Copenhagen Days and Exploring Europe

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Written by Connie Hu, Foster undergraduate

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I can’t believe I have been in Europe, away from home, for over six weeks! It has been such an amazing time and I have already fallen in love with Copenhagen and the places I’ve visited: Florence, Cinque Terre, and London. I had no problem making friends or finding things to do as I live in a dorm and the Copenhagen Business School set up many activities for exchange students! I can already say that I have made friends I intend to keep and plan on visiting in the future. Copenhagen is so clean and bike friendly! Definitely two things I will miss when I return to Seattle. There is outstanding architecture here, and at the places I have visited. What’s so neat about Europe is that you can find super old, but beautiful buildings next to super modern buildings. Another awesome thing: the desserts in Copenhagen are the best I have ever had! The food in Italy was to die for, and the selection of food in London was endless. Every time I returned to Copenhagen after I visited other countries in Europe, I realized how much I missed it! I am so happy to be living and studying here for the rest of the year, and only look forward to making more unforgettable memories!





14 Hours in Florence

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Written by Rachel Fillman, Foster undergraduate



July 11, 2015
The day that best describes my international experience was the day I spent in Florence, Italy with a few of the people from my program. We all got up around 5 a.m. to catch an early train to be able to spend the maximum amount of time we could in the short day we had there. I hadn’t really heard much about Florence so I didn’t know what there was to do there, and I actually almost didn’t even make the trip with everyone because I didn’t know if it would be worth the money and time to get there. I am so happy that I did decide to go because Florence is possibly my favorite city we visited while we were abroad. We hiked hundreds of stairs to the top of Il Duomo, stumbled into old churches while we were lost among the streets, and bargained with street vendors to buy genuine leather goods. Although it was one of the longest days of the trip (14 hours in Florence), I fell in love with the city and the beauty of the buildings. I still go back and look at the pictures I took of Il Duomo because it still amazes me with its magnificence and grandeur. I enjoyed getting to go to a city that had so much to give—history, shopping, uniqueness; all these things made quite the impression on me. My day trip to Florence really stands out to me when I look back on the month I spent in Italy and I believe it highlights my international experience in a way that I will remember for a long time.





Prada, Black, and 3 piece suits

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Shannon Ong, Foster undergraduate

Oops, don’t spill your triple shot espresso on your Chanel wallet. Bocconi University means Prada, black, and 3 piece suits. Studying at Bocconi is a unique, culturally-diverse, and terrific opportunity. For all you finance majors- did you know that Goldman Sachs recruits the most out of Bocconi University for its ivy-league standard of Finance and management education?

I loved being part of Bocconi; everyone is super ambitious and interesting to talk to. Students from all over the world- Argentina, Iceland, Korea, Australia, Sudan, and Brazil study here and it was fascinating getting to know them and talking to them about their background and working with them.

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In one of my classes, I had the opportunity to work with a startup called Picsage in Milan, where I basically helped redesign their application- I was able to prototype and wireframe their application and redesign some of their features. It was so sweet that I was able to have an impact on a startup based in Milan!

Life in the Fast Lane

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Shannon Ong, Foster undergraduate

Milan: a city of business, food, fashion, and design.

Living in Milan is a metropolitan and fabulous lifestyle. Since I’ve been here, I’ve already been to Milan Fashion Week- code for a high-image, luxurious, and expensive event with celebrities and designers sporting everything from Prada to Tom Ford.  In every designer store- there were runways setup showcasing models wearing the latest season and hottest trends. It was such a mind-blowing experience, to be part of the creativity of these designers and to see these models on the runway and celebrate the end of the fashion season with the locals.


Before coming to Milan, I did not really eat bread or cheese—but since living in Milan I have eaten copious amounts of bread, salami, STEAK, cheese, gnocchi – anything pasta related, you name it- I’ve eaten it. And I LOVE IT. Food in Milan is so fresh that once you buy something at the grocery store – you must eat it within 48 hours or it literally will go bad. Aperitivo in Milan is a great cultural experience and “do as the Italians do” sort of thing. It is basically when you order a drink for 10 euros and that drink comes with a full buffet of food- from pizza to beef stews to pasta to soups to fresh salads and to pastry-filled deserts. It is quite an offer you can’t refuse. And don’t forget about the Milan Christmas Markets!



Business and design go hand in hand here in Milan; they have super cool art galleries like Van Gogh and exhibits displaying everything from contemporary art to Picasso to the Renaissance. The economy in Italy is not doing well, but in Milan – it doesn’t seem to show, there are a ton of large corporations in Milan and there also is a plethora of startups. I loved going to the art shows and meeting local designers and seeing their work. The Milanese are passionate about art history and it really shows.


Waka Waka Africa

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Shannon Ong, Foster undergraduate

Morocco- the land of the Souk markets, brilliant tapestries, camels, and nomads.

I went to Morocco this past week with 5 other friends in my program at Bocconi. I couldn’t believe that Milan à Marrakech was only 140 Euros so I had to jump on that opportunity.

At first, with the whole Ebola situation that was happening, my group was hesitant and nervous about going to Africa. However, I was able to convince them otherwise.

Day 1: We arrived in Marrakech and immediately are on our way to the desert. We stop by at a few Moroccan villages on the way and stay in a hotel overnight in the Atlas Mountains. We passed by beautiful, natural landscapes of Berber villages and Boumalene du Dades.


Moroccan food is so good, the Tajin chicken pots, the mint tea, the delectable honey and butter with bread.


Day 2&3: We finally arrive in the desert. The temperature is hot during the day but freezing during the night. We arrive at a beautiful, isolated hotel in the middle of the Sahara Desert. It is stunning, with its castle like fortress and blue lagoon of a pool inside in the hotel. From there, we ride camels to our campsite- for we are spending the night in Nomad berber tents tonight. We hear drum music beckoning us to the campsite in the middle of the Sahara. THIS IS LIVING. Before arriving in the tents, we go sand-boarding through the desert, and admire the sunset. Sleeping under the stars in the middle of the desert was a surreal experience- it made me truly appreciate the nature of silence. The next morning we wake up and camel back to our hotel. Our host at the hotel surprises us with ATVS- so we spend that day ATVing through the sand dunes and swimming in the blue lagoon.



Day 4: We are back on the road on our way to Marrakech; we go to beautiful, fortified villages and see where Game of Thrones is filmed at Ait Ben Haddou. We go to the oldest city in Marrakech and marvel at its splendor of its architecture.


Day 5: Marrakech: the red city of Morocco. The Souk markets are out of this world, all sorts of sights, smells, tastes, and voices immediately hit all your senses. Bargaining with the vendors was quite challenging but fun and when you finally got the price you wanted- it was a feeling of success. I bought a lot of ornate plates, scarves, jewelry, and mantelpieces here in the markets.



5 Spanish Culture Shocks

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

  1. Meal time

The first thing that surprised me when I was in Spain is the meal time. The Spanish people usually eat their lunch at around two to three and dinner at around nine to ten, without an official breakfast. So how does this work and how do they stay away from hunger if they are separating their meals so far away? Here is how. Although they don’t have an official breakfast where people really sit down and eat, they have TWO small snack times for the morning, one after waking up and the other around eleven. The snack can be a simple hot chocolate with some cookies or a really sugery latte. They need to eat very sweet so they don’t get hungry easily. Now there is a seven-hour gap between lunch and dinner, so the same trick applies again—snack! Most of their companies will allow employs to go out and have some coffee which, again, is usually very sweet, at around six so they don’t get hungry before leaving for home at around eight. For me there are just way too many meal times, but this is also telling us how much Spanish people like to slow down their pace, hang out, and stay connected to each other.

  1. Nap time! Siesta!

This is another thing that surprised me when I saw all the students from elementary to high school were all out on the street or on the way home at around two thirty, which I consider to be the most productive time of the day. My host family told me that their schools, and often companies, will have a break time for the about one to two hours so people can go home, eat, and rest. This is called the siesta, when all the stores and services are closed and the streets soon become very quiet as everyone is pretty much resting at home. But if they are spending so much time resting, how long do they work in one day? The answer is that they work ends at about six or seven, which still adds up to a good amount of work in a day, except it is separated into smaller chunks.

  1. Tobacco in Spain is like Starbucks in Seattle

You will be pretty sure that you are in Spain when you see there are more people smoking outside of a bar than those actually inside and drink. Same rule also applies to coffee shops, books store, and even schools. Yes, during the break time in the University of Navarra, there are almost as many students smoking outside as those inside the building. However, the cigarette is much more expensive in Spain than in the US, so the younger smokers in Spain usually hand-roll their tabacco and you can see them rolling in every outdoor occasion.

  1. Wine consumption

Spanish people drink wine, lots of wine. My host family actually buys wine in a huge box instead of bottles anymore, because that would have created way too many empty bottles in one week! There is a story behind it though. When I was in Madrid, my tour guide told me that in the ancient time the water was not clean, and drinking unclean water can be deadly. On the other hand, however, wine was much safer because it was made from fresh juice, so people drink wine instead of water for safety reasons. But if everyone is drinking wine like water, how does a country work? A smart king of Spain figured out a way to deal with it. He order all the bars and restaurants that if someone is ordering wine from them, they would have to provide some food for the customers so they can stay sober to work. As time evolved, the bars and restaurants ended up using a slice of break with some food on it to cover the cup, which is why there is the famous Spanish snack tapas, which literally mean tops. By the way, Spanish wine is really good!


Another reason why wine is popular is the price!

  1. Flamenco started as a hobo dances instead of high end performance.

It’s rare to see a country’s most internationally popular dance started as a traditional dance from a group of foreign people in almost the lowest social status that the rest of the people basically hated; it happened in Spain though. Before I arrive in Spain, I thought that Flamenco is a popular traditional Spanish dance that, just like most of the other traditional dances world-wide, is used in occasions like celebrations; however, Flamenco is not only a foreign dances brought in by the Gypsies, but also is a dance that people dislike a lot about a few decades ago. Here is the story behind it. A few centuries ago, some refugees from India or Middle East traveled all the way to the southern Spain and claimed that they were the nobles from Egypt—that’s why they are called the Gypsies. However, a lie never lasts long; their real identity was soon discovered by the Spanish people and they were, since then, disliked by the rest of the people. They lost all their social and economic power and fall to the lowest social status. My guide even told me that they became so poor that if you saw someone dancing Flamenco at that time, he or she usually didn’t even have shoes on. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the Spanish inquisition started and forced many Jews and Muslims to claim to be Gypsies to avoid being exiled or executed, which made the Flamenco dance multicultural with even more sophisticated moves and costumes. As it has become a very meaningful dance that is rich in cultures and history, the people start seeing the beauty in it and finally consider that as a piece of Spanish culture.


Flamenco performance in Cordoba, Spain.

Living with a Host Family

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

Living with a host family is what I consider the best way to really learn the culture of a country. This semester, I chose to live with a Spanish family that consists of two parents, a son, a daughter, and a dog. It is a very authentic Spanish family who drinks lots of wine and has a Jamón stand in the kitchen for everyday use—yes, Jamón every day. The reason why I wanted to live in a host family is that I only had four months to explore and learn from the whole Spanish culture, and the Spanish culture is such a huge and rich collection of traditions and social values; I figured that living in an authentic host family would be the fastest way to really put myself into the culture and really experience it, and it’s true. Seeing them carefully cutting the Jamón down to a slice of bread with a few drops of olive oil, helping them move about three tons of woods to prepare for winter, sitting at a table with ten more super talkative Spanish family members, and seeing the amazed faces when I wrote down their names in Chinese characters are my best moments throughout the program. Everything they do is so interesting for me. I saw things that I had never seen before almost every day with a host family!

Another good thing about living in a host family is that it’s an all-Spanish environment; there is no other language that you will hear in the house. My host parents don’t speak English at all, but their children know a little. When I first arrived in Pamplona, the daughter was the one who helped me settle down because she is the only one who speaks some English. After she moved out with her fiancé, I was left with two host parents who don’t speak English and a lot of challenges in front of me. However, also because of that, I got to improve my Spanish skills very fast. Starting from the basic daily greeting to sharing my political view of my country, I could see my improvement in Spanish almost daily. My host parents played a huge role in that too. Whenever I had questions or didn’t understand what they were trying to tell me, they would slow down and try to explain that to me in another way. If I still couldn’t get it, they would write the whole sentence down, sometimes even paragraphs, and teach me word by word, until I can repeat what they wanted to tell me. I was literary living with two Spanish professors who are native speakers and very willing to share their knowledge. I am very grateful that I met this family that taught me so much about their country.

I really enjoyed my time living with a Spanish family because I got to learn so much about them and so much about Spain. I got to know the locals’ tips on where to eat and what to see, and I also got to improve my language faster than any of my friends. I would recommend anyone who is doing an exchange to live with a host family.


My host parents cooking



The Christmas Dinner

Weekend Backpacking in Europe

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

I wasn’t thinking about traveling too much when I first arrived in Pamplona until I met a few friends who are really big on travelling. After I got to know them and talked to them more, I realized that it might be a good opportunity for me to travel at least some part of Europe. I am originally from Taiwan and study in Seattle, which are both really far from Europe. So I figured that this would be the best time for me to travel in Europe with a lowest cost because I don’t have any work obligation except some school work and I can design my own schedule to meet my travel needs. That’s how I came up with the idea of weekend backpacker.

I ended up having a three and a half day weekend for every week, which is perfect for my weekend travel plan. So about the second week of school, a few friends and I started traveling during the weekend. We first went to Switzerland, because the air ticket was really cheap at that time, then southern Spain, the UK, central Spain, Portugal, some other parts of Spain, and even North Africa—a territory of Spain that we figure would be cool to tell other people about having been there in Africa. The way we travel wasn’t very luxurious as we had to control the cost in order to be able to afford the next trip. To do so, we rode the cheapest transportation, slept in the creepiest hostels, and walked, with a backpack of all the travel essentials, for miles and miles, to save cost and see more, which were very interesting travel memories! We have slept in the cold, hard airport floor with a sleeping bag; we have been lost in the valley of the Alps in Switzerland to try to find the hotel we book; we had encounter numerous pickpockets, thieves, and even burglars on the way; we had seen a pregnant mother with two babies crying for help with translation. Each of the incidents provided opportunity for us to learn from the real world and strengthen our minds to deal with futures difficulties.

Besides those, we have also seen beautiful things. We have seen the last sunset of Europe in Portugal with some hot fresh Portuguese egg tarts; we have seen the snowy Matterhorn and heard the sound a glacier makes; we have seen the majestic Arabic palace called the La Alhambra where the Spanish queen started the plan to reunite the Catholic Spain; we have also seen the mind-purifying trumpet salute in London tower to the soldiers who died when fighting for the British Queen. These are some unforgettable memories!


On Matterhorn, Zermat, Switzerland.



The Arabic palace, La Alhambra.

Day Trip to Utrecht

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Written by Emily Zehm, Foster undergraduate

A friend and I decided to spend one of our Saturdays exploring the city of Utrecht, which is about a 40-minute train ride away from Rotterdam Centraal Station. I had heard that it was a cute little town and was excited to check it out. I am so glad I did because this day ended up being one of my favorite days of my study abroad experience.

We spent the morning walking up and down the cobblestone streets and seeing the main sites like Sint Willibrordkerk Church, Domtoren, and Domkerk. After that we explored some of the shops, and walked through a tiny farmer’s market with a huge selection of beautiful, fresh flowers. We then walked through the Utrecht University campus before grabbing dinner at a nice restaurant on the river.

To end our trip we followed these lights on the ground in order to get self-guided, nighttime tour of the city. These lights are embedded in the cobblestone and are supposed to give tourists a nighttime experience that they call “Trajectum Lumen.” The lights ended up being pretty far apart and relatively hard to follow, but it was still a fun adventure. Utrecht is much smaller than Rotterdam, but it also has a lot of charm and character. I would highly recommend visiting this city for anyone that is studying abroad in the Netherlands!



Getting Oriented Abroad

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Written by Emily Zehm, Foster undergraduate

For International Business Students studying abroad at Erasmus during fall quarter, there is a mandatory orientation that is a 3-day, 2-night excursion. For my orientation we all took a bus to Maastricht, Germany. All of the International Business Students stayed at a hostel together where we got the chance to listen to guest speakers, get to know each other through group discussions, and participate in fun games and bonding activities. I left this orientation really feeling like I had made some close friends.

We were also paired up with a “buddy” who is a matriculated student at Erasmus University and is in charge of helping us get settled. My buddy’s name is Yanbin, and he gave me some advice on how to succeed in my classes and where I can purchase a bike. For anyone reading this that is going to Erasmus make sure that you join the Facebook group titled “Commodity Market Rotterdam”. This is where people post about anything they are trying to sell, and you can find a ton of secondhand bikes this way!

My favorite part of this orientation was the last night, where we did a talent show. It seemed a bit ridiculous and juvenile to me when we were first told we would be doing it, however, it turned out to be a really good bonding experience and a lot of fun.