Musings About the Netherlands

By: Evelyne Kolker

I think that the best part of studying abroad is the chance to meander around another country, enjoy a new culture… When we had time to travel around, we wandered all around the Netherlands. My first day trip was to Delft, which is a smaller city to the northwest of Rotterdam.. Unlike Rotterdam, Delft remained intact after World War II, so offers the quintessential Dutch town feel.. There are beautiful canals throughout the city, beautiful old buildings, and a main town square with a church (called the New Church, yet dates back to the 14th century). The Delft Technical University also has a really cool library. Inside it has spiral stair cases, rows of books light up with a blue background, and a lots of places to sit and study. The library has a sloping roof covered with grass that’s great to lounge around on. It’s a delightful town to walk around in.

Evelyn edited

Amsterdam is a huge city that offers an unbelievable variety of things to do. In comparison to Rotterdam, you definitely feel constantly surrounded by tourists. Amsterdam is massive and you can spend days just walking along canals, down streets with handsome buildings. The architecture rivals some of the best cities in Europe. It’s a breathtaking city and you can wander into the Royal Palace or some great museums or just wander in and out of little stores all across the city. One of my favorite experiences in Amsterdam was meeting up a with a family friend who has a Dutch girlfriend. The advantage of knowing someone from Amsterdam is that we ended up going to this little restaurant in the middle of nowhere, past the port of Amsterdam. It’s somewhere you would never know about unless someone takes you there. The restaurant is housed in a boat that used to ferry people across the water. The boat is now stationary and houses one of the best seafood restaurants I have ever been to. They serve only locally-grown, fresh food, and was the best way to try out all the different types of seafood Amsterdam has to offer.

Evelyn

We have also headed to little towns around the area. One day we went to The Hague, which has a lot of important government buildings. On a personal note, it has the M.C. Escher museum,

which for me was hands down one of the best things I got to see here in the Netherlands. Escher was a Dutch-born artist and has created some really amazing art work. We headed up to Leiden after looking at one of the famous tulip fields Keukenhof. We also headed to Utrecht and Gouda (yes, as in Gouda cheese;-p). Overall, the Netherlands has a lot of really great places to visit and see.


Posted by goabroad - July 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



My time at Yonsei

Written by: Agnes Kim

One of the best parts of going to Yonsei was the experience of getting to meet new people from all over the world. Yonsei’s student exchange system is truly a world-class exchange program; more than 40 nations were represented by the diverse student nationalities. The opportunity to meet people of so many different backgrounds and cultures was very eye opening.
Often it can be difficult to truly grasp that out there is a world, a world in which all types of people can be found and that, just as often, these people can be radically different than yourself. Many people spend their whole lives surrounded by familiar experiences, people, and settings that never truly challenge their lives. It was truly an eye-opening lesson to find that your local and personal experiences and stories are not things that can simply be assumed to be true–the lives of others of others are so radically different from your own, even as they are taken for granted just as lightly from their point of view. And maybe it was because everyone’s story was different from each other’s but rather than having these differences separate everyone, it ironically ended up being a common thread that everyone could share and relate to. Especially in today’s globalized world, to be forced to learn first-hand that differences are gaps to be bridged rather than ignored at the expense of finding yourself friendless and a loner is a pretty humbling and valuable lesson.

At the same time, it was strange to see that this experience doesn’t exactly translate back at home either. Just as my own personal experiences or views were difficult for other people from around the world to grasp fully, I’ve found that now my experiences abroad aren’t easily understood by friends and family who stayed home, who haven’t seen what I did as well.
When meeting people abroad, they at the very least have the benefit of knowing that a lack of communication went both ways. Yet it’s strange and interesting to find that back home, people listen to your story and because of your familiarity, friendship, or kinship believe or pretend to understand when in truth they don’t. I was in that position before this trip and now know that I didn’t understand then. It’s an odd sensation to come home feeling you’ve grown and changed so much after having learned that there’s a world out there so big it could crush you, yet it seems everything is exactly as I left it since I left. I guess you call that growing up.
However, I also did notice that, particularly at Yonsei, studying abroad can be and is what you make of it. Although there are so many opportunities to see new things, it’s just as easy to stay insulated and see nothing new at all. This was a problem highlighted by the fact that the dormitories and even the associated lecture halls for foreign and exchange students are all gathered and stuck on one corner of the Yonsei campus away from everything else, being secluded and separated.

It can be very tempting to do nothing but take English courses taught by English professors in a class with English students while living in an English housing complex and only make English friends who you only go out in English districts and areas with. Although there’s nothing wrong with that since making new friends and networking is always a great thing. Plenty of the other exchange students, especially those from systems such as the EAP-UC programs that intentionally put you in that environment, did exactly just that. But I think if you’re bothering to go to another country and are surrounded by a global environment, it’s short-sighted to not take advantage of the experience to see a bit of the world and I’m glad to have put myself out there and did things out of my comfort zone and gained valuable experiences that are difficult to come by. I would strongly urge anyone considering studying abroad to do the same.

One of the most interesting cultural differences that I was able to observe in Korea was the drinking culture. Korea was recently mentioned in online research articles about worldwide drinking habits as the nation with the highest alcohol consumption rate per capita in the world and my experience at Yonsei definitely showed me that side of Korean culture; it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that the capital of Seoul could easily steal the moniker of ‘the city that never sleeps’ from New York. The most fascinating thing about the drinking culture though was that it seemed to be so deeply tied to the social ladder and work environment. Alcohol serves not only as a rite of passage for newly graduated high school students (the legal age of consumption is 19) but as an engine of social cohesion and professional networking. Whether it is with groups of personal friends, student organizations, or work functions, there are nightly outings attached with the unspoken implication that your presence is required and alcohol must be consumed in order for you to be truly accepted into the fold.
This was both fascinating and baffling when in western culture alcohol is generally considered as simply being a social lubricant that isnt necessary for acceptance among your peers. Whether this is due to the Korean alcohol soju and rice wines being so inexpensive that they are unavoidable or because there is a separate underlying cultural reason I couldn’t tell. But I can attest to the culture shock that you can go through after witnessing a society that functions so normally despite having the level of nightly alcohol consumption and social outings.


Posted by goabroad - June 26th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



The Host Family Experience

Written by: Patricia Mayer, studied abroad in Leon, Spain, Fall 2012

PatriciaMayer2Patri, mirrraaaaa”
Mira=look, or in Jorge and Miguel’s language “hey look at meee!”

I should have learned the first time. Never, ever, look. A few days ago my host family got home after picking Jorge up from karate practice. As I was studying in my room Jorge ran in dressed in his Karate robe and practiced one of his moves on my arm. A few minutes later I hear “Patri, mirraaaa!!” I glance over to my doorway where Jorge, who escaped from Chety’s grasp midway through changing into pajamas, stands butt-naked dancing and sticking his tongue out at me. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and the best part was, after a long day at work Chety didn’t have the energy to wrangle an unruly Jorge and let the incident go without punishment.
This might have been the reason why yesterday, as I walked out of my room I was met by Jorge mooning me. Wanting to be just like his big brother, Miguel quickly joined in. And soon I was trying to figure out how to yell the boys are mooning me in Spanish. Something I don’t think I will ever have to say again in Spanish.

And another prime example of the adventures of Miguel and Jorge:
Today, a distressed Eli burst through the door as both boys screamed and talked a mile a minute. I learned they had been at the super market earlier and had been refusing to behave. (Note: they are normally very well behaved, eat all they are given, tell their parents they love them and give them a kiss) But today, they wouldn’t listen to Eli at all in the supermarket. Somehow, while Eli grabbed something off the shelf, Jorge became in charge of pushing the cart which held Miguel as a captive passenger. Because he is 5 and can’t see over the cart, Jorge plowed straight into a coca cola display, knocking a ton of stuff over, and catapulting poor little Miguel out of the cart. Miguel showed me his leg which at the present moment has a giant purple bruise.

I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to these guys. After spending 3 months eating my meals in the center of chaos (and the best free entertainment you could ask for), I don’t want to leave!

 


Posted by goabroad - June 26th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Hello from Rotterdam!

By: Evelyne Kolker, Foster Undergraduate

This is Evelyne Kolker, writing from Rotterdam in the Netherlands! I am studying here on a business exchange through UW at Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM).

I wanted to share a few of my favorite memories from here so far:

A major national holiday here in the Netherlands, Queen’s Day! This day is called Koninginnedag in Dutch. This holiday began in 1885 as a way to garner support for the Dutch monarchy and has become a national day of celebration and merriment here in Holland. This Queen’s Day was a particularly special experience because this is the last Queen’s Day ever. From now on, due to the coronation of King Willem-Alexander, the holiday will be called King’s DayJ

In action, Queen’s Day is a day when all of Holland dresses up in orange, the national color. Our group of friends joined the official ESN (Erasmus Student Network) boat trip in Amsterdam. We took a bus up to Amsterdam early in the morning. An entire bus full of college students dressed in orange. We then spent a few hours on a huge boat for 150 students gliding through the canals in Amsterdam. It was an amazing experience to pass people standing on bridges or on either side of a canal, cheering when we went buy. The overall atmosphere was really great, with the music blaring, everyone dancing and cheering; the entire city, the entire country celebrating.

Another fun thing to do is travel north to Keukenhof, which has rows and rows of tulips. Due to the cold spring we have been having, I ended up heading to Keukenhof on one of the last days it was open, because I kept waiting for a sunny day.. Here’s a photo of me with Phil, one of the exchange students who came from Erasmus University to UW earlier this fall.

Beyond the traditional experiences, it has been a lot of fun just being in the Netherlands. The university is around an area called Kralingen, which is considered one of the nicest and most expensive parts of Rotterdam. I like walking through the streets in this area, because it has some older buildings. Since Rotterdam was bombed during WWII, you have to travel to other cities to see older, “traditional” Dutch towns, but Rotterdam’s Kralingen area gives you a little of the feel of the older towns.

Another fun thing about living in the Netherlands is the sheer amount of bikes. I even noticed little bike garages, to keep the bikes from getting wet from the rain. There is nothing quite like seeing someone riding a bike, while smoking a cigarette and talking on their cellphone. This kind of multi-tasking while riding around is pretty typical and always amusing to see.

The RSM program itself provides an entirely different form of teaching. The approach around here is much more hands off; students are expected to study and learn a lot of the material on their own. Beyond the rigor of the courses, the fact that 40% of the IBA program here are from other countries, other than Holland, is absolutely impressive. It makes you really feel that we are living in a global age; many of the students have plans to live all over the world while working, from Hong Kong to Berlin to Toronto. Another perk of studies here at Erasmus is that every student in RSM is required to study abroad for a quarter or a semester in the fall of their 3rd and final year. I think that the program here really encourages students to explore the world, whether it is through the required study abroad or through the sheer diversity of students and professors.

 

With love from Rotterdam,

Evelyne


Posted by goabroad - June 4th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



La Bella Vita

By: Annika Gunderson, Foster Undergraduate
Arriving in Italy, I didn’t go directly to Milan.  My entire family came to do an extended vacation in Rome, Florence, Venice, ending with moving me into my Milan apartment.  Dragging my 2 suitcases, carry-on, and backpack through 4 cities definitely made me stand out as a stereotypical American.  Italians would jokingly ask “Are you moving here or something??” as I walked past with my suitcase’s wheels rattling obnoxiously on the cobblestone.  I always stopped and said “Yes!  I’m moving to Milan!”  Every time I thought they would tell me how
beautiful Milan is, how excited I should be to live there, how amazing it would be….but instead I got “Why?  It’s ugly and industrial. I would never want to live there.”  Needless to say, I was very scared when I got on my final train from Venice to Milan.  I kept on thinking “What did I get myself into??”
Everyone I talked to about Milan was wrong.  The city is energetic, fashionable, and gorgeous. Milan never sleeps, there’s always a fashion or design week during the day, aperitivo in the evening, and clubbing at night.  Italians are night owls, when I go out I’ll eat dinner with friends at 11, hit the clubs at 12, and sometimes stay until closing at 6!  Good thing Italian espresso is strong!I couldn’t wait for class to start so I could start meeting new people.  I was so surprised when everyone came to class in groups and all sat together!  I realized that I was one of very few exchange students who came alone.  Everyone else came with groups from their university and were already friends!  Being alone made meeting people a lot more difficult, but a lot more rewarding. I didn’t come to Italy to hang out with Americans!  I now have friends from Israel, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France, and the list goes on!  Some days I really wish I had searched out other Americans here so I could have a little feeling of home, but I know I have the rest of my life for burgers and beer and I should enjoy my wine and pasta while I can!

I somehow ended up becoming closest with a group of models.  I did come to Milan for the fashion, and now I’m in the middle of it!  I love them, but sometimes it’s very intimidating to hear them talking about going to a Versace casting the next day, or online shopping and seeing them all over the website! I always look forward to seeing what they’re wearing because I know they see all the trends before the public does.  Unfortunately, I’m always in something colorful while they’re always in black! I definitely stick out from Europeans- can you guess which one is me in the photo??

That’s all for now, I only have 2 months left in Italy and I want to go out and enjoy them! Baci, Annika

Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Singapore: Looking Back

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Looking back on my time in Singapore, while my favorite thing may have been the traveling, I’m really happy I got to experience such a unique city and country. Singapore is growing and changing; skyscrapers were built and finished just while I was there. It’s modern feel, stylish restaurants and clubs, and fast-paced nature is very appealing, especially for global business.

The country itself is borderline utopian and highly regulated. No gum, no food or drink on public transportation, and no disturbing the peace. While it can sound intimidating from the outside, it isn’t on the inside. These regulations and strict policies have resulted in an extremely clean and safe country all around. My favorite thing to describe this is a quote I found on another student’s travel blog: “A 21 year old girl could find every dark alley in Singapore at 4 in the morning, and she would only be approached by a registered cab driver asking if she needed a ride home.” Not to say crime is nonexistent, but my friend left her iPad in the public library during finals week for 4 hours, came back, and it was exactly where she left it.

It can run high stress, and the culture can be seen as a little uptight at times, which is really the only large downside. However, being a foreigner in Singapore is great. The exchange program at NUS is fantastic and you’ll be able to make plenty of friends from around the world and alleviate the stress with a little world traveling and clubbing on the tops of skyscrapers. (1-Altitude is my favorite) The most important part of any study abroad trip is the experience, and you would be hard-pressed to find another country where you can experience this much of the world in one city.


Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



School in Singapore

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

While traveling is a big part of experiencing Singapore and Southeast Asia, you do have to go to school too. I actually learned a lot, and I’m not just talking about course material. Being that Singapore is an English-speaking nation in Asia (one of the few, if not the only), you have a very interesting look into the culture of Asia. Singapore brings in people from all over Asia and the world to study and do business, and so you see a lot of world beliefs, ideals, and societal facets mix. It was a unique experience to learn and test in a different culture’s ideals. I learned a lot about Eastern culture and how they look at education and the world and it has changed how I view a lot of the world and my own work.
The bottom line is, for a Westerner, this is going to be a little hard. It’s not that the material is over-the-top difficult; it’s just a different way of learning and a different way of thinking. (I wrote a paper on it, you can see it at my travel blog: cmsingapore.blogspot.com)

In order to take advantage of the traveling and in order to really experience the country and the region, I recommend you take 3 classes and do pass/fail if you can. If you’re a marketing student, Game Theory is an interesting class that really captures the formulaic thinking that I found common in the culture. Also if you have room, take a class specific to Asia, like Asian Markets.

 


Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



The Singapore Experience

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Singapore is sometimes referred to as the West’s gateway to Southeast Asia, and that has definitely held true with my experience of the small country. While being a fast growing utopian-style metropolis, Singapore is also a hub and launch pad for exploring the entire region, Myanmar to Indonesia. Traveling is fairly straight forward, and if you want to see a lot of this region I definitely recommend the program to study abroad at the National University of Singapore. They take in a decent number of exchange students from around the world, and it’s very easy to grab a group and travel to Thailand for the weekend (or the week, it’s a great place). I recommend that you make a group with some other exchange students that you meet at the first mixers or beach parties, they will all want to travel too and having a travel group is very important for going into a foreign country. Plus, having a group of people from all over the world is an amazing opportunity and leads to some great conversations and friendships through your travels.

That being said about groups, Singapore is safe to traverse and explore on your own, and solo travel adventures aren’t unheard of. I went to Bali on my own (fairly safe place to go by yourself in the region) and it was amazing. I can’t say enough about traveling with this exchange opportunity. From climbing a volcano in Indonesia to kayaking through island caves in Southern Thailand, I got to see and experience so much more than I had anticipated. The possibilities to have a trip of a lifetime are endless here, so take a few!


Posted by goabroad - June 3rd, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



Stateside from Pamplona: How We Change

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

I’m home. I’m here. It’s time to see everyone I’ve missed the last 4 months. But wait, it’s weird. Something just feels different. There’s some invisible difference placed between us that’s just not jiving like it did before, but we’re still great friends or family. What is going on? What is this?

Here’s my thought(s):

A study abroad or other world experiences might not be what change us. We go abroad seeking this conversion into a “whole new person”, whatever that means, but that’s not the whole story. Yes, our ideas are challenged, and we’re presented with all sorts of new things that could mold us into the imaginative “whole new person” we’re looking for. But there’s something else going on.

People are what change, so people are what change us.

Pretty buildings, breathtaking views, and famous museums don’t change us. We get from those exactly what we want from them. What changes us are the people we have experiences with. So going abroad, in and of itself, doesn’t change us. Instead, it just provides us with a barometer to gauge the change that has occurred. Here’s what I mean—

At home, we tend to change at the pace of those around us- friends, colleagues, and family. And as a result, we don’t necessarily see the change because it’s so incremental. But when we go abroad for an extended period of time, we’re no longer around those people changing with us. Instead, we have new people and less close relationships. We don’t stop changing, and we still may not be able to see it while abroad but once we return home, we see it. We see when it feels hard to relate with our close friends. The people that were once so easy to communicate with and relate to now seem distant. The relationships haven’t changed, but some undercurrent has. And I think that undercurrent is YOU. You start to see how you changed independent of your friends. You still might not be able to put your finger on what changed, but you sure feel it. Relationships that were easy and close before now feel slightly forced and different.

But give it a little time and you’ll be back in the groove, assimilated just as before.

Use this as an opportunity to enlighten your friends, teach them what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed. Chances are they feel it and see it to, making them quite curious of what caused the distant feeling. Bring it close again through the sharing of the new you!


Posted by goabroad - March 7th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink



You’re Abroad. You NEED to Travel

By: Michael Cross, Foster Undergraduate

I left for Spain without a single weekend trip planned which made me a little nervous for how I would get it all together. But upon getting settled and meeting people I was soon able to put together trips for 12 of the first 13 weekends! I’m so glad I hadn’t put any together prior to my arrival in Spain because I would have done it all wrong. I had assumed the only way to get around were trains and plain. However, in Spain, the ease of travel is incredibly simple through their bus system. In the States, I never would have thought about taking the Greyhound to get around but it’s a very easy, useful, and a cheap system in Spain. Take advantage of this! It makes it easy to purchase cheap flights out of small airports because there’s a bus connecting them, and what’s even better is they let you get around to cool towns and cities that wouldn’t be easily accessible without your own car. For instance, a favorite trip of my friend and I was a day trip up to San Sebastian, an absolutely gorgeous, French-inspired beach town in the tip top northeast of Spain. There we could swim, surf, tan, and just take a break from what was already a break from real life. But this is only the beginning of my travel experiences.

One thing to have in mind is that you’ve already purchased the expensive plane ticket across the Atlantic, so you might as well tack on a ton of cheap trips too.  Throughout my 4 months, I was able to get to 16 cities in 7 countries and 2 continents—all for a little more than the cost of getting to Spain from the US. All of this was made possible through the ease of travel and the economical viability of transportation throughout Europe. If you use Ryanair or other low-cost providers, and avoid trains like the plague, it’ll amaze you how cheaply you can get around. So do it! Don’t waste any weekends. The time abroad speeds by, and perhaps extra travel doesn’t help, but it’s so worth it. This leads me to one of my biggest pieces of advice:

Sometimes you’ll get sick of traveling. Honestly, it’s exhausting traveling weekend after weekend because it’s stressful learning new cities, getting your bearings, and filling your head with memories and your camera with gigabytes of photos. So at times I found myself thinking, “I just want to stay put this weekend and take a breather.” But I’m so glad I didn’t! Here’s my advice— If there’s something awesome going on in the city of your abroad trip, then by all means stay put, go to it, and have an experience. But if there’s nothing, go travel! It’ll be so worth it! You’ll get to make something great out of an otherwise ordinary weekend. And each city has so much to offer you. When you’re back in the States, you won’t be able to sit in class and surf Skyscanner or HostelWorld to plan out your weekend. Take so much advantage of this.

Now, this might be different in other, larger cities, but Pamplona is pretty small so you don’t miss much by taking off for the weekend. You’ll be so happy you did in the end.


Posted by goabroad - March 7th, 2013 - 0 comments - Permalink