December, 2011

Forever Lasting Memories

Monday, December 12th, 2011

By: Eve Churaisin, Foster Undergraduate

Today marks the last day of my exchange program in Singapore! I just took my last final and I’ve honestly never been this happy to be done. Words just aren’t enough to express my happiness at the moment. I’ll admit that this was my toughest quarter, or in this case, semester, ever.  I would not say that the classes were incredibly difficult, but the material we were tested on the exam were much more dense and we were not allotted a lot of time to think through each problem.  This was the case for the business classes I chose to take, but my final for my Southeast Asian studies class did not to appear to be very difficult. The exam environment is different at NUS than at the UW. At the UW, most exams took place where lectures took place. However, at NUS, we took our exams somewhere other than where lectures took place. Most of our exams took place in a giant multi-purpose room where there was assigned seating and we were required to place our student ID on our desk so the proctors can walk by and verify that it was actually us taking the exam.

Even though it was clearly a tough semester, it was truly a rewarding one. Having the opportunity to go to Singapore on exchange was an amazing and unforgettable experience. I got to put myself in the shoes of these locals and engage myself in an Asian culture that I was never exposed to growing up in the states. I got to observe the work ethics of these locals through the long, dreadful group meetings for my business projects that lasted about 7 hours each time. For one of the meetings, we spent all that time just to edit a group paper that had already been compiled. These locals really strive to be on the top and competition has been defined as a large part of their culture. I thought that taking classes at Foster was competitive enough, but it’s even more intense here!

Apart from getting a taste of the Asian education system, I got to experience the true “Singaporean” culture that makes Singapore a truly unique nation of its own. Even though English is the official language here, Singlish, an English based creole with its vocabulary originating from Chinese, Malay and Hokkien, is still widely used. Even though the use of Singlish is discouraged by the government, I think it’s a very unique part of their culture.  Also, even when Singaporeans speak standard British English, they end a lot of their phrases with “lah.” They even use it in text messaging and in e-mails.  I even started using it whenever I text my Singaporean friends.  Lastly, Singapore is a nation that blends different cultures from Southeast Asia into one. Besides celebrating Chinese holidays, a lot of Malay and Indian holidays are recognized as national holidays in Singapore as well.

Studying in Singapore as an exchange student did not just allow me to get a grasp of the Singaporean culture, but I also got to learn about the cultural differences from the different parts of the world. A majority of the exchange students are from European countries so they introduced me to bits and pieces of their culture. One of my European friends introduced me to the different types of cheese they eat back home and real bread that is hardly found here or back in the states.  I’ve also learned that in Germany, telling someone “happy birthday” before that person’s actual birthday means bad luck and that was something I actually never knew before.

Since Singapore is the gateway to Asia, all the traveling that I got to do enhanced my exchange experience.  Roughly a month ago, my friends and I went on a weekend trip to Tioman Island that is located off the coast of Malaysia. Getting to Malaysia from Singapore was just one bus ride away and getting to the ferry terminal was another bus ride away.  While we were in Tioman, we relaxed at the beach and went snorkeling. The snorkeling was amazing and I got to swim through a school of bright colored fish. The water was so clear that we did not even need to be in the water to see everything!

Reading Week took place two weeks ago and that was the week when locals would spend time studying for their final exams. Instead of “studying,” my friends and I had planned a trip to go to Macau and Hong Kong for five days. Macau was an interesting place, supposedly known as the Vegas of Asia, full of people walking down the streets dressed in their suits ready to enter a casino. At night, the buildings came to life with the bright, neon lights. Instead of spending our time gambling, we decided to explore the city on foot and visit the historical sites. We visited the St. Paul Ruins, the A-Ma Temple and the Monte Fort. Macau still had its Portuguese influence where the street signs and names of buildings were written in Portuguese, but I got the impression that people only spoke Cantonese.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, made me feel like I was really in Asia. I had expected Asia in general, to be full of crowded cities, traffic, street markets, and worn out buildings. This was actually Hong Kong. The city was full of excitement and full of people no matter what time of day. We got to explore Ladies’ Market and the Temple Night Market and while we were there, I got to work on my bargaining skills. On one of the days, we took the cable car to visit the Big Buddha. Another thing that made me feel like I was really in Asia was that a lot of people were not proficient in English and a lot of people would start talking to me in Cantonese whenever I entered a restaurant.

With the amount of traveling I’ve done outside of Singapore, I have been greatly exposed to the different Asian cultures and got to observe the major cultural differences between Singapore and the neighboring Asian countries. Now that I am officially on winter break, my friends and I will be leaving for the Philippines this weekend and going island hopping. The Philippines will be my last stop before returning to the states. Some of my friends already left Singapore and some others are leaving this week. Saying goodbye is probably one of the hardest things I have to do before I leave. I have met so many amazing people here and they have been here to keep me laughing and smiling and without their presence, my time in Singapore would not have been the same. As much as I enjoy being in Southeast Asia and eating the food that cannot be found back home, I’ve had enough of rice and noodles and I am more than ready to come home to eat a good sandwich for cheap and reunite with family and friends for the holidays.

Is it Really Almost December?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

By: Erica Strathern, Foster Undergraduate

Hello everyone! My name is Erica Strathern and I am a 4th year Foster student studying Accounting. This fall, I am studying at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. I’ve been in Milan nearly three months, and at the moment, I can’t seem to figure out where all the time has gone. It feels like yesterday that I was just arriving in Milan after traveling nearly 17 hours. I’d like to give you some (belated) impressions and thoughts I have about the study abroad experience and life here in Milan:

Bocconi 

Bocconi University is a private University here in Milan and is consistently ranked among the top universities around the world (no pressure, right?). It is much smaller than UW, only about 7,000 undergrads and 3,500 post-grads. I am taking three courses here: Auditing, Leadership, and International Law, and they are all given in English, thank goodness! There are many courses conducted in English to choose from. Some of the most popular among exchange students are organizational behavior, e-marketing, fashion industry management, and law. Registering for my courses was a surprisingly easy process! Registration began at midnight here in Milan, which meant 3pm back in the States, and it took place during July before I had left to go abroad. Not having to wake up at 5:30am was certainly a welcome benefit! I researched on which courses were the best for me and my requirements back at Foster, and I selected one or two courses that I thought would transfer to fulfill Foster requirements, and one elective that I had an interest in, though was not a requirement.

 Housing

The housing here at Bocconi can be a little tricky. The University offers many different dorm options and exchange students need to submit a €400 deposit by the beginning of June in order to submit your preferences for dorms. However, even if you submit preferences for the dorms within walking distance of the University, it seems that all exchange students are placed in a dorm about 30 minutes by public transportation from the University itself. After receiving an offer for this dorm option, I decided it would be better for me to try and find an apartment or sublet closer to the university. This was quite a stressful process! I sent out hundreds and hundreds of emails to those who had posted sublets on the Bocconi Housing Exchange website, but got very few responses and all said the apartment was already taken! I ended up joining a Facebook group for Bocconi exchange students and found that someone had posted that they were looking for a girl to sublet her apartment. We communicated via email, and I had found myself some living arrangements! The downside to living in Milan is that it is one of the most expensive cities in Europe to live in, but also an amazing center for business and a bustling nightlife. When deciding to study abroad, really listen to the Global Business Center advisors when they tell you that living abroad is pricy, they aren’t lying!

Travel

 Of course, a major perk of living in Milan is its proximity to amazing places all over Europe. I spent last weekend in Paris, the weekend before in Verona and I have done some traveling all over Italy. Many exchange students travel every weekend, but I thought that would be a bit too much for me, so I have limited my travel to every other weekend or so. Flights to places like London, Munich, Vienna, Rome and so many other amazing places are very cheap and students can find great hostels or inexpensive hotels on a variety of websites.

That’s all for now. I can’t believe I will be heading home in just under a month, it doesn’t seem like it has been three months that I’ve been here! I knew it would go by fast, but I never thought it would go by this fast! If I could give any advice about studying abroad, it would be to really savor each moment and experience, because it will be over in a flash.

Until next time,

 Erica

Enough Time for a Week Out on the Town

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

By: Nate Whitson, Foster Undergraduate

It is time to follow up from my last post over 8 weeks ago. I admit I am still in love with England and all the cultural nuggets that come with it. In this post I want to highlight important things UW students should know when considering the University of Manchester Business School.

Since we’re all students it seems logical to begin with the…social life. Oops I meant classes. Classes at Manchester have been kind to say the least. Nearly all of my classes are graded on a single paper for 100% of my grade. I understand how this makes some students cry and others happily scream, like me. The essays are not terribly long, though some have short windows of completion because prompts are not released until 3-4 weeks before you will likely leave. The lectures are similar to those you would find at the UW, though I have not seen a single course pack all year :). Contrary to the belief that UK professors are difficult to communicate with, I find them open to answering all my questions and concerns (some have even gone to the length of memorizing names.) I would also comment on homework and weekly workload, but there simply isn’t any. Like any class, you can spend hours reading recommended chapters and articles if you feel the need. Getting to class has been just as easy. Campus is fairly compact and has a generous amount of cafes and coffee shops to fill your Seattle void. One thing to keep in mind before you get turned around, the first floor is likely not to be the one you are entering. It is called the ground floor here, sir/madam.

 On to the student life, that I accidentally jumped to earlier! If you are an individual that enjoys going out, particularly to bars and clubs, Manchester is the city for you. Having grown up in the Seattle area, I can say I have never seen bustling nightlife like that of Manchester. The area in which you live on campus makes a significant difference as well. I myself live in Oak House and am primarily surrounded by first year British students. So, the environment is a little (very) lively. The other area which you could find yourself living (as a self-catered student) is Whitworth Park. This accommodation is closer to campus/downtown, but you will likely find yourself living with other international students. Don’t let distance from campus weigh too much into your housing decision, because Oxford Road (where the University lies) boasts the busiest bus route in all of Europe! You can easily get involved in campus sports as well. Each house (IE dorm) has their own sporting teams for soccer, rugby, etc. Finally, the actually living quarters are plain, but completely acceptable. Every student gets a single room, so that is quite a bit different from the UW. Similar quality to that of McMahon hall and the common areas are large enough for all of the flat mates to gather. If you choose to be self-catered (like me), you will luckily have a 5 minute walk to a large supermarket. Finally, I recommend not leaving your room keys with your flat mates, as living with 7 other students unfortunately and inevitably breeds a prank war.

Spring Break

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

By: Sam Freedman, Foster Undergraduate

I’ve been planning on writing a bit about my spring break trip for the last few weeks now. I just finally got a break from schoolwork so I figured I’d give it a go. I went to Brisbane, Fraser Island, Hervey Bay, Airlie Beach, and the Whitsunday Islands with my buddy Sophie. It looks us about 11 days and it was pretty spectacular.

The Plan

  • Fly north to Brisbane
  • Drive even further north to Fraser Island
  • Spend 3-4 days on the island
  • Catch an overnight bus to the Whitsunday Islands
  • 3 day sailing trip around the islands
  • Fly back to Sydney

Fraser Island
Let’s see… the flight was pretty uneventful. I met Sophie at the airport and we got on a 1 hour flight to Brisbane. We were planning on traveling Fraser Island with Sophie’s family friends, the Bowmans, because they go every year and guided tours were well over $500. We spent the night at the Bowman’s house and for some ungodly reason woke up at 4 am to drive up to Fraser. We slept for most of the 4 hour drive up towards the island. We got on a ferry around 9 am and finally made it onto the island around 9:30 am. There were no roads on the island so the only way to get around was to drive SUV’s on the beach. So that’s what we did. It was another 2 hour drive from where we got off the ferry up to the campsite. It took us another 2 hours to set up camp once we got there. The Bowmans were planning on staying there 10 days so they had a pretty extravagant camp set-up. We set up a sink, a water heater thing, a HUGE tent with a tarp, their own porta-potty tent, and a shower. Definitely roughing it… The whole campsite was actually on the beach so we were about 20 feet from the ocean. Behind the campsite was a pretty big hill that you could climb and see down the beach for miles. Altogether, not a bad little spot.

The island itself was really awesome. It’s a 100 mile long sand dune island. It’s completely surrounded by ocean, but somehow the island has all these freshwater lakes in the middle. I have no idea how that works, but somehow it does. All these lakes feed into streams that go into the ocean at various points around the island. The first day, we went to one of these streams and lounged around in the water. That night, we climbed up the hill and shot some pictures of the sunset. The next day, we went to another creek and lounged around again. In retrospect, it seems like there was a bit of a pattern developing there. On the third day, we went to one of the lakes and lounged around by the water more. Honestly, about 80% of my waking hours on the Fraser Island trip were me lounging around on the beach or in front of a lake/stream. It was very relaxing journey. We also did a fair bit of whale watching because you were almost guaranteed to see a few if you looked out at the water for more than 15 minutes.

The Whitsundays
So we got a flight off of Fraser and took an overnight bus to Airlie Beach, which is right next to the Whitsundays. The bus ride sucked. I can’t sleep sitting down. Just can’t do it. So when we got to Airlie, I was exhausted. I also had not showered on Fraser because we were camping so I felt especially disgusting. We checked into the hostel and both immediately showered and napped.

We woke up at 8 am the next morning to catch the sailboat at 9am. There was a crew of three: Mel the captain, David the first mate, and Michelle who was in training. There were about 12 other people on the boat. They were all older couples around 28-34ish. Mel was awesome. David was a bit crazy and had a terrifying laugh. Michelle was very nice. The sailing trip was spectacular. The first day, we went scuba diving and snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef. On the second day, we got up early and spent 4 hours checking out Whitehaven Beach. Good God, that beach was beautiful. Apparently, it’s always ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world and I can see why. When we got back to the boat, we got lunch then went for a snorkel before dinner. On the third day, we snorkeled in the morning and spent the day lounging on the boat. Honestly, I spent about 75% of this trip lounging around in the sun too. It was a good vacation.