December 31st, 2019. Queue my arrival to Barcelona, Spain.

Throughout January of 2020, I have experienced the invigorating life of a short-term Spanish local. Catalonia embodies a trilingual society where people chat in Catalán, Spanish, and English – all in the same conversation. Barcelona is a city that offers a multi-faceted lifestyle. It possesses a charming city center surrounding Plaza Catalunya enlaced by the genius of architect Gaudí, a refreshing beachside with incredible seafood paella and mussels, a peaceful Montserrat Mountain enriched by its religious significance and delicious wineries, and an electrifying nightlife of comedy, jazz, and outlandish 6am closing times. Through exchange student activities and an unmatched “Welcome Week” hosted by the University of Pompeu Fabra, I gained companions from the UK, Italy, Canada, Germany, and infinitely more. Every “where are you from?” opened doors for enlightenment on cultures I truly knew nothing about. As an Economics student, classroom conversations bred my excitement for learning about international business, holding my keen attention because you never knew what perspective or strange question someone would provide.

Inspiringly, I tasted the joys of exploration through weekend visits to the Czech Republic, Italy, and Portugal. I admired the architectural diversity (Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, etc.) of Prague, Czech Republic. I gasped in awe of the largest church in the world – St. Peter’s Basilica – in the Vatican City of Rome, Italy. I devoured francesinhas – glorious meat-cheese-and-bread concoctions – and Porto wine in Porto, Portugal. I shopped fantastically around the famous Duomo di Milano Cathedral in Milan, Italy. The rich diversity I was immersed in through hostel stays, historical tours, and bar chatter with locals and fellow travelers was overwhelmingly eye-opening. Each conversation was like liquid gold, dripping with unexpected commonalities and providing depth by unraveling our human experiences together. I realized for the first time how “American” I was, and how our cultures can influence everything from our food preferences to our friendliness. Yes, there were challenges. Missed flights, overnight airport stays, a flurry of unprecedented fines, confusion, and a lack of control everywhere you go. But my complaints paled in comparison to the reward of living a lifestyle that yielded constant discovery.

In short, I encourage you to do the things that scare you the most. In doing so, I promise that you’ll feel exhilarated, confident, and truly alive !!

Soaking in the stunning views of Barcelona, Spain from Park Güell.

Check out my YouTube channel here for more on my study abroad journey 🙂

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

There is a certain charm to Ireland. People are always willing to stop to have a conversation and will joke about everything with you. There’s something about living in a place with beautiful landscape even when it rains half the time. Even though the weather can be dreary people’s chipper nature makes up for it. Because of the crazy amounts of rain, it is still a good idea to bring a rain jacket, a backup rain jacket and a poncho. Ireland has certain quirks that takes getting used to and there are always new things to try. Instead of bacon they have what they call rashers which is some place in between Canadian bacon and American bacon. Also baked beans and roasted tomatoes are staples for breakfast.

University of Limerick while nowhere near the size of A&M is in no way small. The campus spreads over both sides of the Shannon River and has 16,000 students. There are so many different perspectives and types of people and it makes every conversation different. Even in my roommates one is from Beijing, and the others are from all different parts of the United States. I’ve been able to meet people from all over the world including Italy, Germany and Japan and it is so fascinating hearing how unique their college experiences are. One thing I’ve learned is in Japan you start each school year in the Spring and have a four-month break after December! I love having the opportunity to meet people who under no other circumstance would I have met.

I’ve been able to do some travelling around Ireland and has been so special. From Dublin all the way to southern Ireland in Cork back to the west coast of Limerick, each place has its own rich history and unique stories to tell. I am excited to spend the rest of my semester in such a diverse landscape and explore the Irish culture more.

Categories: 2020, Ireland, Reciprocal Exchange

I hadn’t been this excited in a long time. I had been waiting for this opportunity to study abroad in Spain for nearly a year now and it had finally come. I knew that I was in for totally new experiences that would shape me for a lifetime, but I could never have prepared myself for just how different the experience was going to be. Within the first hour or two after landing in Madrid, I could already start to see the stark differences in cultural that I was in for. There was definitely an initial culture shock that I went through during the first day or so of trying to learn the city. I was so confused at why people ate dinner at 10 p.m. here and just how vastly different the daily schedule is here. Instead of going to an HEB once a week and stocking up, I am going to the grocery store once a day it seems like and just taking home what I need for the immediate future. While I have only been here a short time, I feel like I have already experienced many of the great things that Madrid has to offer. The current highlight of my trip was a tour of the Santiago Bernabeu. I would have never guessed that spending nearly 2 hours inside of a soccer stadium would have been such an amazing experience. I have started to figure out just how amazing public transportation can be and how much more accessible it makes a big city feel as I learn it better. Overall, the experience has been everything I could have hoped for and more so far, and I look forward to exploring more of Madrid, Spain, and the surrounding countries in Europe over the coming weeks and months.

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain


As my second week studying abroad in Barca is wrapping up, I have had some time to gather thoughts on what it’s been like so far. First off, it’s been amazing to explore the city while walking with this beautiful weather. It is currently sunny and around 60 degrees, which is, in my opinion, the perfect weather! Whether it be la Sagrada Familia, the beach, or the countless amazing restaurants, I’ve been able to experience so many great things already. However, one of my favorite parts so far is meeting so many other exchange students from my school. It’s crazy to me that I have become friends with people from Australia, Finland, and even Argentina! As the semester goes on, I hope to be able to meet even more people and build new lifelong friendships.

One of my goals for the rest of my time here is to be able to visit other countries in Europe! Currently, I am dying to experience what Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen are like. It has also been a great experience seeing how different, yet similar, studies are here at UPF. Whether it be my teachers walking and talking with me after class, specific teaching styles, or how intriguing some of the subjects are, school here has been an extremely unique experience. Although there are a lot of things I miss from the U.S., I also have been having the time of my life here and can’t wait for what’s next.

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Hi! My name is Lauren Noe and I am currently studying at EM Strasbourg Business School in Strasbourg, France.

Strasbourg is right on the border of France and Germany and is certainly a multicultural and bilingual city, as evidenced by the fact that it went back and forth under French and German control six times. In photos of Strasbourg, you will see Hansel-and-Gretel type houses, the Rhine River, cathedrals, and breweries.

Some of my favorite things to do in Strasbourg so far have been visiting the L’Atelier 116 Bakery, running along the Rhine River, exploring the Petit France neighborhood, and learning more about the history of the city.

Classes start this week and I am looking forward to getting into a routine! I am taking five different classes which are a mix of business classes and french culture classes. Most of my classes fall Monday – Thursday, giving me time to travel on the weekends.

Since I arrived in France about 2 weeks before classes start I have had a good amount of time to settle in and even take a few trips. One great thing about Strasbourg is that it is centrally located in Europe, meaning that, in addition to the Strasbourg airport, there is a myriad of airports you can fly out of (Basel, Baden Baden, Stuttgart, Frankfurt). So far I have visited Lyon and Nice. I am heading to Barcelona and Malaga this week.

The last thing I will say is that it is an interesting time to travel to France. While Americans are having many of the same discussions as the French about migration, healthcare, the economy, and social programs, it is not a surprise that the French communicate differently. Striking, for instance, is one of the most powerful tools of the employee versus his/her employer. Currently, French people are taking to the streets over President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed changes to the pension reform. In Nice, Lyon, and Strasbourg I have witnessed the strikes and I am excited to learn more about France’s civic discourse.

Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange