Exploring Singapore

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Written by Katelin Kobuke, Foster undergraduate


I have been in Singapore for over a month now, and what an experience it has been! I am the only student from UW student studying here at NUS so it has given me the chance to branch out and meet new people from all over the world; there are over 1000 international exchange students studying at NUS this semester. The first few weeks we spent our time exploring Singapore, seeing all the major sites, finding great places to eat, going to the beach, finding hiking trails, and visiting some of the close by islands.  The food definitely takes some getting used to, lots of rice, meat, and fish, so good luck trying to find a nice fresh salad or a traditional breakfast around here!


Now that school is full swing we spend the weekdays studying so we can enjoy the weekends traveling! Classes are challenging and engaging, but it is definitely an adjustment getting used to the different teaching styles. I am taking an investments class, bank management, and organizational/leadership management class.  I have my midterms this week, so I really need to buckle down and study hard. So far I have had the chance to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia with some of the friends I have met here, and even got my PADI open water scuba license last weekend.

Singapore’s garden by the bay:



Coral at Tioman Island:


Snorkeling in Malaysia:


Chapter One: Arrival

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Written by Evan Rumpza, Foster undergraduate

It was 75 degrees on the plane – the sky was grey. I left Seattle with one large dark green suitcase, a light green 48-liter backpack and a grey schoolbag. I had enough clothes for two weeks and no clue what lay ahead. Sydney, Australia was the destination on my boarding pass. It was on the other side of the world, and seventeen hours later so was I.

It was 95 degrees in the airport – the sky was clear. I still had on my long pants and layered jacket from take off, a poor decision if you have ever been to Australia in mid February. The thirty-minute ride by train combined with the five-minute walk to my hostel, bags in tow, left me sticky and gasping for air. Solid start, I only had five months to go.

Two weeks later I signed my first lease agreement. I had successfully navigated the complex and expensive Sydney housing market and landed a three bedroom flat in a little bohemian suburb known as Newtown just minutes from campus. The air conditioner might not work, but it is a good place. It took a little convincing but eventually each of the four beds was filled. A Welshman, a Canadian, an Italian, and myself – a completely dysfunctional group of exchange kids who had known each other for less than a month were now supposed to live and learn together.

One hurdle down – next was class. The funny thing about study abroad is that you often times put a good amount of effort into the “abroad” part but neglect the “study”. In the case of registering, this could not have held truer. See, registration for exchange kids at the University of Sydney amounts to this:

Step 1: Blindly enter classes you might like.

Step 2: Computer slots you into random classes at random times.

Step 3: If you are unhappy you must submit a hard copy change request.

No online registration. No add/drop link. No, instead if you are unhappy with the classes/dates/times that the computer randomly selects for you, expect to submit a paper in person and cross your fingers you do not need additional faculty approval. Above all else, hope to whatever higher power these credits still transfer and that you graduate on time. Not the most pleasant experience.

Second hurdle down, and after all of that, I really was quite fortunate. I even landed an internship with one of Australia’s leading investment research firms. But enough about the boring stuff, I am supposed to be selling Australia, and so far I am doing a pretty bad job.

Lets see, the weather is fantastic. The beaches are fantastic. The surfing is fantastic. There is every type of food imaginable. The nightlife compares favorably with some of the best locations in the world. The campus is beautiful. The people are very welcoming. I mean, you can trust me, look how big a critic I’ve been up to now.

Being serious for just one moment, moving to Sydney has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew that the moment I first stepped out onto the Sydney Harbor Bridge and peered down at the billowing white sails of the world famous opera house. To anyone who has ever travelled, you know the feeling. To be so wrapped up in a moment. It is easy to find, but impossible to hold onto. I hope that this trip is full of moments like this. I will be sure to get back to you on that, unless the sharks, snakes, and spiders get me first.

**Below is an actual picture my roommate Jamie Chapman took on a day trip to Manly Beach.


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.



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.


A Matter of Perspective

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Written by Bonnie Beam, Foster undergraduate

“How’s Spain?!” seems to be a common question these days. As I try to give an honest answer, it seems that quite contradictory phrases most accurately describe my experience thus far. It’s both exhausting and relaxing, challenging yet simple and by far one of the hardest and easiest times of my life.





Why are these simultaneously possible? Because everything is a matter of perspective.

Por ejemplo…

(1) The fast-track American lifestyle, with maxed out schedules, work-oriented mindsets and the rarity of sit-down meals with loved ones is no where to be found. For the Spanish, living life to its fullest is not about how much money they can accumulate in the bank rather how much time they can spend with loved ones; whether that be making a meal together, going for a walk or grabbing drinks.

One of the things I love most is the priority the Spanish culture places on eating together “en casa” (at home). Nearly everyone goes home for lunch and all the shops close down. Proof of this? My university cafeteria consists of 6, 4-person tables… That’s right, 6 tables for an enrollment size of 11,000! You can imagine how alone I felt when I had to pack a lunch and eat at school one day due to my class schedule.

As many of you know, I live with three girls from Spain. Every day, we all come home for both lunch and dinner to prepare and eat a meal together. Each meal, from start to finish, usually lasts about 2 hours. And not once have I thought that my time would be better spent elsewhere. I absolutely love having the ability to be completely present with those around me; not feeling guilty for missing another function or failing to check off a task on my to-do list because the reality is, here in Spain, the only place you should be is at home, eating with your friends and family.

It’s disheartening to realize that this routine is impossible for most back in the states, where most of our schedules only allow for a 45 minute coffee break, if that. This last week has been a refreshing reminder that our energy should be devoted primarily to people, not to electronics, money or everything that encompasses “achieving the American dream.” In America, the typical Spanish lifestyle might be labeled as unproductive or lazy but to the Spaniards, Americans have their priorities all wrong. Once again, it’s a matter of perspective.

(2) A little visual to help you understand what happened…




Yes, I was pooped on. While walking down the street with some of my friends from Peru, a bird decided to give me a surprise. Needless to say, I was shocked, mortified and a bit disgusted. But I was soon forced to look at the situation from a different perspective my Peruvian friends quickly explained that in their culture, getting pooped on is good luck. Who knew?! And thus, another realization that everything is a matter of perspective.

A few other things you might like to know…

  1. Dinner is eaten between 9:30-11:30pm. More often, the latter.
  2. I walk everywhere. All day, every day. Yesterday alone, I spent two hours walking to school and back.
  3. Yet, no one carries water bottles. The other day, an older couple in the elevator poked fun at me for carrying a water bottle around.


New Adventures

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Written by Tara Stamaris, Foster undergraduate

In a couple of weeks, I will have been in Europe for two months. It is crazy how fast the time has gone by, and how much I have learned along the way! The first couple of weeks were a little hard for me. I was missing home and felt out of place in my new foreign home. However as I meet more people and experience more things, it is easy to see how amazing this trip is.

On the weekends a group of us students from school have been going on mini trips to neighboring countries. We have gone to Munich, Germany, Vienna, Austria, and next weekend we are going to Berlin, Germany! These trips are so much fun because we are all new to the environment and are really excited to see and experience new things. We just returned from Vienna and when we were there, we went to the most beautiful palace. It is called the Belvedere Palace and it was breathtaking. Living in the United States, buildings like this simply don’t exist. It was so fun to walk around and see the gardens and rooms inside. Vienna was so romantic and beautiful.

I can’t wait to see where else I end up visiting! Europe is amazing because all of the countries are so close yet so different. Every place I go is different from the last, and every place presents new challenges as well as experiences. I never thought I would be going to new countries every weekend, it’s amazing.


These are my roommates, the one on the left is Margot and she is from Belgium. The one on the right is Rianne and she is from Holland.


Arriving in Pamplona

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

By: Nicholas Jaeger, Foster Undergraduate

Almost 23 hours after leaving SeaTac, I arrived in Pamplona, Spain. I wouldn’t say that I had a difficult time when I first got to Pamplona, but it was definitely a little challenging for me. It was recommended that I spend some time looking online for a place to live before leaving for Spain, but that I should wait until I get there to choose my place and roommates. I got to Pamplona about 5 days before the International Student Orientation, so I lived in a hostel for that time, which was a little expensive. By day 3, I was getting bored because I didn’t know anyone at the time, so I just walked the city each day and discovered new places. The first thing that I noticed in Pamplona was that people there really don’t speak any English. I had studied some Spanish, but it had been 2 years since I had any classes, so it was very hard for me to communicate at first.

After that first weekend it was time for orientation, which I really enjoyed. I had a chance to meet lots of people from all over the world. Also, on the second day of orientation, there was an organized trip to the northern beach city of San Sebastian. Looking back on all my travels in Spain, I think that San Sebastian was one of the nicest places I visited. Anyway, on this day trip I got to go in the ocean on a very hot day. There is also a large statue of Jesus overlooking the city, similar to the one in Rio de Janiero. You can hike up to the top of the hill that the statue is on, and this is something that I would definitely recommend doing. After returning from San Sebastian, I finally moved into my apartment, which was very nice because I was tired of living out of my suitcase in the hostel.

Anyway, the first week was somewhat of an adjustment period, but it wasn’t that bad. I had a great time meeting people and seeing new places. From that point on, studying abroad in Pamplona was the best time of my life. The Universidad de Navarra is a great school, although class scheduling is strange/difficult, and I really liked the city of Pamplona. In fact, I am very happy that the Foster exchange program takes place in a smaller city like Pamplona. It is not very touristy, so you are forced to use a lot more Spanish then you would in a bigger city like Barcelona or Madrid.