Madrid, Spain

I’m currently in the midst of studying for my three finals tomorrow, and just got done preparing a presentation for tomorrow night. I’ve been procrastinating beyond belief because I can’t accept the fact that it’s finals time because once they’re over, I’m going home. It’s hard to believe that it was just 4 months ago when I was arriving to my non air-conditioned “piso” in Madrid, Spain, being welcomed with hugs and kisses from my non-conventional host mother. I can’t say this has been easy, it’s been hard to be away from my family, not that I would see them that much more in the US, but just knowing that even if I did need them or want to see them, it wasn’t possible. — Thank God for skype. 🙂 — And it’s been even harder to be away from my friends. But even with the inevitable homesickness I sometimes faced, especially when I was sick or things weren’t going my way, the last fourth months have been the best months of my life. I lucked out with the two best roommates I could have ever imagined– our host mom cries sometimes when she talks about what a great dynamic we have– and a host mom who is all about encouraging us to be young and take advantage of life. One of my roommates is from Japan so I’ve had the privilege of learning not only about Spanish culture, but a little about Japanese culture as well. My other roommate is now one of my best friends. Not to mention, my experience has been completely different because of her. She goes to a vacation spot in the north of Spain every summer with her family, and already knew a few boys from Madrid. We started meeting up with them and their friends, and before I knew it, I had a group of 20 Spanish friends to go out with and go get coffee with and to practice my Spanish with. Though, to be honest, practicing my Spanish isn’t really an option, because most of them can’t speak English. All in all, I’m so happy I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad. I’ve gotten to travel all over Europe, try some delicious food, meet some of the coolest people, and fall in love…with Madrid. Every time I go on a trip, I’m always ready to get back, Madrid feels like home. It’s a city that almost never sleeps, except for siesta time, something I’m going to have a hard time not doing when I get back to the States. I’ve read the other blogs and it seems to me like the rest of you guys studying abroad are having a great time also, but how could we not? Studying abroad doesn’t feel like real life, it feels like a dream, a time to try and do whatever our hearts desire and experience things we never could in a semester at home. I hope you all agree. See you in January! 🙂
-Lucy Paez

Wrapping up the semester…

Well, this is it; my final days in Germany. As the semester winds down, I come to the inevitable…finals. These dreaded mainstays of any college course are very important to the studies at the European Business School. I have had many classes where the final exam accounts for almost 60% or more of my grade, and one class where the final accounted for 100% of my grade. This is very different from what I am used to at the University of Louisville, where there are intermittent exams throughout the semester, which I can use to gauge my progress and knowledge in class. However, at EBS, it is often the case that you are given a final at the end of the semester and usually a group or individual assignment, which encompasses your entire grade. It is easy to see how one minor slip up can ruin a student’s entire grade. This is why I am thankful for the pass/fail system; it is a cushion that allows me to perform my work, without the great worry that is associated with letter grades.
I would also like to note that the exams here are a little bit different from the exams that we are given at UofL. For example, all exams are essay-style exams that usually require a good deal of explanation and forethought in the answers. Also, I have noticed that I, as well as most of the other students in the exam room, are just barely able to complete the exam in the scheduled time-frame. The professors at this university expect a lot from their students, and this is evident in the questions that they ask in their exams. I have not had a single exams that I consider to be simple, or even mildly difficult. All exams that I have taken were very difficult and required a lot of studying, even to obtain a passing grade. Of course, this should all be expected from an up and coming university that was named the “Best Business School in Germany” for 2011.
I would like to wish good luck to those that come in the future. It is a great university, and I have learned a lot as well as met a lot of new people.

Cergy, France

My name is Meg Ryan and I am currently studying at École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales, or ESSEC, in Cergy, France, just a 35 minute train ride from Paris! I cannot believe that in just ten short days I will be boarding a plane to head back to the US, it seems like I just arrived a few weeks ago!

ESSEC is the newest exchange partner with the College of Business, and I am the first and only student to study here from Louisville, so needless to say I was a little nervous in August when I first arrived and had NO idea what to expect. Cergy is a satellite city to Paris, built in the 70s. The city was not what I expected when I arrived, with typical 70s architecture, much different than that of Paris, but over the past few months it has grown on me. There is a cute little park near the school which is currently covered in snow and looks gorgeous and it was equally pretty when all of the leaves were changing colors a month ago.

ESSEC is one of the top rated business schools in the nation, something I was unaware of before I arrived. There are currently over 100 international students in the undergraduate program and many more in the masters program. One of my favorite things about my experience abroad is that I have been able to get to know people literally from all over the world. On a daily basis I am in classes with students from all over the US, Europe, China and even Australia. It has been extremely interesting to get to know all the other international students and they love to hear all about what school is like in the US. All of my classes meet once at week for three hours, which has been extremely hard to get used to, I am definitely looking forward to shorter classes when I return to Louisville in the Spring! They also have a huge focus on group work, I have had multiple group projects in every class, which has given me an even better chance to get to know my classmates. School is much more demanding than I would have expected, especially now that finals are coming up and each one is worth 60% of our total grade!

While abroad I haven’t let school completely take over my life, I’ve enjoyed a lot of time traveling and seeing many different places that I never imagined I would see! I was fortunate enough to be able to visit my boyfriend, Chris Groeschen, another U of L student who is currently studying in Sevilla, Spain, for a week over my fall break in October. While there I found a true love for tapas, flamenco, and the warm weather in the South of Spain. Earlier in the semester, we also visited Lagos, Portugal for an awesome weekend at the beach which included a trip to the End of the World, the southernmost point of Europe, to watch the sunset, I even swam in the freezing Mediterranean Sea! I also traveled to London with a few other American students who I met while at ESSEC this semester. I loved everything about London (except the rainy, chilly weather) and it was great to spend a weekend in an English speaking city. We were able to go to the British museum, Tower of London, and even visited Platform 9 ¾, an important stop for all Harry Potter fans!

Obviously, the majority of my time has been spent in France, with most of my weekends spent in Paris. It doesn’t matter how many times I have visited the city, each time it takes my breath away. Seeing the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe when I step out of the metro station would never get old. I’ve visited the Louvre four times now, and I still think I’ve only seen half of the huge museum. I’ve gone to Musee d’Orsay and Pompidou, the modern art museum. I even visited the Musee Rodin where I saw the Thinker Statue! I’ve spent many days wandering around the city enjoying all of the architecture and all of the wonderful pastries and crepes. My favorite thing about my trip is that I’ve been able to share the city I have fallen in love with my family and friends. Chris was able to visit me twice this semester and my cousins and uncle and mom came all the way from Chicago to see me. It was amazing to be able to share with them places like Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and Versailles, along with the museums and of course seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night!

My semester has flown by and has been amazing, of course I have had my bouts of homesickness over the past four months, especially when I first arrived, but what I’ve really come to find is that I miss the little things about the US the most. Restaurants here do not believe in free refills on soft drinks, nor do they believe in ice, both of which I love. Being addicted to technology, I miss being able to pick up my phone and call or text whoever I want. Also, as much as I love the bread and cheese and pastries Paris is known for, I have a long list of specific foods that I cannot wait to eat upon my return to the States.

I am so thankful that I have had a chance to fulfill my dream and spend a semester in France. It will be extremely bittersweet when I board the plane a week from Saturday, I am so excited to return home to see my family and friends and celebrate the holidays with them and I also can’t wait to return to Louisville for the spring semester, but it will be tough to leave this amazing city and great friends I have made behind!