Chapter One: Arrival

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.


Posted by goabroad - April 27th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Prada, Black, and 3 piece suits

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!

Posted by goabroad - February 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Life in the Fast Lane

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.


Posted by goabroad - February 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Waka Waka Africa

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.



Posted by goabroad - February 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Seoul to Busan

Written by Melissa Jung, Foster undergraduate

Next to Seoul, Busan is the second most well known city in Korea. I made the trip south with some friends to visit for a weekend. I was amazed at how beautiful it was there! Since we only had two days, we did all that we could in the short amount of time we had. We visited a small village in Busan that was famous for its colorful wall art throughout the alleys…and the view was beautiful!

Busan was just a gorgeous city. The walkways were lined with bright, golden trees where my friends and I probably ended up taking a hundred pictures. In Seoul, you can’t see the ocean, so it was breath taking when I saw the sea. We just sat there for an hour admiring the view and reflecting on how amazing our trip to Busan had been.




Posted by goabroad - February 23rd, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

5 Spanish Culture Shocks

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.

Posted by goabroad - February 9th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Living with a Host Family

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

Posted by goabroad - February 9th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Weekend Backpacking in Europe

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.

Posted by goabroad - February 9th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

China Checklist

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Here’s Five Things That I was able to do:

1. Got a Bike (Early September)

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my bicycle. However, I wasn’t able to pay the full respects that its due. This is my way of amending that. 



I’m borrowing the bicycle from distant relatives here in Beijing, which is what it looks like  too. The relatives live near the Beijing Zoo, so I was able to ride from around there back to school. Despite all the people and cars, I enjoyed the opportunity to ride a bike again. Walking around everywhere was getting a little old. And it was fun to see some of the city.

Most people’s first reaction to my bike is usually laughter—though I don’t find it all that funny. I think people must be under the impression that I actually bought the thing, which in that case would be that I’ve been swindled out of my mind. Really, if this wasn’t a family artifact, then I’d have to get paid to ride it. But hey, it looks pretty nice. Picture me riding.

2. Olympic Stadium (Early October)

I vividly remember watching the 2008 Olympics and really like the Olympics in general, so dropping by here really was a no-brainer. We didn’t actually go in the stadium*, so I wasn’t able to do my Usain Bolt impression. Maybe that’s for the better


*Decided against it cause of money and time

3. They Could Be Royals (Early October)

I was also able to visit the Summer Palace, which ended up being one of my favorite places. Unfortunately, I forgot to put in the memory into my camera when I left. That meant that my phone was left up to the duty of pictures. To my surprise, it was more than up to the task. The views inside really were spectacular.




4. Biked Across the City (Mid October)

I got the crazy thought that cycling across Beijing with the school’s cycling club would be a good idea. So we left at 9:00 pm and I got back to my room at around 2:00am. The last 10 kilometers was the worst part because cause there were no sights to left to see and I wanted to sleep. Despite this and the pollution,I thought the experience was a good one. It was fun being able to see this city at night, including Tienanmen Square andthe lights at 后海. And hey, I got some exercise in as well. The 50 kilometer trip was well worth it.

5. APEC Holiday

Thanks to the APEC Conference that was being held, all the students in Beijing got an extra five days off at the beginning of November. I spent that time at 张家界 with some classmates. 张家界 is said to be the inspiration behind the film Avatar. I’ve never watched the film, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Posted by goabroad - February 9th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink

Second Chances

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Yup, I gave it another try. After I tried 臭豆腐 (stinky tofu) in Taiwan a few years ago, I swore that I would never try it again. It tasted just like how it smelled and I honestly despised the taste. It looks as if my resolve has weakened over time. My food philosophy has evolved over time. Local foods and fermented foods are both of greater interest to me.  臭豆腐 fit into both of these categories, so when I was in 长沙, I decided to go for this local specialty*.


*Hard to see in the picture, but this type of 臭豆腐 came in a soup. It is made differently than the Taiwanese kind. It smells about the same though.

One of my friends gave his assessment and I think it sums it up pretty well: “It just tastes like tofu”. I’d agree that it really just tasted like tofu, green onions, and chili peppers. It’s the after-taste that’s special; lingers in the mouth for quite a while, which was certainly not a plus for me. But 臭豆腐 has now moved into a zone closing to acceptance. I’m still not fond of it, but this polarizing Chinese snack could probably warrant a few more tries from me.

Posted by goabroad - February 6th, 2015 - 0 comments - Permalink