Europe

Vicki Moran ’20 (England)

Major: Engineering
Program:IFSA University College London, United Kingdom, Spring 2019

Why did you study abroad?

After a couple years at Mudd, I found myself trapped in the all too familiar “Mudd bubble”, often unaware of what was going on in the rest of the world. Born and raised in SoCal, I was nervous to move to another country for five months, but I felt the need for change. The Mudd workload had put a strain on my mental health, and I became overwhelmed with the constant influx of work and the lack of creative outlets.

Tell us about your program

The IFSA program helped a lot with the transition and hosted several events to connect us with the local culture. Before studying abroad, IFSA connected me with a program representative who assisted with the application process and addressed several of my concerns. They also helped organize the logistics, from placing me in my desired housing to helping out with class registration. Throughout the semester, I attended IFSA events such as a British comedic musical, a House of Lords visit, and a Lake District adventure. Through several check ins and follow ups, IFSA ensured that I had an enriching academic, personal, and cultural experience abroad.

Describe a typical day

I wake up, cook myself breakfast, then hop on the bus in a rush to my first class. I stop by the coffee cart outside the engineering building and get the usual latté with oat milk before heading in and finding a seat in the big lecture hall. After this lecture, I find a spot on the UCL campus to get some work done, either studying for an exam, reading a paper, or applying for internships. Then I meet a friend for lunch in the area, and if it’s a Thursday, stop by the Bloomsbury Farmer’s Market for a spread of delicious food options. I take the tube to one of the many free art museums, my favorite of which is Tate Modern, and spend an hour or so there. Then I stop by the gym on my way home, working out with the Barbell Club or taking a yoga class, then head back home.

What were your courses like?

The technical courses varied from the humanities courses quite drastically at UCL. My two electrical engineering classes were lecture-based with grades determined almost entirely by the final exam. I enjoyed the topics, but the lack of structure and accountability caused me to slack off a bit academically as the semester went on. Ultimately, I had to cram for the final exams, which ended up going well, but studying throughout the semester might have helped reduce my stress towards the end. I absolutely loved the modern art history course that I took, which met in a different museum each week. Based on the assigned readings for the week, my professor would discuss a general theme or movement, then we would look at and thoroughly analyze four or five paintings each class. The deliverables for this course included two papers with broad prompts which allowed us to further explore art pieces that especially appealed to us. My fourth course was about management, which had interested me for a while but had not gotten the opportunity to study at Mudd. Though this was taught quite standardly, with larger lectures and smaller discussion sections, the content was very specific to the United Kingdom. The focus involved investigating the potential for Costa Coffee, the highest grossing coffee company in the UK, to expand internationally. This case study allowed me to further understand the behavior of British people and the role of the UK in a global economy as the threat of Brexit lingered.

Where did you live?

I lived in UCL housing just down the street from King’s Cross. The apartment was only for UCL students, but included local, international, and study abroad students. I had my own room and ensuite, and I shared a kitchen with my flatmates, which allowed me to meet and connect with others in the UCL community.

What challenges did you experience?

Adjusting to a new culture and navigating foreign places presents unique challenges, but research and awareness can help with the transition. I assumed that London would be similar to any big city in the states, but I quickly found that I had to adapt to so many different customs and behaviors. I would sometimes try to ask simple questions in the grocery store or for directions, and the slight differences in phrasing would cause the conversation to become incomprehensible at times.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish that I interacted more with locals in casual settings. During my time in London, I mainly met locals through classes and events, but I missed out on the opportunity to socialize while out at a club or in a park.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

STEM majors can and should study abroad! Some advantages of studying abroad include learning intercultural communication, becoming more adaptable, understanding the impact of your work globally, and developing a network. Use this opportunity to explore your interests outside of STEM by enrolling in interesting humanities courses, traveling to other countries, and visiting museums and cultural institutions. Try to engage with locals beyond the STEM community, but also interact with others within your major to better understand global variation within your field. Become aware of your surroundings and the shifts in priorities so that you can better contextualize your potential future contributions. Companies and graduate schools look favorably on study abroad experiences because they know the value of a global perspective. Include this on your resume to immediately shows potential employers that you have many relevant soft skills.

Jacob Cordeiro ’19 (Hungary)

Jacob Cordeiro in a group of 10 people.Major: CS-Math
Program: AIT Budapest, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I wanted to challenge myself, experience a new culture, and take interesting courses in a different environment. I wanted to be adventurous (against my nature), and do things I could never convince myself to do otherwise. I also heard a lot of good things about the AIT program specifically.

Tell us about your program

For the first 11 days, I took a language class through the Babilon Language School, where I learned the basics of Hungarian language and culture. My classes after that were taught on the AIT campus, near the ruins of the ancient Roman city Aquincum, in Buda.

The Aquincum Institute of Technology offered great classes in computer science, software development, and Hungarian culture. There were many options for extracurricular activities, including a bike trip, tours around Budapest, and some wonderful dinners. We also helped to run a camping trip for Roma children in Bagázs.

The program staff were extremely helpful and made sure we had the best experience possible. The other students also encouraged me to make the most of my time and do what I couldn’t do alone. I’m really lucky that I was invited on a day trip to Vienna, and I’m glad the program allowed us to travel so freely.

Describe a typical day

I would get to my classes by bus and usually leave by 6:00pm. I ate lunch on campus and dinner at home or in restaurants. There were a few long breaks between classes; the classroom building had a lounge, even offering some musical instruments, and I could talk to or work alongside other students.
On weekends, we had a lot of time to travel (unless there was a project coming up). The city was easy to explore with a metro pass, and there was plenty to find: I especially liked visiting castles, markets, and parks, and walking along the Danube. During longer breaks, we could take trips over multiple days. A few students seemed to visit a new country every other week.

What were your courses like?

The language classes took a lot of time, but they were fun and informal, and the instructors were very good at helping us feel prepared for the city. Memorizing vocabulary, difficult as it was, turned out to be really useful throughout the semester.

There was a nice sense of community at AIT, since all the classes were in the same building.

  • Semantic and Declarative Technologies
  • Computer Graphics
  • Structure and Dynamics of Complex Networks
  • Hungarian Music in a Central European Context (half credit)
  • Hungary through Hungarian Cinema
  • Budapest Studies (half credit)

Every full-credit course included 4 hours of class each week, in two-hour segments which usually offered a lot of class participation. All of my CS classes had at least one project (2, 4, and 1 respectively), which were my favorite parts of the semester. The Hungarian culture classes didn’t involve much homework, but they offered a lot of events for cultural immersion and understanding: Music included two amazing concerts, Cinema had weekly movie screenings, and Budapest Studies included tours all around the city.

Where did you live?

I lived in an apartment with three other program participants, in District XIII of Budapest by the Nyugati train station. My classes were 45 minutes away, but I had fantastic access to transportation, restaurants, and groceries. I was also close to beautiful landmarks like Margaret Island, City Park, and the Budapest Zoo.

What challenges did you experience?

This was my first time living in a big city, and it was especially difficult because I didn’t know the language. I once asked someone where to find a bus stop, misunderstood the response, and wandered in the wrong direction as the bus left without me. There were a lot of ways I could have prevented that; I got in the practice of showing up very early, preparing an offline map, and asking for advice before it’s a last resort.

What did you enjoy the most about your time abroad?

Being able to travel freely, discover new places and foods, and explore without a singular goal. I felt like I could hop on a bus and go almost anywhere. I could just be wandering around and run into a basilica or a seasonal fair. The experience changed me, but it also made me realize that I could already do more than I thought.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish I had traveled more. I loved all the opportunities I took, but I also feel like I missed quite a few. It may be a long time before I can travel like this again, and I hope I remember what I learned from this semester.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

If you decide to study abroad, don’t let your initiative stop there. Keep up momentum: think about what you can do every day, every week. If you don’t know how to do something, now is the best time to learn. Reflect continuously on what you want to do better or do again. These are all things which helped me appreciate my experience, but they’re all things I wish I had done more, and sooner.

Kitty Belling ‘19 (Spain)

Kitty Belling.Major: Engineering
Program: CIEE Madrid Engineering, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I’ve always wanted to see the world. I wanted to know what it was like to live in a country and a place that wasn’t like the one I had grown up in, I wanted to know what it was like to live somewhere that didn’t speak my native language. I’ve always been interested in culture, and wanted to experience a different way of life. Studying abroad gave me these experiences, and so much more. It was the adventure of a lifetime, the opportunity to both gain perspective on my life at home and become an independent explorer ready for any new experience.

Tell us about your program

I studied abroad through CIEE Madrid Engineering + Society. The program office is located in the center of Madrid, and the first two weeks in Spain are spent taking an intensive Spanish language and culture course. This course is fun and includes trips to nearby markets and cafes for a true hands-on, immersive experience. The course ends just as the semester coursework begins at the Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid (referred to as Carlos Tercero, a favorite former King of Spain). Classes at the bilingual university can be taken in either Spanish or English, and some cultural courses are offered in English to study abroad students. In addition, courses are offered through the CIEE office in downtown Madrid.

Describe a typical day

On a typical day, I would get up in the morning, make myself some breakfast in my host’s apartment, and head to school on the metro and Cercanias Renfe (Madrid’s train network). I would attend classes, and then get a coffee and a pastry at the school’s café. Then I would return to downtown Madrid for midafternoon. Often, I would get a Spanish-style lunch with friends in Madrid around 2 pm, the typical lunch-time in Spain. Food is less expensive, and a three-course lunch (menu del mediodia) is both affordable and common. Then, I would walk around the city, walk home to do homework, or take a walk through Retiro park. I would talk to my host mom about my day, and eat a quick dinner with her around 8 or 9 pm.

What were your courses like?

My courses at Carlos Tercero were challenging and interesting. I found that different classes had varying levels of difficulty, and were more equation-focused than Harvey Mudd’s approach. My classes were:

  • Spanish Language (intensive, two-week course taken through CIEE)
  • Control Engineering II
  • Thermal Engineering
  • Economic History
  • Spain in Progress (Spanish history and culture course)

The grading system was also more focused on exams and papers, rather than continuous evaluation through homework.

Where did you live?

I lived in downtown Madrid, with a host mom in an apartment between Lavapies and Sol. It was a fantastic location, as I was right in the middle of Madrid, which put most things in the city within a quick walk or metro ride. My host was fantastic also, and she really helped me improve my Spanish and see how Spanish people lived.
What challenges did you experience?
It was very challenging living in a new country. I didn’t know any Spanish before going to Spain, so I had to pick up the language quickly. This was very challenging for me, but the immersive nature of the study abroad experience made me more conversant in Spanish. In addition, living in a different culture has its own challenges. When everything becomes different all at once, it can be very overwhelming at first. Furthermore, I am blond and very fair, and my features are more northern European than Spanish, so I stuck out as a foreigner. It was odd to be immediately identified as a foreigner, and sometimes it made me feel more like an outsider.

What did you enjoy most about your time abroad?

Everything! I loved living in a big, metropolitan, European city, with world-class food, cute cafes, killer pastries (so cheap!), and fun bars. I loved being able to walk or take public transport anywhere I needed to go. I loved traveling all around Europe as well! I got a chance to go to Portugal, Italy, Denmark, France, England, and all around Spain, all of which were phenomenal. I also learned to travel on my own, which was a great learning experience for me. It’s very safe to do so, so I went to Paris and London by myself, and learned how to be an independent explorer! Lastly, I now look at my life in a new way. I learned that you can find adventure anywhere, and that you need to set aside time for places, people, things and goals that are important for you. Traveling has become something that I learned to do, and it’s something I plan to continue doing!

Now that your back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish I had spent more time dedicated to learning Spanish. It is truly easiest to learn a language when you’re surrounded by people that speak it.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

Live life to the fullest when you’re abroad! Find a good balance between coursework and exploration of the place you’re in. Really push yourself to become more independent. It takes courage to study abroad and be a foreigner, and it especially takes courage to do it on your own, but at the end, you’ll have the time of your life. If you’re on the fence about studying abroad—GO! It’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Herrick Fang ’19 (Hungary)

Major: CS-Math
Program: AIT Budapest, Spring ‘18

Why did you study abroad?

I wanted an unconventional place that would show me a different part of the world and let me explore an unknown environment. Budapest was a city that I had barely heard of, so it was a natural choice. Additionally, I wanted to understand and compare another education system with the one that I had grown up in.

Tell us about your program

AIT Budapest is a program created by Gábor Bojár in which Hungarian professors teach Computer Science, Math, and Hungarian Culture classes to American students. Professors teach small classes and cater to the preferences of the students by arranging the content and pace based on the student-teacher interactions during class. There were many student-teacher discussions, which facilitated a good environment to learn various topics. Also, the staff at AIT created fun cultural excursions to explore hidden gems in Hungary such as a lake trip, which included riding bikes along the countryside.

Describe a typical day

I would wake up, hop on the yellow tram, and travel to the Pest side of the city. Then, I would take the green train to go to school. Sometimes, I would pick up a pastry from the supermarket near the school. I would enjoy my classes during the day with various professors and their respective agendas. After classes, I would go out for food with friends and explore the city. Then, I’d go home and complete homework depending on what needed to be done before the next set of classes.
What were your courses like?

The Hungarian professors were extremely nice, and they really wanted to help the students by making themselves available. There were math and CS courses taught by leading researchers in their subjects and industry professionals. This gave a good mix of diverse perspectives. For example, I took Quantum Probability and Logic, which was taught by a professor who has researched quantum systems for the last several decades, and it taught me how people model events with Hilbert lattices! I also took Semantic and Declarative Technologies, which was taught by one of the founders of Prolog, and I heard snippets of his process in designing the language. I had a lot of fun taking Computer Graphics and creating the major projects in the course as well.

Where did you live?

I lived in Rökk Szilárd on the Buda side of Budapest. I lived with 4 other roommates in an apartment on the fourth floor. We each had spacious rooms and all the necessary amenities for a good stay abroad. Our location had a lot of cozy coffee shops nearby and convenient tram stops for ease of transportation.

What challenges did you experience?

The commute was pretty long averaging 50 minutes each way, which was pretty lengthy coming from Mudd in which classes were less than a few minutes away.

What did you enjoy the most about your time abroad?

I enjoyed the rich culture of Hungary. The country’s history is ingrained in its people since they have suffered greatly since they have existed. This culture is understood by the Hungarians and apparent as you interact with them. During my time abroad, we witnessed the re-election of the previous political party and the aftermath of that, which provided the outlooks of the young and old generations. I was also able to meet many new friends from all over the US and enjoy my time experiencing Budapest with them.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I would have spent more time exploring the Pest side before spring came.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

At Mudd, you are immersed in STEM subjects throughout your four years. Study abroad is a good chance to embrace the opportunity to get out and put the world in your perspective so that you can choose how you want to navigate it.

Fanrui Sha ‘19 (England)

Fanruhi Sha.Major: Chemistry
Program: IFSA Butler Oxford University, St. Edmond Hall, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I’m an international student from China. Knowing how much I’ve learned ever since I came to California 6 years ago, I’ll take every opportunity to go abroad again to discover more about the world and myself. UK has always been my second destination of studying abroad after US with its charming history and traditions (and little language barrier). Coming from a very small high school of 90 students and a relatively small college, I was also excited for an experience in a bigger academic environment.

Tell us about your program

I was a visiting student at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University studying Chemistry and Materials Science through IFSA-Butler Program, so I had the “triple cares” from IFSA-Butler, my college St. Edmund Hall, and Oxford University. We followed the University undergraduate schedule, which includes two 8-week long terms of classes and tutorials. Lectures are held by the Chemistry and Materials Science Department on the university level, and tutorials are usually hour long one-to-one or one-to-two sessions with professors and fellows affiliated to my college. IFSA took care of us as a group of international students traveling from US, organized orientation and various trips and activities throughout the term, with the long weekend at Lake District being the most memorable one for me. Our lovely IFSA advisor Andrew would also come visit and chat about out life and study to make sure things are going smoothly.

Describe a typical day

There are usually 2 – 3 hours of lectures every week day morning starting 9 AM in the department, which is usually a half an hour walk or a 10-minute bike from where I live. I either get a sandwich from a coffee shop or go back to my college for a hot meal for lunch. Tutorial happens once or twice every week in the afternoon. I usually spend rest of the time studying in a café or a library or going to some interesting seminars or talks. There are a lot of great coffee shops hidden across the town and dozens of beautiful libraries that one can access as a student here. I usually go back to my college for dinner. On Tuesday and Friday night, I sometimes go to our college formal dinner with friends, which is a three-course black-tie dinner with wine and candles – can’t think of a better posh representation of Oxford.

There’s always something happening on campus – talks given by famous people, students organized operas, concerts, or comedy shows. Lucky enough for me, I love dancing, and there’re often more than one dance event happening every night. It also has a great student nightlife scene. Over the weekends, I often visit other colleges or take short trips around England with my friends. For the most part, I could manage to get my work done on the week days, but work does pile up into the weekend towards end of the term.

What were your courses like?

I studied Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Materials Science for the two terms. Since the local Chemistry or Materials Science students follow an integrated three-year program that solely focus on their major, lectures come in unites focusing on different topics without having distinct “courses” as in the US. Tutorials are more focused, and those are the ones that eventually turn into the courses that show up on transcript.

The term days can be quite academic intense. But as a visiting student, I didn’t have labs or exams, which made life a lot less stressful comparing to the regular undergraduates here. Lectures aren’t mandatory, but for the most part they’re helpful for finishing tutorial work and are quite inspiring. Each term I have a major tutorial that meets 8 times in total and a minor tutorial that meets for 4 times. For STEM subjects, tutorials follow up on problem sets, while humanities subject tutorials focus more on essays.

Where did you live?

I lived in college off-site accommodation, dorms for mostly visiting student located about 10 minutes away from the college. All rooms are single-rooms, and some even has its own en-suite bathroom.

What challenges did you experience?

There weren’t that many challenges, as I was, after all, going through a quite established program. The study style in UK tends to be more independent, and at the beginning it was a bit challenging to sit in the library for hours just going through textbook after textbook (especially when it was brilliant weather outside).

What were some memorable highlights from your time abroad?

Oxford is just stunningly beautiful, especially in the spring time after a cold, grey winter. I had an amazing time just walking around the town and punting with friends. We also completed the silly challenge of visiting all undergraduate colleges with my friends (there are more than 30 of them!). Summer Eights (the Trinity term rowing race) and the Oxford Cambridge Dancesports Varsity were especially exciting events happened in the university. It was also great to meet amazing people and fellow chemists from all over the world. Those were people that I would never be able to befriend with otherwise.

During Easter Vacation, I took a visit to Poland and the Baltic countries. There was a lot of history accompanied by great food – I was amazed how many dishes can be made from just potatoes!

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I’ve been wanting to join the rowing club, but unfortunately our college didn’t have a big enough team for the newbies. I guess I did avoid some 6 am outing on the river that way?

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

Do it! STEM is such a universal study that you’ll be able to continue your study almost everywhere you go. It’s also a great opportunity to get out the Mudd bubble and meet all the great people from the big world out there.

Casey Gardner ’19 (Scotland)

Casey Gardner at Loch Ness.Major: Engineering
Program: IFS Butler University of Glasgow, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I always knew that I wanted to study abroad–I think it’s the perfect opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture, and to learn things that can’t be taught in a classroom. I knew that I wanted to study in Europe, not only to travel, but to meet as many people from as many countries as possible. Once I narrowed down the list of possibilities, Scotland stood out as place that was both exotic and familiar–it had retained much of its original history, but had also adapted to the modern world. Especially following recent referendums on independence and Brexit, I was eager to learn more about the culture in person.

Tell us about your program

I participated in IFSA-Butler’s University of Glasgow program. Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and seemed much more authentically Scottish compared to the cosmopolitan/tourist-heavy Edinburgh (only an hour bus ride away). Glasgow is known for its rich engineering history and is also famous for its music scene, nightlife and unique local accent. The University Main Building looks a lot like Hogwarts, and the university is especially well-known for its engineering programs.

I liked being a part of IFSA-Butler, because I felt there was a lot of support for academics (especially during the complicated registration process) and the staff was able to answer all of my other questions as well. In addition, IFSA-Butler organized two “adventure weekends” and a homestay weekend, which allowed me to see parts of Scotland that I would not have been able to get to on my own.

Describe a typical day

In the morning, I would grab a quick breakfast in my flat (apartment) and then walk 30 min to campus. Most of my classes were in the morning, so after they were done, I’d grab a sandwich and drink from the on-campus cafeteria or a nearby store. Afternoons I’d spend in the library working on a paper and reviewing lecture slides, or taking the subway into the city center (only a 10 minute ride) to explore a museum or the riverfront. After returning to my flat, I’d make dinner and hang out with my flatmates.

What were your courses like?

I took an engineering elective (Aircraft Structural Analysis and Design 3) and an E84 substitute (Analogue Electronics 2) for technical courses, as well as two humanities courses. The thing that most surprised me about my courses was how differently they were structured from courses at Mudd. Instead of problem sets and midterms, all of my courses were graded solely on a final essay or test; so instead of homework, studying and learning were much more self-motivated and individually driven than I was expecting. The material covered seemed less challenging than Mudd, and much more focused on real-world examples, rather than the underlying theory (which often made it easier to grasp up front, but harder to apply concepts to new problems later).

My humanities courses–Intro to Scottish Culture and History of Bagpiping–were both set up the same way, with lectures throughout the semester and a final essay at the end. Both essays required much more independent research than courses I’ve taken at the 5C’s. Additionally, the Bagpiping class included weekly lessons playing the bagpipe. Overall, I learned a lot from all of my classes.

Where did you live?

I lived in a student apartment building, approximately a 30 min walk from campus. My flat had four singles, a bathroom and a kitchen. It was situated near the north end of Glasgow’s popular West End neighborhood, which is full of shops, restaurants and the Botanic Gardens. The walk to campus everyday was one of my favorite parts of living in Glasgow, passing by old churches, 19th century tenant buildings and the Kelvin River.

What challenges did you experience?

Academically, I struggled to adjust to the format of the classes. Without problem sets or smaller intermediate assignments, it was hard for me to keep track of how much I was learning and retaining. Some classes offered optional “tutorial problems,” but compared with the prospect of exploring the city, they were hard to focus on.

Socially, since most degree programs are very structured, and I was taking classes in multiple disciplines, it was hard to meet people in class. Outside of class, most student clubs required a certain level of commitment on weekends, when I wanted to be able to travel around the city or around Scotland. As such, most of the people I interacted with were either my flatmates or the other people on the IFSA-Butler Glasgow program.

What did you enjoy the most about your time abroad?

Despite the challenges, I enjoyed the experience of being in an unfamiliar place and stepping outside my comfort zone. I was forced to be much more self-sufficient on everything from food to academics. It made me appreciate Mudd a lot more, but also allowed me to experiment with different amounts of work-life balance and saying yes to spontaneous plans without the consequences of a full Mudd workload. Some of my favorite memories were just playing pool at the Student Union, or trying out a local pub and chatting.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wished that I’d managed my time more effectively, so that an easy piece of work would be finished quickly, and I could have invested more time exploring my surroundings or participating in new activities. I also wish that I’d been more proactive establishing relationships with other students on my program and with other students in my classes.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

Take humanities classes that relate directly to the history or culture of the country, because will it give you new insights into your surroundings and help explain aspects of the culture that are different from what you might expect. In terms of coursework, be prepared for more focus on actual examples, rather than generalized theories–during lectures, professors would often go through two problems with different numbers, but whose underlying principles were effectively the same.

Marisa de Souza ’19 (Spain)

Marisa de SouzaMajor: Engineering
Program: CIEE Madrid Engineering, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I chose to study abroad to practice my language skills, make new friends, and really understand what it would feel like to live in another country. I was born in Italy, and I have a lot of family there so my family visited Europe a lot, but it is different to be there for an entire semester. For me, study abroad was a lot about traveling and expanding my horizons.

Tell us about your program

My program was the CIEE Madrid program. In the beginning 2-3 weeks of the program you take intensive language class to gain proficiency in Spanish and to learn about Spanish culture. After the initial program students can take classes through both the CIEE program office as well as classes through the Carlos III unviversity which is located slightly southwest of central Madrid. There are two main campuses for the university, one which is the engineering campus on Leganés and the larger humanities campus on getafe. This program has a lot of offerings for engineers. The Spanish class in the beginning counts for one of the classes you take, but you can choose from a lot of humanities classes and engineering classes in both Spanish and English. They also offer tutorial classes to help further practice the material. The program also offers and internship opportunity for those with high enough Spanish levels.

The program also offers many cultural events such as flamenco dance lessons, cooking lessons, tapas tastings, weekend excursions to other parts of Spain, and day trips doing everything from snowshoeing, to climbing, to museum days.

Describe a typical day

My typical day was waking up early in the mornings and eating a simple breakfast. Sometimes on later starts I would go for a small walk/ run in Retiro park, and then get ready for the day. The train ride/ walk to campus was about 35-45 min depending on whether I got there in time for the train and metro. The metro station was only a couple blocks away from my apartment. I would often pack a sandwich for lunch, but the pastries, sandwiches, and coffee at the cafe were really reasonable in price so many times I bought things there. After my morning classes I would go to the library to study. Some days I had to switch to the other campus by metro for my humanities classes. After I was done in the afternoon Kitty, another Mudder on the program, and I would often walk around the city after school and explore new areas and sometimes go to museums. Certain days Chris Strong, also a Mudder, and I went to a Cuban Salsa class in the evening. I would then go back to my apartment and study and nap for a little while. My home stay mom, Leo, would often prepare dinner and we’d eat a very typical light Spanish dinner at around 9:30 or 10. After resting and working a bit more, friends and I would often go out for music and dancing late in the evenings.

What were your courses like?

My humanities classes reminded me a lot of classes in the HSA’s I took in the US. I took my classes in Spanish. Students are a little more hesitant to participate than in Mudd classrooms though. In general there are many fewer assignments and grades given and a lot more emphasis on exams. On the engineering side, the classes taught a lot of technical material, but the professors did not go as deep into the explanation behind equations very much. The classes are more lecture style with professors going over the material to memorize and the type of problems to learn. The classes require a fair amount of outside learning and preparation.

Where did you live?

I lived in a homestay provided by the program. During my application I had to fill out a housing survey asking my preferences and to match me with a home stay ( the program offers shared apartments too). My home stay spoke no English, but I preferred it that way as it made me really improve in my Spanish. It seemed in general home-stays helped people learn more Spanish. My homestay mom was an older woman named Leo who lives alone. She was super sweet and taught me some Spanish recipes and showed me around the city. It was quiet living with her but very comfortable and homey. I had my own room but we shared a bathroom. Her apartment was on the 6th floor of the building, and we even had a little terrace overlooking Retiro park. I lived in a beautiful part of Madrid called the Salamanca neighborhood, often known as a quieter part of the city but close to the park as well as the museums.

What challenges did you experience?

For me, it took a little getting used to the Spanish schedule. Spain is definitely a city that loves being outside and its night culture, so it’s a bit of a balance figuring out when to go out and when to do work and have a quiet night. For me it was also an adjustment having to memorize equations. There was a lot of material thrown at us very quickly often with little explanation, so it took a bit of getting used to. Funny as it might seem as well, the Spaniards are very friendly and lively once you get to know them, but it was actually hard to get to know some of the Spanish students because so many international students come and go through the university, the local students sometimes stop trying to meet new people. I did meet and become friends with a lot of students from other countries like Austria, Germany, England, and Italy.

What did you enjoy the most about your time abroad?

I loved the Spanish atmosphere, people there are so happy and lively all the time. Even when it was raining people would be outside and walking through the park. There is always music playing in restaurants and bars. The food in Spain is also to die for, tapas like Spanish tortilla, gambas al ajillo, croquetas, and pinchos are all super tasty. I loved going to a tapas bar with friends and getting a casual glass of sangria and enjoying the delicious food choices. Sadly the weather was a little colder than usual so we didn’t get a very long summer, but walking around the gardens in the day and the city at night was just so wonderful.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

Now that I’m back in the US I wish I hadn’t been as shy in meeting and chatting with some of the Spanish locals both in my classes and out dancing. I made a ton of great friends but maybe would have been able to meet more locals if I put myself out there more. I also wish that I had seized the time even more in the first couple weeks. That is the time where I was taking the intensive language class. After each class session ends, that is the time to learn and explore the city. Use that time to the fullest in trying new foods and wandering into museums. Tons of things are free with your student id so really go do it all. I also wish I had learned more recipes from my homestay. Whenever I look back on the ones she did give me it makes me smile to see. But most of all, traveling to other parts of Europe is great and I highly recommend it… just don’t forget to explore your new home. There are so many things I still wish I could have done in Madrid. Some people travel so much that they barely know the place that they are currently studying. If you go abroad, find your favorite restaurant and bar and corner of a library to read, find your favorite park or section of a park, your favorite market, favorite bakery, your favorite club, your favorite museum, get lost constantly so you then know your way around entirely. Make the city smaller by figuring out what aspects make it YOURS. I wish I had done this to greater extent, but there will always be more for me to do and see in Madrid. The main point is that if I asked you what your Madrid ( or whatever city you choose) looks like, you should have a clear image of all the things you loved most about the city.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

My advice for STEM majors is to get out and try new things, whether it is taking a dance class, doing some of the program activities out of your comfort zone, taking a Spanish related class at the university, or traveling. Exploring new things and having fun stories to tell about your experiences will really make your experience what it is. Once you also find out what you like to do, you’ll end up meeting more people and having fun. It’s great to travel with other mudders and people from the program, but I highly recommend doing at least one solo trip, as you will learn a lot about yourself as well as learn about how to have fun even on your own. Study abroad is about learning outside of the classroom and seizing every opportunity to try new things.

Marianna Sbordone ’19 (England)

Marianna Sbordone in front of winged lion statue.Major: Engineering
Program: IFSA Butler Queen Mary University, London, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I have always wanted to travel and expand my horizons! Before I went to college, I had never left my hometown in Florida. I love going to school in California, but I knew that I was ready to see more of the world. My mom was born in London, and I wanted to see where she grew up. I also wanted to see how engineering was taught in another culture.

Tell us about your program

My program was hosted by IFSA Butler. International students can enroll in nearly any class at their host school, which is unique since English students can only take classes in their major. It was great to take core engineering classes but also learn about English culture through my gender in politics hum. IFSA also hosted many events for the abroad students, including a weekend trip to the Lake District which was incredible!

Describe a typical day

I would wake up, cook breakfast in my dorm and head to class. English students spend less time in class and more time revising, so I’d usually have a free afternoon to study in a coffee shop nearby. I would try to travel somewhere new each week (as long as it wasn’t raining too hard!) I’d wrap up my day by going to the rock climbing gym next to campus and hang out at a pub with my friends.

What were your courses like?

It was a valuable experience to see what courses are like a big university. For the first time ever, I had huge lectures for a couple classes. It was a bit unnerving, but good to experience. However, they usually also offered discussion sections, similar to our classes at Mudd. I really enjoyed my history class on gender in English politics, which was a 8 person discussion class.

Where did you live?

I lived on campus in Queen Mary’s dorms. I lived in a flat of Queen Mary freshman mixed with other international students. It was a great way to meet people from all over the world. I got a single room with my own bathroom and shared a kitchen with my flat. I enjoyed having a personal space, but also having the opportunity to be social.

What challenges did you experience?

One challenging aspect of London is the cost. It’s an expensive city and even though I had a budget, there were always costs I wasn’t anticipating. It is definitely manageable, but the expenses were hard to deal with initially. (Also it snowed for a couple of weeks which was a big surprise!)

What did you enjoy the most about your time abroad?

I loved the freedom and time to explore London. My schedule was very flexible, so I was able to explore the city extensively. The tube is a great way to get around. I also loved visiting my Mudd friends and traveling around Europe with them! I traveled to 8 countries and loved traveling (and taking a break from Mudd’s rigorous academics).

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish I had met more English students. When I first got to England, I became fast friends with the other IFSA students. However, it was more difficult to meet people in my classes. It was very different from Mudd where people collaborate on work all the time. I wish I had joined a QM club early on in the semester to making meeting people easier.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

Don’t be afraid to take an interested tech elective! I took an aerospace composites course which I couldn’t take at Mudd, and I can’t tell you how helpful it has been at my following internship. It was great to expand my horizons and delve a little deeper into a topic I was interested in.

Madelyn Gaumer ’19 (England)

Madelyn Gaumer in LondonMajor: CS-Math
Program: IFSA-Butler – Kings College London, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

After I took the Dickens and Hardy literature course at Mudd and traveled to London for two weeks over a winter break as part of the course, I realized I wanted to spend way more time in London. The city has so much to offer, and everything is so easily accessible by public transport. In addition, living in London for the semester made it super easy to travel to other places in Europe in my free time.

Tell us about your program

The program is hosted by IFSA-Butler, who provide their own orientation before classes start, but I was directly enrolled in King’s College London. There are five King’s College campuses located throughout London, which host different sorts of courses. My classes all happened to be located at the Strand Campus, which put me right in the middle of the city.

Describe a typical day

On most days, I would wake up and cook myself breakfast in my flat. Then depending on how late I had slept in, I would either walk, take the bus, or take the tube to class. It was about a 30 minute walk to class or a 20 minute bus or tube ride. Then after class I would either head home for lunch or to a cafe to eat and work until my next class. If I didn’t have any afternoon classes, I would often go to a museum or walk through all of the markets and stores London has to offer. For dinner, I would normally cook with friends or go out. Then, depending on my class schedule, I would go to a bar or pub to chat and hang out.

What where your courses like?

I took two math course and two humanities courses abroad. The math course were large lectures with smaller break down sections. The lectures were all quite straightforward but could often be a bit slow. In the breakdown sections, the professor normally went over the homework problems. One of my humanities classes was a history class with a large lecture and a very small breakdown section. This class was quite enjoyable because I got to know some British students in my smaller section quite well. Finally, my last course was a course about the museums in London. This was mostly filled with international students, but it gave me the opportunity to learn about lots of awesome museums off the beaten path in London.

Where did you live?

I lived in a King’s College Student Accommodation about a ten minute walk from Waterloo station in Zone 1 (aka the center of the city). The location of my housing was extremely convenient. I was a five minute walk from two different tube stations and was a two minute walk from a bus stop. I lived in a flat with a shared living space and common room with 7 other people, many of whom I became great friends with. I also had my own room and a bathroom to myself.

What challenges did you experience?

I’m from Southern California, so the biggest challenge for me was probably the ice in the winter. It doesn’t get too cold in London, but it did snow a couple of times and occasionally did get icy. I definitely got used to it though and only ended up slipping once!

What did you enjoy most about your time abroad?

I made some lifelong friends when I was abroad, and I had the time and freedom to truly explore London and make some great memories. The food, the people, the accents, the tube, the royals, what’s not to love about London?

Now that you’re back what do you wish you would’ve done but didn’t?

I wish I had stayed longer, especially in the spring time. I did a lot of traveling in continental Europe when the weather started to warm up, and as a result, I wasn’t able to spend as much time in London when it was sunny.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

I didn’t go abroad to live in a library constantly studying. Take your classes seriously abroad, but remember to have fun and make memories. You’ll regret it later if you don’t.

Ethan Sargent ’19 (Russia)

Ethan Sargent in front of a snowy Moscow cityscape.Major: Mathematics
Program/Semester: Math in Moscow, Spring 2018

Why did you study abroad?

I saw study abroad as a special chance to leave my comfort zone and explore a rich and distinctive foreign culture. My family is ethnically Russian so I’ve been fascinated by Russian history and culture for a long time, and I admire the Russian mathematical tradition, so Math in Moscow seemed like exactly what I was looking for.

Tell us about your program

The program is hosted by the Independent University of Moscow (IUM). Students from around the world take a wide variety of math classes, taught in english by Russian professors who are often leading research mathematicians. You’re also able to take classes in Russian language and literature. You have an enormous amount of freedom to design your own schedule; you can take as many classes as you feel you can manage, and any mathematical interest you have can develop into an independent study class taught one-on-one by an expert on the subject.

When I went, there were also organized trips St. Petersburg, Vladimir, and Suzdal, and ample opportunities to explore Moscow.

Describe a typical day

I would wake up, eat breakfast, and then take the Metro to class. I would eat cheap Russian food in the cafeteria at the IUM for lunch, then depending on the day head back to the dorm or stick around for afternoon classes. For dinner I would often go out with friends, either to a Russian restaurant or to Shake Shack to get cheeseburgers if we were feeling homesick (this happened often). Then I would work on homework in the dorm study room or relax until it was time for bed.

What were your courses like?

The math courses ran the gamut from easy or normal to confusing or challenging or terrifying. Most American undergraduate programs present mathematics in an orderly, sequential fashion, which to some extent misrepresents the nature of professional work in the field. The Russian tradition strongly emphasizes intuition and problem solving, and problems are not beautified for the sake of the student. The result is that classes are more hands-on and participatory, and often difficult.

Where did you live?

I lived in a student dorm in Moscow next to the Studencheskaya metro stop. I shared a room with a delightful young man named Alex, who is also a math major from the US. Everyone from Math in Moscow was on the same floor of the dorm, so it was easy to step outside my room and socialize whenever I wanted.

What challenges did you experience?

The classes took some adjustment. I really appreciate the formalisms in American mathematical education so being asked to work from intuition, without a concrete set of agreed-upon definitions, was at times panic-inducing. This is not to say the American mathematical tradition is superior or inferior, just different. Also, Russians tend to be cold to strangers and blunt in conversation, which, if one is accustomed to friendly Americans, can be a shock.

What did you enjoy the most about your time abroad?

The stereotype about Russians, which I mentioned above, is that they are cold, blunt and humorless, but I was able to make some Russian friends, and the truth is they are as warm, friendly, and funny as anyone once you get to know them. My fondest memories of my time abroad are of nights spent exploring Moscow with a mix of Russian and American friends.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish that I had spent more time exploring the city in the first months of the semester. Being in Moscow during the winter, I was not inclined to go outside.

What advice do you have for STEM majors and study abroad?

Take classes that explore the culture of the country you’re visiting. I think one’s instinct when abroad is often to retreat into familiar American movies, music, YouTube videos, etc, so anything that draws you back into the country you’re living in, on a consistent basis, is a good thing.

Thendral Govindaraj ’16 (Spain)

Major: Engineering
Program/Semester: CIEE Engineering and Society/Spring 2015

Why did you study abroad?

I studied abroad because I wanted to immerse myself in a different culture and academic environment. I wanted to fully experience a different way of life and improve my Spanish as much as possible. I also wanted to take classes in and learn how to navigate a larger university. I wanted to take advantage of any academic opportunities—classes or extracurriculars—that are not offered here.

Of what value is study abroad as it pertains to your HMC education?

The major differences I noticed in the education system and learning culture will influence the way I approach my classes at HMC next semester. Also, I took a class called Geografía, which was basically environmental analysis in Spanish. It gave me a different perspective on demographics, urbanization, the structure of cities, depletion of natural resources and environmental sustainability. This class inspired me to take a more integrated approach to sustainability. In the future, instead of just working on deep energy retrofits or hydrogen fuel cells, I want to study urban infrastructure too and work with policymakers to influence people’s lifestyles and the way cities are organized.

I did an internship with Natureback, a sustainable architecture startup and learned how to design a unifamiliar (single-family) house so that it consumes the minimum amount of energy. After learning about home energy retrofits here, now I have a better general understanding of how to improve environmental sustainability through buildings. During the rest of my time at HMC, I would like to try to take environmental analysis classes that have a specific focus on areas in which I have little to no experience. I would also like to do a better job of keeping in touch with Sustainable Claremont and collaborate more on sustainability projects on the other colleges and in the city of Claremont.

Describe your program

The program’s office was in the city center, and they required us to take a language intensive class either before the semester started or throughout the semester. They also arranged our homestays and helped us with course registration. They organized cultural talks and activities, including a presentation about the history of Flamenco and a show afterwards. They also taught us about bullfighting and took us to the bullfighting ring. The program organized a couple of day trips and a weekend trip to Sevilla.

Describe a typical day

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I walked and took the metro for half an hour to Natureback in the mornings, and then I had class on one of the campuses in the afternoon. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I left the house around 8 a.m. and took the metro/commuter train to Leganés, the campus with engineering classes. The commute was about 45 minutes. I had one class there, and then I took the bus to Getafé, the humanities campus. Unlike the trains, that bus came only every 20 minutes. I came home between 6 and 8 p.m.

What were your courses like?

In my engineering classes, the professor usually just read from the slides. In Control Engineering, the professors gave us numerous formulas and taught us how to use them without deriving them. Each course had a lecture session and something like recitation. In the recitation-like session, the professors or PhD students solved the problems in front of us. We also did not have to turn in weekly problem sets for the technical classes, and a much larger proportion of the final grade in the class depended on the exams.

When I went to office hours for engineering classes, when I asked a question about a problem, the professor would solve the entire problem in front of me instead of giving me hints and pushing me to solve the problem myself. Also, office hours seemed to be one-on-one.

Where did you live?

I lived in a homestay. My host parents are actors and own a theater. My host dad writes and directs plays too.

What challenges did you experience?

I got lost pretty frequently in Madrid and other cities in Spain that I visited. While it was scary the first couple of times, especially because I did not have data on my Spanish phone, I eventually got used to asking people walking around for directions. Everybody I talked to explained to me patiently and clearly how to get where I needed to go.

Although I took Materials Science and Engineering in English, my classmates spoke in Spanish during the labs when they were explaining new concepts to each other. My technical vocabulary in Spanish is very limited, so I had a really hard time understanding some of the new concepts. When I thought I understood a concept and tried to explain it back to my classmates in English, they had trouble understanding me because I talked too fast.

What were some memorable highlights from your time abroad?

My most wonderful day abroad was the field trip with the Geografía class to la Sierra de Guadarrama, a mountain range about an hour north of Madrid by car. The professor explained the natural history of the region, including how the mountains formed, and the use of the natural resources (wood, coal and rocks) in Madrid and other nearby cities. He also explained the changes in property ownership, the changes in vegetation over the years and specific adaptations of some of the trees. For example, the pines above a certain altitude had branches on only one side because the strongest winds blew in the opposite direction.

Thendral in Spain 2015The other most memorable highlight was the trip to Ourense with the choir at the end of the semester. We sang some really cool Spanish and Hungarian songs, and I enjoyed talking to my fellow singers about their meanings (some of them were in dialects of Spanish I could not understand and others had very specific vocabulary that I would not be able to understand with a dictionary). I also had the best cultural experience because I was the only American student in the choir. The people who live in Galicia are called Gallegos, and they are extremely warm and friendly. They taught us their folk songs, and we sang and danced with them for many hours after the concert. (I’m shown second from right in the photo.)

I also enjoyed going to the plays in Plot Point, my host parents’ theater.

Geografía and the choir were the ways in which I surrounded myself with only Spanish people, so I picked up most of my new vocabulary that way and they were the best parts of the semester. I was the only American student in Geografía too.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish I had started earlier to make friends with my Spanish classmates/fellow singers. I waited until the end of the semester to make plans with the classmates/singers I was friendly with outside of class/rehearsal.

Naomi Epstein ’16 (France)

Naomi Epstein ’16 in Paris in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Major: Joint Biology and Chemistry
Program/Semester: Hamilton Junior Year Abroad, Spring 2015

Why did you study abroad?

I have wanted to study abroad since high school! I have always enjoyed traveling and languages, and so for me, the opportunity to study in Paris and take classes in French was perfect. Studying abroad also helped my ability to view things from a different perspective, which is valuable both in science and life in general.

Tell us about your program

The program I chose is Hamilton in France (HiF), and is sponsored by Hamilton College. There were about 25 students on the program, some of whom were in France for a whole year, and some only for a semester. There was a language prerequisite of French 44 + 1 semester of upper division French classes. In Paris, all of my classes were in French, and there was a language pledge to speak only French. I took humanities classes at Reid Hall, the building HiF is housed in, and biology classes at Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI, one of the Sorbonne Universities).

Students in the program also went on some organized excursions, where we traveled as a group to other cities in France with the program director, and were given a chance to explore. For example, one weekend we went to Cassis and Marseille where we hiked along rocky inlets and saw incredible views. Another weekend, we went to Brittany — St. Malo and Mont-Saint-Michel to be precise. We ambled along the ocean, and walked in the bay on quicksand with an experienced guide when the tide was out.

The program also offered tickets (free for the students) to a variety of cultural events, such as the ballet and philharmonic symphony. We also received a card for the Louvre, allowing us to bypass the lines and have free entry to the museum.

Describe a typical day

During a typical day, I woke up and had coffee and breakfast. I took the metro to class, and generally left my host house about 45 minutes before class started. If I had time, I would come home for lunch; if not I would grab a sandwich from one of the plentiful bakeries around Paris. If I had classes in the afternoon, I would usually take the metro to class (some days I had classes at two different campuses about 20 minutes apart). If not, I had free time and would often wander around new neighborhoods in Paris with other students, or visit a museum. I lived with a host family, and every evening I walked to the local bakery, about 2 minutes away, and bought a fresh baguette for dinner. My host family and I ate dinner around 8:30pm, and I sometimes helped them prepare dinner. After dinner, I would usually do homework and study, or watch TV and talk with my host family.

What were your courses like?

I took five courses, all in French. Two of my courses were humanities courses, both at Reid Hall with other American students on the HiF program. One of these was an architecture course, which included trips in Paris exploring different arrondissements and quarters and learning sur place (on location), as well as lectures. The other was a discussion based cinema class with a great professor, looking at French films made by female directors. I also took three biology classes at a Parisian university, with French students. The lectures were large, maybe 100 students, and the professor was in front with slides and a microphone. In addition to lecture, there was also recitation and lab, though they did not meet every week. I found that in general I had a lot less homework than I usually do at Mudd, and it was left up to me to keep up with the material and study on my own. I really enjoyed taking all of my classes in French, especially the biology classes.

Where did you live?

I lived with a host family in the sixteenth arrondissement. The students all lived with host families, but were scattered throughout Paris. Most of my friends happened to live within a ~30 minute metro trip from me. My neighborhood was primarily residential, though there were some restaurants, stores and bakeries. Other students lived closer to the center of Paris – the location depended on the host family with whom one was placed.

What challenges did you experience?

I experienced a few challenges. One was the bureaucracy made things a little more challenging – I missed the first week of one of my classes because I wasn’t able to get an appointment to register for the science classes until after class had started. Another was the difference in the sense of community. After attending Mudd, with the tight community and almost all the students on campus, I had to adjust to living with a host family and needing to plan at least a 20 minute commute to see my friends.

What were some memorable highlights from your time abroad?

I really enjoyed wandering around Paris, both by myself and with friends. Meandering through the different arrondissements allowed me to explore different areas and stumble upon things I may never have seen if I hadn’t wandered. I also enjoyed the group excursions that Hamilton sponsored. They gave me a chance to explore different parts of France and spend more time with other students. We also got to see some gorgeous views on the excursions. I also traveled within Europe. The European Union and a Schengen visa made traveling even more accessible. I was able to take a few trips to different countries and appreciate the differences between the various cultures. Additionally, my host family had a second home in the countryside and a friend and I stayed for a weekend with my host mother at the house. Finally, I had a great time taking biology classes in French that didn’t have an equivalent at the Claremont Colleges. For example, I took a class that studied neuronal signaling, and for the lab we dissected a frog and took a nerve from the leg, then measured the action potential that traveled through it. It was a unique experience, and I really enjoyed the added challenge of participating in the lab in French.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

I wish that I had both traveled more within France and outside of France, and explored other places. I also wish that I had explored more of Paris – though I think that no matter how much you explore Paris, there’s always something new to discover.

What advice do you have for Mudders and study abroad?

Do it! It’s an amazing experience and can expand your horizons and help you see things from a different point of view, which I think is invaluable in life in general, and also in a scientific context. I chose to do a program with a language requirement and found that my French got exponentially better, but I think that going to a country that speaks English, or a program in English, would also be very rewarding. Overall, I highly recommend studying abroad.

Emma Meersman ’16 (Hungary)

emma-meersman

Emma at the Towers of La Sagrada Familia, Spain

Major: Computer Science
Program/Semester: AIT Budapest, Fall 2014

Why did you study abroad?

I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel while still in college. I had never been to Europe before this trip, and now I have been to many beautiful European countries. Even though I love Mudd, I am so grateful that I took the time to explore other parts of the world. Spending a semester making new connections, experiencing new things, and learning to live in a foreign environment has helped me to grow as a person.

Tell us about your program

My program was designed for foreign students, so everyone came into the program with little knowledge of Hungarian language or culture. All of the classes were taught in English and almost all of them were focused on computer science and math. Several Hungarian students from a partner university enrolled in some of the courses, though they mostly took courses at their own institution. Our campus was located outside of the city center, in a peaceful business park. A lot of tech companies are located in the park and all of the buildings are very new.

The program provided several excursions, most of which I attended. I went on a bike trip around a lake in the countryside, which included a cultural dinner. I also took a weekend trip to Lake Balaton in the southern part of the country, which involved traveling through wine country and enjoying local hot springs. There were also several tours in the city, such as a trip through the Jewish quarter and an Art Noveau tour. The program staff also gave us opportunities to attend concerts and performances. The staff themselves were amazing. Everyone was very friendly and informal. The program staff definitely felt like friends who would chat about anything or help with problems.

Describe a typical day

A typical day involved me waking up in the morning and either grabbing breakfast in my apartment or starting with a typical Hungarian breakfast of pastries from a bakery. Getting to class took about 40 minutes and involved a ride on the Metro and the suburban railway. After that, I walked 10 minutes to the business park or took the provided shuttle. Class times depended on what you signed up for, but I had a lot of classes at 9 a.m.

At lunch, my friends and I would go grab food from one of the restaurants around the business park and then spend time in the school lounge hanging out and playing games. We then had afternoon classes and went home. My nights were either spent trying out new dinner places with friends, going to yoga, or working/goofing off back at my apartment.

What were your courses like?

I got to take a lot of computer science courses, since there was no limit on class sizes and everyone could sign up for whatever they wanted. I ended up taking four CS classes and Hungarian language. It was fairly easy to adjust to the classes. The one major difference from classes at Mudd was that each class lasted for 2 hours but had less homework as a result. Since I didn’t have as much work outside of class, I got more time to explore the city and plan excursions over the weekends.

Where did you live?

All students in the program rented apartments in the city. The program assigned us roommates and apartments before we arrived. I ended up in an apartment in one of the business districts of the city, right next to the Jewish quarter. It was very easy to walk to a lot of popular restaurants, attractions, and clubs. Even if something was very far away, the metro was less than a minute from the door of my apartment, and there were buses and streetcars right across the street.

What challenges did you experience?

Some of the challenges I experienced related to food and language. I am a vegetarian and Hungary is a very meat-centric country. Though there were some vegetarian options on most menus, I never had much of a selection when I went out to eat, unless I was going out for sweets. The language barrier was also a bit difficult. Most Hungarians speak some English, especially the younger generation. I also started learning Hungarian and eventually knew enough to read a lot of signs and carry on a very basic conversation. However, Hungarian is a very difficult language and it was frustrating at times to communicate with someone if they did not have a good grasp of English. I wasn’t expecting to miss this, but I always smiled a bit when I walked by people on the street and heard them speaking English, since I could understand what they were saying.

What were some memorable highlights from your time abroad?

I really enjoyed the ease with which I could travel to other countries throughout Europe. One of my highlights was the week and a half long break in the middle of the program. I spent that time traveling in Spain and Switzerland, which were both countries I have been wanting to visit for quite some time.

One other thing that stood out for me was all of the small differences that you gradually adapt to. Since it was my first time in Europe, I had to get accustomed to the different types of outlets, smaller grocery stores, asking for the bill at a restaurant, and much more. Figuring out all of these differences and learning to adjust to them was eventually a rewarding experience.

Now that you’re back, what do you wish you would have done, but didn’t?

Even though I did a fair amount of travelling, I wish that I had visited a few more places. I think it would have been nice to take more day trips throughout Hungary, since I probably won’t have the time to explore the country so thoroughly again. I would have enjoyed visiting some places like Prague and Venice, but I expect I will have time to do so when (not if) I return to Europe in the future.

What advice do you have for Mudders and study abroad?

My biggest piece of advice would be this: if you’re considering it, do it. Coming into college, I thought about going abroad but quickly dismissed the idea once I realized how much I loved Mudd. However, after talking with upper classmen about their experiences abroad, I started thinking about traveling once more. I still love Mudd, but it was very nice to spend a semester in a different environment. College is about growing in a lot of different ways, and this semester definitely helped me to expand my view of the world and become a more independent person. I am so fortunate to have studied abroad, and I would encourage anyone to take advantage of such a unique opportunity while they have the chance.