Some things I learned during my time abroad….

My time abroad has shed some light on the differences between United States and Europe, or at least the countries I visited. These only pertain to the countries of Austria, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic. I cannot say any other tips regarding the rest of Europe. Here are some useful things I learned and wish I knew beforehand:

  • Water is not free. Neither is refills. But you can ask for local tap water. You might just get some odd looks though.
  • In Austria, they have fountains around town that are drinkable only if they say “Trinkwasser”.
  • All shops close early and are closed on Sundays. Even the grocery.
  • They celebrate a lot of holidays where everything gets shut down.
  • Beer is cheaper than water.
  • You will see locals eating gelato and drinking alcohol at all hours of the day. Even at 10am.
  • All toilets will flush differently.
  • Also, not all bathrooms are free. Most public toilets cost 50 cents.
  • Train bathrooms are even more confusing. Each will flush, turn on water and dispense soap differently.
  • NEVER drink water from the tap on a train.
  • When eating out, remember to ask for the check or it will not come.
  • They also tend to be more quiet but that depends on the city and what you’re doing.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking everywhere.
  • Try to book rooms and trains as soon as possible.
  • Double check train tickets. If overnight train, make sure you have the right dates. (Even the train people can get it wrong)
  • To save money, eat at the grocery store. Very cheap and good food.
  • When packing, bring enough toiletries to last you a month. If not, they are fairly inexpensive to buy.
  • Ask if the bread is free before eating. Sometimes they will charge you.
  • If you happen to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, pay with that when going out in large groups. People can pay you in cash and you can avoid all the ATM fees.
  • When visiting another city for a weekend, I recommend getting a metro, bus or tram pass to get around the city. It is well worth the price.
  • Also, check out events happening in the cities you’re going to visit. (I happened to go to Vienna when the largest open air festival in Europe took place, so we got lucky)
  • Explore your host city as much as possible. Try not to get a routine of same places.
  • Naps will be necessary—but choose wisely when to take them. FOMO is real.
  • Trains are always cold. Take a jacket or scarf with you.
  • On weekends, pack for all weather.
  • Not all trains will have Wi-Fi or outlets. (Austria trains seem to be of nicer quality)
  • If you can’t sleep sitting up, then best of luck on trains.
  • Netflix’s download feature came in handy on long train rides.

Some Reasons Why Chinese People Look So Young

Being a student-athlete at the University of Louisville, I thought I would write a little about the sports and exercise atmosphere in Shanghai.

One often think about the Chinese population as skinny and healthy people. Living in China, I understand some of the reasons why they are so skinny and young looking. Overall, the people take good care of their bodies. The food they eat is very fresh and natural, and they do not eat a lot of processed food. They are experts in making good juices, and herbal tea is an important part of their everyday diet.

First time I walked around campus at night, I was shocked to see how many people were exercising around the track and field. We have two track and field facilities on campus and both of them were packed with probably 200 people each. There were people walking, jogging and running in all eight lanes. The age ranged from young kids to really old adults all excited to get their workout in for the day. Neither of the facilities have light, but it seems like everyone likes to exercise at night because that is when they have free time, and when the temperature cools off. Not only were people running around the track, there were also many people standing next to the fence stretching, doing strength exercises, and even some people were doing tai chi. A totally new experience for me, and I suddenly understood why Chinese people usually look so healthy.

Not only does the population enjoy to exercise themselves, the support of professional athletics is also increasing. The second weekend in Shanghai, I went to see the the Shanghai professional soccer team play at their main stadium with other study abroad students. The Shanghai team played the 1/16 final in the AFC Championship that night. The stadium was really nice and was actually used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China is purposefully trying to increase the people’s interest in soccer, and therefore, the soccer clubs are given large amount of money to get famous international players. Oscar and Hulk are currently playing for Shanghai so it was entertaining to watch.

Walking around in Shanghai, you can also see the huge amount of bicycles. There are several bike companies that rent out bikes for less than one dollar an hour, and you can leave the bike wherever you want. You unlock the bikes by using the bike companies phone app which is connected to your bank account. The bike rental system is super convenient, and it is a good substitution for motorcycles, cars and taxis. It is also a way of promoting healthy lifestyle and activity.

As you can see, there are many ways the Shanghainese population like to stay active, exercise, and improve their health. After being in Shanghai a couple of weeks, I now know that it is not a coincidence that Chinese people are known for being skinny and healthy.

Have a great day!
Katrine

China – an underrated Gem- part 3

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I will now take you inside these famous structures. More specifically to their kitchens. Do you think Chinese food is the same in China than in Norway? than in Brazil? the U.S.? No! its definitely not! Is not even the same throughout China! Did you know that in Shanghai food is sweeter? That in the Sichuan province they prefer spicy and have a lot of lamb? What about that people in the south eat more white rice while in the north more noodles.

China has one of the widest varieties of spices and flavors I have seen and you will definitely not cease to entertain your palate. This along with the breathtaking views, the detailed to the millimeter ancient architecture are all the results of a society with more than 5,000 years of recorded history. When I try to find the overall value of this experience and forget the little nicks and nacks like overpopulation (I guess not so little), people sneezing and bumping into your personal space, or others, I can confidently more than recommend China. It surpassed my expectations above and beyond. It has definitely changed my point of view and helped me grow as a person and I hope you can visit too!

China- an underrated Gem- Part 2

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I would now like to climb you down the mountains and talk about the millimeter precise architecture that you see everywhere across China. From the grounds of Zhanjiajie, to the mausoleums in Nanjing, to the hundreds of temples and gardens like Yue Garden in Shanghai. This style of architecture has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries. One of the main features to talk about is the emphasis on bilateral symmetry, which signifies balance. From palaces to humble farmhouses you will always find their strive for symmetry. Another main characteristic is it’s floating like ceilings and large roofs. These stress the visual impact of the width of the buildings, making them sometimes look like a woman’s skirt.

Regardless, all of this would not seem like much if I would not mention the extreme amount of symbolism and imagery that appears in these buildings. I am talking about the use of colors like red for good fortune, yellow as the imperial color, blue to symbolize the sky, or black, because the gods were inspired to descent to earth by the black color. I am specially, also talking about the different talismans carved in stone, wood, or precious metals that lie all around the buildings, representing different gods, animals, fruits, creatures, that come all together in one building to give you a detailed to the millimeter visual show and a perfectionist eye feast. This is the kind of ancient unique architecture you will find in China.

It’s Necessary to Leave In Order to Learn

The idea of spending a semester abroad always appealed to me because I was born and raised in Louisville and haven’t been away from this city for more than a week or so. Therefore, coming into college, I knew I wanted to participate in some sort of study abroad program to experience a different city and culture for a longer period of time. Since, my minors are Spanish and International Business, I decided that I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country for a semester. I wasn’t completely sure how I would handle the separation from my friends and family for so long, but I knew it was something I needed to do for myself to grow as a person. I spent months planning and debating where to study, which programs to go through, and what classes to take. I reached out to nearly everyone I knew that had previously studied abroad what they did and how their experiences were. I finally chose Sevilla, Spain because I wanted a large city with a smaller town feel that would have a strong Spanish culture.

Studying abroad turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. Being independent of my family and friends for an entire semester helped me gain self-reliance and general life skills I never would have gained back home. I’ll admit that I was put in mildly uncomfortable situations on a regular basis…but this wasn’t a bad thing at all. If anything, it taught me a lot about myself and how to handle any situation that is thrown at you. Whether it was miscommunicating with locals on a daily basis or missing the wrong stop on the metro, I learned a significant amount about handling problems and high-stress situations in a calm and logical manner.

Additionally, communicating with my host parents and locals on a daily basis helped improve my proficiency in Spanish; however, what contributed the most was the linguistic exchange program I signed up for. It essentially paired me up with a local student from Universidad de Sevilla and I would meet up with her every week and we would go to her favorite restaurants and other spots in the area and I would practice my Spanish and she would practice her English. It helped me become better accommodated to the city and the culture of Sevilla. My professors and host parents also showed me the European perspective of the United States which was not only eye-opening but also refreshing to see how other countries thought of us. The classes I took helped me realize that I’m very interested in the concept of globalization and pursuing a career in international business.

Overall, my study abroad experience improved my perspective on not only business, but the world in general. I think every student should take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad because they will learn a significant amount about themselves and develop general life skills that they aren’t necessarily able to develop in the U.S. You can only benefit from stepping outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis and experiencing new places and cultures however often you can.

 

5 Foods You’ll Never Get Sick of in Seville, Spain

1.        Bocadillos

            You will probably consume about a million bocadillos during you study abroad experience in Sevilla, Spain. A bocadillo is a sandwich made with Spanish bread and with many different filling options like potatoes, cheese, ham, pork loin and even fried squid. As a study abroad student, you will probably live off ham and cheese bocadillos either made by your host mom or the small little café by your school.

2.        Tortilla de Patatas

            Tortilla de patatas is basically a staple in every household and restaurant. It is basically a potato omelet and it is very delicious. Your host mom may make it for you during every meal or she might make it only once a week. Either way, you will always probably be able to eat the entire plate.

3.        Potatoes/Fries

            Speaking of potatoes, you will literally find them in almost every dish, which I am not complaining about. The best is when the potatoes or fries soak up the delicious sauce from whatever dish you order. You can’t leave anything to waste!

4.        Pork

            Pork. Is. Everywhere. Spain, especially Sevilla, loves their pork. They love it so much that you will find it hanging from the ceiling in every authentic tapas bars and restaurants. From jamon iberico, solomillo al whiskey (my favorite!), pork cheek, chorizo, and suckling pig, you really can’t go wrong.

5.        Churros

            There is always time to have a fried, sugary stick with a cup of Spanish hot chocolate, which is more like hot fudge. You will find them everywhere and they are usually pretty cheap too!

5 Things I Miss About Sevilla, Spain

1. My scenic walks to school
One of the main things that I miss about Sevilla is my walk to and from school every day. I’d leave my host family’s apartment in Los Remedios, the business district of the city, cross a busy bridge over the Guadalquivir River that runs through Sevilla and connects it to the more touristy part of the city. Then I make my way through Parque Maria Luisa, Sevilla’s principle green area that serves as a botanical garden and has as monuments spread throughout. However, the most impressive part of my walk was when I’d reach the park’s centerpiece, Plaza de Espana. It felt like I was in a movie with how beautiful and scenic everything was.

2. Never being bored
I was never bored in Sevilla. There was always something fun and interesting to do. Whether it was attending a bull fight at the local bull ring, going canoeing on the river, going to Flamenco shows every Thursday night, or even just going to the riverfront to share a bottle of wine with some friends, I always had something to occupy my time with. There was even a huge wooden structure in the shape of mushrooms in the middle of the city the locals referred to as Las Setas that we would go to for the best sunset view. I truly miss how easy it was to make exciting and spontaneous plans on a regular basis.

3. Exploring the different neighborhoods
There were a lot of students in my program and our housing was separated into four neighborhoods: Porvenir, Nervion, Triana, and Los Remedios. I was able to walk and bike to the other neighborhoods easily, and I always felt safe wherever I went. An area in Porvenir locals referred to as La Juderia (the Jewish quarter) was one of my favorite places to explore because it was the epitome of what you would expect a Spanish neighborhood to look like: narrow, cobble-stoned streets with colorful buildings that were a range of tapas bars, cafes, and boutiques.

4. My host family
Staying with a host family definitely had a positive impact on my study abroad experience. My host parents were very caring and dependable and helped get me accommodated to the Spanish lifestyle. Although they were older and felt more like grandparents to me, they were very energetic and always seemed genuinely happy to see me every time I came back from classes or a weekend trip.

5. The friends I made
I made some really strong friendships during my study abroad experience and I think it’s due to the fact that we all bonded over being on our own in a different country for an entire semester. I got to experience so many new and incredible things with the people in my program and I learned a significant amount about myself and about life in general with them.

10 Must Do Things in Seville, Spain

Seville, Spain has definitely become one of my favorite places in the world. It is very possible for one to spend hours simply wandering around taking in the city’s relaxed atmosphere, stunning architecture, and hunting for the best tapas in town. Because there are so many things to do in Seville, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 things you won’t want to miss.

1.        Alcázar of Seville

The Alcázar of Seville, or Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, is probably Seville’s most famous site. The palace was first constructed in the 14th century by Moorish kings, and features Muslim influenced architecture so unique to the south of Spain. Spend a few hours wandering the palace, which is filled with absolutely stunning 16th century tile work, and be sure to save some time to wander the gardens. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance online, as the lines can be quite long! Fun fact: Game of Thrones’ fans may recognize this beautiful place as some episodes were filmed here!

2.         Plaza de España

            The Plaza de España is definitely Seville’s most famous plaza and for good reason. The impressive plaza was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929. The plaza’s large semi-circular brink building, fountain, towers, bridges, and intricate tile work are truly a sight you need to see.

3.        Maria Luisa Park

            Neighboring the Plaza de España is Maria Luisa Park. This large park is a perfect spot to wander around, go for a run, study, or even have a picnic. You are sure to fall in love with the beautiful fountains and gardens you will find in there.

4.        Seville Cathedral

            The Seville Cathedral, or Catedral de Sevilla, is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and is honestly one of the most amazing churches I have ever seen. I am not usually one who enjoys visiting cathedrals, but this cathedral was truly something else. In this massive Gothic church, you will actually find the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

5.        La Giralda

            When you visit the Cathedral, be sure to climb the Giralda tower. This former mosque was later converted into the Cathedral’s bell tower. Once you climb many, many ramps (no stairs!) to get to the top, you will see the most amazing panoramic views of Seville.

6.        Tapas, Tapas, Tapas!

            One of the best things about travelling in Spain was the incredible food. Tapas, very popular in Spain, are like an appetizer or snack. I found that the best way to go to a restaurant was to just order a bunch of tapas with your friends and share. My personal favorite tapa is Solomillo al Whiskey! It’s so good that my parents and I have “tried” to make it here in the staes. I emphasize “tried” because it just is not the same.

7.        Flamenco

            A trip to Andalusia, the birthplace of Flamenco, would not be complete without attending a Flamenco performance. There are many different performance space styles with a variety of show times. To get the full experience, I really enjoyed going to a hidden place called La Carboneria. You really get to feel like a local at a place like that. La Carboneria has multiple shows every night. My suggestion would be to come during an earlier show and stay awhile to get a better spot for the next show. The place will definitely be crowded.

8.        Barrio Santa Cruz

            The Barrio Santa Cruz is one of Seville’s most charming neighborhoods, and was the city’s historic Jewish Quarter. You really want to take some time to explore the neighborhood’s winding streets and beautiful buildings. Exploring Barrio Santa Cruz was probably one of my favorite things to do in Seville. With all the little shops and balconies, you won’t mind getting lost in there.

9.        Bullfighting Ring

            Bullfighting is a very old tradition in Spain. In almost every city you will find a ring, and whether you actually attend a bullfight or just tour the ring, I highly recommend going to one. Sevilla’s ring is quite grand with beautiful white walls with yellow and red accents which seem to perfectly match the city. I attended an actual bullfight. I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere of the ring way more than the actual bullfighting.

10.      Metropol Parasol

            You want to make sure you stop by the unique mushroom-shaped grid of the Metropol Parasol. You will find one of the best views of the city. You can go any time of the time, but I would recommend going at sunset.

There are many, many things to do in Sevilla so it is quite impossible to list everything. However, I truly believe that these are the things you absolutely must do while in Sevilla.

Morocco as the Best of Both Worlds

After I had decided to go abroad for semester, the most popular question was “Why Morocco?” Having been to Morocco twice before, I still did not have a way to adequately explain the magnetic draw of the country. After spending an additional two months here, I have settled on the Hannah Montana lyrics, “You get the best of both worlds!” Morocco is the perfect mix of familiar Western culture and new and challenging experiences.
One major facet of studying abroad for a semester is the ability to travel to places outside of your host city. Though I live in the small community of Meknes, I’m just a three dollar train ticket from the bustling city of Fes, a couple hours from the industrial city of Casablanca, and a solid-nap’s length away from the capital, Rabat. The diversity within the country is amazing. You can see heavily European influenced cities, like Tangier with its Spanish architecture, and smaller more traditional towns, like Chefchaouen the blue city. But not only is it easy to travel around the country, there are a few major airports that run cheap and short flights to Europe. This past weekend, I was able to hop up to Italy to spend a couple days eating and touring Rome. The proximity to Europe means I can briefly experience those cultures as well as immersing myself into the Moroccan one.

Even though Europe is just a ferry or plane ride away, Morocco maintains a unique and fascinating culture. As a student of both Middle Eastern Politics and Arabic language, this is one of the best places for me to be right now. I am using my language skills, both standard and dialect, daily through 12 hours of Arabic classes each week and interacting with my community. Moroccans are much more community focused that the US or even Europe; when greeting someone, they always ask if “everything is good?” and “how is your family doing?” The influence of Islam runs deep in their culture, extending the love of peace and fellow humans to daily interactions. Saying hello and catching up quickly with the door attendants and shop owners has become a daily routine here. The hospitality and compassion extends past just short interactions; my Moroccan professors go out of their way to help and welcome us. One of my professors drove some of my peers to the train station after class one Friday to ensure they made it to the beach on time. My art professor made our class an enormous pot of couscous one Saturday and invited us to come and bond as a class. We sat around a large table and ate the Moroccan style – straight out of the pot with our hands. It was delicious and messy!

I am so grateful that I chose this beautiful and welcoming country in which to spend my semester. I have the creature comforts I need (like the occasional trip to KFC or McDonald’s) but I most importantly have the opportunity to immerse myself into a culture that pushed me to be a kinder and more generous person while practicing my Arabic and making lifelong friends.

Unique Class Experience

There are a lot of different programs that you can choose from for study abroad.  I think it will be beneficial for you to read over my unique program.  This past summer, I studied abroad in the Netherlands.  My program was hosted by Maastricht University, ranked in the top 100 for the best universities in the world by Forbes.

My classes were unique, one was an economics class with a focus in culture and case studies.  In order for this mix to work, the class took me from the Netherlands, to Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and England.  We visited some of the biggest companies in the world and were able to ask them all kinds of questions.

Some of these company visits included the headquarters of Bayer and Bayer, Google, and Deloitte Consulting (more is listed at the bottom of the post).  We got to see the culture and operations that these companies implemented; which made me decide that I would love to incorporate a European environment for teams to thrive in.  I think the way that teams work over there is inspiring.  All of the desks face each other, there are lounges for the team members to eat together, Google had a board game room for their employees to play and share ideas in.  Almost every company provided some type of entertainment and health center to their employees, which I think improves moral for everyone.

While in these countries I also had the opportunity to talk with local artisans in Paris, walk in the tunnels under Maastricht City in the Netherlands, swim in Zurich Lake in Switzerland, have a champagne tasting at Pommery Champagne in Reims, France, along with so many other incredible experiences.

When we were back from the study tour, I took a class in leadership and management that focused on how to become an interdependent person.  It made me question how I view leadership, and it showed me the difference between leadership and management.  Leaders turn followers into leaders, managers make sure operations are going efficiently, and there is a huge difference between the two.  Once I got back to the States, I took another managmenet class, which does not preach these same topics.  It is really interesting to see the difference between what they teach leaders over in Europe compared to what they teach here.  Europe was 10/10 and I cannot wait until my next adventure abroad.  See the list below to see all the cities I visited:

  • Leverkusen, Germany (Bayer and Bayer Headquarters)
  • Cologne, Germany (Weekend trip: Chocolate Museum, Museum Ludwig)
  • Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (Central Bank of Luxembourg)
  • Brussels, Belgium (Grayling Consulting and the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union)
  • Brugge, Belgium (Canal tour)           
  • Reims, France (Pommery Champagne House)
  • Strasbourg, France (European Union Parliament)
  • Paris, France (Edgar Quinet, The Lourve, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or the OECD, and Musée d’Orsay)
  • London, UK (Tate Modern Art Museum, Google Headquarters, and the UK Parliament)
  • Scheveningen/The Hague, Netherlands (Port of Rotterdam and American Embassy Visit)                                    
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands (Amsterdam Stock Exchange and Deloitte Consulting)
  • Zaanse Schans, Netherlands
  • Maastricht, Netherlands (School)
  • Zurich, Switzerland (Weekend Trip: Boat tour, river swimming)  This is also where I had my favorite meal out of the whole trip, Fondue at Le Dézaley.