2022 | Semester Exchanges Blog

The first thing you notice about Madrid is how lively it is. There are a lot of people packed into the city and it seems like they’re always on the streets. I recall walking back home around 11:30 pm on one of my first nights and being caught off guard by how many people were at the bars and restaurants along my walk. The city has a relaxed atmosphere and it feels like their daily clock is shifted back a few hours; people eat their meals later, go to bed later, etc. Despite the considerable differences mentioned, as well as others unmentioned, for me, the small differences add up to create complexity in this new environment. Small things like laundry, finding out where to buy certain things since everything isn’t available in one place like an HEB/Walmart/Target, getting a gym membership, and many more add up to present challenges when doing tasks that would be basic back in Texas. These small things aren’t present when you’re on vacation, but when you actually live there you realize there’s nuance in everyday tasks.

My initial impression of the business program at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid has been positive. The professors have a more laid-back style of teaching and prefer the class to flow more like a conversation between the entire room rather than a lecture. One of my classes is all Spanish students, despite this class not being a business class and instead a political science class, I enjoy it quite a bit since I get to hear how Spaniards view world affairs. My business classes are filled with students from all around Europe and some Canadians, so I’m sure I’ll hear many great ideas from a wide range of backgrounds. I hope to learn from the unique perspectives of these students and be able to take some new ideas back home with me.

Categories: 2022, Spain

From the moment you set foot in Madrid, you can feel the special atmosphere that this city has created. There is an extraordinary social scene that is depicted by masses of people dining outdoors, walking alongside the streets, or just spending leisure time in one of the many parks here. I think one of the most alarming differences between Spanish and U.S culture is that overall, people here just feel more relaxed. It does not take more than a day for the casual observer to notice that Spaniards are not in a hurry to get anything done, and as a result, you become immersed in this calm feeling of acceptance. Furthermore, Madrid feels like an international hub. All kinds of people are welcome here as characterized by the warm smiles you receive when speaking with locals, who have no problem trying to accommodate the language barrier if you are still learning Spanish. Another evident difference between the U.S. and Spain is that many people walk to their destinations or use the efficient system of public transportation created by buses and metros, which creates an overall healthier lifestyle through active movement. As far as University classes go, the program at Universidad de Carlos III in Madrid is a breath of fresh air from the routine classes back home. The teaching style that I have experienced thus far has been a range from intense professors who passionately preach their teaching subject to more hands-off professors who choose to encourage classmates to collaborate and reach solutions collectively. Overall, I do not feel that the adjustment to learning the Madrid education system was anything unreasonable because of how well-prepared students at Texas A&M typically are. From this international exchange, I hope to further develop my ability to connect with others who share different views than me, and in turn, become a more well-rounded and open-minded person overall. Simultaneously, I believe that it is important to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to stimulate personal growth and that an international exchange is the perfect opportunity for an individual to encounter such experiences. Knowing what I now know after one week in Madrid, I am extremely happy with my choice to study abroad here and am confident that this was the right decision.

Categories: 2022, Spain

Flying into Nice, France, and seeing the beautiful blue waters and grand mountains of the French Riviera was incredible, to say the least. I was welcomed to the city with friendly faces and warm weather. My first time at my new business school was for the orientation day, where I met tons of new people from all around the world and listened to all the opportunities the school has to offer. To describe the global business program: it is one that is filled with great professors and an expansive network of alumni from across the world. The course descriptions are similar to those at Mays Business School, but the structure differs with some courses not beginning until mid-October. As for the cultural differences, people here take their time to enjoy the little things, such as taking a leisurely stroll on the Promenade des Anglaise or continuing to chat long after they finish a meal at a restaurant. People here really respect the quality of time with others, unlike in America where we are constantly on the go. The change of pace here has some getting used to but I know it will be worthwhile. I hope to learn French, international business dynamics, and make long-lasting global friendships while here. I can’t wait to report back at the end of my trip to see how much I have grown from this experience.

Categories: 2022, France

Howdy! (or should I say “Hola!”)

When I first arrived in Spain, I had no impression of what the environment would be like. I had only been to Europe once before for a Mays field trip program to earn an international elective credit and I think it helped me not be in such a big culture shock as my current roommates. I already know Spanish, as my family is from Mexico, so communication may not be a significant struggle for me. However, the Spanish here is different compared to the way I speak in Mexico, which I somewhat expected.

As for the business school, the building is different and interesting. Some of my peers say that this campus is much larger than the ones back home, but I definitely believe that TAMU has a larger campus. Mays may be a bit more advanced as there are at least dry erase boards whereas here there are chalkboards but both use projectors. Also, I love the natural light in the building as it has larger windows, which unfortunately Mays does not have.

I live near the center and I love it as I can make it to school and get to experience a better idea of the Madrid lifestyle. There are much more restaurants and cafes nearby rather than fast food locations. I noticed that public transport is extremely more organized and beneficial here than in the US. Also, students have special discounts and benefits for using such things. There is much to see and do such as visiting a park or even looking at the beautiful architecture. I would like to go see some museums, see the beautiful chapels that are here, and try tapas (a traditional type of food). I think that at some point I will feel a bit overwhelmed but in the end, I think I will have the time of my life here.

Categories: 2022, Spain

Hej Everyone!

This is Ngoc Huynh, Class of ’23, and a Management-HRM Major with a Minor in Psychology. I am writing this on my 1 week-versary in Copenhagen, Denmark. I will be attending Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and taking 12 credit hours over there. My stay started rocky, but I am enjoying it so far.

To give some background on my REEP Journey, I have been trying to go abroad for the past 1.5 years (Spring 2021), and I have been with Mays for 2. If you could not infer by now—COVID was primarily the reason why I could not. My first 2 attempts with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) were due to the low costs and expenses associated. It got deferred then canceled. The Exchange I am writing on is my 3rd and only successful attempt; I chose this based on the courses necessary for my degree planner. I had to make an executive decision to change my program due to me wanting the International Business Certificate—which I recommend everyone take advantage of if you are planning to go abroad, and COVID-19 still wreaking havoc. It was also the last time I was even eligible for one as well because I will be graduating in Fall 2022, so I was not risking another Exchange getting canceled.

Anyways, before arriving here, I did research. It is very nerdy, however, one of the most ignorant things you can do is not. Thankfully, it paid off and I have managed to save money and time, and my safety. Some things I got that were correct:

  1. Get a lot of dark clothing! Danish people wear a lot of black. It is honestly okay if you do not, however, if you do not, there is a possibility you can bring attention to yourself and make it obvious that you do not “belong” there. That can be dangerous.
  2. Everything is more expensive—please, save your money and create a nest. Sign up for the scholarships. Denmark is a hub for foodies and Michelin-Star restaurants, so it would be a shame not to go. In addition, conversion and transaction fees do add up, and it hurts. To give an estimate, it costs $13.50 for a burger, shake, and fries at Burger Mojo and $30 over here. Do not fret, there are cheaper foods, but burgers (fries and shakes) are my guilty pleasure.
  3. Surprisingly, almost everyone spoke English. I thought it was an exaggeration. I do recommend going on Duolingo because it will teach you some words. Though everyone does speak English, signs, packaging, directions, etc. are all in Danish. When you do not have LTE or a Danish SIM, it will help make going grocery shopping, eating out, and navigating around easier.

When I finally arrived, I immediately got lost. CBS arranges for exchange students to have a “Buddy.” They help you assimilate into Danish society and CBS itself. Typically, your Buddy picks you up and brings you to your residence (the one the school helps you get connected with) and they have your new SIM, your keys, etc. My Buddy did not do that—but that’s an entirely different story. They are not expected to do so, so definitely be prepared if you are in that position. I emailed my landlady and she helped with transportation. After that, it was crazy because I did not have LTE, a Danish SIM, my Buddy, etc. I could not go onto Maps and find the directions. Long story short, I thought I was going to be sleeping on the streets. I did not.

But, after finding my way with some help, things started to look up. I settled my area of the room and cleaned out my luggage. I found out that my adapter (that also converts voltage because Denmark uses 230V instead of the 120V in the US) worked—and that is crucial. I would not have power anything. I got my Danish SIM, my keys, my leasing contract from a friend of my Buddy a day later. I managed to go grocery shopping. I also finished up my Mandatory Social Activities provided by CBS to get to know the school, its resources, and its many accomplishments.

Since then, I have just been slowly exploring and relaxing. This is the opposite of what I have been doing these past few years. People from Denmark live a slow and steady life. They walk everywhere. They are sustainable. They are just vibing, and I have a chance to be a part of that. Though I did come to CBS to learn and fulfill the criterion for an International Business Certificate, I also came for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Realistically, I am never going to have a chance like this. As of the moment, I do not have a pet, a partner, or kids. All I have is my time. Moving on, right now, Denmark is honestly what I imagined it to be. It is open, people do not care about what you do, and it is more “clean.” I will admit that it is not as cold as I thought it would be and it is definitely windier as well. Other than that, I am excited for what is to come, and I am truly grateful for this experience. Though it was rocky, I laugh (out of hysteria or humor—I do not even know anymore) anytime I think about my first day. I am grateful for that experience as well because I do not think things can get even worse than that.

Lastly, I just wanted to thank those who supported me financially and emotionally. I really could not have made it here without them. Though it is early to say thank you, I would not be here without them. I would not have felt certain stability and safeness. My family has managed to keep me not homesick by regularly keeping in contact and helping me prepare. Director Katy Lane, Program Coordinator Kerri Vance, my Academic Advisor Maria Martinez, and ex-Program Coordinator Natsuki Hara were rocks through this 1.5-year process as well. Finally, my sponsors (yes, sponsors) helped me help my parents. I could not even imagine an opportunity like this coming true due to our finance and the fact that there are 4 sisters, including me, they must care for.

Categories: 2022, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

I arrived in the UK a little over a week ago and after spending a few days in London, I moved into my dorm at the University of Nottingham. Nottingham is situated in Northern England (it’s about a two-hour train ride from London) and it’s much colder and windier than Texas. It’s the home of Sherwood Forest (as well as the legend of Robin Hood), Nottingham Castle, and the oldest pub in England. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the city and learning about its history. The easiest way to travel between campus and the city center is via the bus/tram system. It took some trial and error to figure out how to use and navigate this system as I am used to driving pretty much everywhere back home. But I’m happy to say that I think I’ve got it mostly figured out and I love how convenient it is to take the bus and/or the tram. I’m grateful that I don’t have to drive anywhere as the English drive on the other side of the road. I just have to remind myself to look in the opposite direction than what I’m used to before crossing the street.

One thing I’m grateful for is the absence of a language barrier. However, it’s been interesting figuring out the different terms the English use. For instance, French fries are called chips in the UK and potato chips are called crisps. Classes are called modules and when you meet someone on campus, you don’t ask what their major is, you ask what course they’re taking.

My classes (or modules) started yesterday and I’m enjoying them so far. The school system is very different here. My class schedule changes almost every week which makes me miss the consistency of A&M’s class schedules. Also, I don’t have any weekly assignments, quizzes, or tests. My grade depends solely on a cumulative exam at the end of the semester. Because of this, I’ve had a lot of free time to explore both the campus and the city. I’ve also noticed that students tend to dress nicer for their classes (and just in general) than they do in the US. The University of Nottingham has a large population of international students so there are a lot of opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds as well as get involved in different organizations (which are called societies here).

I’m definitely still adjusting to life in a foreign country but I’m excited to be here! I’m looking forward to traveling around England and experiencing more of its culture during my semester abroad!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, United Kingdom

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Limerick (UL) in Ireland for my Spring 2022 semester. While it has only been a short two weeks, I already learned and experienced so many new things and started to go beyond what I am typically exposed to! The first week here was orientation week where I attended online sessions to learn more about my time here, the university, and Ireland. School began the second week, and during this week I got to “tour my classes” to pinpoint which classes (modules) I wanted to take. Along with two core business courses and an MIS elective, I’m excited to be taking Irish Folklore while here. The classes are structured and presented differently at UL than at A&M, and the grades are largely based on a final exam. For each class, I either attend two 50-minute or one 1-hour and 50-minute-long lectures along with a 1- or 2-hour lab or tutorial for the module each week. My biggest lecture is online for COVID safety reasons, but the rest are on campus.

My initial impression of the university, the city of Limerick, and Ireland is that everything here is so green and beautiful. There is so much nature, culture, and history everywhere you look, and I love it! While a lot is different than it is in Texas, I did not experience too much culture shock. However, I did have to adjust to a few cultural differences such as the 6-hour time difference, driving/walking on the left side, using 24-hour military time, Celsius and the Metric system, and relying on public transportation like the bus and train.

Irish people are extremely friendly, laid back, cheerful, and welcoming to all, and the majority speak English which is helpful. I love the fun and lively culture of Ireland, and there are even a couple of pubs right on campus for the students to enjoy after a long day of classes and studying! Additionally, music is big here and I really enjoy listening to live music and watching Irish dancing (fun fact: the rock band The Cranberries were formed in Limerick, Ireland)! Sports are also a huge thing at UL, and I can’t wait to watch a traditional Irish sport such as hurling (the world’s fastest field sport) and Gaelic Football.

The climate in Ireland is cool, damp, windy, and cloudy but the weather has been pretty pleasant so far. It has mostly stayed around 35-50°F and while light rain showers are common, the sun still comes out plenty. I have gone out to the city center and to the weekend Milk Market, and I feel safe walking and using public transportation. COVID-19 is taken more seriously in Ireland and there are stricter restrictions, however, there has been a national easing of restrictions recently. For instance, Ireland had an 8 PM curfew when I first arrived, but the curfew was lifted a week ago. The use of masks is still required in indoor settings and public transport.

The stores and restaurants may be different and sell different products, but there are some familiar places such as Aldi, TK Maxx, Starbucks, Subway, and even KFC. I’ve enjoyed Irish food, but I still have to try a lot of the traditional meals. Along with their drinks, the Irish love potatoes and chips, or as we like to call them: French fries. Standard chips are commonly served with meals (even pizza), but you can also get different flavors and toppings with chips for a snack or meal! Spice bags are a popular fast food dish found at Chinese takeaways in Ireland. Typically, a spice bag consists of chips, chicken, peppers, onions, a variety of spices, and curry sauce and they’re so tasty!

UL’s campus is stunning, and each building is unique. Compared to Texas A&M, the campus and student population is a lot smaller at the University of Limerick. The student body at UL is close to 16,500 students, including more than 2,000 international students which is amazing because I’ve gotten to meet people from all over the world. Conversely, A&M has more than 70,000 students. It is definitely a big difference population and size-wise, but I’m enjoying the smaller campus vibe and seeing more familiar faces while walking around campus. The entire campus is walkable and there is a short 10-minute break between classes since it only takes about 10 minutes to walk from one side of campus to the other. The Kemmy Business School is smaller compared to Mays with about 3,000 students, but KBS is still one of the largest business schools in Ireland and is in the top 1% of business schools in the world.

Many locals also occupy the campus to walk, bike, exercise, and eat because it is such a wonderful campus to be at. Personally, I love walking around campus, especially on the Living Bridge over the Shannon River. The study abroad and exchange program at UL is remarkable. They offer tons of support, fun and educational events, and weekend day trips around Ireland. This past Saturday I went on the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren tour, and all the sites were truly breathtaking. I’m looking forward to the Blarney Castle and Cork City tour this Saturday, and can’t wait for the experiences and trips to come! So far, I have fallen in love with Ireland and the University of Limerick in all its beauty. During the upcoming weeks, I hope to travel more around Ireland, become increasingly globally aware, challenge myself, and truly immerse myself in the culture and customs of Ireland!

Me at the Cliffs of Moher

Categories: 2022, Ireland, Reciprocal Exchange

I have been in Spain for over 2 weeks and I have loved every second since I got here! I feel like for me it has not been too hard to get adjusted here because I speak fluent Spanish, however, Spaniards do speak a bit faster and use a lot of words I typically don’t. I’ll start back from the first day of arriving, me and 2 other girls from TAMU flew in together and made our way to our flat (apartment) via a taxi from the airport. When we got to our flat our landlord met us here to give us our keys and introduce us to our roommates. One thing I highly recommend is looking on Erasmus Facebook groups to find housing: it’s significantly cheaper than a dorm and you can find a great location! Thankfully I got in contact with this landlord early on in the fall semester and got rooms for myself and the 2 other girls. We are so lucky to have found this place because it’s in the perfect location in Madrid! Sol has so much to offer from food, shopping, and lots of nightlife activities. As far as adjusting to living here it was a bit challenging for me because the jet lag was real!! And with Madrid being a night city, it’s a bit hard to get some sleep at night lol, but I would not trade sleep for the location of this flat–it’s so worth it!!

I guess I’ll move along to some tips that I have gathered while being here! First and foremost literally nothing here is spicy… which has been a real struggle for me because I’m Mexican and I need spice in my life lol, so if you can, pack your favorite hot sauce. Another thing is that things here are not as sweet/artificial as they are back home which can be a little odd to get used to since we are so used to having all the sweets back home. One other tip I would like to mention is to get your metro card appointment before getting here!!!!!!! Seriously, if you’re reading this I hope you at least take one thing away from it and that is to set your appointment before arriving in Madrid. My friends and I tried to make appointments to get our metro card (which is crucial to getting around here) and the earliest appointment in the location we are staying was like 2 weeks away so we made our earliest appointment in a town that was 1 hour away from Madrid, which was quite the adventure. One other thing I suggest is to pack lightly which I wish I would have done because you will do a lot of shopping here, everything is so much cheaper than back in the US. I hope this helps anyone who is interested in coming to Madrid; of course, I am biased because it’s the place I decided to study abroad at but it seriously is such a beautiful city with so much to offer. There are so many international students here and lots to do!

The amazing view from my apartment!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

When I got to the city of Madrid, I didn’t know what to expect. Truly. I had never been abroad before partaking on this exchange, but now, twelve days into this program, I have covered quite a bit of foreign ground. Here are my initial impressions and advice for anyone looking to make that trip overseas:

After a total of 18 hours traveling to the capital of Spain, I arrived at the airport only to encounter my first of many international hiccups. While passport control was a somewhat seamless process, the officer who took my documents forgot to stamp them, which led me to getting a jump start on practicing my Spanish speaking skills. It took three officers to resolve the issue, but that wasn’t the end of my airport troubles. Let me preface this by saying: when going on an exchange, depending on your mobile provider will determine whether or not you need an international SIM card. My personal plan did not allow me to use any data without one, and while the airports sell them, their store was closed for the first hour I was there. Eventually, the store opened and I was able to buy a working SIM and get a taxi to my flat in the center of town.

Once getting to the flat, I was finally able to settle in and start navigating the ins and outs of living abroad. Some of the differences I have noticed so far: contactless pay is a thing–it’s so common that taking out your card to pay feels wrong (*note on the credit card: if you are planning to be abroad, get a VISA or Mastercard, those will be the most universally accepted, as I learned); if you attempt to speak Spanish even if it’s at a beginner’s level, they won’t switch to English and rather continue with their language, which is ideal for anyone seeking to learn; Spanish time is real–they truly have a schedule unlike any other where lunch is around 5pm and dinner doesn’t start until 9pm; with that, the city holds its title of having the best nightlife, where the streets are crowded and full of energy every single night.

There are many more things I have learned and yet to learn on this trip, especially when it comes to the inner workings of the Spanish school system. While classes don’t start until tomorrow, it is evident that they approach education in a different way. From looking at the syllabi and talking to my international roommates, I have found that lectures aren’t the main teaching style and rather it’s practicals and presentations that drive home the lessons. I’m interested to see how this semester goes and how I will be able to adapt and adjust!

Overall, this past week has been an incredible and insightful experience, despite the few hiccups I’ve run into. And to think this is only the beginning of my five-month-long adventure!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Today is my 11th day in Maastricht, and while it has not always been the easiest settling into a foreign country, I have loved my experience so far. The city of Maastricht is not super big, making the city super walkable, leaving the opportunity to explore all that Maastricht has to offer! On arrival in the Netherlands, I had to quarantine for 5 days due to COVID, while my time alone in the hotel was frustrating, it did give me a chance to slow down and settle into this new and foreign environment–which was also made easy as most Dutch people speak English as a second language, making the transition less frightening and more friendly to the standard American.

Once I got out though, I was still not able to experience the city at its best due to COVID restrictions, meaning there was a curfew on stores, and restaurants were not allowed to open (only takeout). I was still determined to get started on a high note, so I had the opportunity to walk around the city. Maastricht has an awesome city center that is beautiful and is only within a ten-minute walk from most other points in the city, as well as being in one of the only hilly parts of the Netherlands, there are a bunch of nature trails close to the city for students to get some fresh air.

As far as Maastricht University, they have a very unique approach to learning, called PBL (problem-based learning), where students will hold their own tutorials in groups of about 15 or so. This means students are supposed to come to their tutorials prepared with all the materials and discuss the units with other students, with grading being based on participation and a final exam. I personally like this approach as it makes the school feel smaller and you get a consistent group of students to work with and learn with. In addition to this, over half of the school is international students, meaning you will definitely get to meet people from other nationalities!

These are more general first impressions I got from the city and the school, and so far they leave an awesome taste in my mouth, outside of the COVID-19 restrictions. The biggest piece of advice I would give though about coming to Maastricht would be to join some sort of student organization before arriving, as it will make your time to adjust way easier, by having a network of other incoming exchange students to be able to hook up with, rather than coming out solo with no plan.

I am so excited for my time in Maastricht to get rolling! I know that my experience will only get better and better as the semester goes along, I would encourage anyone who is looking to participate in an exchange program to at the very least consider Maastricht!

Categories: 2022, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands