Welcome to Hong Kong

Audrey Zong, HKUST Exchange, Fall 2013

My name is Audrey Zong, I am currently a junior studying Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University. I will be spending this fall at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and I absolutely cannot wait! I am a transfer student; having spent my first year at the University of California Berkeley, I thought studying abroad would be a challenge due to the issue with credits and graduating within four years. When I turned to the IPD office, I learned about science and technology schools that would make it possible for me to graduate on time, and the Hong Kong school stood out to me in particular.

To me, study abroad is an opportunity to get cultured, to open my mind to new cultures, customs and people, and what better place to do that but in Hong Kong. I have always taken an interest in Hong Kong, for its cosmopolitan, hustlin’ and bustlin’ feel. It seems like a city that unites people from all over the world, and pretty soon I’ll be joining in. From businessmen on business trips to couples on vacation, to local students from Beijing, Zhejiang, Shanghai and non-locals from Europe, Africa, Asia, is no saying who I will meet in Hong Kong, and I can’t wait. The most recent report states that Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has hit a high of 18% non-local students. While it’s true most schools in the United States have a significant percentage of international students, we tend to fall back to our comfort zones. However, there’s less of a “comfort zone” while studying abroad: while there will be students with similar backgrounds, I can safely guess that there will also be a large portion of students who are from different backgrounds. I am so excited to learn more about these students, where they come from and their background. After all that, I hope to bring back my experiences and share them at Northwestern to inspire more people to partake in the study abroad experience. But for now, I’ll be sharing my HKUST episodes through the IPD blog!

This is the school. Yep, my school looks out to the ocean!

Before I leave for Paris, France

Amy Glazier-Torgerson, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2013

I am excited, and anxious, to say that this fall I will be studying abroad in Paris, France in the Sciences Po direct exchange program. At Northwestern, I am studying Social Policy with a minor in Psychology, and want to go into educational policy, nonprofit management, or some form of legal work. On any given day, you can find me out running on the lakefill or in my red Jumpstart t-shirt working at a Rogers Park preschool with wonderful 3-5 year olds. I’m from Seattle, Washington and am prone to telling people how much I love my city!

It’s exciting and a little scary to believe that I will be spending the next four months in Paris. I have wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember, so part of my excitement comes from realizing that it is finally time for me to go abroad. I decided to study abroad in Paris because I have always had a fascination with the city. I visited for a week with my family when I was 12 and found myself captivated by everything, even the mundane aspects like where Parisians went grocery shopping. Just like Seattle and Chicago, Paris is a city that thrives on unique neighborhoods, which excites me to explore as many as I can. There are so many nooks and crannies of Paris that I am excited to spend my time in – one of my personal goals for this fall is to really acquaint myself with the city on a personal level. I am also thrilled to be studying at Sciences Po: a dynamic, international university in the heart of Paris for people interested in politics, policy, and law. If I could, I would enroll in almost all of the courses, but of course I want time to pursue all of my adventures!

Although I have been taking French since middle school, I am very nervous about the language aspect of studying abroad in Paris. I am pursuing full immersion and fluency, but taking difficult courses in French will be challenging and overwhelming. In Paris, most people speak English as well, so I do not want to fall back on English as a crutch when I’m there. I hope to get over my fear of having bold conversations in French and I would like to make friends through French, rather than just by speaking English. A bientot, tout le monde!

Imagining Istanbul

Hagar Gomaa, Koç University Exchange, Fall 2013

I just completed the last day of my internship after spending the summer as an engineering intern in Lincoln, Nebraska. I cannot believe that in exactly two weeks time I will begin a new adventure and start over again. I will be returning to my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana for two weeks before boarding my flight to Istanbul, Turkey.

A little bit about myself, my name is Hagar Gomaa and I am a junior studying Industrial Engineering. At Northwestern I serve as the Pre-College Initiative Chair for the National Society of Black Engineers and as the Conference Chair for Model Arab League. My only international travel so far has been to Cairo, Egypt to visit my family and relatives.

I knew that I wanted to study abroad and, as an engineering student, I was concerned that I might not have the opportunity to do so. I was delighted when I learned that Northwestern offered an engineering study abroad program in Istanbul. I’m one of those people who secretly love airports; I get a thrill from experiencing new places and meeting new people.  However, I am nervous to leave my friends and family and sad that I will be missing Thanksgiving (best holiday ever), but after hearing about my friends’ study abroad experiences, I know that it will be worth it.

As a Muslim and Arab American, I have always been fascinated by Turkey as a place where secularism and religion intersect. During my time in Istanbul, I hope to have the chance to experience Turkey in a modern sense through university life, as well as explore the history and religious life of the city. One thing I am excited about is observing my religious holiday, Eid al-Adha, in a Muslim country. It will be the first time that I will officially have no school and celebrate my holiday with an entire nation.

I don’t speak a word of Turkish, so I am a bit anxious, but I am sure that in time I will learn. Of course, trying Turkish food is at the top of my list of goals to accomplish. Other goals include learning the history of the Ottoman Empire, expanding my religious knowledge, learning Turkish, and becoming involved with student groups on campus. I also look forward to celebrating my birthday in Turkey.

I have obsessively been checking the Koc University Exchange Facebook group for the past three months. There are exchange students from all over the world who will be studying in Istanbul this Fall, and I find myself in the minority as an American student. I have a flurry of questions running through my mind, but I push them away and try to focus on preparing for my trip. It’s likely that it will take me the next two weeks to pack, so goodbye until then. Istanbul in T-minus 15 days!

Au revoir, Paris!

Audrey Telfer, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2014

On June 25, 2013, I returned from Paris to the United States. It had been over 10 months since I had been home, so I was feeling happy and excited about being home for a few days and I was looking forward to having a chance to catch up with my family and friends and tell everyone about my experience abroad.

But now, whenever someone asks me how my year in Paris was, the first thing that naturally comes out of my mouth is “It was great!! I loved it!!!!” And I hate it, because I know how vague and how “typical” this answer is.

But no matter how loud I yell it or how many times I repeat that I LOVED MY EXCHANGE YEAR IN PARIS. That I would do it over a thousand times if I could. That it was one of the greatest opportunities of my life and that I don’t regret a single thing about my experience. No matter in how many different shapes and forms I try to explain how splendid my experience was, it will be extremely difficult to communicate precisely why my experience had such a big impact on my life.

I have thousands of pictures on my computer from all the different places I visited this year. I visited over 11 different countries and 30 different cities. I have hundreds of stories to tell. But even if you look through every single picture on my computer, you will not meet the same people I met, take the classes I took, take the metro as many times or eat as many baguettes as I did this past year. The people I met this year, during my exchange at Sciences Po and traveling around Europe, have shaped my exchange year and have helped me grow. They have impacted my life and have shaped my way of thinking, helping me become a more open person and view the world differently.

Even if I tell you every story and show you every picture from my year abroad, it will be impossible to capture, in full, the essence of my experience, and to live and to grow the way I did— which is precisely what made my experience so spectacular!

Turning 21 in Paris!

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

I am happy to announce that spring has FINALLY arrived in Paris, and it looks like it is here to stay! It is already mid-April, and up until last week I was still wearing boots, my winter coat, and (always) a scarf.

Last Friday (April 12) it was my birthday, and I went out to celebrate with some friends. We went out to a restaurant called Chez Gladine where they serve basque food. We waited in line for an hour, but it was worth it!  That weekend, my friend Steven (from Northwestern, who is currently studying abroad in Munich and I went to visit in February) and his friend Cameron were in Paris so they joined in my birthday celebration and I showed them around Paris a bit the rest of the weekend.  After some deliciously heavy basque food, we sat outside by some (very typically Parisian) stairs, we opened a bottle of champagne and I blew out some candles. Then, we went out to a club and I bought my first legal drink as a 21-year old, but no one asked for my ID…

The rest of the weekend, I showed Steven and Cameron a little bit around Paris, but I also had to leave them to be off on their own quite a bit because I had a ton of work to do for Sciences Po… The semester is almost over (last week was the last week of classes, and after that I just have one exam in mid-may). So last week I had three final projects due on the same day. I was almost done with two of my papers before Steven and Cameron had arrived, but I did have one paper left, for a class on “multiculturalisme et égalité des chances” (multiculturalism and equality of opportunities), that I had not even started the day before it was due!

I went to the library for a few hours on Saturday and then I woke up really early on Sunday to work on it all day— I think the beautiful weather and sun motivated me to work hard and stay off Facebook, because (for the first time in my life), I wrote a 10 page, 1.5 spaced paper in one day. I wrote non-stop from 9am to 6pm, and then had Steven read it over. He approved.

Because the day was absolutely gorgeous and the days are getting really long in Paris, we had planned to do a picnic in the late afternoon (or whenever I finished my paper…). At around 6:30pm, I met Cameron, Steven, and their friend Mylena (who is doing an exchange in Paris) in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Cheese, baguettes, wine, foie gras, even…

Champ de Mars (the grassy area in front of the Eiffel Tower) was packed with people celebrating the start of a beautiful spring. We stayed pic-nicking, talking, and sipping wine until it was nighttime and the Eiffel Tower started to sparkle (literally it sparkles with some cool lights)

It was a beautiful way to end a great weekend and a great start to my 21st year of life!

The Alps: a spring break with no tan

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2012

Tomorrow marks the end of week 7 in the Sciences Po academic calendar, which means that I will be officially more than halfway done with the second semester at Sciences Po (each semester is 12 weeks long). I can’t believe how quickly time goes by here! Fortunately, I am making every minute of my experience abroad count, as I continue to sign up for new experiences and adventures and continue to meet new people from all over the world.

Just a few days ago I got back from a week-long trip to the French Alps. It was our Spring Break at Sciences Po, and international and French students alike headed for all different parts of Europe and the world— some popular destinations included Italy, Germany, Morocco, and Amsterdam.

I decided to join Sciences Po’s Association Sportive in their annual Ski Trip to a resort in the Alps called Les Arcs. All the information I knew about the trip was what was posted on the Facebook event:

– 6 days of skiing

– 7 nights in apartment style housing for 4 people

– food pack included

– 120 spots

– the time of your life!

So, why not? I convinced my Finnish friend Meri and my Austrian friend Josef to come with me, which wasn’t hard at all, and we stood in line for two hours at 8 in the morning one day in order to fight for the last spots available on the trip. Luckily, we got there early enough to get (literally) the last three spots to go on the trip.

And, before we knew it, we were sitting (uncomfortably) on an 8-hour bus ride with about 117 other people (all French except for a small group of British international students), on our way to our Spring Break in the Alps.

Meri and I ended up sharing a flat with two French students who were in their first year at Sciences Po, Matthieu and Alexis. Living with 3 other people in a flat like that was definitely an experience… I felt like I was a character in L’Auberge Espagnole. We were like a family, and sometimes we loved each other and shared wonderful “home-cooked” meals each night, with French wine and baguettes, but when cleaning time came we often got on each other’s throats.

By the end of the week, we all became really close and we also made friends with some other French people on our floor. Because Sciences Po doesn’t  have dorms for its students, this week felt as if I was living in a residential hall for Sciences Po, because I met a lot of Sciences Po students and we ate together and hung out.

Meri, Matthieu, Alexis and I having dinner:





The skiing in Les Arcs was great. We had some good days and some bad days, but overall it wasn’t that cold and the slopes were magnificent.








And this is Meri (the Finnish girl) snowboarding in her super cool outfit.








On the last day, we had to leave our flat at 10am and then had to wait until 10pm for the bus to leave (French organization is sometimes not the best…clearly…), so we had to wander around in Les Arcs for 12 hours. During this time, we ate (a lot), and also bought some cheeses  and “saucisson” at this really cute cheese place:








After a full week of skiing in the mountains, I came back to Paris and Sciences Po, back to the pile of work that is characteristic of the second half of the semester. However, I came back to Paris with yet another adventure under my belt, with another experience, having seen another wonderful, beautiful place, and having met more nice, sympathetic, and amiable people in this country, who I will continue to share experiences with. Now, back to working on my exposé for tomorrow…

À bientôt!


Ready for round 2 !

Sofia Falzoni, Sciences Po Exchange, Full Year 2012-2013

Last week, I began my second semester at Sciences Po.  After more than a month of winter vacation, it feels good to go back to a routine– waking up, having breakfast, taking the metro to Rue du Bac and walking the nice, three long blocks on Boulevard Saint Germain. Taking a right on Rue Saint-Guillaume to find about one hundred Sciences Po students smoking outside the main Sciences Po building and squeezing past them to get to class on time.

This semester I am taking four classes in French and two in English—just the opposite of what I did last semester. I feel more confident about my French skills this semester, and my comprehension skills are especially much better than they were in the beginning of last semester, so understanding my professors is not that much of an obstacle… the bigger obstacle is staying focused for two hours, which is how long Sciences Po classes are.

Thankfully, Sciences Po has these life-saving espresso vending machines, which I go to at least twice a day. Café au lait, café noisette, cappuccino, café long, café court, café vanille… anything you want to keep you caffeinated and awake for class!

All of the workload is distributed the first week of class, which means that all of the exposés are also all distributed during the first week of class. This includes students fighting to get the best topic for a presentation/to get a good date for a presentation (ie not the last week of class)… How it works: teacher calls out: who wants to do week 1? No one raises hand… Then someone volunteers… Ok, keeps going… then… who wants to do week 4? Half the class jumps off the chair raising their hand and eventually someone is persistent enough or sweet-talks the professor into giving it to him. It’s an awful, very aggressive process. All in all, I’m decently happy with the dates of my exposés. I already saw this coming because this also happened last semester (and I lost the exposé battle in all of my classes last semester), so I came prepared this time.

I am taking also a tennis course again—this semester I signed up for a class that takes place in a covered court, thankfully! It snowed quite a bit in Paris two weeks ago, just before classes started. It was very cold (although probably not compared to Chicago) so it was nice to be able to play inside. I’m also the only exchange student in my tennis class (out of about 8 people), and it is very obvious that I’m a foreigner… especially because I’m not very familiar with the tennis terms, and the coach usually yells something really fast like “Alright go run two laps!” and all of the French students start sprinting and I just stand there for a few seconds, then I do whatever the others do… but I will get used to this and hopefully expand my vocabulary!

Back at NU – Final thoughts on my exchange

Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

I’ve been in classes for a week now and it’s  nice to see things haven’t changed much. Evanston is still freezing in the winter, the El is still really slow, and NU student groups still give out lots of free food. It feels like the polar opposite of PUC and to a certain extent, it is. In Chile, the weather was always above 45°F, the metro was blazingly quick by comparison, and you had to buy food from student groups. In addition, I haven’t spoken Spanish to anyone except my family since I’ve been back and I live a couple blocks from school. I’m left wondering how I adjusted so quickly to life in Santiago.

The effects of being abroad for four months on me are pretty easy to see. I didn’t bring much with me to my apartment since I got along fine with so little in Chile. I also eat a lot less and have become an ardent fan of SPAC (at PUC, you had to pay each week or month to use the gyms, whereas at NU you pay for the whole quarter) as well as the shuttles and libraries (the library at PUC would close at 8:45PM). Every time I am driven anywhere, I marvel at how smooth the roads are, since there aren’t speed bumps every 50 meters. Food is more expensive but I can cook on a proper stove again. My parents are an hour drive away instead of halfway across the globe. I feel I’ve become even more studious, since working in Spanish forced me to dedicate more time to my school work. All of this can be summed up this way: the most profound effect on me from study abroad has been how much more I appreciate the comforts of home.

While I knew life in Chile would be different, I didn’t realize how different it would be. I used to complain about a 9Am class. But after having an hour long commute to make my 8:30AM class for four months, spending 7 minutes walking to my 10AM class suddenly feels like I am wasting time! All of the other differences I noted above are also a profound reason why I think I appreciate home so much more now. While the US is certainly rife with problems of all sorts, I cannot help but love that I live here and have such a comfortable life. Chile is great in countless ways too, but there’s just no place like home. I have my memories of an incredible semester and am glad I went abroad, though I am even happier to be back.

Last Day & Departure

Lauren Tindal, Bocconi Exchance, Fall 2012

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while now, because that would mean fully accepting that I’m leaving. It’s crazy to think that very soon, I will be waking up in my house, in Ohio, in America.

It’s bittersweet, leaving. Saying goodbye to new friends. Walking around, doing my favorite things and realizing how many good memoreis I’ve made here. Realizing that I may not be back here for a long time, or at all. Yet, at the same time, I can’t wait to be at home with my family for the holidays.

Milan has been the best four consecutive months of my life. This experience has made 2012 unforgettable, and it’s one that is indispensable to who I am, now. Milan, I think, now has a small piece of my heart with it. And this experience: I can’t imagine my life without it.

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Hiking around Santiago and in the Andes

Michael Aleman, PUC Exchange, Fall 2012

Though my classes didn’t allow me much time for it, I did manage to get in a few good hikes during the course of the semester. The following are pictures from three separate outings I went on during the semester, two with a school club and one with a friend of mine.

Early on in the semester, I went on a day hike to the east of the city. Normally the city is covered by a fairly thick blanket of smog, but we got lucky in that it rained the day before on a weekend. I was living in Las Condes at the time, so getting to the hills was pretty quick.

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This was an informal introductory dayhike organized by CAU or “Club Andino Universitario”, a university club. Most of these people had never really done much hiking but were nevertheless interested in learning more about the sport. Note the layer of smog above Santiago – definitely makes you want to hike out of the city more often.

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One of my favorite hikes was to Cerro La Union, located a few hours away from Santiago. I was here for three days and two nights to learn about winter camping in the Andes. It was a course taught by both enthusiasts as well as professionals, all of whom were brought together with eager students by the Club Andino Universitario at PUC. The following are a few shots from that weekend.

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