Current Participants: Alea’s Year in Finland and Scotland

Alea with other FIPSE students overlooking Turku River in Turku, Finland, celebrating Vappu (May Day celebration)

Alea is a Hotel and Restaurant Administration major currently studying abroad in Scotland. She is studying through HRAD’s FIPSE program, a program which allows students to earn dual undergraduate degrees in hospitality management from OSU and one of two European partner universities. Prior to this academic year, she studied in Finland for one semester – in accordance with the program’s structure.  She currently lives in student housing sharing a flat (which includes her own room, a shared bathroom or two, a kitchen, and a living room) with 5 other girls.  In Finland she shared a flat with 2 other girls. Alea is financing her trip through a variety of ways.  With the FIPSE grant, she received a scholarship to help pay for housing and living expenses.  She uses other scholarships and savings to help cover tuition and fees at OSU.  She has also worked during the summer – and when possible, during the semester – to save up more money to fill in any gaps. Although it was not possible for her to work in Finland, she shares that in Scotland it has been easier to find a part-time job.

Alea shares about her experience so far and some things she’s learned (and eaten) along the way.

About the Program

Studying abroad in this program has been a very good experience.  It has not been smooth sailing the entire time simply because organizing visas, housing, and curriculums across three countries is very difficult.  But the support I’ve received at OSU from my HRAD advisor and the OSU Study Abroad Office has made the process as smooth as it can be.  The program has greatly impacted my education.  Each country has required different skills from their students and each country has taught their curriculum differently.  Some classes are repetitive of my OSU classes, for instance, Personal Selling and Sales Management and Research Methods.  But others are new to me, such as Event Management and Ethics and the Consumer.  Since each of the courses are taught differently than they would be at OSU, I have also learned from the method of teaching.  It has required me to learn to adapt to different situations better, work in multi-cultural teams, and communicate more clearly.

Beyond the Classroom

Tip #1: Study abroad!

Tip #2: Have fun too.

Tip #3: You are responsible for how little or how much you “get” out of studying abroad.

Studying abroad has it’s own unique set of pros and cons. It’s hard to be so far away from friends and family. It’s stressful learning about and dealing with different cultures and expectations at uni.  People you meet have different assumptions than you do which can lead to really awkward situations. It can be really hard to get a job, and if you have a visa, how much you can work can be severely regulated.  But the pros far outweigh the cons and the cons themselves can be lessened.  It is amazing how much you can still be a part of someone’s life at home through facebook, skype, and email.  Also, no matter how much a culture is different, personalities and friendships will click regardless of where in the world you grew up. Even when a culture becomes frustrating, it is still an opportunity to realize why you believe or think or do something a certain way.  Is it because you made a conscious decision or is it because that is how everyone at home thinks or does it that way?

For me, a great part about studying abroad is eating. Even food that is made like it is at home taste slightly different because of the variance of spices and differences in how things are processed.  Everyone who visits Scotland should try haggis, neeps, and tatties.  Local cheeses, sweets, chocolate, breads, and meats make Scotland more real than any TV show.  It’s also fun to see what “foreign” foods are offered at the grocery stores.  For instance, American hot dogs in a can?  No.  Food can also be a great way to learn more about people.  One of my flatmates loves red peppers and balsamic vinegar.  Another makes cinnamon rolls that are very different from what I expect cinnamon rolls to be and yet are just as good.  The world would be a dull place if food was the same around the world.

While I love my friends and family and could spend a lifetime exploring Oklahoma, there is more to the world than just us.  In a time where businesses are rapidly crossing borders and where what happens in one country affects the very economy of another across the world, it is important to understand where the people who make the decisions are coming from.  Why do they believe what they believe? How has their history and culture shaped who they are?  Studying abroad allows students the opportunity to be exposed to a different way of thinking in a deeper way than vacationing does.  And hey, maybe they’ll feed you too.

To read more about Alea’s time as a FIPSE student, check out her blog at


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