Tag Archives: international activities

All Roads Lead to Rome

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 4 April 2018

For my second blog post of Spring semester, I decided to write about the differences in education system between my home country (the Netherlands) and the United States of America. It will be hard to emphasize those differences because some of the names and levels of education are not translatable. However, I hope this post will serve as a resource for High School students as well as OU students who are looking into a semester abroad.

Studying abroad has been the best decision in my life so far, which I hope everyone could experience! It widens your horizon. Studying abroad opened my eyes to several cultures and made it easier to communicate with people having different backgrounds. In school as well as in the work field, you will encounter people who have distinct believes and were raised in various parts of the world. In globalized times like this, I believe it is very important to understand those differences and respect one another.

That being said, I will try my best to explain the differences in education system that I experienced thus far. For example, at home we start off with kindergarten at the age of two up till four. When a child turns four, he or she goes to primary school (“basisschool”) up till twelve (grade 1-grade 8). At home, private schools are uncommon so most kids go to a local, public primary school at a walking distance of 5-10 minutes (yes my country is small, haha). 90% Of the Dutch elementary schools are part of the government and use the same teaching style around the same level of education.

When a primary school student reaches the age of 11 (grade 7), he or she is required to take a standardized test similar to the American SATs: “The Central End Test for Primary Education” (“CITO”). The results of this test in combination with another standardized test the following year (grade 8), determine what level of high school the student should do. Levels are directly related to above average, average, or below average test scores and the years one will be enrolled in high school (4, 5, or 6 years).

This test is also an important part of the decision to what high school one
would like to go since not all schools offer all different levels. The levels of high school are split up in three main levels:

  • 6 years of VWO (pre-university and
    research focused)

  • 5 years of HAVO (general second education, still provides entrance to university)

  • 4 years of VMBO (more technical, highest VMBO can continue to HAVO after graduation)

These first and third levels can be further divided into VWO-TTO (education in English), VWO-Gymnasium (focused on Greek, Latin and classical antiquity), VWO-Atheneum (basic), VMBO-T (entrance to HAVO), VMBO-basis, and VMBO-kader. The last two are focused on practical and technical education known as “technical schools” in the USA.



In our last year of high scool (“senior year”) we do a trip abroad with our class. I graduated high school with a VWO-Gymnasium degree, so we got to travel to Rome and experience all the ancient structures and art pieces we were taught about during our 6 years of high school!





Because of my Dutch high school degree and experience, the transition to a(n American) university was made a little easier than expected. Thus, use your opportunities to explore the world and become a sophisticated student creating for good!

Spring Break Trip to Slovenia

Veronica Ammer

Veronica Ammer,
Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 21 March 2018

In early January, my Spring break plans were the same as every year preceding: I was going home to see my cat. By the third week of the semester, I had a plane ticket to go on a cultural exchange to Ljubljana, Slovenia (the first j is silent and the second j reads like a y).


I’m not sure if it was the beautiful architecture, the fresh, flaky croissants or the unbelievably blue Adriatic Sea, but in just one week I fell whole-heartedly in love with Slovenia.

There were students from both Cru at OU and RealLife at OSU on the cultural exchange. We partnered with an organization called Speak Out Slovenia, which works with high school students to practice English speaking through meaningful, relevant conversation with Americans. A lot of our time was spent in classrooms, giving a short presentation and quiz about school in the US, answering any questions, and learning about Slovene culture.

The quiz tested the Slovene high school students’ knowledge of American high school jargon like senioritis, dance chaperone and senior superlative. The Slovene students taught us (the Americans) about their college entrance exam, the Matura, and flaunted that detention does not exist in Slovenia, among many other things.

During that week, we (the Americans) were divided into groups and met at three different high schools. The school I went to was called Gimnazija Šentvid. One of the major differences between American and Slovene high schools is when it comes to sports. Unlike in America, Slovene sports clubs are not affiliated with a high school or district. However, there are schools like Gimnazija Šentvid that offer classes for student athletes where they can train and condition during their school day.

Another big difference is that in Slovene high school a student stays with the same group of people throughout their day class to class with few exceptions except during senior year. This is very different from how American high schools operate where we have our own individualized schedules.

In addition to speaking with English class students in the schools, we also had after-school activities. On Wednesday, all the teachers in Ljubljana went on strike, so we took a day trip with at least thirty Slovene students to Piran, a coast town on the Adriatic Sea. We were split into groups with both Slovenes and Americans and sent on a photo scavenger hunt to see all the sights the lovely town had to offer.


Piran was my personal favorite. Looking out across the sea, in one direction I saw Italy and in the other Croatia. We climbed to the highest point in the town, where we could look out at the point and snap a picture of the terracotta rooftops and breathtaking horizon.

Our last day in Slovenia was spent at Lake Bled. The lake was nestled majestically in the frosted mountains. From a castle that loomed over the lake to the small island church located in the middle of the lake, it was like something out of a fairy tale.


We hiked higher and higher to take the best pictures and to try to capture the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Lake Bled was also a prized destination thanks to its authentic dessert shop that supposedly has the best kremsnita (cream cake) in Slovenia.


Overall, there was a lot to love about Slovenia. I hope I have the opportunity to go back and visit this beautiful country and the friends I made through Speak Out. This trip had a tremendous impact on me through immersive learning about another culture. Even though it was a break from class, it definitely was not a break from learning. However, when you are gazing across the Adriatic or enjoying a delectable croissant, it’s not so bad.

Chicks with Sticks

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 18 November 2017

My home country, the Netherlands, is very well known for its sports such as soccer and field hockey. Unfortunately, Dutch sports are not affiliated with universities like in American sports. At home, we represent a sports club and not a high school or university. For this reason, it is challenging for Dutch students to excel athletically as well as academically.

Combining sports and academics at the same place sounded ideal for me. When I became aware of this big part of the American college life, I decided to look into transferring to an American university. Now I am happy to say I am living the American dream thanks to Ohio University’s Field Hockey (OUFH) program as well as the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

Ohio University Field Hockey

I made the decision to transfer in the summer of 2015 and I immediately felt at home while wandering around the beautiful green campus of Ohio University. Playing a college sport is very beneficial for international students because we automatically gain 20+ sisters.

Over the years, my teammates—as well as my engineering friends—have become my family away from home. It is very special to realize how sports brings people together and creates strong relationships which are not limited by international borders. For example, OUFH currently represents five nationalities to compete at the highest collegiate level in the United States of America.

Ohio University Field Hockey

When we come in as freshman field hockey players, we start our collegiate career during preseason in the summer. Preseason usually lasts about two weeks and consists of multiple practices. These practices can range from one a day up to three, each lasting about two or three hours. After we get used to playing together, we play one or two scrimmages before our season starts at the end of August.

Ohio University Field Hockey

During the season, we sometimes play three games a week. Normally, we play about eighteen games a season which consists of roughly ten or more away games. This means we get to travel a lot with the team! Traveling with the team has definitely been one of my best OU experiences so far and it contributes to our strong relationships. For example, we got to visit New York City my sophomore year and we traveled to North Carolina my junior year.

Ohio University Field Hockey

On top of the games, we also practice 4-5 times a week depending on our game schedule. In the past three years, we have always had Mondays off for our required day off. Then, we would have lifting from 7:30 am till 8:30 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, we practice from 2:00 pm ill 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday—except for game days, of course.

Ohio University Field Hockey

Unfortunately, our 2017 season ended at the end of October and we are now lifting and running for up to eight hours a week max. I am really excited to start playing field hockey again this winter break at home and with the OUFH team in spring. Things will definitely be different because the Ohio Athletic Department recently hired a new head coach: Ali Johnstone. She is a former Bobcat standout and member of the Kermit Blosser Ohio Athletics Hall of Fame which makes me really excited about all new athletic challenges in the near future!

Ohio University Field Hockey

Go Bobcats!

How I Became Part of the Bobcat Family

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 14 October 2017

On a Monday morning in September 2012, a 17-year old Dutch High School student decided to improve her English grade. She failed a couple of her English reading and listening exams. For this reason, she watched American TV shows like Pretty Little Liars to improve her English listening skills. Her grade still did not change much, but her love for America grew.

During this period, she became aware of American college sports and the way athletics opens up a world of opportunities because of scholarships for student athletes. Nevertheless, this Dutch field hockey player stopped dreaming about America because she was insecure about her abilities as an athlete.

This 17-year old, insecure girl was me about 5 years ago. Nowadays, I am like a butterfly that came out of its Dutch cocoon. A lot of things have happened and changed since that one Monday in 2012. I graduated High School with one C (English…) and I decided to take a year off to work on my languages. I was also denied by my med school in the Netherlands which made me doubt my decision to become a doctor. I always wanted to help people by studying medicine, but this childhood dream changed after my gap year and journey through Southern Africa.

In 2014, I traveled to South-Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique to volunteer at a Neighborhood Care Point for vulnerable children. During this 6-week teaching assistant job, I also partially-funded a construction project which made me realize one does not necessarily need to be a doctor to help others. I helped with the building process and I designed some murals to decorate the school. On top of that, I had the honor to paint them myself, so I saw with my own eyes how much it was appreciated by the community. This made me change my opinion by 180 degrees: I wanted to study engineering instead of medicine.

That Summer in 2014, I applied for a major called “Bouwkunde”—a combination of structural engineering and architecture— at Eindhoven University of Engineering and Technology. I got accepted and I started my next chapter of life as an engineering student in the Netherlands. It was a tremendous university with sophisticated students and teachers but ever since I started traveling I wanted more than the tiny Dutch cities surrounded by flat farmland.

In the meantime, I was playing field hockey on the second-highest level in the Netherlands which opened up some opportunities in the United States of America. Since my English skills were still below average by the time 2015 came around, I started to look into some transfer options to continue my studies in an English speaking country. This was when my “American Dream” appeared once again. The 17 year old High Schooler was now a confident 20 year old young adult ready for the next step in her life.

After a roller coaster of field hockey recruiting events, recorded games, Skype conversations, and loads of paperwork I finally got my American visa to continue my academics and athletics at Ohio University in Fall 2015.

It was a huge step for me to transfer to an American university but I am extremely happy that I did. Choosing Ohio University was quite a risk because I did not visit America before let alone Athens, Ohio. Nevertheless, the conversations I had with my head coach, teammates, engineering teachers, and even current students on top of the beautiful Google Maps pictures made my heart race.

The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.” —Sarah Bombell

I always say I rather try than regret not trying at all, which brought me to Athens this time and who knows what is next. Overall, this is my journey to Ohio University and now I will help you find your journey back hOUme.

Studying in Greece

Emily Morello

Emily Morello,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 11 September 2017

This past summer was probably the best summer I have ever had. The first month of May consisted of traveling to Greece with my best friend for a study abroad internship. This happened through the OU Global Consulting Program which Dr. Costas Vassiliadis, from the electrical engineering department, supervised.

It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. The program was two weeks long and took place in the city of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is located in the upper peninsula of Greece right on the coast. The city is beautiful!

During the day, all the students met at the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) to work on our consulting projects. We were split up into groups of 5-6 students and 2-3 of those students were from the ACT. Each group was pared with a different company to consult.

My team was pared with the Chalkidiki Flour Mills. This company is a global flour mill company that produces specialty flour blends that they ship out to other places. My team had to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program for the company. It was a great learning opportunity.

Other than the project, we had socials, special dinners, and traveled to other cities in the free time. I also loved shopping in the city after class. Another great opportunity was being able to tour monasteries and Mount Olympus on the weekend.

After the two weeks were over, my friend Gabby and I island hopped for an extra week. We visited Ios, Santorini, and Mykonos.

Ios was incredible because it was a mountainous island that a lot of college students liked to travel to. It was cheaper than the other islands, so we stayed for three nights. We did not want to leave. We stayed at a family-owned hotel that had a gorgeous view on top of a cliff. One of our favorite things about Ios was renting ATVs to ride around the island on.

Santorini was our next stop, but we only stayed for one night. Santorini is located on a cliff and it was not what I expected at all! When looking at the city from the water, it looked like little bird nests were located on the peaks of the mountains. As we moved in closer, we were amazed by the beautiful architecture and colors of the buildings. I loved this city, but it was very touristy.

Our last stop was Mykonos before heading to Athens. Mykonos was my favorite island. We met students from the University of Barcelona that hung out with us every day. I think being with a fun group made this island the best. Mykonos is very hilly with a beautiful town located on the shore. I loved all the white
buildings and beautiful beaches. I definitely want to travel back to this island.

Athens was our final destination. Dr. V was our tour guide since he lives near Athens. He showed us the Parthenon, monuments, and the museum.

Studying abroad was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.

A Summer Abroad

Brandon Mahr

Brandon Mahr,
Senior, Engineering Technology & Management

Athens, OH 6 September 2017

This past summer, thanks to the Cutler Scholars Program here at Ohio University, I was able to study abroad in Sorrento, Italy for 5 weeks. In Italy, I studied a Business/Sustainability course in order to fulfill a requirement for my minor.

My experience in Italy was absolutely amazing, and I would advise any college student to at least consider studying abroad. For engineering students, it’s often difficult to find a program that caters to your major and needs, but Ohio University’s Office of Global Opportunities (OGO) is absolutely amazing and offers an extremely wide variety of programs/courses. From working with a manufacturing company in China, to applying engineering solutions in Ghana’s impoverished areas, to studying fine arts in Great Britain, and everything in between, OGO has it.

When you are studying or volunteering abroad, not only do you have to the opportunity to grow and learn in the classroom, but you also can grow as a person. I learned a lot about business and sustainability this summer, but I learned even more about myself.


I became a more confident and adventurous person, and I did a lot of things that I may have never done before, like cliff diving off a Roman Villa into the Mediterranean, or swimming a couple of miles to visit several underwater sea caves, or engaging with complete strangers in deeply personal discussions. I really challenged myself this summer when I was in Italy, and grew a lot from it. Study abroad this summer certainly changed my life, and I would advise anyone interested in studying abroad to do it, and you definitely won’t regret it.

Preparing for Summer

Brandon Mahr

Brandon Mahr,
Junior, Engineering Technology & Management

Athens, OH 27 March 2017

The cherry trees are blooming, the birds are singing, and fest season is upon us, which means one thing: summer is right around the corner. This semester has absolutely flown by, and my plans for this summer are finally starting to come together. This summer, I plan to study abroad in Italy for six weeks studying business, hopefully intern for a couple of months, and also spend some time relaxing with friends and family.

This summer I have to travel abroad in order to fulfill a scholarship requirement. After months of planning, I finally decided to go to the Santa’Anna Institute in Sorrento, Italy to study business in the European Union. The Office of Global Opportunities (OGO) here at OU is top-notch, and they helped me throughout my search. I eventually came upon the Sorrento program through OGO, and I never looked back.

As an engineering student, it is often times difficult to find an abroad program that caters towards your program, but studying abroad can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and has many, many benefits. Think outside the box, and think of taking classes abroad that could perhaps help you achieve a minor or certificate.

I am also hoping to co-op with Toyota for a couple months before I travel abroad. I am in communications with them currently, and am trying to work out a position that lasts for only two months. Remember that intern or co-op terms typically last 3-4 months, so keep this in mind for summer plans.

Also, don’t forget to relax and spend some time with your family and friends over the summer. You only have 4 summers until you are thrust into the “real world”, so enjoy them.