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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Ten Hours Well Spent

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

10887312_10205444976463278_8330649179681652655_o-150x150 By Nicole Mize

I think it’s fitting that I write about classes now after I had my first ten-hour session this week. Yes – that’s right – ten hours of class – in one day. The class was Applied Supply Chain Management. It’s actually really interesting; each group gets to interview a company and write a case study about a supply chain problem that they are having. Anyways, this ten-hour session had us reading and solving another group’s case and then criticizing their case to tell them what was missing or what should be changed. I only had a fifteen-minute break during all of this, and had to eat lunch while working. Although ten hours sounds like forever, it actually went by really fast! The case was really interesting, and the group I was put in was with four female German students who were very nice and extremely smart!

Ten-hour sessions are not usual, though (thank goodness). Most classes meet once a week for three hours and fifteen minutes with a fifteen-minute break halfway through. I have to admit, three hours of one subject was really hard for me at first, especially after all of those hour and fifteen minute sessions at UMD. Now, in the second half of the semester, classes surprisingly go by pretty fast! The teachers are really interesting and know what they’re talking about. Most of my classes also have guest speakers from huge German and international companies, which is a nice change of pace every once in a while.

I have not had any exams yet, so I can’t comment on how hard those are, but I do know that there are no multiple-choice questions; everything is short answer or essay. I’m pretty nervous for those exams, which are creeping up on me, but luckily I still have another month to study up!

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Reflection on Nicaragua Study Abroad Trip

March 26th, 2015 by under Nicaragua. No Comments.

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By Patrick Prömmel

After an incredible 13 days, I have returned to Maryland and have time to reflect on the trip. My friends immediately started asking me what stories I had from the trip, and I do not know where to start. My experiences on this trip have taught me an immense amount in regards to the politics and history of Nicaragua, doing business in an international setting, and how to be a better person.

I am fascinated by world politics, and Nicaragua is a fascinating case study. The country has a long and painful history of revolution, American intervention, and resilience. Currently the country stands at the end of one revolution, and the possible brink of a new one against the government the people fought to put in place. Over the next couple years, the mixture of failed socialist policies, a possible disastrous canal, and corrupt government will make Nicaragua a country to study.

Working with small businesses and entrepreneurs was an extremely rewarding experience. In our final presentations, I was amazed to see what groups could do in only 3 to 4 days for these entrepreneurs, from refinancing debt, to creating complete brands Not only did we all come up with amazing recommendations and deliverables to propel the businesses to a new level, but we also made relationships and connections that will last a lifetime.

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Group picture with students and faculty from the University of Maryland and Universidad Americana.

 

Over the course of the trip I have made incredible friendships with fellow students and the faculty on the trip that would not have happened otherwise. These friendships have taught me a lot in a very short time.   Real adventures answer questions that we never would have imagined to ask, and this was surely an unforgettable adventure.

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Milan to Dublin

March 26th, 2015 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

yogadub

So I’m a bit late on this post, due to some unfortunate and unforeseen events.

So I flew to Ireland for St.Patrick’s day weekend and it was amazing. My best friend from high school was studying abroad in Madrid with her university and we thought it would be fun to meet there to reunite and celebrate together. We met at the hostel and went straight to the pub to have our first Guinness in Ireland!

Although, in reality, dublin on St.Patricks day weekend is like any other place with a bunch of pubs; a bunch of inebriated kids in their 20’s running around. However, something charming that I did find was all the live music there was, and as a guitarist that thrilled me. While others were dancing around me with beer in hand, I was the dork watching the guitarist from the corner and analyzing his guitar and pedal board. But I don’t regret it because there was so much cool music and talent around.

We then took an amazing Paddywagon tour to see the cliffs of moher which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s like a place out of your dreams where you can just frolic across the fields and immerse yourself in nature. An amazing break after being in the concrete jungle that is Milan.

The not so fun part of this, and the reason as to why this blog post is late, was that I caught an awful stomach virus coupled with a sinus infection. I was basically dead the entire day before we had to fly out, and I can say that this is the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. Traveling back to Milan in this state was one of the most awful experiences ever. When I got to Milan, I paid to much to go to the doctor, spend about 200 euros on medicine and the appointment. And the next day I just ended up in the hospital getting IV fluids. Luckily, the hospital trip didn’t cost me a penny.

Hurrah for Italian healthcare!

So it’s taken more than a week, but I’m finally getting back on my feet. I’ll check in in the next week!

Ciao!

 

 

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Cultural Differences in Click!’s Business

March 23rd, 2015 by under Nicaragua. No Comments.

10678544_10152643477825091_3019186340807723448_n By Patrick Prömmel

In the Nicaragua Short Term study abroad program, students are broken into groups and become consultants for small businesses. One entrepreneur my group was in charge of was Ivo Lopez and Click!, his small graphic design printing and advertising business. Click! makes all sorts of products for their clients, ranging from flyers and brochures, to banners and t-shirts. The business is made up of 4 people: Ivo the manager, his brother Hugo, their mother, and Wilmor, a family friend and graphic designer. As consultants we looked into refinancing their debt, and how to drop costs by scaling their business. Over dinner in causal conversation however, we learned that the business was also being affected by cultural differences with clients.

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Click! entrepreneurs giving a tour of their office while explaining the business’s issues.

San Juan del Sur is a popular surf town in Nicaragua. Over the years many expats and other immigrants have moved to San Juan del Sur and started their businesses. Surf shops, hotels and restaurants owned by foreigners are abundant. Click! is primarily a B2B business, meaning it sells its services to businesses instead of individual customers.

Many of these customers only speak English, while the only one at Click! to know some English is Ivo. Wilmor, the designer, let me know that there are many times when they cannot serve clients because they cannot communicate when Ivo is not in the office, and end up losing the sale. He also explained that foreigners are very demanding with their requests, while locals are very lenient. Click! outsources some of its services to printers in Managua, and when their providers fail, foreign clients are not understanding. Locals on the other side, are not demanding at all, which is sometimes trouble because Click! does not know what they want.

In business it is important to adjust to cultural components of the market. What makes Click!’s case interesting, is that they have to face multiple cultures one small surfer town.

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Classroom Etiquette

March 22nd, 2015 by under Hong Kong, Semester. No Comments.

isaac  By: Isaac Appel

Sticking with the same theme as my previous post (cultural differences) the contrast in classroom etiquette between the United States and here in Hong Kong is pretty interesting. With classes having been in session two months now, I have noticed slight differences between how I normally act in the classroom versus my local student counterparts. Specifically in what I (western thought) would deem polite and appropriate in the classroom setting.

In my entrepreneurship class, the professor has made guest speakers a core part of this classroom experience and education. He invites the speakers to come in and share their story followed by a Q&A. They generally discuss their company, entrepreneurial journey (successes and failures) and give advice. The most striking example I can share to illustrate the cultural difference pertains to when guest speakers came to our classroom and shared their story.

The first entrepreneur speaker that came to our classroom also came with one of their investors that put in a good amount of money. The entrepreneur just graduated from university a few years ago and had started a platform to connect students to businesses. After her speech it was Q&A time. One of the students question was something along the lines of, “It seems you are very unfocused and don’t know what you’re doing. Can you explain if and what your plan for the future is because it doesn’t seem like you know?” While I can’t remember the exact wording, that was definitely the core of the message. Needless to say that was very shocking. The student basically insulted the speaker and embarrassed them in front of their investor. With the professor and a few students making “oh no” faces the investor quickly came in and made some nice comments on behalf of the entrepreneur to defuse the situation. I am almost positive that in the US this type of question would never have been raised. The most interesting part is you could clearly tell from the student that the question didn’t come from a place of insult. To the student it was just a normal question that he wanted answered.

Another example is when a different speaker came in. This entrepreneur came alone and his company had just made its first product; a smart consumer appliance that connects to your AC to produce better energy efficiency. In this particular case the blunt question was asked by a different student and was something along the lines of, “Have you heard of the similar product from Huawei? Because they have the same product and they are top quality. You should not underestimate them and they will do better than your company.” Again not the exact words but I promise you that was the exact core message. This time the professor was the one to quickly jump in with kind words. He rephrased the question and made it more focused on how the speaker has thought of dealing with competition. Again I am fairly confident this type of interaction would never happen in the US and again this students question didn’t come from a place of insult. To him it was just a point that he thought valid to bring up.

It’s hard to judge these students because even if these actions seem rude and inappropriate to me, I have to remember this is a different country, with different customers and different cultural norms. Theres nothing left to say except for that I can’t wait for the next speaker and see what other questions are raised.

 

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