Europe | Semester Exchanges Blog

Staying in Strasbourg for an entire month through has probably been the healthiest thing I’ve done for myself since arriving.

My view from the tram stop on the way to class at EM!

My view from the tram stop on the way to class at EM!

What I mean is, I’ve learned more about myself and this city in this one month than I have in the few weeks I’ve had here in September and October between traveling to other cities/countries.

While I’m in love with traveling and exploring every new place I have the opportunity to discover, it’s almost been restorative to stay in one place and truly make it your home. I know in my last blog I said I was homesick for most of October, and now since the start of November, I’ve come to feel as though I truly belong here in every respect. Whether it be with friends, school, or just making my way around Strasbourg, I genuinely feel at home.

With that said, November has definitely been busy: all of my classes have culminated with presentations and reports due one right after the other, some of my classes have ended completely (yay!!), I went to see Flume in concert with practically EVERYONE in Erasmus, I had 1000 questions thrown at me about my thoughts on the election results, we put together and celebrated our own Thanksgiving, the Christmas Markets have officially opened!!, I had an awful fever in the midst of my busiest week, my friend group has changed a bit, I’ve gone out almost every weekend to keep having as much fun possible with the little time I have left, and like I mentioned earlier, I’ve learned more about myself than ever before.

 

Us girls before Flume!!

Us girls before Flume!!

ERASMUS Thanksgiving!!

ERASMUS Thanksgiving!!

FLUME

FLUME

To talk about a few things specifically, let’s start with the election. Being American, obviously, my opinion was sought after by literalllllyyyy everyone. From professors to other European students, from the days leading up to the election to the moment I walked into class the day after the election results, I was met with the same concerned looks full of worry and pity. Like I mentioned in my last blog, Europeans are not very fond of Donald Trump. At all. So when they asked who I voted for and found out that I did not vote for him, they were more than relieved. So, in the days before the election, mostly everyone here was convinced that the majority of Americans would vote for Hillary Clinton. … How confident they were in their assumptions. Well, like we all know, things didn’t turn out the way I and most Europeans hoped they would and once I walked into my Experiential Marketing class after the elections results came out, all I heard all day was, “Carmen. I am so sorry. How could this happen?” Or other comments along those lines. Now, truthfully, I was disappointed and genuinely sad for my country and friends back home, so I was pretty down for most of that morning. “God Bless the USA” was on repeat for me all day, in fact. Because although I was disheartened by the results of the election, I still have faith in my country and the love that we have for it. I still have hope that things will be okay. Time will only tell, I guess.

On another note, now that most of my classes are over, I’ve comprised a list of tips to keep in mind for anyone who reads this and is interested in or preparing to study abroad:

1. Know how to manage your free time wisely. After speaking with friends who have studied abroad before, I came to France knowing that the courses offered to exchange students are much easier compared to what I’m used to at Texas A&M. And since classes are only for a few hours once a week with the entire course being graded on a few assignments or one exam and/or presentation, the weeks fly by in the blink of an eye, especially with all of the extra time you spend not studying every minute of every day for multiple rounds of tests, quizzes, essays, etc. So the general concept of this tip is pretty self explanatory. Fill your time enriching your life with friends, new experiences, getting to know the city you’re in, and a bit of Netflix from time to time if you’re feeling up to it. 😉 Which leads me to… 

2. Do as much as you can!! Do something new and crazy. Go explore and discover. Try new foods. Listen to other points of view and learn about everything possible! Dance and sing your heart out in the middle of a busy street. Go paragliding. Learn a new language. Travel anywhere and everywhere. Don’t just say or plan, DO. Which also brings us to…

3. If you have the monetary means and time, travel as much as you can (but don’t forget to explore your own city/region/country!) Self explanatory.

4. Meet people from EVERYWHERE! My closest friends are Scottish, Czech, British, French Canadian, German, Brazilian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Italian, Danish, and American. And you know, Americans are cool and all, but you’re here to make friends from all over the world and be exposed to their unique cultures, customs, and languages – take advantage, expand your horizons!!

And finally…

5. Everything is temporary. Now this one may sound like a downer, but it’s really not. Yes, your time abroad is limited, but keeping that in mind will only make you appreciate it that much more. Your time is precious with the incredible people you meet, so it’s important to make your time worthwhile with them. Get to know these people, get to know your city and truly make it yours, get to know what it feels like to change, get to know yourself, get to know what it’s like be okay with going out of your comfort zone. Just get to know everything and everyone you possibly can because this opportunity is worth every second you have abroad. This being said, also remember that the bad stuff is temporary too. While it’s important to work out grades, classes, issues back home, etc., dwelling on worry and fear is too time consuming to focus on. These things are temporary and will all turn out fine in the end, so spend your time doing things you love with the people you love and let go of that which is out of your control, holding you back, or distracting you from making the most of your time abroad.

Personally, in the face of confusion and conflict, especially in regards to friendships and working in group projects/presentations, I’ve noticed that I’m more resilient than ever before. Thinking back, in previous situations, I would have obsessed over “what I could’ve possibly done wrong” and “how do I fix this?” and “how do I make these people happy?” But being in Strasbourg and going through all of this, I’ve learned how to let things go. I’ve realized that the only person responsible for my happiness is me. And with this knowledge I’ve come to discover the most impactful things I’ve learned/gained from this experience:

A Sustainable Mindset

France’s measures to promote sustainability and a cleaner environment are remarkable. Now that I’ve become accustomed to taking reusable bags with me to the supermarket and recycling on a daily basis, it’s hard to imagine that I could ever go back to such a lax outlook on waste management and eco-friendliness. This is definitely something I intend to bring back with me to the states and hope to instill in my everyday life.

Overcoming Fear

I knew from the beginning that being so far away from home for the first time with essentially zero travel experience, this exchange would be the biggest challenge of my life. The unknown scared me, my lack of “worldly knowledge” scared me, not having familiar faces with me in a foreign place for 4 months scared me, failure scared me. But despite all of that, I knew that if I could overcome this, I could overcome anything. And I am immensely proud to say that I have.

I only have 2 weeks left in Strasbourg (3 weeks left in Europe) and now I am dreading leaving the unpredictable, exciting, new life I’ve found and the people that have come with it. I have conquered some of the biggest fears I’ve ever had here, so now, I feel secure in myself and ready to take on my next big challenge.

Confidence

I’ve lost friends and gained them. I’ve stumbled my way through a French conversation. I’ve figured out public transportation in multiple European cities. I’ve learned how to budget and save money in a responsible way. I’ve taken an 11 hour bus to and from Vienna on my own. I’ve given more presentations in one semester than I have in my entire college career. I’ve found my voice again just by singing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz at a karaoke bar in front of a bunch of people I had never met before in my life.

If there’s anything that I’ve gained from being here, it’s definitely the confidence in myself to face whatever life throws at me. Even if I fail miserably, embarrass myself horribly, or fall completely flat on my face, I still manage to pick myself back up and find a way to succeed. This kind of confidence has taken me years to develop, and although I’m still nurturing it and learning from my mistakes, I am now more than sure that I am capable of confronting anything that comes my way.

Patience 

With everything that has not gone “according to plan” or “the way I wanted it to”, I’ve never had so much patience for the world and people around me. Of course, this is easier said than done, but I genuinely feel as though I am able to adjust to unfamiliar situations and perspectives much more easily than I have in the past. I am more understanding and empathetic. I am more capable of keeping a level head in frustrating circumstances. I have the power now to maintain my faith in the fact that what’s meant to happen will happen, and what is meant for me will eventually come and guide me in the right direction.

 

Long story short, the time I’ve spent in Strasbourg, France has been eye-opening and just being here has been one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done. And I regret nothing. 🙂

 

November was my last full month here. It’s sincerely starting to feel and look like Christmas since it’s gotten so cold (lows in the mid to high 20s, highs in the 30s) and the Christmas markets have drawn thousands of tourists and visitors every week. I have 2 weeks left in Strasbourg (I leave Wednesday December 14th to travel around the UK for a week) and I have every intention to do everything I still haven’t done here and spend each day appreciating my time with my incredible friends.

Tree lighting ceremony to officially start the Marche de Noel de Strasbourg (aka Christmas Market)!

Tree lighting ceremony to officially start the Marche de Noel de Strasbourg (aka Christmas Market)!

I’m thrilled to see what these last few weeks in Strasbourg have in store for us!!

– Carmen Pilarte

For any questions about my time abroad, Strasbourg, or studying abroad in general:

FB: Carmen Carolina Pilarte

Email: carmenpilarte@tamu.edu

 

Categories: 2016, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Bonjour from Strasbourg, France! My name is Carmen Pilarte, I am a little over a month in my exchange in Strasbourg at EM Strasbourg Business School, and I am at a loss for words to try and describe how much of an exciting adventure it has been living here… but I’ll give it a shot.

So, a little bit of background information: I am a Marketing student at Mays Business School at Texas A&M and the only person from A&M studying here in Strasbourg, I’m in my last year of college (A-WHOOP), and I chose Strasbourg mainly because I’ve always dreamed of learning the French language, its central location within Europe makes for easy travel, and EM was one of few schools in France that offered enough Marketing classes to transfer back to A&M. I never knew that these 3 reasons would lead me to the most challenging, yet rewarding month of my life so far.

When I first arrived, I was lucky enough to have my parents by my side as they wanted to make sure I got settled in and could adapt to my new life relatively easily since they knew that this would be my first time traveling/living alone in a new continent, let alone a new city (but I also think they might have used my exchange as an excuse for all of us to have a week-long vacation in London the week before 😉 ). We strolled around the city, got our first feel for the transportation system, and observed the French lifestyle together in those few days we were all here. And while I was at my orientation week at EM, they helped set my dorm up, told me where the best places to grocery shop were, and left me with the confidence that I was prepared to take on this challenge of living 5,625 miles away from them for the first time. Like I said, I was fortunate to have them with me those first couple of days, since this is not the case with a lot of other exchange students. And although they’ve adjusted and figured things out just fine, even some of my friends were jealous of the helpful knowledge and hands that come with experienced, loving parents. (THANK YOU MAMI + DADDY!)

So! Strasbourg is even more beautiful than I imagined and it looks just like the pictures, plus so much more! The city of Strasbourg is quite large, yet has the atmosphere of a small town/village (kind of like College Station!). It’s French, yet being right on the border of Germany, it has a lot of German influence to its architecture as well. There are tons of lovely little shops and cafes as far as the eye can see, bars and pubs to keep up with its lively student population (making for quite an impressive nightlife), parks and outdoor areas where lots of people visit all the time, and it is home to the European Parliament while also being the capital of the Alsace region of France. It’s biggest tourist attraction is its very own Notre-Dame Cathedral (which, to my amazement last night watching Netflix, makes a cameo in the film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows!!) and is surrounded by people almost 24/7, especially on Sundays, in awe of its Gothic beauty. There are still many places I have yet to discover, both in and out of the central part of the city, but I’m sure my friends and I will continue to learn more and more about every corner of our city as time goes on.

Speaking of my friends! EM Strasbourg has been extremely supportive in connecting all of us exchange students together since the summer. On top of that, my friend Marie started our main Facebook group, all of us were invited to the school’s exchange student Facebook group, and we all also started our very own What’s App group to talk more frequently. Through this What’s App group, I went out my first night in Strasbourg and as luck would have it, I met my wonderful group of friends right then and there! We all just clicked on the spot and kept wanting to find out more and more about each other to the point where I have been with them almost every day/night since we’ve met! It’s crazy now to think that I ever went a day without knowing them!! They’ve become my best friends, French teachers, and travel companions, and I can already tell our friendships will thrive even when we’re back in our respective countries, pursuing our own individual paths, years after our exchanges are finished. 🙂

Me and my friends having lunch in Strasbourg!

Me and my friends having lunch in Strasbourg!

Some of my friends are in my classes and know what I go through on a daily basis with each class, but ALL of us exchange students (even some of the French students we’ve talked to!) know the challenges this school system has generously welcomed us with from the first day of orientation. Although I had read many blogs and had heard about the noticeable differences between our school system and EM’s, I still wasn’t completely prepared for just how different the French seem to organize administrative tasks. But first, it’s best to know some general points about the French lifestyle, some of which can shed some light on why dealing with the administration was so challenging:

  • The French are very laid back and never seem to be in a rush, they take their time and “do things when they do them”, “get to places when they get there.”
  • Restaurant business hours, for example, are extremely varied. Some places, depending on their products, may open at 7 am, 11 am (whenever they feel like it really), stay open through lunch which usually ends at 2pm, and then close until dinner which is usually around 6:30 pm until 10:30-11 pm in some cases.
  • Most, NOT ALL like I was previously led to believe, shops, convenience/grocery stores, and restaurants are closed on Sundays.
  • Transportation workers go on strike randomly and without notice, so entire trams or bus routes may not run all day and people don’t realize this until they’re already late for work/school.

So to sum up, the French are not the most organized/efficient people. And this is reflected in how paperwork, appointments, class schedules, etc. are handled. Our class schedules, for example, were not solidified until after the first week of classes had already begun. Course registration itself was frustrating because you have to make sure that 1) 2 or more classes don’t clash, 2) you have the correct number of credits to transfer back to your university, 3) there is enough room in the classes you want to be able to get into it, 4) the class you want doesn’t get cancelled right before you try to register for it (it happened to me!!). Then, once registration time came for all of us exchange students, the server/website crashed and it was delayed for another 1-2 hours, with some lucky students actually getting through to the website after refreshing a million times and others having no luck at all until the server was fixed. During orientation week, we were all offered a “Culture Card” which gives us discounts to museums, plays, movies, shows, etc. but when my friends and I tried to get them, there was confusion between departments with no one knowing who was actually handling what. That in particular  is also very common here, people who don’t know within their own departments/workplaces who takes care of what and where. We would go up to one desk, ask them where to go/what to do, and they would tell us to go to so-and-so place but when we got there those people would tell us to go back to where we started or somewhere completely different!

Orientation/Registration week was very frustrating.

BUT, everyone I had spoken to said that this is the one and only frustrating thing about studying in Strasbourg. And rest assured, after all of that waiting, confusion, and frustration, like many people had told me before and like I told my friends afterward, “EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY AND EVERYTHING WILL TURN OUT FINE.” And it did, everyone eventually got into all of their classes and got every issue sorted out…. eventually. 🙂

Roadtrip on the Wine Route of Alsace!

Roadtrip on the Wine Route of Alsace!

My courses themselves are wildly different from those at A&M. Instead of going to each class 2-3 times a week every week for about 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes, I go to each one once a week for 3-4 hours MAYBE every week, maybe every other week, depending on what the professor decides. Each class also has a 15 minute “coffee break” where everyone goes to the bathroom, takes a walk around the building, and/or buys a quick, small cup of coffee. Instead of going to the same classroom for each class, professors have to reserve classrooms wherever they can and most of the time, I go to a different classroom each time I attend a session of that class. Classroom assignments can also change within 24 hours of the class session so you always have to refresh your email and sometimes adjust accordingly. Instead of beginning and ending each course at the beginning and end of the scheduled semester dates, some classes I’ve started 2 weeks after the semester had already started for everyone else (with one class that won’t start for me until Oct. 19th) and some classes will end weeks before the scheduled final exams week/end of semester. Instead of having 3-4 rounds of exams throughout the semester, a lot of my classes are mainly based on continuous individual and/or group work (with a lot of case studies!) with maybe one final exam and/or group presentation at the end of the semester. And instead of mostly sitting in lecture and taking notes, all of my classes are based on participation, discussions, and expressing our own opinions about the material. But the BIGGEST difference for me was the fact that it is totally normal and acceptable to talk about partying/drinking between the administration/faculty and the students! I’m guessing this is because the drinking age is 18 throughout most of Europe, but the fact that it almost seems encouraged by the administration/professors as a way for students to get involved and socialize with other students is BEYOND what I’m used to as an American student. I remember during orientation week, the student organization that helps integrate the French students and the exchange students gave a presentation and talked specifically about their parties, in front of the faculty, and they were totally okay with it!!! There’s even a bar IN THE SCHOOL that opens up in the evening for students to enjoy, and all of my European friends say that this is quite common at almost every university throughout Europe. I. WAS. STUNNED. This is so backwards to me because many universities throughout the U.S. only ever mention alcohol and partying in legal terms, when it comes to accident/binge prevention and awareness, or if they’re speaking about or to students who are over 21.

What a difference, man. What a difference both in and out of the classroom.

My dad recently asked me if these differences in the classroom made me like A&M or EM better, and it is hard to say. Although it feels like the course load is easier here, not having to study all the time for quizzes and tests, it still is challenging having to really know the material enough to discuss it in front of the class and to have a lot of groups to meet up with throughout the semester for various projects. This may intimidate a lot of people who are used to just getting by in a course by studying and “getting a good grade”, but it’s also satisfying and a relief to know that I have time to get things done since each class only meets once a week and that I’m challenging myself by adjusting to different learning environments and having more to say in an intellectual setting. I can’t even tell you how many times I was left dumbfounded by how much all of the other exchange students know about different topics and current events (especially in the U.S.!!) that I had NO idea about. These students have given me the motivation to know more about everything, to really pay attention in class, to truly appreciate my education, and to gain more knowledge about what’s going on in the world, especially in my own country.

Throughout all of these adventures and challenges, there’s still one thing that comes to mind when talking about studying abroad in general that my friend Ashley Crozier had mentioned in her blog this time last year: studying abroad comes with its ups and downs. It may seem as though from pictures and videos that everything is wonderful 100% of the time, but in reality, just like anywhere you live at any point in your life, there will be times where you may feel scared, lonely, bored, or upset. But the important thing to remember is that it’s okay to feel this way. There will be drama in your friend group, there will be disagreements, things may not always go “according to plan”, there will be times you don’t want to or are not able to travel, and there will be times where you just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix all day. And that is all okay. I know my biggest thing coming here was to “make sure I made the most of it always and said yes to everything and made sure I lived it up 24/7!!!” However, even just a month in, that hasn’t always been the case and to be completely honest, I’ve felt guilty about it. I’ve felt guilty about not making every second the most amazing second it could be because I’m in FRANCE and how dare I not make every second a whirlwind adventure??????? What I’ve come to realize is that it’s impossible. And that’s just the way life is. Don’t get me wrong, every day that I’m here I think of how grateful I am for this UNBELIEVABLE opportunity to experience the world and learn from it. But life throws itself at you in every direction and you have to deal with it, through all of the good and the bad. I think this is what a lot of people may forget to realize when all they see are all the pictures/videos of happy people in wondrous places, so this is just an important reminder that if you plan to study abroad, it’s okay to have your good days and your bad, and it’s okay to make every day count, the way YOU want to make it count in that moment, not the way you think is expected of you.

I am learning and growing, I am gaining perspective in a world outside of College Station, TX, and I could not be more thankful. Not a lot of people get the opportunity, so if you’re reading this and have given studying abroad some thought, DO IT. Make it happen, however you can. Even if there are obstacles, even if you have your doubts, I PROMISE that this experience, whatever the length of the trip, is more worth it than I can possibly put into words. You just have to experience it to find out for sure. Take it from me and all of those who came before me who have studied abroad. I mean I’ve only been here for a little over a month, but just know that this has already been more than a dream come true.

September was spectacular in Strasbourg and left in the blink of an eye. And these next 3 months are going to fly by I’m sure, but I AM THRILLED TO SEE WHAT’S TO COME, and if you’re interested enough, I HOPE YOU ARE TOO! Oh, and if you have any questions about my experience or studying abroad in general, PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me via email (carmenpilarte@tamu.edu) or adding me as a friend on Facebook (Carmen Carolina Pilarte)!

Until next time! Au revoir!

– Carmen Pilarte

Me PARAGLIDING in Interlaken, Switzerland :)

Me PARAGLIDING in Interlaken, Switzerland 🙂

 

P.S. I love lists, so here’s a quick list of things that I miss in the States:

  • Driving my car
  • Whataburger, and American fast food in general
  • Drive thrus at restaurants
  • Tex-Mex food
  • Country music, surprisingly
  • Texas sunsets
  • FTA Football Games and BTHOEveryone!!
  • The Aggie Spirit and Sawing Varsity’s Horns Off
  • My mom’s cooking
  • And of course my family, friends, and my pup Max

Categories: 2016, France, Reciprocal Exchange

November 1- 30th, 2014

I feel like each month that passes by goes quicker and quicker and this past month of November was no exception. Each month has held a new adventure and only gets better and better though!

My family left in the early hours of the morning of November 1st and that is where I left my last blog post. It was a sad goodbye but I was still looking forward to my last trip of the semester to Switzerland. This was the trip that both Madison and I were most excited for! We had planned to take this trip the second weekend in November but had yet to book anything, and only had a week until our planned departure.

I was a slightly stressed out about this trip though because our first exam was scheduled be released on November 13th so this would only be 3 days after we would get back from Switzerland. The exam was for a class Madison and I were taking together called Language of Negotiations, the equivalent of MGMT 439 at A&M. The exam would be a five-page essay that we would have a week to complete on an unknown prompt, and we would likely be missing the class prior to the last class, which stressed me out. Then on top of that I was also taking Web Interaction Design and Communication – New Forms of Interaction, Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration the equivalent of INFO 420 at A&M. I had a major presentation on November 18th 5 days after our planned return. Normally presentations are not a big deal, but for this class we had to complete extensive data analysis and research as a group and I was the group leader. Then following this we had to individually write a 10-page essay on separate topics presenting a creative analysis of the data with new conclusions. In the presentation we had to present what we had chosen to research, our findings, and our individual areas of research for our final projects so as you might imagine I was very stressed about this.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.09.08 PM

All of this being said I was worried we might have to cancel the Switzerland trip or I would be studying the entire time! But in an inspired manner on November 1st, as many of our friends were traveling and with nothing holding me back since my family had just left that Saturday, I decided it may be a better idea for us to go to just go to Switzerland on a whim that day, so I mentioned it to Madison and a plan was set in motion.

What started off as a completely normal day, with Madison and I planning on cleaning the room, and maybe doing some studying or going to the gym (side note: if you need a gym, I recommend Fitness DK, right by Solberg Plads building, it cost around $40 usd a month and you can cancel your subscription at anytime) turned into Madison and I booking a plane ticket, train, and a hostel then taking off to Switzerland!

Here is a little timeline of my day:

  • 10:00am- wake up and checkout of my parents apartment with Madison, plan to go to Kathrine Kollegiet then the gym
  • 10:30am – arrive back at Kathrine Kollegiet
  • 11:00am – bring up going to Switzerland tomorrow instead of next weekend
  • 12:00pm – decide it would be cheaper to just go today
  • 1:15pm – book a plane ticket
  • 2:30pm – leave Kathrine Kollegiet
  • 5:00pm – take off from Copenhagen
  • 6:25pm – arrive in Switzerland

This had to be one of the most amazing trips of my entire life and I don’t know if anything will ever be able top it! Everything seemed to fall in place so beautifully and we decided to keep the theme of the trip being spontaneous. We only booked our hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland for the first night so we could keep as many options open as possible! We arrived in Interlaken at night and it was AMAZING, I have seen stars but I have never seen such a beautiful sky in my entire life. When Madison and I were walking to the hostel from the train station we stumbled upon this field in the middle of the town where you could look up and see the snow capped mountains surrounding you and the most beautiful star filled sky. Madison and I just took a moment to sit down on the bench in the beauty and reflect on how truly blessed we were to be able to experience this.

Paragliding over Interlaken

Paragliding over Interlaken

The next morning I woke up and I was just feeling the need to do something out of the ordinary, spontaneous, and crazy so I told Madison that and being that Interlaken is well known for extreme sports we decided to sign up for paragliding! I was so scared being that my biggest fear is heights but nothing was going to stop me from conquering this fear and experiencing this. It was truly the high point of my entire life and one of the most incredible things I have ever done. We glided over Interlaken for twenty minutes and saw some of the most amazing views; it seemed as though you could see forever and the beauty was unreal!

After this we decided to move to a smaller town a little higher up in the mountain, Lauterbrunnen. This town has the most amazing hiking trails, countless waterfalls, and is a stop to get to towns even higher in the mountains. We had such a great time here and took full advantage of the hiking trails, visited many of the waterfalls, and took a day trip up even higher in the mountains to some other towns via the gondolas.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.52.50 PM

 

Switzerland was easily my favorite trip of the semester. The beauty of the country was unreal, and the spontaneity of the trip made it even better. I can only hope I get the opportunity to go back some day and visit again.

Once we returned to Copenhagen it was time to really get serious about my final exams. First was my Language of Negotiation exam, which as I stated early was a five-page essay, with a week to write it. I was originally very stressed about this but it ended up being a lot easier to write than I anticipated. Something to be sure to note is that CBS has very specific standards for their essays that took some getting used to. A typical page is considered 2,275 characters (including spaces) so you just multiply this by the total number of pages of the exam and that that is the maximum number of characters. The font is also a suppose to be Times New Roman and a minimum of 11, plus some minimum requirements on margins that aren’t that important as long as you are meeting (and not exceeding) character count. I would highly recommend paying attention to character count when writing because being this was my first exam I just wrote five normal pages and ended up having almost eleven pages by CBS standards and had to cut it way down in order for my paper to be graded.

I also had to work on my group presentation for my Web Interaction Design and Communication – New Forms of Interaction, Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration class while writing my Language of Negotiations essay which was slightly stressful but I had done much of the research data for the presentation already so it wasn’t too bad. The presentation was slightly scary at first since my professor was critiquing our research, and had been extremely tough on many groups but it seemed to go really well!

Something I would highly recommend for those on REEP at CBS during finals is to book study rooms and study seats in advance when you know your finals are coming. At CBS almost every seat in the library and all the study rooms require a reservation and these are in very high demand since they are very limited. You can book 10 hours worth of study rooms per person in any two rolling weeks and I think 40 hours of study seats per week. The reservations open up one week in advance and you book online at booking.cbs.dk. Often people will try and take your study room and study seat but if you just kindly tell them they have a reservation they completely understand!

As mentioned in Madison’s blog, there are various types of exam given at CBS such as:

  • 24, 48, or 72 hour written papers anywhere from 5, 10, to 15 pages
  • Essay research finals typically given towards start of the semester
  • Group essays
  • 20-minute oral exam over any class topic
  • 20-minute oral exam over previously written product
  • 20-minute oral exam in which students draw a topic from a bowl and speak over about it
  • 4 hour written exam (typed on computer)
  • Multiple choice exams (rare)
  • Various other paper types determined by professor

Before we went straight to work on our next exam we went to see the new Hunger Games movie with a few of our friends! The movie theater cost about $20 USD which was a little hard to swallow after paying College Station movie prices for years but it was well worth it! The movie theater was so nice, you reserved a specific seat and they even had couches! We chose regular seats but they were basically recliners, it was incredible! Some of the large lectures at CBS are held in the movie theater because they have run out of rooms on campus and I had always heard how comfy the chairs were and how people always fell asleep but I had never been into the theater, it was amazing!

Now it was time to start my group essay due on December 1st for Events and Festival Management the equivalent of RPTS 320 at A&M. The exam for this class was assigned at the start of the semester and we to suppose plan any event and write a proposal on it, then we would have a 20-minute oral exam over our essay later in December. The essay was written in a group of three people, was ten-pages detailing the entire event plus appendixes. Madison was in my group as well as a guy from Poland. This exam was relatively fun to write but the unknown of the oral exam hung over our heads, which was quite stressful. We worked until the last minute to pull this off and submitted it four minutes before it was due then had about a week and a half before our oral exam.

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To celebrate Thanksgiving Madison and I hosted a potluck dinner in our room with all of our new friends! Being the hostesses we are we went all out and invited about fifteen people and had everyone bring food in addition the variety of food we cooked ourselves, and set up long white tables in our room! Everyone had such a great time enjoying each other’s company and hanging out! Colby from the A&M REEP Program was also able to come over and it was a blast! It is so sad to think we only have a month of nights like these left!

With November coming to a close it is becoming more and more real that my time here is truly limited! Everyone is becoming very busy with finals, which is sad, but it makes moments that I get to share with all my great friends in Copenhagen all the more valuable. I feel like I have already grown so much as a person from this experience and I cannot wait to see what to see what the next month holds. I know I am still going to be busy with more finals since I have two more upcoming finals and an oral exam but I am going to do my best to make the most of it all!

 

 

Categories: 2014, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange

I IMG_9801have been in Europe for almost two months now and in Copenhagen close to a month and a half, and it is safe to say I am beginning to love it here. With all the anticipation and build up to this trip it is still hard to believe I am actually here living in Europe now and I cannot believe how quickly time is beginning to go by! I said my tearful goodbyes to my family on August 1st from Austin Airport. But I am incredibly blessed that my best friend, Madison Seidel is also going on a Reciprocal Exchange to Copenhagen Business School and is rooming with me this entire semester.

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The flight to Europe was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated it to be which was great. A very nice aggie happened to be sitting behind us so that was very comforting as we were full of nervous energy and excitement! We bought our tickets through Lufthansa round trip (flying home December 20th) since they have a website called generationfly.com allowing you to change one of your tickets travel days if needed. This was very helpful since you don’t find out when your finals are until late September, we thought this may come in handy later to avoid an extra fee if we did ended up having to fly home later.

Once we landed in Copenhagen we stayed at a hotel, since we could not get into our dorm for another 2 weeks. We took our extra bags to a family friend who lives in Sweden (a short 15 minute train ride) for storage while we traveled around to Barcelona, Rome, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Florence before returning to Copenhagen on August 16th. If anyone is planning on traveling before classes start and don’t want to carry a semesters worth of luggage around Europe with you, another option is the International Office at CBS. The International Office is happy to store any luggage for you while you travel free of charge as long as you drop it off during office hours but since we arrived on a Saturday and were leaving for Barcelona on a Sunday this wasn’t an option for us!

The first four days of traveling is when I experienced the worst culture shock and homesickness. I am very independent and was traveling with my best friend so I was convinced before leaving there was no way I would be homesick but trust me it gets even the best of us! I called my parents crying and thought I was going to be miserable the entire semester but I after forcing myself to get out of bed and do things it all began to get better. I learned the importance of having a strong support system and the value of great friends and family through the experience!

We had a few ups and downs along this trip while learning how to use rail passes and adjusting to the culture in Europe but we made it through and had such an amazing experience filled with so many great memories! Granted we learned a few lessons the hard way like when Madison got a train ticket in Italy for filling out her rail pass wrong, or when we came within seconds of ending up stuck on a non-stop train to Pisa when trying to get to Monterosso, or having to sprint across crowded train stations with full backpacks to avoid missing trains we showed up late for. We just laughed it off and called it part of the experience!

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As the two-week trip was coming to an end we were exhausted and ready to get to a place we could finally call home! Copenhagen Business School has an optional program (which you need to sign up for) that partners each student with a “buddy” who helps you find your new apartment and can just help in general with any questions you have about the new city. Unfortunately, my “buddy” was out of town on the day we were arriving but lucky Madison’s buddy was able to meet us at the airport with her roommate to show us to our new home!

IMG_5141Our dorm, Kathrine Kollegiet, is on the opposite side of Copenhagen as the airport so it took about 25 minutes to get to it on the metro and by the time we arrived at the front door the anticipation was killing us since we had very little idea of what the room would actually look like. The room is in a U-shape and it gives us the ability to both have somewhat of our own private areas, which is fantastic. The room is on the first floor, which in America would technically be considered the second floor. Our room is one of the few that was completely re-done with new everything (paint, flooring, updated kitchen area, and furniture)! We are so lucky with the room we were assigned and we absolutely love it!

10629629_10203979803431358_8070843499822583275_nSince classes did not start until September we did not have anything required of us during our first two weeks here but we had signed up for some optional two social week programs, which gave us a fantastic opportunity to meet so new many people! These programs were hosted through Copenhagen Business School and included a combination of day and evening events ranging from international dinners, to mardi gras parties, to sight-seeing canal tours, to renting out a clubs from 10pm-3am with drink specials! These events were an amazing way to meet so many new people so fast from all over the world. These first two weeks in Copenhagen were incredible and were what really made me fall in love with the city. Copenhagen is so incredibly beautiful everywhere you look! The main method of transportation here is bike so it is also much more peaceful than other large cities, and the people here are very concerned about the environment so it is very clean. Many people ask me about the language barrier with the people here speaking Danish but almost every person in Denmark speaks perfect English and as soon as you start speaking they will switch over and talk to you in it.

 

Some of the things I can tell you now about Copenhagen is that everyone in Copenhagen loves the color black so if you want to fit in with the crowd bring every black-colored clothing item you own! I would invest in a nice raincoat with a hood because that will become a staple of your wardrobe; personally I would recommend a black one. No one here wears wedges out so no need to even pack them, but you should bring a nice pair of Nikes because people here love wearing nice running shoes with everything (dresses and jeans alike). Pack lots of the medicine you typically take because they don’t sell the normal brands you buy at home here and it is all very different here any you will get sick (everyone’s allergies here are terrible)!

When the first day of school came both Madison and I were a little nervous but luckily we have ¾ of our classes together! I am taking Events and Festival Management, Language of Negotiation, Web Interaction and Design and Communication – New Forms of Interaction, Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration, and Organizational Behavior. The class structure here is set up a bit different than what we are used to at A&M. Instead of having classes twice or three times a week for a shorter time we have class once a week for two hours and thirty-five minutes (we get 2 breaks for 5-10 minutes during class). Also, there is no required attendance, your class schedule is allowed to overlap, and no grades other than the final. All my classes are in taught English and for the most part the teachers are not from Denmark but from other parts of Europe and don’t have too strong of an accent.IMG_1034

As to my finals, a majority of them consist of theoretical essay topics given anywhere from 72 hours before they are due, to one week before they are due. Depending on the class the essays are required to be anywhere from 6 pages to 14 pages long. Some of my finals also have an oral portion. For example, my events and festivals management class, has a 20 minute one-on-one session with the professor (with an expert in the field observing to make sure the grading is fair) building upon the theoretical essay you turned in where he can ask you anything he would like then you are graded immediately following this discussion. Another class has a group presentation for 15-20 minutes prior to the written essay, which stands as a basis for the essay.

The hardest part about classes is trying to force myself to read the textbooks, as there is very little incentive. I know I have no upcoming test I just have to keep reminding myself if I don’t read them than the finals will be impossible! Classes here are also very teacher-student interactive which is a little intimating at times, the students are encouraged to speak up during lectures and challenge views as well as comment thoughts and view points which is extremely different then the large lecture style I have been used to.

While I value the importance of class while I am studying abroad I also find that there is so much to be learned outside of the classroom while I am here in Europe through the people and places around me so we have made it a point to travel as much as possible. We have done a day trip to Malmo, Sweden. We took a trip to London, UK for three days and from there went to Dublin, Ireland for two days. We just got back from an amazing trip to Prague, Czech Republic for two days traveling by train to Munich, Germany for three days to attend Oktoberfest. We have met so many wonderful people while traveling and seen so many amazing things on these trips!

 

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I cannot wait to see what the next for weeks has in store for us with fall break coming up we have a pretty big trip planned and my family is coming in just over 20 days to visit! So far I have had such an amazing experience and have learned so much about the world around me and myself and I cannot wait to learn even more.

Categories: 2014, Denmark, Reciprocal Exchange