November, 2010

The Goldilocks City

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Audencia1

I’ve spent three weeks in Nantes and have about three months left. I can already see that I will be sad because I am only studying here for four months. I am jealous of the other exchange students who get to stay here for the year. At Audencia I have met so many international students; they come from all parts of the world. Everyone has something that makes them unique. Audencia is also great because it has an international connection team, which is made up of French students. These students organize events for the international students to get to know one another and French students as well. 

 Nantes is what I call the Goldilocks city. Nantes is the perfect size. It’s not too big and not too small. If I had studied in Paris, I never would have gotten to know people on a close basis. Although I’ve always loved cities, I think I would have gotten tired if I had lived in Paris and had to deal with chaos on my commutes every day. Nantes is however big enough to have a downtown and multiple shopping centers. It’s also has multiple universities and is something to the effect of a student town. It’s going to be a great place to spend three more months!

Alles Gut in Deutschland!

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Sean Germany3Guten Tag Everybody!

My name is Sean Fawaz, and I am currently a junior doing a semester abroad at the University of Mannheim. I am a business major with a concentration in Marketing. I apologize for not posting a blog entry much earlier. I have been busy traveling to a number of unbelievable cities and countries that have made this study abroad experience a whirlwind of excitement, cultural collisions, and an unforgettable adventure! But now, I finally have a chance to share what I have seen and done in Germany.

First, I’d like to begin by asking myself “why out of all places I could have chosen through the GBC did I choose to study at Mannheim, Germany?” I had a few reasons that influenced my decision.  I love to travel. And I had plenty of experience in the past traveling to various countries in Europe, Asia, and Central America. However, I wanted to choose somewhere I had never been. Germany had not been crossed off yet on my places-to-go list. That was my first reason. Second, I wanted to go somewhere that would be beneficial for my major. Germany has the most thriving economy in all of the European Union to this date, and is known for its successful corporations such as Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bahn, Daimler-Chrysler, SAP, Volkswagen, BMW, etc. The city of Frankfurt is the financial hub of all Germany where such corporations maintain their successful business practices daily. The city of Mannheim happens to be conveniently located just 30 minutes south of Frankfurt by fast train. Not only that, the University of Mannheim is the most prestigious business school in all of Germany, being ranked number 1 for the past 5 years running. Therefore, I knew I could receive a good quality education on an international level as I continue pursuing my degree and eventually my career.Sean Germany4

Everything about Germany as a country is astonishing. The city center of Mannheim itself might seem like any typical downtown with shopping, restaurants, and crosswalks with floods of people. Having said that, the highlight of the city of Mannheim is actually the university Schloss, or castle (pictured), a beautiful Baroque castle entrance.  At Mannheim, I am taking classes 4 days a week, which is convenient for me to frequently go on weekend trips to various places. All of which are in English except my German language course. So far, I visited the majority of the large cities in Germany, the Netherlands, the famous Neuschwanstein castle (Disney castle), Romania, and I just came back from a trip to Berlin and Madrid with another fellow UW student studying in Europe. Just as a fair warning, be sure to stay on top of your studies at the University of Mannheim as many courses have 1 final exam as the entire course grade, and you are only given a fairly limited amount of time to complete the test. Just a heads up! The big German cities I have visited such as Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin combine a unique cocktail of a classic Renaissance vibe associated with many European countries with extremely modern city skylines at the same time. You see the history that made each city so unique as well as how far and futuristic they have come along, especially in Munich and Berlin.Sean Germany2

 The German way of life is unique to say the least. Initially, I was not so sure if I could adjust to the German punctual, structured, and almost no-nonsense personality. It was at first very difficult to meet the local German people. Generally speaking, they are not the type to immediately warm up to a stranger/foreigner’s needs. So, here’s what I highly recommend to those considering studying at Mannheim. Request a buddy through VISUM, which is the international student association through the University who can accommodate you with your academic, personal, and legal needs. My buddy was a 24-year-old master’s student named Anne, who was extremely helpful to fulfill all my necessities to make the most of my study abroad experience. I found out through Anne that the best way to get acquainted with and become good friends with the German people is to have a buddy of your own who can introduce you to their friends, just so they know you’re not a complete stranger. And once you do break the ice with the German people, they are genuinely very friendly and helpful. Not only have I met plenty of Germans here in Mannheim, but also a United Nations of an exchange student body. I’ve met people from Spain, England, France, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Taiwan, Colombia, you name it! And it always fascinates me to see each of their respected cultural differences and the curiosities they have about our American culture. And this gives you the opportunity to speak on behalf of your country and give a good first impression. I’ve even immersed myself with the German tradition as I went to Oktoberfest this year, which I highly recommend if you want to get the full traditional German experience of having a great time with your new friends while enjoying Germany’s finest beer, Weißwurst and Currywurst (German sausages), big pretzels, all while singing songs and having the time of your life. I think I got the full German experience this Oktoberfest (see picture). You be the judge!Sean Germany1

 Anyways, this is all I have for now and I hope I helped you get a better perspective of life in Deutschland. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment on my entry and I’ll be more than happy to answer them. Until then, Tschüss!

Ciao from Milano!

Monday, November 15th, 2010
The Duomo

The Duomo

My name is Alex, and I’m a Junior concentrating in Finance. Currently, I am studying at Bocconi University in Milano, Italia, and I must say studying abroad is somewhat of a dream. From the moment I stepped off the plane I have had experiences and adventures that will last me a lifetime. One of my main goals/reasons for studying abroad, aside from getting an education, was to explore my host country as well as surrounding ones in Europe. Let me just say this, Milano is by far the best city to find cheap flights to other countries. Far more superior than any other country, in my opinion. I’ve traveled all over Italy, as well as Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Britain, Scotland, Ireland just to name a few. The greatest thing is most of my flights and train traveling is consistently under 20 euros round trip! Ridiculous! Next on my list of places to visit will be Germany to meet up with another fellow UW student in Berlin.

Okay, okay, aside from traveling there is an issue of schooling. Schooling? Yes, unfortunately you do have to attend classes. Wait, but I only have class 2 days a week… So really school is not school, more like VACATION! WOOO PARTY. Just kidding, education is a various serious matter, and Bocconi is a renowned university. How do I know this? Well aside from what wikipedia has told me, every time I present my student id for discounts I hear, “Ohhhhh Bocconi, (*winky face)” basically, wow you must be really smart. So of course attending a top university you have to study hard for the tests, especially when half my classes are based off of solely one final test! Alex Milan2

 All jokes aside, Bocconi is a great university, and I’m really learning a lot about European viewpoints of society, as well as meeting a lot of great people. Classes are in English, which helps a lot, but it’s really interesting doing case studies that are centralized around the European economy. Moreover, because I am based in Milano, the financial capital of Italy, I am given the great opportunity to be surrounded by an economically stimulated society that only helps and strengthens my international experience. 

 Anyway, to wrap things up, Milano is a great place to study business. It has great food, great sports (AC Milan), great culture (The Last Supper, The Duomo), great people, and a great transportation hub. However,if you do plan on coming to Italy, one thing to know is be prepared for a true language barrier. Most Italians speak poor English if any at all. Luckily, because Milano is such a major business center a large population of people are able to speak English fairly decently; however, other places you may not be as fortunate, but that’s what being in a foreign country is all about!

Ciao!

Amazing China!

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Mark Peking 2Hello, my name is Mark, and I am a Finance and CISB major currently studying in Beijing at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management for Fall 2010. The two months has been challenging as well as very fun—getting an apartment settled, deciding on classes, integrating into the culture, and meeting other students from around the world. The classes here are all taught by professors who were educated in Europe or in America, with a lot of the professors being quite young. I’m taking some finance classes, such as difficult Project Finance, as well as an equivalent of OPMGT 301, as well as some interesting classes such as Doing Business in China and Chinese Economy.

Guanghua Main Building -- Peking University

Guanghua Main Building -- Peking University

Beijing is a very vibrant and interesting city with an official population of around 20 million people! However, I just live a bus away from campus near a subway station, so getting around is quite convenient.

These photos are pictures of Beijing, and some from Tibet, where I went for the weeklong National Day Holiday. China is a very spectacular country where you can experience some of the highest mountains in the world, along with 21st century cities. It is also amazing to see how fast it is developing, with buildings appearing almost overnight. Surprising to some people, Beijing becomes very cold in the winter. It already has been dipping as low as 0°C (32°F), which is far cry from the 30°C (87°F) I experience when I first arrived!
Potala Palace -- Lhasa, Tibet

Potala Palace -- Lhasa, Tibet

Tiananmen

Tiananmen

 

Surfing Australia

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Surf Camp

Surf Camp

Hi there, I have less than a month left in this beautiful country. Classes finished at the end of October and I joined a surf camp for a week. It was amazing to learn how to surf but we also quickly realized how challenging it is to ride waves. We drove up north from Sydney for about 6 hours to spend half of the week at a national park where we had the entire beach to ourselves. There we stayed in the camp dorms near the beach, enjoyed fabulous food and campfires at night. We were truly getting a good feel for what it means to live a surfer’s life. The other half of the trip was spent even further north just a couple hours away from world famous Byron Bay. This surf camp was a bit bigger and you were able to meet people from all over the world either travelling or there to become surf instructors or simply “living the dream”.

My internship has also finished a few weeks ago and all I have left to do is write a report. I have enjoyed my time at the internship a lot. There are some really great people working here who are very kind and interesting as well as passionate about what the company is all about. I enjoyed it a lot during my time at ADIQ but now it is certainly time for me to move on and challenge myself in a new way. I can’t wait for the next journey in life!

Palm Beach

Palm Beach

On the coming Friday, my German friend Jonas and former housemate will join me for a fabulous road trip through New Zealand. I am absolutely excited about it as this country is really beautiful. For all of you who have ever seen Lord of the Rings can imagine how it is like. After that trip I only have a few days left in Sydney, Australia before I head out to see Dubai on December 4 and afterwards visit my family in Germany for Christmas. I haven’t been home for Christmas since 2007 and therefore this means a lot to me. My magnificent year with 26 flights and having visited 8 countries will end in New York over New Years. And then, it is time to enjoy my very last 2 quarters at UW before graduating and moving on to new adventures.

See you all at UW soon and make sure to visit Australia someday in your life (=

Cheers, Jerry

Tokyo in 2 Days.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Thankfully Tokyo is only a night bus away from Akita International University and with only 2 days I was wondering if I could get to all the places I wanted to go.  However, with a little bit of organizational help with the group of friends I went with, I was able to see most of the major tourist sites of the many districts in Tokyo. Some of the districts I went to included:

Akita, Diana1Shibuya
Famous for it’s scramble crossing, it’s definitely a site to see when all cars at the interesction stop and people are allowed to populate the interesction going whatever which way to get to their destionation.  One of the busiest Starbucks in the world also overlooks this scramble crossing, so you get a nice view during rush hour as people try to get home. Shibuya is also home of the Hachiko statue (cute story if you want to look it up) and Shibuya 109 a very large shopping mall popular for girls.

Asakusa
Definitely a great place for tourists because of Nakamise-Dori, the long strip of vendors that sells all different types of souvenirs at reasonable prices.  At the end of all these street vendors is the Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple kept in a traditional Japanese style, which is one of Asakusa crowning icons.

Harajuku
It is definitely not what you imagined if your opinion is based off of what Gwen Stefani portrayed, but there are a handful of people who dress in that style, and many other distinct Japanese styles that roam around this district.  Harajuku is definitely one of the fashion centers of Japan and you can find plenty of stores ranging from the luxurious brands to the street vendors who sell clothing at ridiculously low prices, like the 700 en shop.

Roppongi
Known for having the very wealthy Roppongi Hills area I could sadly only visit Mori Tower.  However, I felt like it was the best leg of the trip because of the amazing view of Tokyo you can see from the 52nd floor, the Mori Art Museum, and the fun Doodle 4 Google contest they had going on when I went.  I spent 3 hours just roaming around and trying to find locations in Tokyo from the view, but nonetheless the time was well spent.

Akita, Diana3There are some other sites I went to, but you should definitely see for yourself.  Being at AIU makes the trip to Tokyo so much more exciting and different.  It’s only been a day, but I definitely can’t wait to go back to Tokyo again.

Akita Adventures: From harvesting rice to teaching English!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Akita, Diana2Konban wa! My name is Diana Nguyen and I’m studying over at Akita International University (AIU) in Akita, Japan.  Here is my little tidbit about my adventures thus far.  Part of the benefits of studying at AIU is being able to participate in their Community Outreach Services program.  The school establishes partnerships with the Akita community and plans small events and activities that range from being conversation partners with highschool students to harvesting persimmons to watching an Akita traditional dance performance.  It takes no effort on your part other than signing and showing up.  To get a taste of what they have been offering, here are some of the events that I have participated in:

Harvesting Rice
It was such a rewarding experience to actually see where the rice I eat everyday comes from and the process in order to get it to our bowls.  It was also extra special because Akita is known for their delicious rice.  Plus, it was really motivating to see that the elementary students that we were harvesting with were just as eager to help do some manual labor.  My favorite part was seeing the yellow fields of rice, and the end result of our couple hours of harvesting.

Teaching English at Elementary Schools
I hadn’t taught English in this type of setting before so I didn’t really know what to expect.  However, the English teachers were really helpful and walked me through the whole process.  The students were also great because they were so intrigued with the idea of having an international student assist in teaching their English lesson.  I loved answering their questions just because they were so excited to take turns and ask questions from an international student.
Akita, Diana4
Just from those descriptions I hope you can tell that if you come to AIU you’ll have plenty of chances to get in touch with the community and do a lot of meaningful events during your stay abroad.

Escape from the Smog!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Sarah Peterson ChileSo I started a blog about a bunch of useful things to know for living in Santiago, but it was exceptionally boring and part of the fun of living abroad is figuring these things out for yourself… so I started over.

If you need to get out of the city and the smog, its fairly easy to buy a bus ticket and go someplace outside of Santiago for the weekend.  I’ve taken some great trips with other students from la Catolica but one of my favorites was last weekend when a group of 8 of us when down south to Pucon.

Pucon is mostly a tourist destination for the outdoor enthusiast but it’s also, so I’m told, a good place to find a party on the beach during the summer.  There’s hiking, horseback riding, rafting, bikes for rent, a volcano to climb and a whole street full of “tourist agencies” where you can sign up for these activities. 

After visiting a couple different places to compare prices etc. we decided to go “hidrospeeding”, which is similar to white water rafting… except that you, individually, are in the water and I think it’s illegal in some parts of the US.  If you’re curious, look it up on youtube!  Its well worth going in my opinion!! (this is the video the guide made of our group.  I guess my name is Salan now) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BKy4_kAm0E

We had planned on hiking the volcano the next day (which is about a 6 hr trip give or take an hour or two depending on your group and your guide) but it was pouring rain so we went horseback riding instead.  We chose a trail through a Mapuche community and up a mountain, which turned into a 20 minute hike in the mud at the end since the horses couldn’t make it up the slope.  We got back home soaking wet, muddy, full of really good mapuche food and really happy that we’d sucked it up and gone despite the rain.

On Sunday we finally got to climb the volcano, Villarica, which was by far the highlight of the weekend and probably one of the most intense things I have ever done.  Because of all the rain the day before, the higher parts of the climb were PURE ICE and it was terrifying (for me anyway!).  Besides making it to the summit in one piece, the best part was getting to strap on a huge diaper-ish thing and sliding all the way back down the mountain on your butt… which is also much more intense than it sounds!

But don’t take my word for it!