Howdy! My name is Mariana Martinez and I am a junior marketing major studying abroad in Madrid, Spain at UC3M. I have been in Madrid for a couple days now and it is safe to say I love it here. When I first got here, I expected to have multiple culture shocks and thought it was going to take me a while to adjust but I am surprised to say Madrid has not been as different as I thought. The biggest difference I have noticed is everyone here tends to enjoy a slower paced life. While living in the center of Madrid, you see many people rushing to get places but if you step a foot outside the center hub of Madrid or into a plaza, you will notice people will sit at a restaurant for hours enjoying some good tapas with friends. The city of Madrid is very clean and the buildings here are beautiful. Everytime I walk somewhere, I constantly catch myself staring up at the buildings everywhere I go because the streets are filled with simplistic detailed buildings with beautiful colors. I also adapted the sense of transport here which is walking, metro and train. Living by the Sol station, I am able to catch the train every morning to go 25 mins out of town to go to campus at Getafe. UC3M is a decent sized campus but in comparison to A&M it feels small. My first impressions of the school is that while it is a rigorous school, the professors are very kind and helpful with the students. The school also has a big international presence as they are known for hosting many exchange students every year. It is pretty clear the Spanish students tend to keep to themselves and their friend groups as they all take classes together and spend all four years surrounded by the same people. However, I have had the opportunity to meet so many international students from around the world. Moreover, another difference is in the Spanish culture, athleisure does not exist and so they dress more professionally and modest on a daily basis in comparison to America. Lastly, people in Spain eat small portions at random times of the day rather than 3 large meals. Overall, I have felt the Spanish culture in Madrid is not that different to that of America which has made it easy to adapt to life here. I am so in love with Madrid and Spain and am excited to see more of this country in my upcoming months here!

Categories: 2023, Spain

Hello! My name is Gloria, and I am studying abroad in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology(HKUST) this semester! I have been here for almost two weeks now, and started school last week!

The city has been pretty easy to navigate, with the subway lines being connected throughout the city. Hong Kong is also very walkable, so I’m able to get around just by walking and taking the subway. Everything here is pretty cheap compared to America, and they also don’t have sales tax!

The business school sits on top of a hill and overlooks the campus and the bay. My classes here are pretty similar to classes at A&M, where they’re usually around 1.5 hours for classes I attend twice a week, and 3 hours for classes I attend once a week. We get a short 10-15 minute break for my 3-hour courses, so it’s not too bad. I’m taking 4 classes here, and the layout is pretty similar to courses at A&M, with homework, quizzes, participation, presentations, and exams. However, a big difference I noticed is that courses here are graded on a bell curve rather than a standard grade that students have to achieve.

Some culture shocks I have experienced while being in Hong Kong:

  • People usually dress up to class and wear long sleeves and long pants.
  • Hot tea is served at restaurants instead of cold water. You have to pay extra for cold water.
  • Hot water that is served at restaurants is usually used to wash your bowls, plates, and utensils

Categories: 2023, Hong Kong


Vienna, or Wien as known by Austrians, is like a dream. After officially being here for a little over a week, I have been able to explore various areas of the city. In the first few days, we were welcomed by the incoming team at WU who introduced us to Austrian and Viennese cultural norms, foods, and history. The welcome events were attended by all of the incoming exchange students at the university, therefore it was a unique opportunity to interact with individuals from all over the world. I have met people from Canada, The UK, France, The Netherlands, Turkey, The Czech Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, South Korea, Sweden, The Bahamas, Italy, Ukraine, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand, and many more locations. Within the first few days, I have already made many new friends. Additionally, we were able to be given a tour of the university by WU students. The campus is much smaller than Texas A&M but is extremely modern and well-constructed. You have the opportunity to sign up for a pre-semester cultural program in which 2 weeks are dedicated to exploring many of Vienna’s cultural landmarks and nearby cities. Next week some of our events include learning the Viennese Waltz, visiting the United Nations, touring Schönbrunn Palace, and attending a chocolate factory in Linz, Austria.

Overall, Vienna is a classical dream mixed with a modern touch. The city is incredibly well connected by public transport and dedicated towards sustainability. Although I have only been here a week, this experience has already been extremely eye-opening. This was my first time in Europe and this opportunity has allowed me to make connections with individuals who are incredibly diverse in nationality and thought. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing about everyone’s stories of navigating life before and after embarking abroad. I am immensely grateful for this opportunity and I cannot wait to develop my skills individually and professionally.

Lastly, the food has been amazing. Vienna is a coffee lover’s dream and the assortment of pastries and cakes is astonishing. It is the cafe capital of the world and one of the Viennese specialties is the melange. Some of my other favorite meals have been Wiener Schnitzel, Goulash, Appel Strudel, and Sachertorte. The grocery stores here are very reasonably priced and of great quality. My classes do not begin until early March, therefore I am going to visit Budapest, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Prague. I am currently missing Tex-Mex, my dog, and my family. However, I am grateful that I am able to video call them frequently and share my updates on life in Vienna. I cannot wait to see what lies ahead as I continue to navigate this journey abroad.

From Vienna,

Anneliese Cook

Categories: 2023, Austria

It has been over a week now since arriving in Vienna, and I am in awe of the beauty of this city. I had come up with ideas in my head of what my experience would be like before coming, and wow, has Vienna already exceeded my expectations. Every day, I wake up in what feels like a dream, but I quickly snap into reality that this is my real life. In only seven days, I have seen so much Austrian history and culture, which has been so fun and exciting.

My first two days in the city involved an orientation program at the Vienna University of Economics & Business (or WU for short). There, I was able to meet other incoming exchange students from all over the world and get integrated into the academic lifestyle in Vienna. With still a month before classes actually start, I have been able to explore so much in Vienna. WU is an amazing university with over 500 international students each semester, so it is nice not feeling alone being in a new place and new school. One huge culture shock of school life in Vienna is the academic schedule. Rather than your typical American fall and spring semester, Vienna has a summer and winter semester. So although I am studying abroad in the Spring 2023 semester at TAMU, it’s really summer semester in Austria, where classes begin in March and end in June. Also, classes do not extend for the whole semester period. Some classes are only half the semester, or are complete within two weeks or on weekends. Additionally, classes do not typically follow a consistent weekly schedule (ex: every Monday and Wednesday), rather they occur on random days and times, with some weeks having completely off from a course. So, creating my class schedule was definitely more of a challenge.

On another note, when exploring the city, everywhere you walk, it looks like you just walked into a fairytale or into some historical time period. There are gorgeous, historic buildings everywhere you walk. I have been able to see so much including the famous Vienna Opera House, Mozart’s apartment, the Hundertwasser House, the Schönbrunnm Palace, the city of Graz and the Zotter chocolate factory. Additionally, the Vienna public transportation is the best in Europe. For 75 euros, I can take public transportation all semester (which is the equivalent to about one tank of gas for me in the U.S.).

Another aspect of Viennese culture I have fallen in love with is the cafe culture. Actually, UNESCO added Viennese coffee house culture to the cultural heritage list for Austria. When you go into a cafe or restaurant, there is no rush or order more or move on. You can spend hours in a cafe without the servers hovering your table throughout your stay. If you need anything, you have to flag the waiter down yourself to get the bill. As that seems more rude in the U.S., it is completely normal here. I have already spent many hours enjoying a Melange (classic Viennese coffee) and Sachertorte (famous Viennese chocolate cake) in many of the cafes that line the streets.

I have absolutely fallen in love with Vienna, Austria. One reason I picked this location is because my mom studied in Vienna in college, so it has been so sweet getting to share some of the same experiences with her and even recreate photos. I am already having the time of my life and have met so many amazing people!


Categories: 2023, Austria

Ciao! My name is Elaine Ta and I’m currently doing a semester exchange at Bocconi in Milan, Italy! During the short period of time I’ve been here, I’ve noticed so many differences between life in Italy and life in the US and between Bocconi and A&M. 

Moving to Italy made me realize all the small and large luxuries I have as an American. Life is very convenient at home because you can drive anywhere you want whenever you want, buy things in bulk or in massive sizes, dry your clothes quickly using a dryer, and use the restroom for free. While simple in Texas, those things are like luxuries here in Italy. People mostly get around by either walking or taking public transportation, they buy very small portions of items (meaning they make trips to the grocery store very frequently because you can only carry home so much at a time), they air dry their clothes, and pay a euro to use the restroom when they’re out. This is the longest period of time I’ve ever spent in another country without my family, so adjusting to this minimalistic life here has been rough but quite rewarding knowing I’m learning to adapt to situations quicker each day. Thankfully, to help us get situated faster, Bocconi organizes many events for all the exchange students to meet each other. Because all the other international students are going through the same situation as I am, it’s been a lot more manageable to make friends quickly because everyone is very open and welcoming to you. All the exchange students I’ve met thus far have been incredibly sweet, smart, friendly, and open-minded and I’m looking forward to the memories we’ll make together in the coming months. 

The biggest difference between classes at A&M and at Bocconi is that your grades at Bocconi are usually only determined by a single exam (the final) and sometimes an additional project. You have to be much more disciplined and organized with your studying to ensure you aren’t cramming a semester’s worth of information the day before the exam or falling behind; however, the advantage of this grading structure is that it leaves a lot of room for flexibility for students throughout the semester because you don’t have an assignment due every few days. After this semester ends, I hope to have learned how to live minimalistic, how to manage my time and finances better and to have explored various countries and cultures across Europe with my new friends. Ciao for now 🙂

Categories: 2023, Italy

I arrived in Spain a few weeks ago. Having already lived in Italy previously the culture feels fairly similar to me. The largest difference I’ve encountered is the time in which people to do specific things. For example, it is common to have a meal at 10 pm but still have class at 9 am. Smoking culture is just as prevalent as in Italy but I would say coffee is taken a bit less. The transportation system in Madrid is exquisite and the weather has been beautiful for the most part. It is easy to go on day trips from Madrid as there are a handful of beautiful old cities just a few hours away in each direction! In my opinion, the Spanish people are not as welcoming and are significantly more direct than Americans. Although being surrounded by international students from all parts of the world has been such a great experience. Madrid is home to a handful of prestigious universities. I hope to continue to meet amazing people and travel more during this semester in Spain.

Categories: 2023, Spain

Landing in Madrid, I was immediately in awe. This was my first time in Europe, so I was very ready to explore my new surroundings and learn all about Spanish culture and Spanish tradition. It was hard to stay in my apartment without wanting to leave and explore the city.

As my first day of school arrived, I felt slightly nervous, but my excitement was exponentially high. I quickly warmed up to the schedule I had and the different environment I was now in. After 5 days of classes, I can say that this is very different from Texas A&M. I will have to adapt to these new teaching styles, but I am very excited to see my progression within the program and my time here in Madrid.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to study abroad in Madrid was because I wanted to experience Europe and practice my Spanish. It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad in Spain, and I am so proud that I am here now to truly live this out. Not only have I been attending school, I am fully taking advantage of my surroundings by meeting new people from around the world and by traveling to new places.

The main differences that I have noticed between Spain and the United States are transportation, eating times, and architecture. The main mode of transportation here is public transportation and walking. My apartment is near campus, so I can luckily walk to class in 15 minutes. But, to get to the city, I have to walk to the train station and then take the train. This is a new experience for me as I do not take public transportation often in Texas. I am fortunate enough to have a car, so to get from point A to point B is much faster than here. However, I am loving this experience, it is truly allowing me to get the full experience living in Spain.

It is a running joke in Spain for the Spaniards to clarify eating times by saying “Spanish lunch” or even “Spanish dinner”. People in Spain eat meals very late compared to my experiences in the United States. Lunch can range from 2-3pm and dinner is normally past 8pm. This has been a big personal adjustment since I am used to eating so much earlier. I will admit, I do cheat sometimes and eat earlier. But, I mostly keep to the Spanish culture of eating later.

Aside from the eating time and public transportation, the architecture here is very different from the United States. It is amazing to see these historical sights from hundreds of years ago and to understand and learn the history behind it. I find myself exploring a new city or area each weekend I am here. I am so happy to be here and will be taking full advantage of everything during my stay here. I can say that this experience will truly change my life, and for the better.

Categories: 2023, Spain

My name is Elijah Esteves and I am studying abroad for a semester in Milan, Italy. When I got here about 2 weeks ago, I was afraid that I was going to get pickpocketed, get lost, and miss a train. Luckily, none of those things have happened so far. I have learned that the people here will help you out if you ask them for it. The helpfulness of people has eased my fears about living abroad because I know I can always ask for help and they will do their best to point me in the right direction.

I went to an orientation meeting at my school and all of the other international students I met were very friendly and helpful so it got me more excited for school to start. The school itself is very nice with a lot of new buildings and it’s easy to get to by bus for me. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the bus stop and then a 10 minute bus ride to get to school.

So far in Milan, I have been to the Duomo, saw the Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci, went to an Inter Milan soccer game, and saw Sforza’s Castle. I have also traveled to Lake Como where I got on a boat and visited some small towns on the lake. In addition, I have been to Venice where I went to St. Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Bridge, and the Doge’s Palace.

Some big differences I’ve noticed between Italian and American culture:

  • It’s easy to get around the city by foot and with public transportation
  • The post offices in Italy do a lot more than just deliver mail
  • Not a lot of people speak English
  • There’s not a lot of options for fast food besides McDonalds and KFC
  • Grocery stores in Italy are a lot smaller and have very limited options for cereal

Categories: 2023, Italy