UW Exchange Program

Czeching In After 1 Month Abroad

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Written by Charlie Kay, Foster undergraduate

I have officially been in Europe for a month now, and it is really difficult to quantify how much I’ve learned since coming over here. Everyday brings something new, and it has been so much fun learning about and living the Czech culture. The first thing that you notice when you travel to a foreign country is the language. However, unlike most other European countries, Prague and the Czech Republic does not speak a romantic language, their language is slavic. Whereas in Italy or France or Spain you can rely on your basic knowledge of their language and similarities it has with English, in Prague, it is nearly impossible to decipher signs and understand what people are saying. Its even more difficult to speak the language, but I hope to be an expert by the end of the semester. It really helps that most people speak English in Prague.prague 1

Prague might be the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The Gothic architecture, the red rooftops, the Charles Bridge, the Castle, and Old Town Square never cease to amaze me. As beautiful as it is during the day, Prague is even better at night. The way the buildings are illuminated at night make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. Prague isn’t the only amazing place I have spent some time in this month. I had an unforgettable weekend in Munich during Oktoberfest and spent another one in Vienna. Each town has its own different flavor, but everything is just awesome here.prague 2

While school is just starting to ramp up, my favorite part of my time abroad so far is meeting all the people here. I live with an Italian, a German, and a French and it has been so insightful just to learn how each culture does something differently. I have spent so much time just having a beer or coffee and discussing our different ways of life and I think that that is far more valuable than any one class can teach. That being said, having another student from UW at the university has helped me a lot. We have been able to rely on each other when we need help, and it is fair to say I do not know where I would be without her. It is extremely comforting to know someone is going through exactly what you are and it’s making my experience that much better.

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I’m already through a quarter of my trip, but there is so much to see and do before I leave. I’m so excited!

Looking Back

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Written by Davis Brown, Foster undergraduate

When I first arrived at university in Germany I didn’t really know what to expect. I had attempted to prepare for study abroad as much as I could, but there comes a point when you just have to let go and learn things as the experiences happen. This leads into the biggest lesson I learned while on a Foster Exchange; prepare for the unexpected. Throughout studying abroad I ran into my fair share of unexpected situations, both the good and the bad. Things don’t always work out as planned and that is where flexibility and preparation come into play. When things don’t work out, you must be able to go with the flow or resort to “plan B.” At first, the culture shock makes it difficult to figure out what to do next, but as you begin to adapt to a different way of life things slowly come together. By the end of my study abroad experience I was able to find solutions to these unexpected situations and sometimes those solutions were better than the original plan in the first place. All it takes is looking on the bright side of life.

As I look back on my study abroad experience I’m just amazed at how lucky I was to have met such amazing people and learned so many things along the way. I cannot wait for my next chance to visit a new country, learn from their culture, and widen my horizons.  Lastly, going on the exchange was probably one of the best decisions I have made as an undergraduate and I can’t imagine my junior without this amazing experience.

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Motorbiking in Taiwan

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

On March 27th, a friend and I took a red-eye flight to Taipei, Taiwan. Arriving before 6 am, I quickly realized that we hadn’t done our research regarding the need for a visa. Being the (sometimes) worrywart that I am, I worried that we would end up on the next flight back to Singapore. It turns out that as American citizens, a visa isn’t needed! I liked Taiwan already!

We took a bus to Taipei (the airport is actually an hour away), ending up at the train station. After two hours on the train (playing “2048”), we were picked up from the Toroko station. We checked into Toroko Lodge, which I highly recommend! Relaxing for some time, we then went to rent scooters (gas-powered, not Razor scooters). This is when the adventure really started to take off…

Having never ridden a scooter before, I seriously thought my butt would scoot right off the scooter and onto the road. I almost ran over the guy who let us rent scooters in the first place… Equating riding a scooter with riding a bike, I zoomed onto the road hoping that it would become easier to balance. Well, what do you know… it worked! My friend and I quickly got the hang of our scooters and were well on our way to Toroko National Park.

There is NOTHING like driving through the park’s windy roads, with the wind in my face and a vast gorge as the backdrop. We sped through countless tunnels carved out of the mountainside, stopping every now and then to take some photos. At one point, we found an abandoned tunnel that reminded me of the one found in the film, “Spirited Away.” I sure was blown away, or should I say “spirited away,” by the experience! If there is one thing you take away from reading this blog post, it’s this: if you ever go to Taiwan, you HAVE to ride scooters in Toroko!

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A Trip to the Stonehenge and Bath, England

Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Fish and Chips in downtown Brighton

Fish and Chips in downtown Brighton

Written by Giovanna Tapia, Foster School undergraduate

It is hard to capture just how amazing my study abroad experience in England was in words or even in writing. I think that no matter how long I go on talking or writing about it, I will never be able to do justice to all that I experienced. It was truly a period in my life that I will never forget, and always cherish. The people I met, the places I visit, the lessons I learned; all of it was unnaturally perfect. Even the mistakes I made along the way were perfect, as I grew and learned from every experience during my time abroad.

One of the highlights of my time in England was visiting the Stonehenge attraction. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed trip, which was put on by the school specifically for international students. I had not gone expecting too much since a lot of my English friends did not seem to be very impressed with the Stonehenge (in fact many of them had not even visited it). But of course, as it the case with most people, we often take for granted what is easily accessible to us. The Stonehenge was much more amazing in person than I could have imagined and the history behind it made it even more phenomenal.

The next stop on the trip was the city of Bath, which I honestly didn’t know too much about but feel so incredibly glad that I visited. It is honestly such a breathtaking city; everything about it was perfect. The architecture was amazing (every building was so adorably European). It really felt like I had stepped into a fairytale, which I realize sounds extremely cheesy but it was so perfectly picturesque.  I think it helped that the weather was absolutely amazing (who would of thought I’d see the sun in England!). The Roman Baths were probably one of the most interesting parts of our tour in Bath. It was incredible to be standing somewhere with so much historical significance. Although much of it has been reconstructed, a lot of the original remains still stand today, so it was a bit mind blowing to be standing somewhere where people used to congregate and meet to socialize thousands of years ago! Although we weren’t in Bath for too long we made good use of our time and were able to see most of the major tourist attractions including the Roman Baths, Abbey Church, The Circus, Royal Crescent, and Pulteney Bridge.

This was of course just a snippet of one of the many wonderful moments while abroad. As I have mentioned before, I do not think I can ever fully explain how much of a life changing and fulfilling experience studying abroad. I feel fortunate enough to have been able to be living in England for four months, and even travel to other European countries during my time there. I know that the people who get to study abroad are few, and so I cannot explain how fortune I feel to have been able to experience it.

Culture Clash in China

Monday, October 14th, 2013

by Gabriel Heckt  

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When going abroad, what sometimes comes to mind are adventurous trips to incredible monuments and unforgettable locations and people, I think the story that really fits my study abroad experience is one that can be seen as slightly commonplace, but represents the day to day experience of living immersed in a civilization I was completely unused to.

My friends and I had taken a taxi down to the middle of the city to look for gifts we could get for our families. The place we went was known for its bargain prices and authentic merchandise, so we were excited to try to find things we had never seen in the U.S. However, as soon as we got there, we started to run into problems. The place was extremely crowded, unlike anything we had experienced back in Washington. There were thousands of people, so many that we couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go. Also, we couldn’t seem to find the place that we were trying to go, despite talking with several shopkeepers in Chinese. We always wound up at extremely pricey name brand shopping centers, the opposite of what we were trying to find!

As if to make matters worse, it suddenly started raining. This didn’t seem to be much of a problem to me. After all, I’m from Seattle, so there was no reason I should be worried about a little rain, right? I didn’t even bring an umbrella because it didn’t seem like it was going to rain that day. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This rain was nothing like even the heaviest rain I had ever experienced in Seattle. It came down in sheets, drenching in literally seconds. It was almost comical just how fast the streets cleared of the massive amounts of people. They seemed to know how to respond to the torrential downpour, but we had no clue. The rain was so heavy, that the streets started flooding, and police had to start blocking off intersections.

Now, not only had we not found our destination, but also we were completely soaked and were running out of options on how to get home. Had we been in Seattle, I’m positive we would have known how to respond instantly, and have been able to navigate our way in and out of an area. But we were in a completely unknown area, and had no knowledge of how to proceed in a situation like the one we were in. Completely by chance, we actually managed to find the shopping place we were looking for, but then we had to start the process of bargaining, which is full of subtleties and very difficult even with the decent grasp of Chinese we had. I spent around twenty minutes bargaining for a pair of shorts with a saleswoman because she wouldn’t give me even a slight discount. I was almost positive it was because I wasn’t Chinese, because I had seen Chinese people in other shops bargain to almost half the price of very similar goods. It was a pretty challenging, but also rewarding process when I finally got a small discount on what I wanted.

Trying to get back to the Sichuan University was another problem in and of itself. Because of the extreme rain, almost everyone was trying to catch a cab, and people kept moving in front of us to grab them, because unlike Seattle you have to be assertive and even appear somewhat “rude” to obtain something if there is a wait in China. Thankfully, we eventually found a very unsafe looking box motorcycle to take us back. We managed to negotiate a price and describe how to return to the University. Although we were drenched, freezing, and tired, we felt happy that we had managed somewhat successfully to navigate our way through some of China’s cultural differences that day.

Though every day wasn’t as hectic and confusing as the one above, almost every day was a learning experience, whether it was buying food or just asking for directions. Learning to adapt and fit into such a different culture through events like this was one of the largest parts of my study abroad experience, and that day is an excellent representation.

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!

Spice of Spanish Life!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Mexican Dinner Night with Jen and our International Friends

Mexican Dinner Night with Jen and our International Friends

Hey guys! My name is Alexa Parker and I am a junior studying Business and Spanish at the University of Washington. I am currently in Pamplona, Spain for fall semester studying at the Universidad of Navarra along with Jen Yeh, another student at the Foster School. Having this opportunity to explore Spain and Europe has been amazing and I am sad that my time here is halfway over.

The University of Navarra has an extensive international program that makes meeting people and getting integrated into the University so easy. At first this University seems unorganized with figuring out class schedules and registration but I promise that everything does work out, it just happens a little slower than in the United States. I am living with a Spanish girl and I seriously recommend rooming with native Spanish speakers if you have the chance. With meeting all of the international students, it is very easy to speak English most of the time, but my roommate forces me to practice my Spanish.

Pamplona is in the northeast of Spain right on the French border, which means it is relatively close to the rest of Western Europe. The town itself is pretty and quaint but small, at least compared to Seattle. If you are interested in traveling I would advise you to take some weekend trips, which are easy and not terribly expensive if you can go through the budget airlines. So far I have made it to San Sebastian and Valencia in Spain, as well as London and Bordeaux and have booked trips to Barcelona, Geneva, Berlin, Lisbon and Rome. It’s so crazy to think that two months ago I was sitting in Seattle never having been out of the United States in my life. Hasta luego!

G’Day

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

jenniferaus.jpgG’day! My name is Jennifer Ta, and I’m a senior at UW studying Marketing and Psychology. I am currently studying abroad at Macquarie University in the wonderful– Sydney, Australia!

All I can say about my study abroad experience so far, is that—it has been amazing! I really wish that I started earlier. The people here are extremely friendly and the university caters really well to study abroad and exchange students. Getting to Australia took a while, but the university arranged for a driver to come pick me up at the airport and whisk me away to my dorm.

img_1994.JPGMacquarie University has a buddy program that pairs study abroad students with a local student that has studied or wants to study abroad in your country (for me, it was the U.S.). Through the buddy program, I met a girl from Arizona with the same buddy and we ended up being on the same flight. I had a couple days to spare before orientation and we both did a pre-orientation trip together up to the Blue Mountains. It was a really great way of meeting people from my school and from places all over the world.

Living in the dorms is a great way of meeting people, I’ve been there for about a month now and I’m still getting to know people! The dorms (residential colleges) aren’t anything fabulous, but they provide 3-squared meals a day—which is great for me because I can’t cook. There’s always something to do which is the greatest part.

Studying has become one of the hardest things to do, but people here take their studying really seriously. The library’s always packed. In any case, I should probably get back to doing that myself. In the meantime, enjoy some of the pictures I’ve taken.

A deeper look at Madrid

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

ben2.jpgMadrid is one of the most happening cities on Earth when it comes to nightlife. It has more bars per capita than any European city, with plenty of clubs, late-night munchies spots, and a vibe that satisfies all ages. Take for example the seven story Kapital club, which plays a different genre on each floor, accompanying a gigantic rocket engine that intermittently blasts sweaty dancers with mist on the main dance floor. Madrid’s Joy Eslava, and many others, make it easy for students to get in free. All in all, Madrid clubs are unlike any clubs I’ve experienced in Seattle or San Francisco, and prices are reasonable if you do not plan on buying a drink. Also noteworthy to mention was the very efficient, economical Madrid Metro, which I used all the time.

ben1.jpgThe food opportunities in Madrid are mouth watering. Madrid, although land-locked, has the second highest consumption of seafood in the world, after Japan. It is famous for its Bacalao (cod) tapas, croquettes, and so much more. The La Rioja region in Spain offers exceptional, economical wine and Extremadura to the southwest provides jamoñ ibérico, the finest ham in the world. A typical late night or early morning treat is chocolate con churros (chocolate with churros), which surprisingly hasn’t caught on in the U.S. The truth is that one has to spend a little extra to be able to seek out and experience the truly inventive cuisine Spain has to offer. Within close proximity to San Sabastian and Barcelona, arguably the two most progressive culinary epicenters, Madrid holds its own and delights foodies if they are willing to pay. I only make this point because many of my friends felt that the Madrileño cuisine was not good (fried, nothing too interesting, not lots of options). This is completely false as I witnessed in disbelief many of my friends consistently opting for the cheap food that was boring and unoriginal.

Just as food is critical in getting to know about another culture, so is the opportunity to live with a native speaker. In my case, I lived with a single Argentinean man in his early thirties. This was unlike the housing situations of my friends, who lived with Spaniards. The difference was that Madrileños are concerned with confianza, or trust, and if they wanted to have a friend stay the night, they would have to get permission beforehand. In my case, my Argentinean host was indifferent to who I had over to the house. I found it interesting that most all of the socializing between Spaniards occurs outside on the street, in the cafes, in bars, and the home was mainly used for family and get-togethers with close friends. I lived in a spacious studio apartment, and most all of my fellow CIEE program mates were satisfied with their living situations.

Sevilla and the Seattleite

Monday, November 10th, 2008

4.JPGIt’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!

1.jpgNow 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…)