Exam Post Part I

May 11th, 2015 by under Italy, Semester. No Comments.

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by Alyssa Lesho

It’s the last week of classes. I have two exams next week and two the week after, and I’m starting to understand why the Italians at Bocconi have been studying for months already. It doesn’t feel like I’ve had a semester’s worth of classes, yet there is so much material to be reviewed.

Walking through Expo 2015!

Walking through Expo 2015!

Since next weekend will start the beginning of the real study sessions, I took this past weekend to do all the things I hadn’t done yet. I went to the Expo on Saturday afternoon, which was a nice break from studying. The Expo site is really beautiful, the country pavilions are very interesting, and the food is incredible. It runs from May to October, so anyone in Milan for the Fall 2015 semester should really go.

On Sunday I went to Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper” on one of the walls of a chapel. Only days after being finished, people started to notice its decay. It’s been painted over and renovated so many times, and even bombed in 1943 during WWII and exposed to the elements. They had to cover it with a tarp until they could reconstruct the church. To see it, you have to walk through three ventilated rooms, and you can only stay for 15 minutes. Tickets sell out months in advance, but I managed to snag one last week when someone canceled their reservation.

I can’t believe I only have a few weeks left in Europe. Back in College Park, I can’t walk a block down the street and suddenly be surrounded by ancient Roman ruins. I can’t buy a ticket to see one of the world’s most famous paintings or buy a €30 plane ticket to anywhere. I can’t get a decent espresso or gelato or brioche. I’m genuinely going to miss Milan when it’s time to go home.

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Music, Studying and Beachin’

May 10th, 2015 by under Uncategorized. 2 Comments.

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It’s finals week at home and it’s pre-finals week here in Milan! My final exams span from the 20-25 and then it’s almost freedom!!

International Economics is killing Alyssa Lesho and I but we’re working hard to get through it! (Never take this class if you come to Bocconi.) So we got the lovely news on this side of town about our beloved Wally Loh’s tuition increase per semester of $700 whopping dollars. Now apart from finals I’m stressing about trying to get a job in the fall and now I’m even more stressed about passing finals given the cuts to our financial aid if we fail a course and become part-time students. Which HOPEFULLY won’t happen because we’re excellent studious Terps. ;)

So to motivate myself for this finals week I got to hit up a concert of one of my favorite blues guitarists, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and took a mid-study vacation to Nice, France.

I never get to see Kenny play in MD because he plays 21+ venues so it was awesome to be able to venture out and see the band here! Being the only american at the show, I was able to exchange views on Van Halen and David Lee Roth with Kenny and chat for a bit with a drummer I may be working with at Zildjian during my Artist Relations internship this summer, Chris Layton, who just got inducted into the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. Kick-ass show and the band and crew were so incredibly sweet. It was great to have a dose of home in Italy.

 

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Nice was great; I really needed some quality beach time before I locked myself permanently in this very library I’m sitting in and I got to meet some really awesome people from all over at the hostel we stayed at.

Time to continue the study grind, it was good checking in with you Terps, catch ya later!

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Bocconi University Life

April 27th, 2015 by under Italy, Semester. No Comments.

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by Alyssa Lesho

ESN Bocconi is the International Students community of Bocconi University. They plan weekend trips and events around Milan. Many (most) of these events involve expensive aperitivos and clubs, but the weekend trips are a really good way to meet people. They also organize events like seeing “The Last Supper,” which is really great because reservations for things like that can fill up months in advance. I recommend that when you get here, you purchase the ESN Student card and use it!

The semester is nearly over – only one month left – but classes aren’t slowing down at all. If anything, my professors are trying to fit in even more material. Apparently they aren’t used to the 3-week spring break either, and everything is starting to feel rushed. I’ll be getting new material in 3 out of my 4 classes until the last day before the exam period. Only one professor is setting aside the last week for review.

The more classes I have, the more different this university feels from UMD. At first, I really enjoyed Bocconi’s approach to learning. I liked the discussions in class, and that I could catch up with the readings whenever I had time, and that I wasn’t getting new assignments every week. Now however, I’m starting to miss the security that UMD provides – review days and practice exams and homework assignments that let you know how you’re doing.

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The park between Bocconi and my apartment.

Since I got back from spring break, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in the park next to Bocconi, doing readings from a month ago and reviewing 60-slide PDFs of International Economics lectures. Starting May 1, the Milano Expo will begin and Bocconi has provided all students with a free 1-day ticket. It will be a welcome, short break from studying, but I think that most of May will be devoted to the “study” in study abroad.

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Caffè, Chitarre, Lezione; ma donna!

April 25th, 2015 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Today I’ve realized something. I don’t view 1 and 2 euro coins as currency. I basically view them as coffee tokens. Finding one or two euro coins here in my jacket pocket, purse or backpack excites me as much here in Milan as finding quarters in my car back at home in MD with which I can try to unsuccessfully avoid a ticket from DOTS.

 

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It’s now the time when exams are starting to catch up with all the students. I have 4 exams spanning from May 21-27 that are all cumulative. So I now am paying 6 euros to study in the library near my house every weekend (yes i’m going broke,) and really trying to eat healthy and workout to keep my energy high throughout the next couple weeks. Then when I get home before starting my internship in Boston, it’s gonna be me, orange juice, a box of Rice-krispie treats and Netflix! :)

But I’ve really been learning a great deal at Bocconi, it’s an excellent university with an excellent faculty. My most challenging course is international economics, but our professor is so inspiring intelligent and helpful; she makes me want to push myself harder to study and understand the concepts.

So in the stress of exam studying, I decided to find a guitar store in the area because I chose not to bring one to italy to let my muscles and nerves relax and take a break….turns out I’m crazy enough where I actually bought a brand new gorgeous guitar here. It took one hour of public transport hell in the rain, but this baby is totally worth it!

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Unfortuantely, my nerve and tendon issues are sparking up again with the frequency I’m using my computer to study and using my hand to take notes while also trying to play crazy metal shred solos.

 

I think it was some form of divine intervention to get me to actually study without distractions.

I’ll check in soon!

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Understanding What it Means to Travel Well

April 14th, 2015 by under Italy, Semester. No Comments.

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by Alyssa Lesho

I spent this last weekend in Velvendos, Greece – a tiny lake village of 3000 people in the mountains, two hours away from the nearest airport. I was staying with my friend and her Greek family, celebrating Greek Easter. A month ago, I visited my own family in Cologne, Germany. These two trips have been my favorites so far, for the simple reasons that visiting family means homemade food, it means relaxing with a book, and it means experiencing true European-style living. It’s not about being a tourist – it’s about being part of the family.

You can make every weekend about seeing as many sights as possible. For most of February and March, that’s exactly what I did. Then when I got to my three-week spring break, I realized how much I enjoyed being home in my Milan apartment and sitting in my park reading a book. Traveling is exhausting, and seeing the sights and eating the food doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing the culture. When you stay with family for a weekend, you at least get an idea of what it would actually be like to live in Europe.

Hiking in Velvendos, Greece

Hiking in Velvendos, Greece

I started my spring break with ten days in London, Amsterdam, and Rome. London is incredibly expensive for anyone on a college budget. To see all the sights alone would cost more than £100 (and that’s not a fun exchange rate either). Amsterdam was much cheaper – and incredibly beautiful – but it’s very cold and rainy in March. Rome was warm and sunny, and it was wonderful to be back in Italy. Rome is always a good idea. I spent the next ten days in Milan, recovering from the previous ten days, getting in some studying, and enjoying my host city, which has finally begun to warm up. I spent my last four days of break in Velvendos eating my way through Greek Easter, which was the perfect way to wrap up the first half of the semester.

If you have the opportunity to do so, I can promise you will get much more out of visiting friends and family than two weeks of country-hopping through spring break.  It’s also a good idea to remember that there’s a good chance you’ll get back to Europe one day.  You don’t have to see everything during your semester abroad.

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World Traveler….

March 31st, 2015 by under United Kingdom. No Comments.

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By: Yvonne Do

I honestly love living in London so much I did not want to leave to see other countries. While some of my friends studying in other countries and even people in my program have been traveling since February, I still never really got the itch to travel. I know I should take advantage of my close proximity to so many different countries but I really did not feel the need to travel because there are so many things I still want to do in London! London is such a big city with so many things happening at all times, I am constantly enjoying myself here!

I did end up traveling however. I am currently writing from Switzerland and before I got here, I went to Amsterdam and Dublin. All of this traveling during the month of March, flying out on the weekends then coming back to London for the weekdays has worn me out. You know how there are sayings and people who claim to be “world travelers”, people who believe they could backpack around the world or just always travel for the rest of their life? I used to think I wanted to live that life, that life of constant change and inconsistency. To often see new places to spice it up to avoid being bored… Well, traveling for three consecutive weekends has made me realize that lifestyle is not for me.

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love seeing new places, observing culture and people. That is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to study abroad! I think it is the fact I traveled for 3 weekends straight, it has hit me that I could not travel that often…so maybe I like consistency more than I thought. Because I used to think I would just get bored staying in one place but London is so different! So many options! I have loved the places I have seen in Europe though, below are some pictures from my trip to Switzerland!

This is Lake Thun and it is right below the Swiss Alps. It was so beautiful to see such blue waters next to snowy mountains.

This is Lake Thun and it is right below the Swiss Alps. It was so beautiful to see such blue waters next to snowy mountains.

The excitement from surviving 4 cable car lifts to get 10,000 feet high on the Swiss Alps!

The excitement from surviving 4 cable car lifts to get 10,000 feet high on the Swiss Alps!

 

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Travel Tips From Germany

March 31st, 2015 by under Germany, Uncategorized. No Comments.

Vallendar is a nice little town, by all means. However, sometimes (or almost every weekend) one just has to get out of their comfort zone and explore Europe! It will be hard to leave this place you recently call home, I know; but, “if we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet!”

In all seriousness, you will be surrounded by countries attached with so much history and by cities filled with beauty! It is self-depriving not to see them. The great thing about studying abroad is that beyond learning with a different institution, you can learn about the world with your own eyes. As exchange students, you will have many free weekends to get to know these various places. And, with these travel tips below, you can save money, time, and be stress-free while living the adventurous life to the fullest!

Before you leave:
Plan your trips ahead of time! Knowing where you want to go in advance will save you from paying excessive amounts for transportation.  Although the high-speed trains can be expensive, they usually have saving fares which can be 40-50% of the standard cost if you book it early enough. Alternatively, you can take it slow and steady with the regional trains or buses for a lot cheaper. The Deutsche Bahn also has a promotion during the month of January where you can purchase a 25% discount railcard for only 15 euros (It will only lasts 3 months, but the best 15 euros I’ve spent so far)! Finally, if you travel with a group of 6 or more people, you can get a discounted group-ticket as well. The same rule applies for booking flights or hostels: the earlier you purchase it, the cheaper it will be.

During you trip:
If you had not previously mapped out what you want to see (which you really should do to save time), you can always go to the cities’ tourist information center. They will have free maps, discounts on events, and advice about the main attractions. Your hostel owners are also a good point of reference. While walking around and enjoying the scenery, you must be vigilant for pickpockets and scam artists! I fortunately have not had any issues, but I know many tauschies who have lost valuable items already. It can happen and does happen commonly in Europe. Make sure you keep your wallets and important documents underneath your clothings (Ladies, minimize exposure of your expensive brand clothing/equipment…Men too!) If you visit a country that uses a different currency, try to avoid exchanging money at the train stations or airports. They will rip you off big time. In the city centers, you can usually find currency exchange outlets that will offer you much better rates.

Due to limited word count, I can continue with many more helpful tips on my next post. However, the main piece of advice I want to give is: Do your research! Being informed and smart about your travels will keep you safe and happy.

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A Time for Relaxation

March 30th, 2015 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

The past two weeks have been relatively uneventful after having gone to the Czech Republic and Ireland. Since then I have had class and pretty much stayed in my small town doing little but going to the gym (which I pretty much have just begun to do). I did, however, take one domestic trip to Heidelberg, Germany. Overall, it was a little disappointing because it was cloudy for much of the day when we went to the castle, the city’s main attraction. Nevertheless, the city was beautiful and there was much to see and do there. Luckily the weather became sunny when we walked around the old city, after having visited the castle. Fortunately for me, I will be visiting Heidelberg in the summer again when my parents come to Germany in May and I am certain the weather will be beautiful at that time.

I have started to play board games with some of the other students, an interest I was very much missing. I have also started learning new card games which is something I’m enjoying more and more. I find myself planning a lot of trips elsewhere while not studying as much as I should. Additionally, I find that I unfortunately do not have all the time that I would like to do everything I want to do and visit all the places I want to visit.

Classes for the new quarter have proven to be easier than the first quarter, in my opinion. In my class, Software Development for Entrepeneurs, much of it is group work and does not always meet on a weekly basis so travel becomes easier for me. In some ways, it does not really feel like “studying” abroad. Rather, I feel as if I have set up my classes in such a way that the second quarter feels more like a vacation than involving academic work.

Today is actually my birthday (not quite yet back in Maryland) so I am wondering a little bit what the other students would do (e.g taking me to a bar) if anything at all. I have a small desire to be back in the US for my birthday since it feels like it is a big deal in the US while I imagine it is not that out of the ordinary in Europe. I cannot wait for the next couple weeks. I think the semester has really only just gotten started for me at this point.

Me and the guys in Heidelberg

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Discovering Milan

March 30th, 2015 by under Italy, Semester. No Comments.

DSC_1072by Alyssa Lesho

With all the traveling every weekend, I realized I was forgetting to spend a little time exploring the city I’m living in. The last few weeks, I’ve made more of an effort to see more of Milan.

The problem with Milan is that it is not a typical Italian city. Milan is the center of finance and fashion, which means that as a whole it is very industrial. And I’ll be perfectly honest – the Duomo in Milan, although beautiful, is not the most impressive one I’ve seen. Most people come to see the Duomo and then realize there’s nothing else immediately obvious to do.

For one thing, there’s da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” I’ve also seen a Van Gogh exhibit at the Palazzo Reale, which was the best exhibition of Van Gogh paintings and drawings I’ve ever been to. The Brera neighborhood north of the Duomo is a beautiful place to go eat pizza outside in the sun. Parco Sempione (if it hasn’t been raining) is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon or go for a run. Navigli is the area near the canals where you can find the good aperitivo places and bars.

The food in Milan is also, in my opinion, excellent. The cafés (here called bars) serve a wide variety of pastries and amazing espresso (I’ve become quite the espresso snob while in Italy). My new favorite morning order is a “marocchino,” which has espresso, milk foam, and cocoa powder. There are small Italian “trattorie” and Chinatown and all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants (my favorite). You can find food from almost anywhere. So far, my favorite pizza place is Rossopomodoro, which is actually a chain here in Italy serving Naples-style pizza.

I still haven’t seen probably half the city, but I have two months left to keep exploring!

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Is WHU for you?

March 27th, 2015 by under Germany, Semester. No Comments.

Ooh hah way hah ooh say ooh hah way hah ooh say whaa?

That’s the “official” WHU chant, sung to the tune of ‘Levels’ by Avicii.

When I was applying for my exchange semester, I browsed the Smith Goes Global site to help me narrow down which program I wanted to do. Here are some questions that to help you determine if WHU is the right fit!

1. Do you speak German? 

Before I decided to apply to WHU, I asked a friend who had done the program the previous semester if I needed to know any German. He reassured me that I didn’t, and that I would get along just fine. This is not exactly true. He was right in that you can get away with just English at the university, because all the classes are in English and all the students at WHU speak English fluently. However, few people speak English outside of the university bubble. Grocery stores, taxi drivers, citizens of Vallendar, etc, only speak German. I don’t think not knowing the language has necessarily hindered my study abroad experience, but I certainly would have had a better time if I could speak German.

2. Do you enjoy living in big cities or small towns?

Vallendar is a really small town, about a quarter the size of College Park. Most of the inhabitants are either university students or the elderly. Because it is so small, most of the stores close in the afternoon for a couple hours and close fairly early, around 8 PM or so, and definitely on Sundays. There are few shopping and nightlife opportunities in Vallendar, however, students can journey to Koblenz for a night out. (The bus fare adds up quickly though.) I personally don’t mind the small town feel, but some of my friends from larger cities are itching for something to do.

3. Do you want to travel to many places or get to know a place really well?

Germany is in a very central location in Europe. WHU is located in the German state Rhineland-Palatinate, which borders three countries: France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Germany itself also borders Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Traveling by train is easy, but the nearest airports (one in Cologne and two in Frankfurt) are all about an hour (or more) away. Vallendar is a neat little town, but it is probably not the place to spend four months if you want to live in Europe. I probably spend more time away than actually in Vallendar, and it’s something I wish I considered a little more carefully before deciding on WHU. I love traveling, but I also wish I could have gotten to know a place really well. I could always go to those places as a tourist again in the future, but I would most likely not have the opportunity to be in Europe for a long time.

WHU Location

The Vallendar campus is located close to four German states and three countries.

4. What is your budget? 

For me, the rent in Vallendar is actually cheaper than my rent at South Campus Commons. However, I eat out much more frequently here and I travel often, so I technically spend a lot more. Here’s the Catch 22 though: I travel because I picked WHU. Had I picked Maryland-in-Berlin or a Smith Exchange in a larger city (London, Milan, Madrid, Hong Kong, etc), I probably would not travel nearly as often and would save a lot of money. The expenses here are on-par with costs at College Park, but with slightly fewer options in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. What will your class load be like?

Classes are WHU are challenging. Even though grades are not factored into our GPA, I am still stressed about doing well because the classes cover a lot of material and students are expected to do work outside the classroom. Some of my friends at other universities this semester feel less pressure because the academic atmosphere is more relaxed. My buddy told me that most people attend private universities in Germany because their high-school grades were not up to par, however, people attend WHU for the prestige and for the programs that they offer.

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