Spring 2021 | Semester Exchanges Blog

To say the least, this semester was not what I expected. While covid restrictions altered what I thought my exchange would look like everything exceeded my highest hopes.

Maastricht was such a lovely city to call home and thanks to the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) at the University I found new friends to call family. If you go on an exchange, I highly recommend connecting with the Erasmus Student Network or another similar student organization to help you connect with people and find your way around.

Because of travel restrictions, my first excursion was a Dutch road trip. I went with a few other exchange students that I met through ESN and we spent the whole weekend exploring the Netherlands. We visited Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft, Utrecht, and the Keukenhof Garden. In Rotterdam we picnic’d on the beach, walked the pier, and saw the parliamentary buildings, but the best part of the whole trip had to be the Keukenhof Garden. The Keukenhof Garden is one of the most famous spots in the Netherlands to see Tulips and it is definitely worth it! Pro-tip, you have to pay to get inside the Keukenhof Garden, but there are plenty of fields outside that are free to explore.

In addition to the cute city and new friends that contributed to my positive experience, the learning system at Maastricht University was so different from A&M and really challenged me as a student and professional. The problem-based learning system at Maastricht puts a lot of the responsibility of learning on the students. Instead of sitting in a professor’s lecture and taking notes, students take turns leading their peers in discussions, problems, and case studies. I found that this method allowed me to take ownership of the material and gave me the confidence that I was learning and understood the course. From my time in Maastricht University, I can truly say that I gained more confidence in my major and presentation skills.

Maastricht University was a great choice for my semester exchange and I would recommend it to everyone!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

Looking back to this past semester living in Madrid, I have mixed feelings about it all. It has without a doubt been the best experience I have lived. I moved to Madrid knowing it would give me so many things to take with me, but I did not think through how hard it would be for me to say goodbye.

There is something extremely special about Madrid- something that makes your time living there only a positive one. I still do not know if it is the people, the food, or the overall culture, but it is for sure something that made me exceedingly happy to say the least. The beginning of my semester included things like “toque de queda” which made it complicated to do things like travel, but as the semester continued things started opening up more giving us a chance to travel. The first opportunity I had was to go skiing with some friends which was definitely something I was dying to do when moving to Europe. I love skiing and the fact that I could have that experience abroad was a memorable one. Along with this trip came my other 2 favorites, which were Gran Canaria and Rome, where I was able to visit with some friends and do things like go to sand dunes, natural pool waters, visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, and so on.

Although I was able to travel during this crazy pandemic study abroad year, I had already fallen in love with Madrid and the people there that it made it hard to even want to leave for only a weekend. This is something that shocked me since I am a person who loves to travel and will do so as much as possible, but the fact that Madrid had that power to make me so happy and never want to leave was definitely a good feeling. I made lifelong friends, visited new places, learned so many new things about different cultures, and most importantly grew as a person.

Leaving Madrid was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for so many reasons, yet all good. But at the same time, although I was sad to leave a part of me knows that this is not the end of my story with Madrid, and I hope this is the case because living in Madrid was the most amazing opportunity and I am so grateful to have experienced it.

I hope whoever has a chance to study abroad I say get out of your comfort zone and do it because I promise you it will be worth it!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

Howdy!

I recently returned to College Station after finishing my semester in Madrid. Business in Spain tends to be conducted differently than here in the US. However, there are a few similarities. I found that businesses in Spain have different expectations for employees. Employees that I met are typically given more paid time off and the concept of allotted sick days does not exist. Here, employees are used to logging all time off under a specific category or reason. There is definitely something to be said about the phrase “working to live, not living to work” and how it positively affects the quality of life in Spain. Experiencing this was a cultural shift compared to the American dream mentality of prioritizing work and financial security above all else. Businesses that would typically be regarded as customer service based in Madrid revolve much less around the customer than I was accustomed to in the United States. Instead of the mentality of the “customer is always right” or an employee being on the customer’s time, customers must ask for what they need and are usually subject to the employee’s schedule. Customer service in Spain though it is not bad, just different. At my host university, I took a course called International Business Management; I learned a great deal about how regions from all over the world differ in how they conduct business. Things like power distance, masculinity/femininity, and individualism vs. collectivism greatly impact how business is conducted and how consumers make purchasing decisions. It was cool to see examples of this when I compared my knowledge of how business in the US works vs. how it works in Spain.

My experience abroad was an incredible one full of new experiences, new relationships, and personal growth. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people! I rode in a hot air balloon, traveled to the Grand Canary Islands, and spent a ton of time exploring the city I quickly grew to love. Living in Madrid helped me to realize my love for travelling and my desire to eventually become an Aggie expatriate.

Enjoying the view from my apartment!

Beautiful view from the rooftop at Plaza Cibeles!

Lavapiés neighborhood!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, Spain

It is a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to Prague. Prague has been my home for the past five months and it was one of the hardest goodbyes I have experienced. My time in Prague truly shaped me into the person I have always wanted to be. This experience of being able to study abroad has been the best decision of my life. I have made connections from all over the globe, learned about new cultures, and experienced immeasurable happiness despite the circumstances of this past semester. I was hesitant to follow through with my abroad semester since I had never been away from home for so long and to be so far, especially with the COVID-19 epidemic. It was scary, to say the least in the beginning. However, the memories and friendships I have made during this time made this experience the best time of my life. To my best friends that I met in Prague, I will miss our daily trips to Zizkov beer garden, our walks through the snow to Flora station, our late-night wine and movie nights, and most of all, being able to spend every day together. The people that came into my life while I was in Prague truly changed my life.

To anyone who is considering spending a semester abroad, do it. My time abroad was the best time of my life so far. I felt a new sense of identity that I was not able to find back home. Even though it may seem daunting to leave home and to be gone from your current life for a while, I promise that it is worth it. The experience is unlike any other.

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

The best way to describe my experience at ESSEC Business School was a change of pace. Going on a semester exchange during a COVID-19 semester was something I was hesitant on but decided to go for it anyways. Classes were very interesting and I was still able to see my friends on campus throughout the week. For the majority of the semester, many places in Paris and Cergy were closed. Museums, restaurants, and historical areas were shut down until my last month here. Despite all the closings, I was forced to look for smaller things that made me happier that allowed me to get more out of this semester. I focused on the relationships between my friends and staying together. Everyone wanted to explore Paris and do as much as we could, but the lockdowns prevented a lot of that. Instead, we focused on simpler things such as eating and cooking together and playing basketball to have a great time. Once Paris opened up, everything became a lot more lovely and I have grown to appreciate the city even more. Paris is a beautiful city and I plan on returning in the future for leisure or a new job opportunity. ESSEC Business School is a lively environment when it’s completely open and I recommend anyone to take this opportunity to go. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend my spring semester.

Categories: 2021, France, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy!

I am just about done with my time at Lancaster. Although it’s a great feeling to finish with exams and coursework, it’s bittersweet when you know your time abroad is coming to an end. The connections I’ve made with new friends while abroad are different than those made back home. Making little and big moments count to make your experience abroad worthwhile, such as throwing you a 21st birthday party (even when 21st birthdays are bigger in America). Learning about the differences, yet embracing them and intertwining our differences. Being taught new recipes from their different cultures and attempting to make them Texas BBQ ribs and southern sides with what’s available. Although I will say the weather is a bit on the colder side compared to Texas, I have missed air-conditioned rooms (especially as we near the summer heat). However, this has created more incentive to go outside and play ball or wear a flowy dress and have a picnic in the meadows.

Classes have come to an end, with the last few months only being dedicated to studying for exams. With the way the term and exams are structured here, I plan to do a bit of traveling around the UK to experience the different areas. Since the train station is not far from campus, it allows travel to be faster and simpler compared to America. So far I’ve gone to Wales, Manchester, and will be going to Scotland this week. Hopefully, I can do the most these last few weeks with lockdown easing in the UK and before I have to go back home.

I wish I could have spent more time abroad in different countries. So if I have anything to say to anyone interested in going abroad is: just go for it because the hardest thing is leaving, but once you go you’ll be craving more. Plus you get the benefit of being in college, so you get to see other different college cultures compared to that of TAMU. It is truly an eye-opening experience. Even within a lockdown, I would do it again or jump to any opportunity to go abroad.

 

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, United Kingdom

I’m Liz and since I’ve always been quite curious about traveling to other places outside the U.S. However, I didn’t really know how to travel nor did I have people to do it with. Going to Texas A&M and hearing about the studying abroad opportunities excited me. This finally gave me an opportunity to travel for a long enough period to experience the culture and get education credit at the same time. Deciding which country to go to was a bit tough, but if anything adjusting my course schedule was more difficult. If anyone is interested in these opportunities I would recommend meeting with an advisor to see, which classes should be taken at TAMU and which credits are ok to be taken abroad as it would make it more simple.

When the pandemic hit, I was terrified my opportunity to go had passed. However, I decided as soon as the opportunity would arise again I would fully jump in. This is what brings me now to Lancaster University. Although arriving here was a bit of a tough experience (with Britain being in full lockdown and not having anything non-essential open). Living on campus with 11 other flatmates was something I thought I wouldn’t like; however, as they slowly kept showing up it brought joy as they helped integrate me into their social lives. Although we can’t go out and hang out with many people, we can hang out outside. This has led me to enjoy going on hikes or walks around the town and seeing the old monuments and castles. Although I knew Britain was an older country it did make me feel like I traveled back to medieval times with the cobblestone streets and stone buildings. It was fun to see although I’m sure it will soon bring more people out once things settle out and the sun starts shining again.

Classes have begun and are all online for now. Although we are just in the beginning, I have noticed they are structured very differently compared to those at TAMU. It’s hard to stay fully motivated when you are just watching lectures and don’t have anything due till the end of the term. Hopefully, I am able to adjust and work with their structure. I’ll write soon about the other adventures and things I’ve learned!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, United Kingdom

I am sitting in my dorm room, one week from departure, with a great bittersweet feeling. Studying abroad teaches you many things and allows you to experience many things you probably could not experience any other way. The feelings of newfound friendships combined with newfound love of a European city, provides for a very heartbreaking story-end. Some of my best memories include 10-hour train rides and hours of walking to explore new cities with friends, bundling up in our biggest coats just to play a few minutes of volleyball, and international dinners with an entire building of international students. If you plan to go abroad, you have to leave your comfort zone and enjoy all the moments that present themselves. Soon I will go home and continue my life, but will forever cherish my study abroad experience and will continue to use my experiences to help me continue to grow as a person. The picture I have attached to this is the friend group I made in Prague. We will have to go our separate ways but the bonds we have created will last a lifetime.

While being here I took many international business courses. I took Organizational Design and its studies across many countries, National Accounts (which deals mainly with the economics of many different countries, and Finance in International Management. The most bizarre factor that I learned in all three of these courses is that the world seems to revolve around the United States’ way of doing things, even if they do not like it. For example, in Finance, the US dollar was almost always used as a vehicle currency in equations, even though most people in the class were European. In National Accounts I realized that many countries had to make their numbers convertible to a US standard. And in Organizational Design, we almost never studied an organization’s structure, unless they were American. Many of these case studies we read about, in any class, were based out of the US. Maybe this was all just a fallacy that my university presented to me, but I genuinely feel as if international business is much more simple when you are American. Another aspect of this equation is the fact that an American can travel to almost any country in the world, and proceed to work for an American company. So my take on doing business in international markets? We simply have it easier, while it will always be simpler to do business in the area we know, we could certainly survive in international markets.

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

I only have a few more days left in Prague, and I am dreading saying goodbye to this beautiful city and the friends I have made here.

Since I last posted a blog, I have gotten to make trips to many cities within the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Hungary to enjoy both the scenery and culture of these different places. Even when things went wrong, like our train breaking down somewhere in Slovakia or walking through a blizzard for three hours because you can’t figure out the tram system, I wouldn’t have traded those moments for anything because I love to look back and laugh at all the mess ups as much as I like to remember the incredible moments like seeing all of Budapest from a rooftop bar or sharing drinks with friends on Charles Bridge.

When it came to classes, I had many awesome opportunities to work with different cultures. My favorite course was called “Dealing with Chinese Business Counterparts,” where I completed a group project about the difference between Chinese and American business culture with a team of Chinese students. I’m already considering another study abroad to China just because of this class!

Overall, studying abroad has pushed me out of my comfort zone countless times and forced me to adapt in the best of ways. I have made friends from across the world that I hope to keep with me for a very long time, and I can’t wait to make my way back to Prague.

Goodbye or Na Shledanou to Prague, but hopefully not for long!

Love,

Tatum Dotson

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

I have been in the Czech Republic for almost a month now, and it is absolutely beautiful here! This experience is the first time I have ever been out of the states, and while the adjustment was difficult, I am grateful for the opportunity to grow!

When I am not in class, I often go out with a few friends to admire the architecture and enjoy many of the beautiful parks here. The restrictions have limited how much we can do in the city, but the views themselves make up for it all. I honestly don’t know how I am going to move back to Texas after this!

In my classes, there are very little Americans, and I have enjoyed the different perspectives of my peers in class because of this. Many of my courses have group projects, so I am learning how to interact with different nationalities in a work setting.

Overall, I highly recommend study abroad to any student who has the slightest interest in meeting new, interesting people and seeing a little more of the world!

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange