Billy Joel was right! It seems “Vienna [has been waiting] for me” my entire life. I listened to his song every day leading up to this trip in hopeful anticipation. Though my life had already begun, going abroad felt like a new beginning. I was about to spread my wings and waltz from my comfortable little nest into a life of spontaneity, discovery and well, lots of coffee. I was so excited! How could I not be? I was also equally nervous. While I didn’t have any expectations of what it would be like, the thought of moving to a country I’d never been to, not knowing German and planning how I’d balance school and traveling seemed both challenge and an opportunity for exponential growth.

The city of Vienna quickly become my home. I told my mom on day two that “I was a local” because I had figured out how to use the public transportation system; something I’ve never used before in the U.S. While Vienna is a large city, it welcomed me with a warm invitation and cozy cafes. It is easy to wander off on foot and spontaneously discover your new favorite coffee shop or kebab stand. The city takes your breath away with its beautiful architecture and historical stories. You really learn to appreciate beauty on a whole new level studying abroad, especially here in Vienna. What I love most is wandering around the city without a destination. Having no obligation to go or be anywhere is the most freeing thing I’ve experienced. Life as an Austrian involves taking time to be present and enjoy life. Spending Sunday strolling around the city and hopping around cafés till you are coffee-d out. To my surprise, Austrians walk unusually fast. Make sure to stand on the right side of the elevator or get out of the way when someone is exiting the subway. During my time here, I’ve learned how to speak a couple of phrases in German, navigate the city, throw together spontaneous travel trips real quick, be content with independence and silence and soak in all the gifts Europe continues to reveal each day. 

This past month, I’ve spent most of my time traveling and meeting people from around the world through an orientation and culture program offered through my university. It’s been so eye-opening and exciting to hear about the lives of other students. While so different, I felt a sense of unity between us and was excited to learn more about the rest of the world through students who were experiencing studying abroad as I was. Our campus, called “WU” houses the most modern buildings I’ve ever seen. I could study anywhere, but only at WU would I get an education on the set of something between The Hunger Games and Star Trek. Classes have only just begun and the workload seems heavier than I expected but nonetheless I am excited to work with my group project. We are all from a different country, how cool is that!!

This trip has been an opportunity of a lifetime, my greatest joy and everlasting memory! Don’t hesitate to live a full life. Buy that ticket, learn a new language and spread your wings – see where the wind takes you.

Our campus!

Learning to waltz with my orientation group!

Schönbrunn Palace


Exploring the city of Vienna and it’s history

If I could describe my experience so far through one photo, this would be it. 🙂

Friends from around the world!

Categories: 2020, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

My first month and a half in Europe has been quite the adventure so far. As my university in Prague did not start until the middle of February, I had the opportunity to travel around Central/Eastern Europe with my mom. Having not been to Europe since I was younger, being able to experience and adapt to such a different culture with someone by my side was quite helpful. We traveled to Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, and ended our trip exploring Prague. Each one of these places offered their own cultures and traditions and history but also had many similarities as well. These similarities and differences were a very eye-opening and well-needed experience for me. I feel that at home I was constantly always in a similar routine and always in my comfort zone and by getting out of that, I feel that I was able to grow as a person.

As Prague was the last leg of our journey, there were not any big shocks upon my arrival. There were some small differences that took some getting used to, however, the main thing I had to get used to was that this was going to be my home for the next 3 months! This was made easier by the fact that I am living in the exchange dorms for the semester. Being surrounded by students who are in a similar situation as you, and being able to talk and meet theses students from all around the world, is amazing to me. I have met people from the Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Finland. Being able to learn and connect with people who are so different, yet so similar has been one of my favorite things through my time here so far in Prague.

Prague has also lived up to all my expectations. It is beautiful, cheap, and right in the middle of Europe! Exploring the city is so easy and provides a new experience each time. You can get lost in the little cobblestone streets with endless amounts of cafes and pubs surrounding you, and then all the sudden stumble upon the Charles Bridge or Prague Castle. The city also has tremendous food and beer that is crazy cheap. This is great while you are in Prague, however, it does throw off your perception of prices when you travel; paying more than $8 for a meal with a beer now pains me! Travel is another great thing about Prague. Traveling has been so easy and has been another one of the great aspects of studying in Prague. Besides the trip I took at the beginning of the semester, I have been skiing in the Swiss Alps and have had fish and chips in London. I have another trip planned to Amsterdam and hope to visit Copenhagen and Poland in the near future. The start of this journey has definitely been one to remember and I can’t wait to see how the rest of my time here in Europe plays out.

Arsenal Game in London

Cheers in Czech

Skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland

Categories: 2020, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

I got to Vienna about a month ago and this past month has just flown by! I can’t believe I get to live in this beautiful city for about another four months. Vienna is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Vienna is full of life at all hours of the day. There are always people socializing and enjoying their families. It is also much colder than Texas, so I was not as prepared for the wind and cold temperatures that Vienna had to offer. On the bright side, Vienna has excellent shopping!

I am living in one of the student apartments/dorms, and it was a great decision. My apartment is in a fantastic location. It is next to the subway, the train station, a mall, shopping, and tons of restaurants and grocery stores. I live about a block away from the entrance to the subway, which makes it incredibly easy to get around Vienna quickly. The beauty of the subway in Vienna is that it covers the vast majority of the city, and whatever area isn’t covered by the subway is covered by trams and buses. There is really no need for a car here in Vienna, which I find to be a great perk of choosing Vienna.

The Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) campus is very unique! Almost every building has a different style of architecture. The campus is very easy to walk around. I have not started any classes yet; However, I am looking forward to my international classes so that I can meet students from many different countries.

Living in Vienna has made me become more resourceful, especially because I do not know German. It has been fun learning how to use google translate in the grocery store and almost everywhere else. Life in Vienna is very relaxed, in my opinion, which is very refreshing to the busy lifestyle in the United States. It has been great being able to fully embrace the Austrian culture, even if it has just been a month so far. I genuinely do love Vienna and would not be against ever living here in the future. For me, getting to know the locals and other international students has been the best part of this experience. I have been able to learn about different cultures and I have made new friends from all parts of the world.

Austria as a whole, is so beautiful! I have been able to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck, which are two breathtaking mountain towns! The mountains were covered in snow and very beautiful. Innsbruck was great because it was a smaller town than Salzburg, but very full of life. I had no idea there was a festival in the center of Innsbruck when I arrived, but it was just a couple of blocks away from my Airbnb. It was awesome to see so many people enjoying the mountains and life! Salzburg was just as beautiful. I am a huge Sound of Music fan, so being able to see spots from the movie has been a lifelong dream of mine!! It was everything I expected it would be and more!

Lastly, one more great perk about living in Vienna is how central it is within Europe. I have been able to go to Budapest, Brno, Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Bratislava, and I will be going to Copenhagen and Prague this week! Flights, trains and buses all go out of Vienna in about every direction. Studying abroad in Vienna is a great choice if you are looking for a country that is easy to travel out of. I am really looking forward to the rest of this semester and for more adventures in Austria. Thanks for reading!

Stephanie Chavez

Categories: 2020, Austria, Reciprocal Exchange

So far, my study abroad experience in Madrid, Spain has exceeded all of my expectations. I came here knowing very little about the Spanish culture, and as soon as I stepped off my flight I realized I was in a different world. Madrid has been a place of non-stop excitement and adventure. I came here wanting to fully immerse myself in both the Spanish language and culture, and I have done just that.

By living in the heart of Madrid I have never been hit with a moment of boredom. I constantly find myself doing something different. Whether it be going to a different local restaurant for sangria and tapas or simply strolling the streets to see new things, my time has been a non-stop thrill. When compared to the United States, Spain is much more relaxed in all aspects. The Spanish people take life one day at a time. I found myself in awe when my walk to the metro at 8 am for class was through empty streets. While streets are empty and stores are still closed at nine in the morning, you will find them vibrant and full of people at ten at night any day of the week. This quickly made me realize how different the Spanish culture truly is. My most enjoyable time has been spent with new made friends, enjoying the great Spanish cuisine and drinks that Madrid has to offer. I have also had the great chance to travel a bit in my first couple of weeks in Europe. Traveling was something I really looked forward to, as I may never have another opportunity to travel like this again. As I have no class on Friday, a weekend trip to somewhere in Europe is easy. I have already visited Copenhagen (Denmark), Stuttgart (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), and Salamanca (Spain). As long as the coronavirus does not prohibit my travel, I plan on visiting several more places in Europe.

The beautiful sights and sounds of Madrid and Europe as a whole have made my time here worthwhile. From meeting people from all over the globe to seeing sights I would have never imagined seeing, studying abroad has already become one of the best experiences of my life.


Real Madrid v.s. Manchester City

Real Madrid vs Manchester City

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca, Spain

Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart, Germany

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

To even begin at an attempt to fully convey the ineffable experiences I have lived through during the first 30 days of being in Europe would fall but a little short of insanity. I have gone through literal life times of experiences as I venture into territories and realms that up until this point have been hidden from me on the outside of a bubble most people I know live in called America.

Upon my arrival, things were immediately different. My surroundings, friends, language, food, societal norms, mode of transportation, and laws all completely changed the moment my foot stepped off of that plane. The day before, while being both excited and nervous simultaneously, I did not have a single expectation in my mind. I quite literally had no idea what to expect but knew one thing- this is my life and it is my journey that I will be the writer of. Studying abroad allowed this story to evolve into something that no other person has experienced or will ever experience. The things that have happened to me each and every day while here have been unique and special to me to the extent that I can say that with certainty.

I think a lot of this has to be because of the mindset that I came here with. If you have ever sat by a river and found yourself deep into contemplation, you might notice a piece of wood or draft would pinned between a boulder and the excruciating force of the current. I like to think of a lot of people as logs stuck to a boulder that they think will be their final position in life. However, it indeed is possible to train yourself to let go of that boulder, allowing a relief of all that force as you flow with the stream of life. When I came here I knew that a lot of things would be upside down from what I am used to, but I also knew that I have to ability to go along with whatever comes my way, going with the flow as I say. I have never stood by something so strongly: life is about the journey not the destination, everybody dies but most hardly live.

With this mindset, my experiences here have me been something I will say is the essence of what living is about. Creating and sharing memories and great moments with friends, all connected by love. It has yet to be a full month here and I have gone to more countries than I have gone to in my whole life combined, made friends that I would consider family and will continue to travel and enjoy life with for years to come. One of my favorite things about being in a place like this, in the circumstances that I am in, is that if you treat things like a video game, where you have a main mission for the day, but on the way to complete the main mission, countless side objectives that are all completely unique and unexpected each day will be created for you. The only way to ensure these side adventures come up is to like I said, “go with the flow” and be alert of how you can interact with locals.

The easiest (and sometimes necessary) way of going about this is using the google tactic. Yes I just made that term up, but hear me out as I have been effectively using it this whole time. So you have a problem or situation that would require some form of external help to resolve. This would for most people be google by default. After all, what can’t you find on the internet… right. Something google can not do however is continue the conversation with additional suggestions, stories, advice , and adventures to go on. This were it all ties together. Without the ability to get a SIM card over here until I sorted out an issue with my existing service provider, the internet was not an option. I was forced to ask countless strangers countless questions that have lead to countless new experiences and even friends. As I sit here writing this on the bus from Germany back to the Netherlands, I can not help but mention that this tactic might not go as smoothly with the Germans, as they were not the bunch to befriend strangers or even have the decency to not be rude about rejecting an honest interaction. Nevertheless, the Netherlands happens to be the exact polar opposite of Germany in regard to their people, as I have not had even a single mediocre interaction with a local. Yes, not only has each person been some of the most friendly people I have talked to, but they go above and beyond to help you and ensure that your day is going smoothly, as they would want the same done for them in a time of need. There have been moments like the time where I was completely stranded on a train moving through Brussels, with no service or idea how to read the itinerary that was given to me in a language I could not read a word of. Determining what stop to get off was critical, as my flight to Vienna was leaving South Brussels in only a few hours. Thankfully, to my rescue came a Dutch man with two kids with him enjoying their ride into Brussels for the day. He saw me stressing and after I asked him about where I was allowed to sit on the train, he continued on to help me realize the stop that I was going to get off at was in fact extremely far from where I thought it was. When I found this out I knew I was in a bad situation as I had no idea how to correct such a situation with the limited resources I mentioned above. Without this mans persistent help for the next 30 minutes on the train, I would have never made it to Vienna. He translated the maps for me, explained how the train system ran and which stops to get off, on , back off, and back on to. After all, my goal was to get from Maastricht, Netherlands to Vienna, Austria. Nothing short of crossing an entire foreign continent while alone and with no service. After 24 hours of traveling and using the google tactic, I finally made it and could reunite with my friends. Experiences such as this simply would not be possible if I did not make the choice to live here this semester. I’m excited for the rest of my time here!

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

Coming to Europe has been a different experience than I ever would’ve imagined. Being abroad has not only drastically impacted me as a person but has also been super enjoyable this first month. Although, being dropped into a situation so dramatically different from the one you’ve been used to so long can take some getting accustomed to, it’s worth it in the end.

Not having ever left the United States, arriving in the Czech Republic didn’t shock me as much as I thought it would. Although the travel and orientation can get overwhelming, you just push through and get it done. Once you can go out and experience the city, you remember why you chose to come in the first place. Prague has so many hidden gems, all you have to do is go out and look. Some of my favorite dishes I’ve ever eaten have come off of a menu that I couldn’t read.

Living at the dorms was a decision I won’t regret, as I’ve had the chance to meet so many amazing people to share my experiences with. As for the classes, they’re pretty different, but you’ll get used to them. Just go to class and do the work and it seems like you’ll be okay. Go to the school organized events, as every one so far has been a blast.

I’ve many trips planned for this semester to places such as London, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. My most recent trip was to Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, and was one I’ll never forget. I did happen to lose my phone though, so no pictures until I get another.

Na Shledanou!

Categories: 2020, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

So far Madrid has exceeded my expectations. Everything has been absolutely perfect and to say I am enjoying my experience so far would be an understatement. My goal for my study abroad was to have a healthy balance between traveling around the country and continent with other international students while also meeting many locals and integrating myself into the Spanish country as much as possible.

My host family: The first thing I did to achieve this balance was choosing to live with a host family. For me, this was the best decision I could have made on my exchange. My host parents are extremely helpful and kind and go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable living with them and fully enjoying my experience. My favorite part about living with them though is that they don’t speak English, so I am forced to speak Spanish with them. This has improved my Spanish skills quite a bit this first month and they will only continue to improve. I also have a host sister that speaks Spanish to me and has shown me around the city quite a bit. She has introduced me to some of her friends and some very local markets and hidden gems in the city. Because my family and I get along so well, I’ve recently started deciding to stay home rather than going out for some tapas with international students because I often now prefer having a home cooked meal with my family, practicing my Spanish, and spending time with them.

Traveling: Like I said, I’ve been trying to have sort of a balance between traveling on the weekend and staying in the city to experience more of what Madrid offers. What helps my situation is that I have traveled quite extensively around Europe in the past before, so I am not urging to leave Spain as much as other students are. So far in the past 4 weekends I have been here, I have been out two full weekends traveling, one weekend to Paris with some friends from A&M that were traveling around Europe and I decided to meet up with, and to Barcelona with some other international students I have met from my school. I have done a couple day trips too, but only to surrounding little cities near Madrid. My goal is to see more of Spain rather than more of Europe while I’m here and I believe even if I am still leaving Madrid for a couple days, as long as I am staying within the country and surrounding area I am still experiencing the Spanish culture.

School: School has been great. My schedule is honestly ideal. I have a full day of classes Monday and Wednesday and class on Thursday from 11:00am – 2:00 pm. Which means I don’t have classes on Tuesday and Friday. I actually really enjoy going to school because class isn’t too rigorous to where it’s distracting me from enjoying myself on my exchange and also because I use the opportunity to meet many more new people. I have met some great Spanish people in my classes, and I have recently started hanging out more and more with them which is what I enjoy. My goal is to hang out with them more and more as time goes on because I believe having a good group of local friends will help you learn the language and integrate yourself in the culture quicker than any other way. I love my friends–Spanish and international, and I couldn’t be happier with where my exchange is at this moment.

I am still very grateful and blessed to be here in Spain. I often pause and try to remind myself how lucky I am for this experience I have been given. This first month has been amazing, but I am still trying to improve these areas of my study abroad to have an even better upcoming months ahead.


Toledo, Spain


Paris, France


Granada, Spain


Barcelona, Spain

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

I arrived in Prague, Czech Republic about three weeks ago now and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study abroad. The first three weeks abroad have really opened my eyes to the world outside of the US. I feel like while living in the US you really get blocked off from the world around you and sometimes turn a blind eye to certain issues because they don’t have an immediate impact on our lives in the states.  It has been really interesting to hear about different issues from the perspective of the Czech students and so far it seems as though Europeans have a much broader and expansive view regarding world issues such as the Coronavirus and others.

During my first three weeks here I’ve felt more and more at home each day, but with each day comes more surprises about life overseas. My first shock was how cheap living in Prague is. For example, the average beer here is served in a .5 liter glass and costs about $1 and a week’s worth of groceries runs me around $20. Also, in most restaurants I’ve been to beer is cheaper than water, which is both a blessing a curse. Another shock I had to learn the hard way is that toilet paper isn’t readily available in most bathrooms so you always have to come prepared. The final main difference I’ve noticed is that staring at people is quite the norm in this country and I’ve found myself eyed down while walking down the street on multiple occasions.

I’m still looking forward to completing some travel and have a ski trip planned to the Swiss Alps this upcoming weekend. I also have a trip to Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona coming up as well. Last weekend I got to visit Vienna so enjoy some pictures from my most recent travel.

Categories: 2020, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

The first month of my semester abroad in Nice, France has been one of the most crazy and fun times of my life. I could have never dreamed for a better start to my abroad experience. As soon as I landed in Nice, it was immediately clear that I was now in what seems to be an entirely different world than my home in Texas. I am learning everyday from the locals and other international students about the French as well as European ways of life. The simple things of grocery shopping, transportation, and education at the university level are quite different than they are back home. The trams, buses, and trains have weekly strikes which is difficult for everyone as it is the main form of transportation for most locals and visitors. I have quickly come to appreciate the importance of public transportation, yet I also long for the freedom and ease that comes with having my car. Grocery shopping is done daily instead of once a week as you can only take as much as you can carry. My classes meet once a week for three hours at a time, and my schedule is never the same from week to week. As I encounter many differences that seem to be both minor and major in their own ways, I am beginning to understand the different aspects that make up the french culture.

I find myself in awe of the natural beauty that is everywhere I look. A walk along the famous Promenade Des Anglais is enough to make someone never want to leave. From the top of Castle Hill in Nice, looking in one direction you can see miles of the Mediterranean Sea while looking in the other direction you can see villages throughout the hills to the snowy mountain tops of the Alps. The French Riviera is beautiful and breathtaking as well as home to so many magnificent places. I have traveled all along the Cote d’Azur from Monaco to Cannes and even as far as Grasse. Every city and small village has something different and amazing to offer.

I am very thankful for attending EDHEC Business School as I have learned from the french students that it is known as a very prestigious private school. I am amazed at the diversity of the other international students here at the university. From the first day at orientation, the other international students in the program were extremely friendly and eager to meet everyone. I have made great friends with students from all over the world including Australia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Argentina, and so much more. This has been a wonderful bonus because I have slowly been learning about each one of their backgrounds and cultures as well. Many of us share the same interests of finding the best local restaurants, exploring the towns of the French Riviera, and going to the warm beach every chance we get. I have immensely enjoyed sharing these experiences with my new international friends and look forward to many more throughout the semester.



Categories: 2020, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Hola! I have been living in Spain for nearly a month now, and have had the best time!

I have completed my first two weeks of class, had the opportunity to explore Jaén, and explore some neighboring cities, Granada and Cordoba, too!  My experience so far has been incredible. Jaén is a smaller city located in the south of Spain in the Andalucía region; it is known as the “Olive Oil Capital of the World.” Here, the culture is very laid back, many stores observe siesta hours in the afternoon and close for that part of the day. There is so much natural beauty all around the city as well as historical sites to see! I have loved getting to explore and discover the Cathedral of Jaén in the city center, the Castle that sits on the mountain above the city, and other unique sights of Jaén. I have been able to meet so many cool people as well! I live in a residence with Spanish students, so I’ve made many local friends as well as international friends through the International Student Events hosted by the University.

Living in a residence with people from all across southern Spain has been amazing because I have been able to learn so much from them. I get to hear about their lives and the “pueblos” (towns) they are from. I have also been able to get a great feel for the culture in Andalucía and practice my Spanish!

Through events hosted by the university for international students and through some of my classes, I have also met so many people from other countries! I have friends from Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Poland, Germany, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Russia, and Italy! Meeting people from literally all over the world has to be one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad so far. Everyone has been so excited to get to know one another and share stories from their home countries. Being with such a diverse group, yet finding so much that we have in common is incredible to me! I can’t wait to get to know everyone better as the semester continues.

Sometimes it still feels surreal to me that I am living in Spain and get to go to school here. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I can’t wait for the many adventures in store for my remaining time here in Jaén.

Miranda Walker ’21

Jaén Cathedral at Night


“Castillo” de Jaén


Touring the city of Córdoba with international friends!


Al Ambra in Granada


Hiking in Jaen (with view of city and part of the old castle walls)


Inside the Castle (Jaén)

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain