Tag: semester abroad

Last week, 71 Olin students participated in the annual European Study Tour in Brussels, Belgium. This academic study tour, offered annually, is designed to develop research, analysis and presentation skills in an experiential format and serves as a comprehensive introduction to the European Union and European markets.

Prior to arriving in Belgium, each student visited a pre-assigned EU member country. During the visit, students met with government and business experts to research their country’s attitudes about a specific issue such as increasing EU membership or the Euro financial crisis. The research trips allowed students to prepare for a mock parliament exercise. The experience gave students an intense introduction to challenges facing the European Union.

While in Belgium, students were hosted by EU offices and delegations throughout the city, including the Turkish delegation, the Croatian Ambassador and delegation to the EU, and the European Commission, among others.

Guest Blogger: Liz Shabani, Associate Director of Global Programs & Advising in the Olin Undergraduate Programs Office.


My time in Maastricht has been filled with many exciting moments and educational opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom (I seem to prefer the ones that occur outside the classroom). These experiences have occurred in Maastricht due to the city’s rich history and culture that dates back to the time of the Roman Empire.

I have also had many learning opportunities at Maastricht University as the international approach of the university has allowed me to study with students from all over the world and allowed me to learn about their views on business, international relations and American culture. Lastly, these educational experiences have occurred as I have traveled around Central Europe to major nearby cities such as Paris and Amsterdam. Placed in the heart of Central Europe, Maastricht has many elements of the countries (Belgium, Germany, France, and Luxembourg) that surround it.

45312_fullimage_centrum ouderzijds voorburgwalFirst, traveling to Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside exposed me to the Dutch influence in Maastricht. From the countless amount of bicycles being ridden around the city to the architecture, Amsterdam’s culture is truly prevalent in Maastricht. The reflection of culture is shown in the Dutch people who have incredibly unique personalities which are hard to describe in a few words but include: intelligent (many speak 3-4 languages), blunt (their efficient habits seem to carry over to their vocabulary), and fun-loving (Maastricht holds a weeklong Carnaval celebration in which people of all ages parade through the streets in Halloween-esque costumes).

Peter QuirkSecondly, my trip to Paris showed me the French influence on the city of Maastricht which can be described in one word, food! To many students’ delight, the traditional bakeries and cafes of Paris can also be found on the streets of Maastricht serving pastries and baguettes.

Maastricht’s location allows it to have not only an international blend of cultures, but also have the feel of a traditional medieval, Dutch town. While I have explored the Dutch and French influences on the city, I still plan on exploring nearby cities such as Antwerp and Bruges to learn more about the Belgian influence and Cologne to experience the German culture.

Peter Quirk is a junior studying Finance.

Arriving in Milan on a cloudy day in January, I had many expectations. While taking a taxi from the airport to my new apartment, I looked out and saw grey stone buildings, sprayed with un-artistic graffiti. This was not the Italy I had been expecting— the one that was on magazine covers and in the movies.

Whether it is a classic pizza and pasta, or a unique veal dish, the standards of Italian food are so high that you're sure to enjoy it wherever you go.

Whether it is a classic pizza and pasta, or a unique veal dish, the standards of Italian food are so high that you’re sure to enjoy it wherever you go.

Culture shock was very real. Soon after realizing Milan was not a touristy city at all, I began to see how much I could learn from the experience. Fewer people speak English than I imagined. I quickly began to learn small phrases to order dinner in a restaurant or even get a haircut. Italian traditions and customs are certainly unique as well. Breakfast is a coffee and a pastry, not a fancy omelet with home fries and toast. And being “on time” simply does not exist.

The more I explored and learned about the place I was living, the more I began to enjoy it.

Not only have the sights been great, the food has, too. Eating at top-rated restaurants and family trattorias alike means tasting unique twists on different Italian foods.

I visited the Milan Duomo, a cathedral built over several hundred years, including a climb to the roof overlooking Milan.

I visited the Milan Duomo, a cathedral built over several hundred years, including a climb to the roof overlooking Milan.

Whether it is a classic pizza and pasta, or a unique veal dish, the standards of Italian food are so high that  you’re sure to enjoy it wherever you go.

Besides wandering Milan, I have also been able to travel to many cities across Europe.

The ease of getting from country to country via air or train in a cheap and reliable manner leaves no place off the table.

Thus far, I’ve visited Brussels, Prague, Turin, Barcelona, Spain, Amsterdam, Florence, and Venice, with many more to come in the remaining weeks.

The ability to sample these cultures for a few days is always an exciting experience, but it’s equally as great returning to Milan and enjoying the time in a city I can now call home.

Guest Blogger: Ross Fine is an Olin junior studying abroad in Milan, Italy. He is studying Accounting and Finance.

Above photo: Ross Fine visits da Vinci’s famous The Last Supper.

Located on the Caribbean coastline and home to a population of 1.1 million, Barranquilla is Colombia’s fourth largest city.  However, aside from hosting the world’s 2nd largest Carnaval – a 4-day celebration in which the city comes together to parade and party in the street – Barranquilla is mostly a commercial city.

In the absence of touristy attractions, I’ve had to adjust to the typical day-to-day life of a student in Barranquilla. Though the culture is quite different here, spending time with my host family, playing soccer at night, and trying to learn salsa (unsuccessfully) have made the transition quite enjoyable. And although Barranquilla itself isn’t a touristy destination, it is only an hour away from two of Colombia’s most popular cities, Cartagena and Santa Marta. In my first couple months, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to both.

Emory Witt 2Cartagena is another city located on Colombia’s coastline. There are two main parts to the city, the old town, which has many fancy hotels, restaurants and clubs that are enclosed by colonial walls. And the second part, Bocagrande, which is a long strip of condos and hotels that overlook the beach. Bocagrande is a residential area, with parks and places to jog, while the old city is more touristy, filled with street vendors and indigenous dance performances.

Though the beaches in Cartagena are great, the most beautiful, picturesque ones are on islands off the coast. In order to reach the Rosario Islands, an archipelago with a coral reef, we had to take a two hour ferry ride on the open ocean. Though the ride was long and relatively bumpy, the turquoise water, white sand beach, and salty breeze were well worth the trip. We spent the day on the island, relaxing, snorkeling, and taking a guided canoe tour around the island.Emory Witt 3

The city of Santa Marta itself isn’t particularly special, but its unique location next to Tayrona National Park and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the world’s highest coastal mountain range, makes it a very popular destination for backpackers. On our first day in Santa Marta, we spent the morning hiking through the dense and humid jungle of Tayrona.

The intersection of the jungle, the ocean, and mountains, make for some very breathtaking scenery. During the hike, we were lucky to see some kapibaras, cool lizards, and a family of howler monkeys. After spending the afternoon on the beach, we rode horses back to the campsite before crashing in hammocks for the night.

Guest Blogger: Emory Witt is an Olin junior studying abroad in Colombia. He is studying Economics & Strategy, Finance, and Spanish.