September, 2009

Thinking Back, Looking Forward

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Alan (1)Now that we have already returned back home to Seattle, I’ve been able to gather all of my thoughts about our trip in Beijing. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to connect with my cultural heritage and see the land of my ancestors with my own eyes. We were able to visit all the former palaces and royal buildings which allowed me to bring those images of all the landmarks to life.  Not only were we able to see historical landmarks but we were able to catch a glimpse of China’s rapid modernization by visiting sites such as the Olympic Park. However magnificent the Watercube and Bird’s Nest looked on television, they were magnified by a Alan100 in person. Not only are the Watercube and Bird’s Nest amazing pieces of architecture, but I really believe that the Olympic Park along with the 2008 Olympics were symbolic of China’s progress as a nation. Especially as a business student, it was great being in China and seeing first-hand what type of advancements the Chinese economy is making. China is already quickly playing a bigger part in the global economy, and this experience in Beijing will most definitely benefit me in the future.

The most valuable thing I left Beijing with however, were all the friendships and connections that I made. Throughout my time in Beijing, I was able to build close friendships with a few local Tsinghua students which are something I will always treasure. With my fellow classmates in the program we were all able to create memories that will last a lifetime. So far since we’ve been back home I’ve stayed in touch with those friends in Beijing through Skype and Facebook, and I have become closer with many of my classmates from the trip. Going into this program, I did not know what to expect and to be honest one of my major concerns were Alan (2)how I was going to get along with everyone. China far exceeded any of the expectations I had and provided me with so many great memories and experiences. As I think about my future career goals, I know that my knowledge of Chinese culture and language will help me no matter what I end up doing. My experiences and time in this program reinforced to me that as business continues to become more and more global, it will be imperative to know multiple languages and be comfortable in international surroundings. For every Foster student I would recommend studying abroad and especially exploration seminars because they have such a short time commitment. I personally guarantee that no matter where the location is, it will provide an unforgettable and worthwhile experience. Thanks and see you again soon Beijing!

“Monolingualism can be cured” – Anonymous

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Interesting quote I found today.  I don’t think monolingualism is a disease, but I do think everyone should try to learn at least one other language in his or her lifetime.


This coming weekend is the Moon Cake Festival, or “Mid-Autumn Festival”.  I’ve already bought my speed rail/bullet train tickets to Taichung and will be spending this weekend with my grandparents and cousins to celebrate the festivities.

An afternoon at Danshui, Taipei, Taiwan

An afternoon at Danshui, Taipei, Taiwan

This will be my first time (that I can remember) being in Taiwan with relatives to celebrate this holiday; I’ve been told there will be a lot of Chinese barbecuing involved?

I’m excited!  I hope to take lots of photos to share with you guys later.

In the last two weeks or so, I’ve had a really great time in Taipei.  I’ve only ever come back to visit family, so I never really made any local friends or really immersed myself into the daily life that is living in Taiwan.  Since moving here and starting school, I’m experiencing a part of Taiwan and Taipei I never got to before; I love it!  Last weekend, I went on a trip to Danshui (the northern part of Taipei) and spent the evening hanging out with some new Taiwanese girl friends: snacking at the Night Market, chatting and joking around, and sitting by the bay enjoying the sunset.  The girls were so sweet and so funny!  I’m really happy to be here, I feel like I’m starting to get reacquainted with a small part of me that I had long forgotten.

First month in Rotterdam

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Renninger (1)Hi, my name is Rachel Renninger, and I am a junior at the Foster School of Business but am currently studying at RSM Erasmus University in the Netherlands.  I have already been in Rotterdam a little over a month now and time is flying by!  I have made friends with people from all over the world and am truly having an international experience.

The university put on a two day integration trip the weekend before classes started, which was a great way to meet everyone in the program.  I choose to live at Casa Erasmus, one of the student buildings and am very glad I did.  Although some students found nicer places that were less expensive it is great to be around other students and only have a 10 minute walk to campus and is close to downtown as well.Renninger

One of the reasons why I chose to study in Rotterdam was because of its excellent location.  It is very easy to travel to other countries in Europe from Rotterdam and I have already been to Belgium, Italy, and Germany and am going to London in a couple weeks.  Pretty much everyone in the Netherlands speaks English, which makes it very easy to get around.  The Dutch are also some of the nicest and friendliest people I have met.

I chose to take a minor while studying at RSM, which is 15 ECTS credits.  The minor I chose was Principles of Negotiation.  I only have class Tuesdays and Thursdays for 3 hours, which is very nice as it gives me time to travel to other cities in Europe.  There are only about 18 students in my class which is really nice, and there are three professors teaching during the trimester.  My grade for the class is based on a reflection journal of my experiences in class and a final paper on a negotiation topic of my choice.  So far I have not found my experiences in the classroom all that different from at Foster.

Going on exchange can definitely be overwhelming at times but I strongly recommend it to everyone.  I have had an amazing time so far, and it has been the best decision I have made while at UW.

Renninger (2)

First week Taipei shenanigans

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

National Chengchi University logo

The first week seemed like it flew by: I got settled in my dorm, met my roommates, started classes, and then BAM — it was the weekend already.

At first I thought it would be challenging sharing a dorm room with 5 other people, but I’ve actually found that I like it.  My roommates are all really nice girls, and I chat in mandarin with my three Taiwanese roommates a lot.  Everyone has been really helpful with any questions or concerns I have and it hasn’t been too hard getting to know people:  I try to go with the mindset that other girls are probably shier than me, so I try to be a bit more outgoing and initiate conversations first.

The first week of classes was mostly sitting in courses and deciding which ones we’d like to take.  Since I’m in my senior year, there’s a  limited number of classes I can take that will fulfill my degree requirements; there were some cooler sounding courses, such as  ”The High-Tech Industry in Taiwan”,  but I had to settle for some core courses and an elective:  Organizational Behavior, Financial Management, Information Management, and Global Leadership.  Although the fall semester here ends in January, all of the professors have been very accommodating in letting students that need to leave early (such as me) to do so in December.  Most of them got their degrees in the U.S., so they understand how the university calendars are different.

With the exception of one class, Information Management, I’m taking all of my classes in English.  The College of Commerce teaches a lot of their courses in English with American textbooks because they believe teaching the way U.S. business schools do is the best way to give their students the best advantage.  As one professor put it, English is the language of business, and Taiwanese students should get used to listening, speaking, and conducting their projects in English.   I guess this system works out for me since I can take Information Management in Mandarin, while still having the textbooks and tests in English.  However, after sitting in on many of my classes, I have to say I do admire the Taiwanese students in my courses; I couldn’t imagine taking business courses in English when I have difficulty communicating in that language.

A typical morning market in Taiwan. This isn't the one my auntie works in, but it's similar.

A typical morning market in Taiwan. This isn't the one my auntie works in, but it's similar.

After a week getting the academics all sorted out, I hopped on a bus and took the metro to meet up with my mom at an auntie’s house.   My mom has been here a week and decided to go stay with her friend, who I call “auntie SuFang” in Chinese culture,  for a couple days before she flies back to Seattle.   I haven’t seen auntie SuFang since I was little, probably around 7 or 8 years old, and so I was really excited to spend some time with her and my mom.  SuFang owns a clothing store in a Taiwanese morning market and lives right above it.  My mom and I stayed in her house and spent most of the day with her downstairs at the store, chatting with the neighborhood housewives that stop in during their morning stroll or grocery trip.  It was really nice to be completely immersed again into a completely non-English, Taiwanese culture; I felt 100% at home.

Spending time with auntie SuFang made me remember how funny and easy-going she is, which made me very reluctant to leave and go back to school Monday:  I wanted to spend more time with her! Hopefully, in the next couple months, I’ll get the chance to go back and see her again.  It would be nice to leave the “exchange student” atmosphere and plop back into the simple Taiwanese daily life I enjoy so much.

Greetings from Singapore!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Merlion at Night

Merlion at Night

Hello! This is Jason Ho writing from the National University of Singapore. I’m a fourth-year student concentrating in finance and information systems. Since this is my first time visiting Singapore and first time participating in a university level exchange program, I am and have been very excited and interested to discover and explore the unique Singapore, where diverse cultures, traditions and lifestyles are blended with unbridled energy and dynamism that never seem to dissipate.

Singapore is a country formed about 40 years ago on a relatively small island located south of the Malaysian state Johor and north of Indonesia’s Riau Islands with close to five million in population, mainly comprised of 75% Chinese, 14% Malays, 9% Indians, and 2% others. The diverse cultures traditions and lifestyles are what make this nation unique, where many Southeast Asia cultures come together in harmony. The crime rate in Singapore has always been low while citizens and visitors are constantly being reminded by the government on public places and transportations about the consequences of breaking the law. Hence, Singapore is considerably safe for tourists who have absolutely no experience of Asia to get acquainted with various Asian cultures in the visit of only one nation. It is like an introductory course to Asia, aka Asia 101.

Temple at Bugis

Temple at Bugis

Besides having assorted cultures and an almost crimeless environment, Singapore is also known for its strong economy. The nation gained its independence from the Malaysian government in the early 1960s when it was an undeveloped place, and in about 40 years later become one of the most important financial hubs of Southeast Asia. Many financial institutions from across the world now have offices and buildings in the central business district of Singapore. International cargos and ships are arriving at and departing from the enormous and world-class ports of Singapore. Last month Singapore announced that its second quarter GPD of 2009 increased 20.7% and is considered relatively better than many surrounding countries. One of the reasons behind the strong economic recovery is because Singapore is filled with talented people along with the support of a competitive (more…)

Pieces of History

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Alan Hon (1)Wow, China really is an amazing place. All the historic sites that we have visited have been nothing short of breath-taking. Being able to connect what I have learned about my heritage to the actual places where it all happened is an amazing experience.  Over this past weekend we visited the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.

Visiting the Great Wall lived up to all of my expectations that it would be one of the best experiences in my life. Since the Great Wall stretches throughout China, there are only certain sections that can be climbed. We traveled to one site right outside Beijing and it was our first time outside of the city. After receiving a short introduction from our tour guide and teacher, we broke off into groups and proceeded up to the Great Wall. My group consisted of a few good close friends, Jason, Warren, Carsen, and Lauren. The day before Jason and I had played a full day of basketball so we were already dying of soreness before our climb even began. But you only get to climb the Great Wall once soAlan Hon we definitely pushed our physical limits. After many stops for pictures, countless water breaks, and a little bit of socializing, we finally reached the end of our painful hike and climb to the top of the section. Just as we had imagined, the view was amazing and we really felt chills being able to say that we had climbed the Great Wall. However, what really made the experience great was the way down. At one end of the section, there were both gondolas and toboggans that the public could ride to get down from the Great Wall. Of course we chose to toboggan and it was probably the most exhilarating thing we did in Beijing.

To continue our jam packed weekend, Sunday we checked out Tiananmen Square as well as the Forbidden City. The moment that we arrived to Tiananmen Square we were all shocked as to how big it was. One cool thing about Chinese architecture is that each piece always represents or symbolizes something. For example one of the buildings in Tiananmen Square was supposed to resemble a chair which symbolizes the people sitting back in power. The first thing we visited was Mao Zedong’s memorial. The memorial Alan Hon (2)has his actual body inside, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that you definitely feel chills walking through. It was crazy walking through the memorial of such a prominent figure that made such an impact on history, and it’s a feeling that I’ll never forget. After some pictures in the actual square, we moved on to the Forbidden City. After hearing so much about it and seeing parts of it in the media, the Forbidden City still exceeded my expectations for how beautiful it would be. Although many royal structures were designed similarly, the size and history of the Forbidden City awed all of us.

To round out our fun filled weekend we went to one of Beijing’s most famous restaurants to eat Peking duck. Many past U.S presidents and other important figures had dined there, and it was no wonder why they enjoyed it so much. We all stuffed ourselves to the neck, and it was finally time to head back to our dorms to wind down and get ready for the week ahead.

3 weeks in India, a lifetime of memories.

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

RINALaundry Mat in MumbaiRegardless of how many days you stay here, India never stops amazing you. In New Delhi, I found the Islamic influences in India and a new picture of insane humidity and traffic. In Agra, I found the wonders of the world from the Taj Mahal to Akbar’s tomb and the families who turned rocks and tarps into homes. In Mumbai, I found slums where people living in far worse conditions than me, living unimaginably content lives. In Pune, I found Tata motors, the Nano, and proof that India is definitely coming up as a powerhouse in the global economy. In Goa, I found open beaches and Portuguese influences in buildings, language, and food. In Bangalore, I realized just how far India has come in terms of information technology and why it Rinahas surpassed so many developed nations with its abundance of knowledge. In Mysore, I found majestic palaces and wonderful silk in a variety of colors.

In the course of 3 weeks, I saw numerous parts of India that no amount of words can fully capture. The experiences, businesses, architecture, and people I have met are beyond anything I imagined. Whether you decide to a 3 week or a 3 month study abroad, I strongly urge to students to experience India. It truly is a country unlike any other you have or will encounter.

Farewell India!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Cecilia (1)I honestly can’t believe the time flew by so fast! I am all packed up and down to my last 24 hours in India. I am sitting in front of my computer as one hot sticky mess, thanks to a coating of sunscreen and bug spray, preparing myself to spend my last night alone due to the fact that both my roommates leave tonight.  It really did take me the first two weeks of the trip to start to get used to life in India and now that it is coming to a close I feel that I am at a point where I could stay longer. That is, until I realized I subconsciously started scratching my bug bites, and come to the conclusion that my body will welcome the change.

Last weekend, we went on a trip to Tiravannamalai and visited some Hindu temples and got to see sacred caves and even experienced two “poojas.” One of which involved two other members of the group and me trekking our way up a mountain at four in the morning. There we were following a barefoot guide and accompanied by two village dogs in the dark with our flashlights and water bottles. Part of me would have preferred to go at a later, shall we say, more reasonable time, but by the amount we were sweating andCecilia (2) number of breaks we had to take, I can’t imagine it doing it at a later time when the sun has risen and it is several degrees hotter. As it was, once we finally made it to the top we were able to be cleansed of our bad karma and given chai before we headed down the mountain to meditate at certain caves. It was quite the experience and once we made our way down the mountain we returned to our hotel and met up with our group, who were excited to hear about what happened.  When our two-day excursion came to an end we were all ready to go “home.”

In my last week, I tried to take advantage of all the opportunities available. There was a “Tofu and Soymilk Workshop” one day and so a couple of us from our group went to check it out. An Italian man led the workshop, which was such a treat seeing as two of us previously studied abroad in Rome and enjoyed hearing the beautiful language again. Another day I visited Deepam, a school for handicapped children, and it was nice to see that there are resources allotted to help children who need extra help. Some of these students are very bright and the school has helped parents recover faith that their children have gifts to offer. On Tuesday, I had my last day at Solitude, the organic farm (more…)

Greetings from Rotterdam!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Griffin, 2My name is Emily, and I’m attending Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in The Netherlands.   I’ve been here for almost a month now and have been having an amazing time.

The transition from home to living in Rotterdam proved quite easy thanks to wonderful introductory program the RSM organized for all the international exchange students.  At RSM there are students from over 80 countries all studying under the same roof.  The opportunity to interact with them has been the highlight of my experiences so far.  We all participated in a two day introductory program that was designed to get us to know each other quickly.  We spent almost a whole day in an acrobatic workshop (yes, acrobatic) and then spent the night in a youth hostel located in a nature reserve outside of Rotterdam.  We truly did get to know each other well and now have a great network of support.  There is always somewhere to go and someone to go with!

I’m taking a course called a “minor” which is basically one class worth several credits.  The course composition is fairly similar to classes at Foster.   My minor has two classes a week that are two hours and 45 minutes long.  We have a few small assignments, reading, a major paper and an exam.  While this is considered a full course load I’m finding that the amount of work is very manageable and I have plenty of time to travel.  There are very few student associations and extracurricular activities outside of sports.  If I Griffin, 3could change one thing here, it would be to have more student associations.  I’ve discovered that as students at Foster we are very privileged to have so many opportunities outside of the classroom.

Life outside of the classroom has been just as pleasant.  I love travelling all over town by bicycle.  There are streets and traffic signals dedicated to bicycles, and it is so flat here cycling several kilometers isn’t a big deal.  If you love night life Rotterdam is definitely the place to be!  There are many places to go dancing and no matter what the day you can always find someone who is ready to dance the night away.  Clubs are open here much later.  Typical clubs are open until around 5 AM.  While clubs may stay open all night long I’ve found that every other business has much shorter hours.  Stores tend to open 11 AM and close around 6 or 7 PM.  It took some getting used to but now I plan Griffin, 1my midnight snacks in advance.

The Netherlands is a wonderful place to be, not only for Holland itself, but also for its proximity to many other European destinations.  A few hours train ride will get you to Germany, Belgium, and France (to name just a few).  So far I’ve visited a few cities in Holland; Amsterdam, Den Haag, and Delft.  In the next three weeks I’m going to Germany and France!

Tot ziens!

Beijing! Beijing!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009


So… after 5 hour of a plane ride, 1.5 hour of bus ride and 15 minutes of taxi ride, I finally arrived at my apartment in Beijing. This is actually my third time in Beijing, so I am quite familiar with the city, how to get around, what to eat, and what to NOT eat. Even though this is not my first time here, I am still very excited to be a student at Peking University, the best university in CHINA! The smartest of the smartest of 1.3 billion people attend this school, so I am, at the same time, excited and nervous to be around these brains.

Yesterday (Sept. 14, 09) was the first day of class. I had information economics in the morning and operation management at night—from 7-10pm. The professors here are very young. I was expecting some 50-year-old Chinese in a traditional button up shirt, but instead I got some 20-year-old looking guy in a H&M’s style jacket for my information economics class.

Many of my classmates are exchange students from all around the world, but surprisingly about 80% of them are from Europe. I was expecting more exchange students to be from the US, but there is only a handful. I also made friends with local Chinese students.

During the break in the evening’s Operation Management class, I had a conversation with a local student who sat behind me. I asked him about the typical life of a typical Peking University student. I learned that they study a lot. Some of the students can study 14 hours straight per day! To deal with this studymania, the school completely turns off the electricity in the dormitory at 11pm. But this doesn’t prevent these studious students from over studying; many of them go to the nearest McDonalds to study—most McDonalds are 24hour in China.

I used to think that I am a hard-working student, but after hearing this, I felt very lazy.

However, there is more stuff to do other than study in Beijing. I went to the Great Wall, Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven last week with my new German, Korean, Australian, Romanian, Italian, Spanish, and French friends. And I will be going to Tibet by train in 2 weeks!