Current Participants: Kimberly’s Semester in Spain!

Kimberly is currently studying abroad in Madrid, Spain through a Reciprocal Exchange program. Part of her coursework includes Spanish grammar and literature courses.  She lives with another OSU student whom she met through the Introduction to Study Abroad class.  She and her roommate found a flat in Madrid through a company called Sal y Ven con Nostoros. Kimberly is financing her trip through scholarships that she received (the Humphreys Scholarship being one of them), money that she saved and a small loan she took out for emergencies. She was one of the first recipients of the newest study abroad scholarship, the Humphreys Scholarship.

Kimberly shares with us some things she learned as she prepared to go abroad and once she arrived. Read on as she shares one of her adventures (and mishaps) in a new country.

Thinking about taking that big step and studying abroad? It is a little scary to think about. Trust me, I’ve been there. Not only are you worried about leaving your family and friends, but trying to pack and find a place to live in your host country is also worrisome. However, these are things you shouldn’t fret over. There is always, always an answer or solution (it just might not be an immediate answer).

What Should I Pack?

I had no idea what to pack when I first decided I wanted to study abroad. Luckily for me Google helped me out. Check into what the weather is going to be like for the duration of your stay. Unfortunately I had to pack for three seasons, and being a girl with enough clothes for every season made it a difficult task. In my carry-on bag I made sure to pack a pair of jeans, a few shirts, travel-sized shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, etc. and other necessities just in case my luggage did not make it. In my luggage bag I packed neutral colors that I could mix and match to create more outfits or “looks”. I tried to stick to only a few pairs of shoes. As I said before, neutrals are the way to go because you can wear them with more than just one outfit. Leave the hot pink converses at home because you more than likely won’t be able to wear them every day or with every outfit. Sticking to your basics will really help trim the fat for your suitcase.

What’s the Best Way to Communicate with Friends and Family Back Home?

I have found some useful tools to keep in contact with everyone back home to steer away any homesickness that might be creeping near. My top communication tools are Facebook (mostly for friends), Skype (useful for family and friends), and TextPlus4 (an app on my iTouch that allows me to text any phone in the US or Canada). The only downfall to them is that they require internet to access them. Keep that in mind because you don’t want to plan on using them for emergency calls or as the primary source to call everyone at home about your arrival.

I made this mistake on my first day in Spain…

My plan was to skype my family and friends to inform them of my arrival to my new apartment. However I did not plan for what to do in case I could not get into my apartment, which is exactly what ended up happening. On day one after I left the airport, I arrived to my apartment through a previously-arranged shuttle service. To my surprise, I was locked out! I tried using my cell phone to call Sal y Ven con Nosotros (the company I used to find my apartment), but my phone would not make any calls. There I was standing alone and locked out. But as I stated before, there is always, always a solution; so do not let your nerves get the best of you. After I sat there and debated my options, I decided the only thing I could do was to check into a hotel. I hailed a taxi (luckily, there were no shortages of those) and politely asked the man to take me to a nice hotel. From there I used the phone to get a hold of Sal y Ven and used the internet to skype my family. Lesson learned, double check with all parties (companies or people) to ensure that they are aware of your time of arrival. It is also a good idea to have extra euros to pay for unexpected expenses like taxis or hotels. There are also kiosks in the airport to buy a pay-as-you-go phone, which would have come in handy to call Sal y Ven instead of having to check into a hotel.

Besides the one mishap I had with Sal y Ven, the company has been quite accommodating. Their service is to find an apartment or host family for you. Bills are included in the rent so you do not have to concern yourself with getting your utilities turned on. I found Sal y Ven through the OSU Study Abroad Office. Since my stay I have also found the group called Erasmus at Complutense. This group plans parties, events, tours and will even help students find a place to live. They are a very helpful group and the events they set up are an excellent opportunity to meet other international students from all over the world!

To read more about Kimberly’s semester and adventures in Spain, check out her blog at http://kimboinspain.blogspot.com/

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Meet the Study Abroad Office: Alejandra

Hello Everyone!

Continuing our series on getting to know the Study Abroad Office, I want to introduce you to our other Peer Advisor, Alejandra. If you’ve walked into the office or gone through the application process to study abroad, you’ve probably encountered a Peer Advisor. As Peer Advisors, we help prospective participants begin the process by directing them to resources like programs, scholarships, websites, etc.  We also help promote study abroad on campus by giving presentations about study abroad, and we help keep office resources updated and current.

Alejandra has been a Peer Advisor since August 2010. Alejandra studied for the Spring 2010 semester at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. By going to a university settled in a country that speaks a completely different language, Alejandra challenged herself to go out and learn Czech lifestyles and even pick up some of the difficult Czech language. She was able to find many courses which enhanced her majors and even found courses not taught at OSU for which she could gain credit.

1. What is your major? I am a double major in Political Science and Sociology. I also have a minor in Economics.

2. What do you want to do with your degrees when you graduate? I want to work for the US Department of State, ideally as a Foreign Service Officer.

3. If you were a spice, which would you be? I’d be chili powder because I’m Mexican.

4. What are five things you can’t live without? 1. My phone! I would die without it. 2. Chocolate 3. Friends, Family, and people 4. Sudoku 5. Music.

5. You recently became a US citizen. What was the process like? It was pretty intense. On the plus side, I won’t have to deal with immigration anymore and I have a US passport, so it will be easier to travel in and out of the US. But, it took a long time because of some mistakes someone made on some paperwork. It was also just a hard decision to make. It was sort of like splitting my identity in two.

6. If you could have any superpower, which would you choose to have? Of course, I’d love to be able to fly, but I’d really like to know what people were thinking.

7.  What is your favorite part of being a Peer Advisor? I like talking to students and being able to see what people are envisioning for their study abroad adventures. I also like giving people new ideas.

8. If you were a car, which would you be? I like Jeeps, but my personality isn’t outdoorsy enough, so probably a boxy Volvo or BMW because they are cool and retro, but dependable.

9. Do you have a secret indulgence? I really like Glee and listening to Justin Bieber! 🙂

10. What is something most people don’t know about you? I am a certified square dancer! I even used to have the petticoat and dresses. Also, I didn’t learn English until I was nine years old.

11. What is your favorite place to:

  • Sightsee?: I’m probably biased to the forests and countryside in the Czech Republic, but Edinburgh, Scotland is great. 
  • Visit someday?: Thailand
  • Live someday?: Somewhere warm like southern Spain. I like Italy, but Spain would probably suit me better.

12.  What advice would you give to students interested in study abroad? Think outside the box. Try new things. Don’t just go to another country and hang out with the same people and do the same things you would at home. Put yourself out there and challenge yourself to meet new people and try new things.

13. What is your favorite memory from your study abroad? All of the trips I went on. All of my best memories come from those. One time, I got stuck at an airport for 20 hours, but then scored an awesome apartment to stay in. There was also a reggae party when I was visiting Sicily with lots of young people. It was fun to party with them in a courtyard with great music.

14. What is your best memory as a Peer Advisor? The times I’ve come in to a party from my coworkers (birthday, citizenship, etc.) Also, when students come in and say “I’ve got it figured out and I’m ready to apply”.

15. How do you say “thanks for reading” in your favorite language? Italian: Grazie per la lettura!

Thanks Alejandra for answering these questions and letting us get to know you better! Come by and visit Alejandra in the Study Abroad Office and you’ll be glad to get to know someone who you can discuss not only study abroad, but Glee, Justin Bieber, and many other fun topics! Gracias everyone and until next time! 🙂

Prospective Participants: Courtney’s Decision

Decisions, decisions…

Last time we heard from Courtney, she had just interviewed a student who had lived in her prospective host country. Since then, she has applied to a Reciprocal Exchange program. But in the process, she discovered something that we in the Office strongly recommend: be flexible about your potential prospective country, and you’ll be surprised at how many other places are available. Read on for Courtney’s thoughts on choosing her destination.

“How do I decide which country I want to study abroad in?” I have asked myself this question a thousand times, just as you might be asking yourself right now.

This was a hard decision to make, but in the end I knew that there could be no wrong choice. I am going to a foreign country; it’s like a semester long vacation!

When I took the study abroad course, we did a lot of research about the country we would like to study in. I chose Switzerland on a whim. The more I learned about the safety, food and transportation of this country, the more excited I became. Switzerland seemed like the perfect choice for me. Ever since I was forced to watch the movie Taken, I have been afraid of being abducted. But everything I was reading and learning about Switzerland made me feel very safe. I also wanted to study in a country with an accessible rail system. I found out that everyone in Switzerland uses public transportation, I was won over. I would go to Switzerland!  And then I changed my mind.

The more I thought about my life in a foreign country, the more I realized that I would not be on a vacation. There would be no tour guide to show me around and serve as my personal translator. I realized just how large a role language plays into everyday life, and I do not speak any German. As the deadline to apply for reciprocal exchange approached, I realized I didn’t want to go to Switzerland. I needed to go to a country where I spoke the language. Going to an English speaking country seemed too easy and slightly boring. But, I had just finished my second semester of Spanish, so, I changed my mind and decided Spain would be the best choice for me.

My only advice on deciding where to go is to be flexible. Don’t attach your study abroad experience to just one country, or place. No matter where you go, you will have an amazing experience, so keep an open mind and enjoy the adventure!

Meet the Study Abroad Office: Mindy

Hello!

You may be wondering, just who makes up the Study Abroad Office? The office has a handful of staff who work together to help both incoming and outgoing students at OSU. Today I want to introduce you to one of our Peer Advisors, Mindy. If you’ve walked into the office or gone through the application process to study abroad, you’ve probably encountered a Peer Advisor. As Peer Advisors, we help prospective participants begin the process by directing them to resources like programs, scholarships, websites, etc.  We also help promote study abroad on campus by giving presentations about study abroad, and we help keep office resources updated and current.

Mindy Faulkner has been a Peer Advisor since August 2009. Mindy studied at the University of Bamberg for the 2008-2009 Academic Year in Bamberg, Germany through a Reciprocal Exchange program. While at Bamberg, she improved her German language skills and challenged herself by taking courses taught in German. Needless to say, she is now fluent and when she’s not working at the office, she can be found tutoring students in German at University Academic Services.

Here are 14 questions with Mindy…

1. What is something that most people don’t know about you? I eat more cereal than is humanly possible. How many bowls do you eat? It’s beyond bowls at this point…Also, for not being an aviation major, I know more about airplanes and airlines than anyone should.

2. What is your favorite part of being a Peer Advisor? When students turn in their applications. I like seeing where the students get placed and what the most popular places are. I like introducing students to other locations besides the more popular ones.

3. If I were to look inside of your refrigerator, what would I find? Lots of cheese – parmesan, swiss, havarti with dill, feta. Wine. Milk (for my cereal). Juice – cranberry. Chocolate.

4. What is your favorite country to:

a. Go sightseeing? Scandinavian countries – the people are nice, and it’s easy to get around. My favorite country besides Germany is  Sweden.

b. Visit in the future? Chile and Japan.

c. Live in one day? Germany

5. What’s one piece of advice you would give students who want to study abroad? Apply to all the scholarships available. There are more than you may think of that not so many people apply to. For example, the foreign language department scholarships.

Also, be open-minded. Don’t be locked in to a specific country. If you’re open-minded about your destination, you can explore other options.

6. If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be? I’d like to be Kim Cattrall. She just seems so classy and cool. Plus, I’d get to be a character on Sex & the City.

7. To what country/area of the world do you wish more OSU students traveled? Asia (besides Japan) and Africa. Asia is going to play a big role in the future of politics and world events. Students need to be exposed to this part of the world.

8. How did you meet your boyfriend? I met him while studying abroad. My 4th or 5th day in Germany, my tandem partner knew someone who had a car to take us to IKEA. We talked that day, hung out and began dating around Thanksgiving.

9. What’s one of your favorite memories of your year abroad? Thanksgiving. The American students abroad made a Thanksgiving dinner for like 30-35 Erasmus students who had never been to the U.S. or experienced Thanksgiving. Also, Christmas markets in Germany… with memories of spiced wine and gingerbread.

10. I never see you on Skype, do you still use that account? I’m on it all the time. I have it on my phone non-stop. Oh, you have my business account. I’ll have to give you my personal account.

11. There are currently two Peer Advisors in the office. Excluding yourself, who is your favorite Peer Advisor? Alejandra, of course. (aww)

12. What’s the best memory you have of your time as a Peer Advisor? Taking passport photos… But also, my least favorite memories involve taking passport photos of babies. Some students’ questions are classics, like someone asking what continent their country is in or whether they need a (consular) Visa since they already have a MasterCard, etc.

13. On a scale of 1 to 10, how good do you think the Egyptian people are feeling right now? 5 or 6… I think they’re relieved and most of them got what they wanted, but I’m afraid the aftermath may have them somewhat overwhelmed.

14. How do you say “Thanks for reading” in your favorite language? Swedish – Tack för läsning

Thanks Mindy for answering these questions, you’re awesome! Next time you’re in the office, offer her a slice of cheese and a painting of an airplane, and you’ll probably be automatic best friends. Auf wiedersehen everyone 🙂

Welcome Back!

Hi all!

It’s been very busy around the office as we just had the priority deadline for the Reciprocal Exchange application on January 28th. For those of you who have just come back from your study abroad program, welcome back! For those who are currently studying abroad or will leave soon, it’s an exciting time for you!

If you did not meet the Jan. 28th priority deadline, it’s not too late for you to apply! The main thing you have to consider is that the more competitive places (for this year that means: //Any university in England/Cork/Kansai Gaidai/Valencia//) are likely to have been filled by priority applicants.

However, there’s still a lot of options to choose from even if those universities listed above do get filled by the first round of applicants. Some of my personal favorites that I wish more students considered are Belgium, the Netherlands, South Korea, Lithuania, Sweden, and Mexico (and of course, my former study abroad site, Czech Republic). If you’re open to trying out one of the lesser-traveled places like these and more, there’s still time for you to apply!

That being said, we had a record number of applicants this cycle, which means that more of you want to go abroad!

Another really cool exchange program about which you may or may not know is the National Student Exchange (NSE). This program allows students to go on exchange within the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Every year we have both incoming and outgoing NSE students, but we could definitely send more. It really is a good opportunity if you want to live and study in another part of the country. I know many of the incoming NSE students come to OSU because of the Agricultural and Veterinary programs here. The deadline for NSE is February 15th, 2011. That includes Fall 2011, Spring 2012, and the Academic Year 11-12.

If for no other reason, you should come into the office because on rare occasions it looks like this 🙂