing concerts! One of the many things I loved about living in France is their encouragement of young people to develop themselves by learning more about the country’s culture. They do this by giving lots of student discounts and allowing students to get in free museums all over France. This is one of the many ways that France works to protect their culture from other influences and it is something that I really respect about the country. I also took a French Culture class at EM and it was so helpful in understanding some cultural things that I was not aware of which helped me navigate some culture shock that I experienced throughout the semester. Also, I even became friends with the receptionist at my residence who helped me practice my French! Overall, I really enjoyed the lifestyle in Strasbourg. Some things I liked doing were walking around the canals that surrounded the city, reading in cafes or at the Parc de l’Orangerie, and going to a language cafe and meeting other international students. There was always a nice atmosphere and plenty to do and enjoy around the city. 

My classes at EM were also really interesting and I enjoyed having the opportunity to work on projects with people from all over the world. EM Strasbourg is big on group projects so I had one in every one of my classes. I also really liked how all my professors placed a lot of emphasis on applying the information we learned by doing workshops. There really was not much actual school work besides a midterm assignment and the final exam, so I had to really make sure I kept up with the material. But, it allowed me to have a little more relaxed schedule and not feel stressed about deadlines all the time. 

Looking back at the beginning of my exchange, it was really hard in the beginning with culture shock and being far away from my family and friends back home. But, I am so glad I decided to come to France for a semester because it challenged me in so many ways and it gave me an opportunity to meet so many new people and visit so many new places! I learned so much about myself throughout the semester and I plan to incorporate these things into my everyday life back at home. For instance, I learned how to be more spontaneous and open to new experiences because that is where you have the best moments and make the best memories! I also learned to enjoy the little moments of everyday life, like strolling through a park or just sitting on a bench reading and enjoying beautiful weather. Daily life was definitely not as hectic as it is back home since I was not in class as often and didn’t have as much school work. So, it was a nice change in pace and allowed me to really take in and enjoy the culture. Overall, my semester in France was absolutely amazing and it has definitely helped me develop a more global mindset which will be helpful wherever I go!

Categories: France

Wow this semester flew by and I can’t believe that it’s almost time for me to return home to the US. It was a great semester in Nottingham, England. I got to see so many different places, meet new people, and I learned so much during my time here.

This semester was a nice change of pace from my previous ones at A&M. As I explained in my first blog post, I didn’t have any weekly assignments or quizzes or regular exams. My grades are dependent on one final exam at the end of the semester, so I had a lot of time to relax. I love to read so I was able to finish quite a few books this semester. Another thing I did with my downtime was travel. I was able to visit London several times and I enjoyed exploring the city. London is only a two-hour train ride from Nottingham, so I was able to plan both day and weekend trips. I loved the city so much that I’m considering moving there for a few years after I graduate. It’s such a diverse and unique city and I think it would be a cool place to live for a bit.

One of the biggest lessons I learned while being here is the importance of balance. There is a saying that Americans live to work but Europeans work to live, and that is something I experienced firsthand during my semester abroad. Students are more concerned with living life and enjoying their time at university than they are with studying and grades. This was frustrating at times, but I gradually began to understand that having the mentality that school and grades are not the end all be all is not a bad thing. While I do believe that working hard is important, I now understand the significance of having a good school/life balance. Taking time to relax and enjoy the present moment is important. I was able to have a better school/life balance this semester and it was good for me. I hope I can maintain this balance during my last two semesters at A&M as well as carry it forward into my working career.

One thing I will not miss about England is the food. I’m sorry to say that English food is not very good. It’s very bland, everything is boiled, and I very quickly discovered that potatoes are served with every meal. It made me appreciate and enjoy the food I ate during my travels outside of England. I’m looking forward to getting some Chick-fil-a and some tacos upon my return to the US.

The end of this semester and the close of my study abroad trip are bittersweet. I am looking forward to going home and seeing my friends and family. But I will miss the friends that I made in Nottingham and the travel opportunities that this semester abroad provided me with. I had so much fun exploring England and traveling to other European countries as well. I am so grateful that I was able to study abroad this semester and that I was able to learn so many valuable life lessons during my time here. Goodbye for now, England. Hopefully, I will see you again soon!

Categories: United Kingdom

This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this about 85% through my Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark (DK). At this point, I have only 1 take-home exam left (05/31/22 – 06/07/22), and there is about 1 month left to go. I am attending Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and taking 12 credit hours over here. I can finally say that I am feeling homesick. However, a large factor contributing to that is my roommate leaving to go back home to Hong Kong. I literally went to the airport and sent her off. When I came back to our place, it still did not feel real until I woke up and saw her side of the room empty. We really bonded and I will miss her. Thanks to the power of the internet and WhatsApp, we can keep in contact! Anyway, I will be exploring and having fun in Copenhagen in her name! I believe I am just feeling homesick because the end is coming. Though it is fun, there are just some things you do miss. I usually do not travel back and forth from College Station to my hometown because it is an 8+ hours drive to and back. Because of that, I cherish summer because it means family and friends time for me. In addition to that, many of my close friends are graduating, so it sucks that I could not physically be there for them. Me staying until June 14 does put a damper in my original summer plans, but I chose that because CBS did not release their exam date until basically the start of the semester (February 1-ish) and I wanted to be safe.

Me and my roommate, Tiffany, at the airport before she left and after we were fighting against Father Time.

Right now, I am preparing for the end by preparing for my last exam, buying souvenirs, and trying to figure out my coming-back meal. From what I noticed, I believe that Danes love the Japanese culture, artisanal goods, and sweets. (They have one of the highest candy consumptions in the world!). They have that all around, so I am keeping an eye out. Also, I am starting this process early because I do not know if COVID regulations will be changing, so it is better to start a head of time. I will not have to fight against time, COVID, and government/company regulations. Moving on, typically, I do not support Pandora USA because it is just very simple and basic jewelry, but I will admit that Pandora DK hits differently. It makes sense since Denmark is the birthplace of Pandora. They have so many beautiful pieces and these designs are not available in the US market. Because of that, I bought my mom a whole set for Mother’s Day, her souvenir, her whatever, etc. It is kind of “one-of-a-kind” and a great set that encapsulates “Denmark.” My other 3 sisters are all figured out. Luckily, I am able to find almost everyone in my nucleus family something that relates to their interests, my wallet, and Denmark. I am just struggling to find a gift for my dad since he does not care for food, clothes, alcohols, etc.—he is a succulent; he just needs water and sunlight. My roommate, for her souvenirs, focused on artisanal foods and craftsmanship, so she got chocolates, cheeses from specialty stores in Torvehallerne (Copenhagen Food Hall/Market) and pottery/porcelain from places like the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain and Studio Arhoj.

My view when I was going around and buying souvenirs.

Yeah, there’s really not much to say this blog. I was literally fighting for my life against a Principles of Corporate Finance exam, so I could not physically allow myself to go out and about. I was just more focused on the exam because if I did not pass this course—literally, only this course, I would have had to graduate a whole semester later. This course is a prerequisite to my capstone course, and I really needed it. No pressure, of course. Now, it is just me trying to finish up a few things. I just want to be able to see more sites, buy more souvenirs, and just leisurely enjoy my last month here!

Categories: Denmark

Throughout my semester abroad, I felt that I really got a feel for the French lifestyle and how the culture differs from that of the US from a business stand point. It was really interesting being able to engage with so many different individuals from all over the world. My classes at EM Strasbourg were filled with all international students, which made for a really fun class atmosphere. Each individual truly brought something unique to the table that I never would have gotten the chance to experience at home in the States. For example, in my Business Negotiations class, we were put in groups to simulate a negotiation between a seller and a buyer of a certain good or service, and the individuality of each group member being from a different country and culture made for a very insightful look into what it really means to have a global mindset, especially in a business setting.

I adored living in Strasbourg, especially once spring time rolled around. All of the trees were in bloom with absolutely beautiful pink, yellow, and purple flowers surrounding the river banks that ran around the city center. It seemed that once the sun came out, so did the people. During the winter months of January, February, and even into March, the skies were pretty grey every day, nobody wanted to be outside, and the ambiance in general could be a bit gloomy because of it. However, when the weather warmed up and everything started blooming, the entire city got a whole new feeling to it, which was absolutely delightful. The streets were always busy and everyday you’d pass at least 10 people sunbathing in the grass along the river.

I’d say my initial impressions of French people and French culture were generally pretty accurate. They remained pretty closed off and impersonal to strangers, but I definitely got used to it as time went on. The more time I spent in France, the more I was able to appreciate and develop an affinity for the private lifestyle of French people, and overall, the European lifestyle.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t change a thing about my abroad experience! There were challenging times for sure, but immersing myself in a foreign country and accepting the culture as my own has taught me so much and has truly broadened my world view. I’d recommend Strasbourg to any student looking for an immersive exchange experience!

Categories: France