Study Abroad Reflection

I never thought that I would get the chance to study abroad during my college career. I feel as if every student thinks this way and believes that it’s an experience that’s too expensive or “just out of reach.” I was just like every other student, until one day I decided to take a leap of faith.

I initially saw the flyer for the study abroad opportunity on my webcourse account and immediately applied without thinking about money or taking time off from the two jobs I had. To my surprise, I was contacted back by the program coordinator in no time and already had a meeting set up with her. I did not know what to expect from the meeting or what the study abroad experience was even going to entail.  After my initial meeting with the coordinator, Maureen Waked, I was more than pleased with what she had to say about the program. She explained all the activities that would take place during the trip and explained the details about payment options. After the meeting my expectations were high. Maureen had me convinced that this was going to be a trip I would never forget. So, without hesitation I decided to bite the bullet and begin paying for the trip. Luckily, my Florida Bright Futures scholarship helped fund some of the costs for the classes.

After waiting month after month for the trip, it was finally time to pick up my life and go to another country. Of course, by this time I had done my fair share of research on the location of the University and definitely knew what to expect. Upon my arrival to the city of Jönköping in Sweden, I was blown away by the beauty. However, making my way to the living accommodations, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was not really given too much information on where I would be staying while studying abroad; I really only knew how much I would be paying for living expenses. I quickly learned that the apartment complex I would be staying at was not what I thought it would be. It was quite far from the University and didn’t seem as if it was in the best area of the city. Of course, this was merely just a first impression, that over the course of my stay, was completely changed. The rent was cheap compared to what I pay over here in the States and I was provided with a bus pass that could get me anywhere in the city. Even though, it seemed as if the apartments where not located in the best area, I was pleased with the accommodations overall, because it allowed me to meet so many people and experience the Swedish culture in a very raw form. I observed families going about their daily activities, parents playing with their children and friends gathering for barbecues out in the courtyard. Also, the apartment complex had a market and pharmacy on the same property so I could get any supplies I needed. At the Market, I was forced to learn Swedish words in order to find what I needed for cooking. I noticed that not many of the locals spoke English there, which definitely helped me learn more of the language.

As far as the activities that I participated in, my expectations were blown away. From visiting the Vadstena Castle, to playing bumper ball with my classmates, to getting a tour of IKEA’s Central Distribution Center, there was never an absence of fun. The tour of Husqvarna’s Headquarters was also a very notable experience that I was always excited about, because I had always used their lawn equipment growing up. The Husqvarna factory was over a hundred years old and yet was still something beyond my words. In terms of the Advanced Supply Chain Logistics course that I took, I was somewhat nervous to start out, because I was not sure how different the classroom atmosphere would be in Sweden. Throughout the course, I began to realize how much I liked the way I was being taught. From assignments all the way to tests, everything was very group focused. Not only did this help the class focus better as a whole, it helped me focus better individually and learn the subject matter more proficiently. Before my study abroad experience, I believed that it was very difficult to work in groups all the time and get anything accomplished. During the experience, I quickly gave up this belief because of how well I began to retain what I was learning. I was able to stay with the same group during the whole course, which not only allowed us to work more efficiently together over time, it allowed us to developed relationships that stretched beyond the scope of our academics. This was something that I definitely did not expect. I was worried that it would be difficult to make friends and communicate with the other international students. This was not the case. Friendships came along day after day and every day I began to realize how little a language barrier matters when you get along with someone. This was probably my biggest realization on the trip; that no matter who I met or who I became friends with, they were just like me… human. They laughed at the same jokes as I did. They taught me new ways to look at culture and new ways to see the world around me. They taught me to be humble and respect your peers no matter their background. This trip gave me friendships and connections that I would have never even come close to making if I stayed back in the United States.

Overall, I would say that my study abroad experience was more than humbling. Not only that, but it was well worth the time spent on long flights, in boring airports and away from home. It was almost like a month long breath of fresh air. So often, we get caught up in the repetition of our daily lives and feel trapped or limited by our current situation – this was my feeling everyday for the past year until I studied abroad. This opportunity has not only been exhilarating, breath-taking and eye-opening, it has provided me with new knowledge of culture, academics and relationships. If I were to give one recommendation to a student thinking about studying abroad, it would be to take the chance. Drop what you’re doing, if you can, and go make memories. Go learn something new and meet people you would never meet otherwise. Bet on yourself for once instead of betting on other individual’s goals. Make your own legacy. Change your life for the better. Leave college with no regrets. Study Abroad.

Day 25: My Last Day in Jonkoping/ Learning the Language (6/27/19)

My Room at Raslatt Apartments

After I took my final Exam in the morning, it was time to empty out my room and say goodbye to what was my home for a month. This was definitely a bitter sweet moment. I felt like I was about to leave behind a part of me and never get to that part back. However, in reality I was about to move on to bigger and better back in the states where I will start my last semester of college.

Cleaning out my room and the apartment in general, took me almost the entire day. My suitcase was already packed because I had to wait for the FedEx driver to come pick up my suitcase during the day. Thank god I was able to ship home my suitcase, because it would not have been very fun lugging that giant thing around my travels in Europe. As far as cleaning out my room, I didn’t really have much to do. I cleaned the floors and took all the linens off my bed to dispose of. It was hard throwing away perfectly good sheets and a pillow but there was no way I could have traveled with all that extra stuff. As far as cleaning the common areas in the apartment, we had a huge task ahead of us. This is what happens when you have nine people (girls and guys) living and cooking in the same apartment for a month. We had to wipe every inch of the counter tops and floors so that we did not get charge a cleaning fee.

Although I will miss Sweden endlessly, I will not miss Raslatt… seriously. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great experience living there with other students from countries all over the world. However, I was not keen of the area that the apartments were located in. There was always some story in the morning of student getting harassed by the locals the night before as they were walking back to their apartment. I also wished that the living accommodations were a little closer to campus to make it more convenient for us the commute to campus. Using the public bus system was very convenient, yet very confusing at times.

One thing that I did notice from living at Raslatt over the course of the month, is that I learned a lot more Swedish words than I would have near the University. The fact that barely anyone near the apartments knew English really helped a lot. When in the market buying groceries I had to use many Swedish words to converse with the employees to find what I needed to buy. During my time in Sweden, I would say about 20% of my dialogue was Swedish. Saying this, Swedish is not an easy language to learn, because the pronunciation is very difficult. To help with this, I started using an app called Duolingo, that allowed me to practice my Swedish words on the go. Without this app, I probably would not have been able to accomplish as much as I did in Sweden.

The last day wasn’t filled with much excitement. However, I’m still extremely excited for whats to come. I will be traveling to three different cities in Europe for two weeks total. I will be going to Berlin, Budapest and Rome, hence why I had to ship my suitcase home. I will be staying hostels throughout my travels and I will only be carrying a backpack with my stuff in it.

Day 24: Studying and Packing (6/26/19)

Today was the day before our final exam for the Advanced Supply Chain Logistics class. If I’m being honest, I was pretty nervous for the test even though I had been studying for a few days. I was not sure how I was going to perform during the exam because it was group oriented. During my years of schooling, exams have always been strictly individual without collaboration from other students.

This final exam was set up as a question and answer panel between the Professors and Students. The Professor would ask a question pertinent to the subject material covered in class and the selected student would reply with a discussion on the topic. After that student had the chance to finish answering the question, then the other students had the option to add any additional information they thought might be pertinent. If the other students added any valuable information to the topic of discussion, they would receive extra points towards their final exam grade.

After taking the Exam, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised. I really liked the way it was facilitated by the professors. They made me feel as if I truly learned something from the class and that it was a value-added experience.

Suitcase and Travel Backpack

Recommendations for Future Students: Don’t over-pack. You’re going to have a hard time leaving a lot of your stuff behind at home. However, less is better when traveling abroad. You never know what you’re going to buy while abroad or lose for that matter. I made the mistake of bringing things that I never wore just because I thought I “might” need them. It just caused extra clutter and headache when trying to pack everything up for the return home.

I still can’t believe I fit my whole life in these two bags for a month. When packing up my suitcase and travel backpack, it made me realize how much stuff I have that I don’t really need. We all focus so much on what we want and not what we actually need. The amount of clothes that I own that I didn’t take with me is breath taking. It’s important to focus on the things that are important for your everyday activities and not bringing something like 5 pairs of shoes.

Roommates Studying Abroad

Day 23: International Food Fest (6/25/19)

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International Food Festival

Not knowing what to do for our last few days in Sweden, my friends and I took to the streets of Jonkoping and wandered around. We left from the University and walked about a mile away towards the boat docks. Right before we went to cross the bridge to the harbor, we stumbled upon a bunch of tents with different countries flags on them. We soon realized it was an International food festival and couldn’t be more excited. We could now try authentic food from all over Europe and Asia without even having to travel. The food festival had food from countries such as Poland, Italy, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Thailand, Turkey, Hungary, etc. My favorite foods were from Turkey, Holland and Poland.

At the tent with Turkish food, I bought some Turkish delight, which I had never tried before. Turkish delight is hard to describe but it is a dessert that has the consistency of a gumdrop. The Mango and Strawberry flavors were my favorite because they just melted in my mouth.

At the Holland tent I bought something called Stroopwafel, which I have had before. Stroopwafel is made like a sandwich with a super thin waffle on each side and a sweet honey filling. Usually you eat this with coffee in a coffee shop but it tastes so good that you can eat it at anytime. Once you start eating them, there’s no stopping either.

At the Polish Tent, they were selling Pierogi. At first glance this food kind of looks like a dumpling crossed with an empanada. This was one my favorite foods at the festival because there was just an explosion of flavor and texture that was very different. The outside of the Pierogi was gummy in texture and the inside was soft and creamy.

I did not want to leave this food festival and I could have easily gone back three days in a row. I felt like my tongue had traveled all through Europe at this point.

Bratwurst wood fire grill – Germany

Day 22: Assignment 3 Presentation and New Sushi Bar (6/24/19)

Team PowerPoint Presentation on Supplier Development

One of my favorite assignments during the course was the Supplier Development Case. I feel that this assignment provided me with some of the most valuable information I could get.

The case study covered a company that was trying to push a new drug into the pharmaceutical company. To elaborate, the Veroxide Group has recently had a notable increase in Research and Development spending. As a result, a new drug is about to enter the pharmaceutical market called “Zentonex”. Onolun, a special chemical required to produce Zentonex, is needed in mass quantities to meet the demands of forecasted production.

The issue is that the R&D director insists on having their own buying power, thus disconnecting the buying functions all together. The buying director, Anne Fortescue, is raising the concern that the buying operation is being performed by an inexperienced buyer. Anne recommends that buying should be a more sophisticated operation in order to ensure that the predicted quantities are satisfied. VG will not sign a contract with Gardner (supplier), unless they focus efforts on supplier development to ensure that they are capable of producing the required quantities of Onolun.

The overall goal of the assignment was to use the DMAIC Methodology (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and Key performance indicators to track and manage supplier performance. This was a great exercise that gave my group and I what it was like doing this in industry.

Tuna, Tuna and more Tuna

If you know me, you know I love sushi more than most foods on the entire planet. This means I am very picky about where I eat it. When I first arrived in Sweden I tried a sushi joint that wasn’t the best. Their fish wasn’t very fresh, it was overpriced and the service wasn’t up to par. This scared me – was I not going to be able to eat sushi for a whole month??? To my surprise, during the last week of being abroad, I came across this sushi bar. Not only did they have fresh fish and better service, they had all you can eat sushi! This was great because I can usually eat four rolls just to myself. My favorite kind of fish on sushi is definitely Tuna. Tuna is the least fishy out of the fish family and will melt in your mouth if it is fresh and cut right. If I had to leave Sweden without finding a good Sushi Joint, I would have been very depressed.

Day 21: Leaving Stockholm (6/23/19)

A fountain of youth

On the way back to the train station to head back to Jonkoping, we made a few pit stops at sites we saw passing by. The first thing I came across was this fountain in the middle of a plaza. I notice that people were drinking from it and I thought this was particularly odd. My first thought was that everyone was just really thirsty and they knew that Sweden has very clean water no matter where you are. However, after approaching the fountain and getting a closer look, I realized it was some kind of “Fountain of Youth.” I was still curious so I asked one of the locals walking around in the plaza what was so unique about this fountain. They proceeded to tell me that it was just simply good luck to drink the water from this fountain and people had been doing it for years and years.

Guard outside the Royal Palace

Walking past the Royal Palace for the 3rd time I noticed something that I had seen the whole time but just never paid attention to. The guard standing behind me was one of hundreds of guards that patrolled the grounds around the royal palace. I wondered how they can just stand there for so long without moving a muscle or batting an eye. This is astounding especially because of the heat and humidity outside. Standing next to me made me wonder what it would be like if we had a palace like this in America and had Royal Guards. This is just one aspect of the Swedish culture that is similar to US culture (White House Guards) yet so different in many ways.

Brass Norse Viking Ring

I purchased this ring right before leaving Stockholm. I didn’t get the ring to remember Stockholm, but I got it as a memento to remember my trip as a whole. This is the first ring I’ve ever purchased and I told myself I’d wear it everyday. This ring will do a good job of reminding me of an important experience in my life and remind me of my roots and where I came from. The only drawback to wearing the ring is that its brass, so it will tarnish. However, because this is the traditional way that the vikings would make the rings I can look past this flaw and embrace the ring for its meaning to me.

8/13/19 Update: I have been wearing the ring everyday without fail. Everyday I look down and remember one of the best experiences of my life. The ring is definitely doing its job.

Day 20: My Second Day in Stockholm/ Midsummer Celebration (6/22/19)

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Bridge outside of the Royal Palace

My second and last day in Stockholm was amazing. Having the opportunity to travel here during my study abroad experience made the whole trip worth it. Stockholm was definitely a more touristy part of Sweden especially around areas like the Royal Palace (pictured above). This is the back side of the Palace where there are not many people to ruin your pictures. However in the front of the Palace, there are thousands of people flocking in every direction. Surprisingly enough there were still a large amount of Swedes around this area that were interacting with the tourists; Stockholm is a heavily populated city. All of the locals are very polite and will help you get anywhere you need to go. Observing the interaction of people around busy sites like this one, its easy to see the polite nature and friendliness of the Swedish people. This is reflected in how they treat each other with trust and respect.

Old Town, Stockholm

Walking around Stockholm it was easy to find alleyways such as the one above. I took a picture here because it reminded me of something out of a movie and I just had to capture the memory. It exemplifies the beautiful architecture found all over Stockholm and depicts a little bit of history too. The old cobblestone roads are over a hundred years old and will probably be there for a hundred more. I also noticed that the city was littered with different colored buildings. Walking around the vibrant colors just gives a warm and happy feeling, like you’re in the right place.

Dessert Waffle with Chocolate and Raspberry Sauce

Who says waffles have to be for Breakfast? I certainly didn’t hesitate to buy myself one of these delicious waffles with chocolate and raspberry sauce. Taking a bite out of this was like having fireworks explode in your mouth. I had to share this dessert with one of my buddies because it was just too much to be consumed by one person in one sitting.

Truffle Burger and fries

More food? I know I know. But who doesn’t absolutely love food? The truffle burger was cooked to perfection and had my mouth watering before I even took a bite. One of the most interesting parts about Swedish culture is the plethora of food. This food may seem unhealthy, however it isn’t made with all the preservatives and unhealthy stuff used in American foods. Saying all this, I didn’t gain any weight when I was abroad. This was surprising and convenient.

Salted Caramel Gelato

If there was one thing that I saw in every corner of Europe, it was Gelato. If there was a street corner that didn’t have a little gelato shop on it, you would think the world was ending. Obviously this wasn’t a bad thing… at all. I think I had the chance to taste every kind of Gelato ever made.

Boat tour under the bridges of Stockholm

This boat tour was especially interesting. When I first got to Stockholm, I was unaware that there was so much water separating different parts of the city. Because of all the water, there were over 50 bridges all around the city and we got to go under every one of them. During the tour we also learned about the history of different bridges and sites. We even got the chance to go through a canal that would adjust the water levels to get boats through to a higher water level.

Overall, Stockholm was an amazing experience and I’m glad that I was able to experience it with my friends that I met while abroad.

Midsummer DAy Celebration

While in Stockholm there were not many Midsummer Celebration activities. I blame this partly on the fact that we were mainly in the hub of the city. Midsummer Celebrations usually take place in the outskirts of the city of the more rural grassy areas. Despite this, Midsummer celebrations were still taking place where we were. While at lunch, we asked our server to recommend the best places for us to celebrate. He proceeded to tell us that everyone goes to the public parks to drink and play games. I thought this was odd, because in the states it is illegal to drink out in public and especially in parks. Despite being confused, I was excited that we were able to do this.

Later on that day we went to see what was going on in the parks around the city. Just as the server had said, hundreds of people were mingling, dancing and drinking. So, we bought some brews and joined the fun!

A little later we were even able to witness the raising of the Maypole… or one of the thousands being raised. A Maypole is a large wooden pole decorated with wreaths and other greenery. Raising this pole is said to symbolize that the happy season of warmth and comfort is returning. I saw the locals dancing and laughing around the Maypole and I couldn’t help but be smile and feel happy.