Tired and sore, but also preparing for midterm exams, I just returned from a two day stretch of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage that tens of thousands of people from all over the world make throughout the year. There are many paths, but one of the most common starts at Saint Jean Pied de Port, in southern France, and winds it’s way across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. This route normally takes more than 30 days to complete on foot. A student from Honduras and another exchange student from Taiwan accompanied me from the small town of Roncesvalles, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, back to Pamplona. The bus ride to Roncesvalles took one and half hours, but the walk through small villages, highways, and hilly farmland took us about sixteen hours spread over two days. We shared sleeping quarters and the path with a diverse group of pilgrims: Aussies who were out for an adventure, a man from Barcelona who had a “compromiso” or a moral obligation to make the pilgrimage, as well as a trio from Valencia who were also taking the Camino a few days at a time.
Nantes, France is famous for LU Biscuits and rain (although the weather has been very nice thus far). The city itself is easy to navigate. It is not overwhelmingly large, and you can master the tramway system on your first ride. There are beautiful gardens like le jardin des plantes and Beaujoire, historic hotspots like le Château des Ducs de Bretagne and an abundance of restaurants and bars.
Before coming here, I did not anticipate just how many different cultures I would meet. Here at Audencia Ecole de Management, there are foreign students from all over the world studying in French or English. I’ve meet students from Korea, China, Morocco, Ireland, Turkey, Russia, Portugal, Uruguay and of course France. The International Connection Team (IC Team) here really takes care of the international students and are always planning parties and social events. A few weeks ago I went to a bar party arranged by the IC Team and because of the mix of people and the different capabilities in speaking French (that range from fluent to none), at any one time, you had French, English, German and Spanish being spoken around the bar. It was quite an experience!
While the weather was still warm, I made some trips out to the smaller coastal towns (less than an hour away by train) to see the beaches. La Baule is a popular destination for students, and I’m not surprised! The beach was spacious and beautiful but more importantly, there were sea shells everywhere! I’ve never seen anything like it in Washington! There were so many shells that when the waves washed over them, it sounded like a rain stick!
A tout à l’heure!
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.
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.
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.
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.
With a little less than a month left in Kobe, I’ve decided to think back at what I have conquered during my experience in Japan. One of the greatest highlights of my time in Japan in actually being able to work part-time at a Japanese style izakaya, which are drinking/dining establishments typical in Japan. I have worked at restaurants as a server in Seattle, but I was shocked to experience that working in Japan is completely different. First of all, there are the numerous routine greetings that each worker must memorize, and must use when encountering customers. Starting from the normal “welcome”, irrashaimase, to “thank you”, arigatou gozaimasu, there are numerous others such as restaurant specific “one moment please”, “I will be there shortly”, and so on. In America, I am used to my own serving style, sometimes even casually communicating with customers, so getting used to the Japanese system was shocking at first.
Another different aspect of Japanese dining institutions is that servers must go outside of the restaurant, literally outside into the city, to promote the restaurant and try to get customers to come in. Being a short-term worker, I had to go outside to promote the restaurant numerous times, and this was sometimes easier than actually serving inside, but right now it is the middle of winter and standing outside for 3-4 hours is physically difficult. Nevertheless, the experience was new to me, and I tried to enjoy every aspect of it by actively communicating with customers. One last thing that surprised me is that since the izakaya that I worked at is owned by a larger corporation that manages various other establishments, servers are forced to rotate around and help other locations, even if the other establishments serve a different menu. This may be easier in Japan, since the cities are so close to each other and these establishments are located fairly close. However, first I was super confused at this system, and had a hard time getting used to it. Everything is different, except for the greetings of course, so we have to adapt to the place right away and just try our best I guess. Very unique system, but I guess it is better for flexibly acquiring workers at any time.
I am glad that I was actually able to find a part-time job during my stay in Japan, because you would be surprised how money flies during your time here. The room and board is fairly cheap since we are all staying at the university’s international residence, but everything else costs A LOT of money. Starting from commuting expenses, food costs, super high cell-phone bills, insurance, and of course eating out and shopping, my bank balance is constantly at the limit until payday. But I guess managing daily life is one of the highlights of my experience in Japan also.
It is sad that I have to leave Kobe now that I have actually got used to life here, but I’ve been a little homesick recently, so I can’t wait to go back to Seattle and get to share my experiences with my friends and family once I return home.
Today, my coworker Elena asked what kind of image Americans have of Spain. “Do they consider it a lesser developed country and lump it with other Spanish-speaking countries?” she said. Personally, I have always lumped Spain with countries like France and Germany. It is hard to imagine that this democratic country was ruled under the Franco dictatorship only 30+ years ago! Spain has emerged from restricting women from opening their own bank account without a husband’s cosign just 30 years ago to becoming the world’s third nation to legalize gay marriage. Developing at a fast rate, Spain takes much pride in the things it does well. The metro system, for example, is extremely efficient, extensive, and well maintained. I saw a poster showing the Statue of Liberty stooping down, peering curiously into a metro entrance. The catchy phrase said, “The Metro the world wishes they had– is right here in Madrid.”
We always have many interesting discussions at my workplace. I get to enjoy a long lunch with my coworkers in the middle of the day, where I have become familiar with everything from Spanish slang to politics to family life. Through many entertaining conversations, I have learned endless Spanish colloquial phrases and words. Harmless words like “monkey” “horse” and “chocolate” can translate to refer to drugs! As far as politics go, Obama is welcomed with great enthusiasm. Spaniards are hopeful that his presidency will help secure a more solid friendship between our nations. My coworkers enjoy talking about American politics; it sometimes surprises me how well informed they are about the US.
Also during our lunch, my coworkers love when I recount the tales of my home-stay experience with my “señora”. I am currently living with an older woman, single and retired. She is very kind, and happily cooks my meals and does my laundry. In exchange, I live by the interesting rules of the house. No bare feet on the floor, showers no longer than exactly 10 minutes (complimentary reminders given), and I must never share her hand towel. It seems notions of hygiene are different here. It is also bad form to relax with one’s feet on the furniture, as living rooms tend to be much more formal here. I must also make my bed every day and keep my room tidy, since here it is customary to leave doors to rooms open. My coworkers have explained to me that these tendencies are more specific to her Spanish generation, and that the younger generation lives with a more relaxed style.
Though my señora is from an older generation, she (like every other Madrileño) loves to go out at night! Regular bedtime for her is around 2 or 3 am. I am long asleep by then, as I have to wake up early most mornings. In Madrid, going out is a highlight of the culture. The Spanish do not often invite their friends over to their home, because the home serves more for family and relaxation. To meet up with friends or a date, my señora always goes out for tapas (appetizers with drinks) or for a coffee and a pastry, or to the movies, or even to a dance club (for people her own age, she informs me).
I love soaking up the culture around me, and comparing it to the US. I enjoy many things here, like the tendency of staying up so late and sleeping in, and the abundance of small neighborhood shops serving everything you could need. However, I dislike how so many stores inconveniently close from 2-5pm for the siesta, or how service is continuously slow in restaurants. I think if we could somehow fuse the customs of our nations together, I would have the perfect place to live.
It’s mid-November in Sevilla and I’m still wearing short sleeved t-shirts and catching rays. What a strange feeling for a Seattleite!
I’ve been in Sevilla since the beginning of September and my time here is coming to an end very shortly in December. When I first got here, it felt just like Christmas everyday – discovering new things, eating interesting foods not known to Americans, walking down streets that crisscross in downtown ending up walking in circles and getting lost… All the fun we had! The best part I think was meeting the group of people that I would be spending time with for the next four months and exploring together. There was an aura of hope and excitement in the air!
Now that we’re past the mid-point of the study abroad experience, I can reflect and say that those same sentiments that I had when I first stepped off the plane and asked for directions in Spanish still are with me – it’s so incredible to be in a foreign country and actually get by with the language and different customs! The everyday challenges are something that I really like, although I do admit there are times when meanings are lost in translation and you feel ridiculous when trying to describe exactly what it is that you want to say. The customs are different, too. I eat dinner with my family here around 10 pm at night, and I think that’s the hardest to get used to. The eating habits here are very different from ours at home, so for the first few days I was a little frustrated by the long hours in between meals, but then I learned how to manage that.
The classes I take are all in Spanish and while the concepts may not be too difficult, the language barrier is there – although the amount of Spanish that I’ve learned is tremendous – especially the conversational stuff! The program offers “intercambios” for each student, so I have one Spanish friend that I hang out with and talk to who wants to learn English, so we talk in English for a bit and then move to Spanish. It’s definitely way easier to hold a conversation now, and it’s become so much easier to just meet Spaniards and make friends!
The traveling has also been great – I’ve visited places that I never thought I would go and (more…)
Hi, my name is Evan Eng and I am a senior majoring in marketing and CISB. Through the business school exchange between UW and Kobe University, I will be studying abroad in Japan for one semester. Kobe University is located in Kobe, Japan which is in the Kansai region of Japan. Born and raised in Seattle, the first time I saw Kobe it actually reminded me of Seattle. The central area of Kobe, called Sannomiya, is a lot like downtown Seattle and is the place that you will be very familiar with if you come to Kobe. Kobe is also a major port city and plays a vital part in Japan’s trade, much like Seattle. One thing about Kobe that has not been like Seattle so far is the weather. Almost every day here has been nice and despite it being Autumn, it has still been pretty warm.
When I first got here I was pretty intimidated since this was all so new to me. With the help of my tutor and my advisors from the Business School, they showed me what I had to do and helped me tremendously in adjusting to life in Kobe. The Japanese school system is really different from the American system. First off, registering was done by hand and we actually had about 2 weeks of classes where we got a chance to “get a feel” for them and see if we actually wanted to take them. Secondly, every class meets only once a week. Third, the credit system is a bit different. Classes here are normally around 2 credits while a normal class at UW is about 4-5 credits. So here at Kobe University, you can take a lot of different classes in one semester.
The only problem I’ve faced so far was the lack of internet. Coming to Japan, internet was probably one of the last things I thought that I would have to worry about. Apparently LAN cables are the way to go in Japan and wireless internet is extremely rare. For the first 2-3 weeks, most of the students living in the dorms that I am staying in were without internet, and we all felt the same way. The way things are done over here is you have to contact an internet company and sign an agreement. Once you do that, it takes about 2 weeks for the company to come in and install it in your room. There is a second option too. You could also ask people near your room if they already have internet, and if you are one of the lucky ones and your neighbor does have internet already, you can ask if you can share the internet with them and connect a long LAN cable from their router to your room. This problem isn’t just in the dorms either. The campus also does not have wireless. So you can either find a LAN cable connection somewhere on campus or you can use the school computers. However, it takes about 2 weeks to get your username and password from your advisor, which you need to log onto the school’s computers. For me and most of the other students living in the dorms, the internet problem is your last real worry and afterwards you can finally focus on enjoying Japan.
Despite the minor internet problem my experience (more…)
¡Hola, buenos días! My name is Martha, but here in España I am better known as “Marta” or even “Martita.” I am a junior in the Foster School of Business, focusing on Finance and CISB. I chose International Business because of my passion for traveling and learning about other cultures, and this opportunity with EUSA has been opening so many doors for me to explore career options. This internship introduced me to microcredit, which thus has become my newfound passion in life.
The concept of microcredit (giving small loans for business to those unable to access such credit) began in Bangladesh, but now has been spreading and adapting to countries all around the world. Here in Madrid, I work for a non-profit organization called MITA, which is a center for entrepreneurial development especially for immigrants and women. Spain has a huge population of immigrants, many of which bring diverse ideas and products with business potential. Understandably, it is quite difficult for a low-income immigrant to obtain a €25,000 loan and successfully open a business with limited analysis of the Spanish market, business laws and regulations, and limited experience with creating a business plan. Clients come to MITA for training, advising, and assistance in securing a special low-interest loan from one of several banks in Madrid that offer microcredit services.
Only a handful of dedicated workers make up the organization of MITA, curiously, all women. It is a fun atmosphere to work in, light-hearted and casual. There is always plenty of work to do; this small organization is steady with clients. My colleagues, Leticia and Elena, have each about 10-15 ongoing projects with their entrepreneurs-in-training. Currently, most of my work involves researching and compiling reports about market sectors to help determine if a certain type of business would be viable here in Madrid. I find market studies from internet databases, news articles, magazines, and browse through information in past business plans. Most of the business ideas (more…)
Hi, my name is Jon Geyer, and I am a senior in the University of Washington Business School focusing in Marketing and International Business. I am currently on exchange in Pamplona, Spain. Yes, it is where they do the running of the bulls. However, besides this festival the city is fairly small and is dominated by many students in one part of the city and other inhabitants in the old part of the city. The University resides on one part of the city, the new part, and many students live in the surrounding area. The Casco Viejo, the old part town has a very typical European look to it and is where the encierro (running of the bulls) occurs. This part of town has many different small bars and pubs and there is a higher concentration of Basque natives as well. Instead of tapas, in other parts of Spain, here they serve Pintxos, which are more or less small portions of the local cuisine. They are typically considered expensive as Pamplona is one of the most expensive cities in Spain.
The city is a very good size but after a while it can feel a bit too small. The international community of students is very large and very well organized, as far as parties :) We have special discounts on certain days in bars and discotecas, for example, on Wednesday we have Crazy Wednesday and we get into the best club in the world, Marengo, for free. The club actually isn’t that great, but its fun because we have a great group of friends. There are these three Portuguese guys who enjoy to party, and you can count on them always to be at the nearest bar or discoteca. Ricardo thinks he can dance… but he can’t. In all seriousness the international community is a lot of fun here. So despite the fact that there are only 2 of us from UW, I have many friends already.
The University is fairly new (only around 50 years old) but is considered one of the better business schools in Spain. It is a private university and run by Opus Dei, a very religious sect of the Catholic Church. This is one thing that I had to get used to. You cannot wear basketball shorts or any other type of sporting attire. Flip flops are prohibited and you need a security card to get into every single building on campus. Once accustomed, it is not a big deal, but a few times I was trying to print stuff and I forgot I was wearing athletic shorts, and I was not let in.
As far as living situation, I am very happy. I live with three Spaniards, two from Galicia (the northwest part of Spain) and one from Catalonia (near Barcelona). We eat our meals together, cook together, clean together and have a good time. I seriously recommend staying with students in Spain because you get a very good mix of learning the language, the slang, the food, and the culture. Here in Pamplona, (more…)