Tag Archives: study abroad

Visiting Angkor Wat

Lydia Seiter

Lydia Seiter,
Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 16 November 2018

Since I completed a 6-month co-op at DuPont earlier this year, I decided to spend fall semester studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand. During fall break, I embarked on a 17-day solo trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. My favorite destination of my itinerary was Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is an ancient temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which was built during the Khmer empire’s reign a thousand years ago. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, but it gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century.

Angkor Wat

It took 37 years for one million people to build! The workers used elephants for labor, and floated the giant stone slabs down a river on rafts. As an engineer, it was truly incredible to appreciate such a feat of architecture, especially before the days of CAD, Excel, and fancy calculators.

Angkor Wat

Walking throughout the grounds of the temple, visitors can see the peaceful, majestic ancient ruins reclaimed by trees and roots. The best part of my visit was meeting three Buddhist monks! They had come to Angkor Wat on their day off to practice English with foreigners, which was auspicious because I could also practice my Thai with them.

Angkor Wat

It was such a special experience to wander with these personal tour guides and hear their insight into Cambodian culture, history, and monkhood.

Visiting Kuala Lumpur

Lydia Seiter

Lydia Seiter,
Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Athens, OH 26 September 2019

The stars aligned beautifully to allow me to spend fall semester 2018 studying abroad in Thailand! Because I completed a 6-month chemical engineering co-op at DuPont from January to July and didn’t take the necessary spring semester prerequisites, I wasn’t able to jump back into the fall semester courses. Additionally, as a Cutler Scholar, I am required to participate in an abroad enrichment experience, so this was the perfect window of time to do that.

I am taking 4 courses at Chiang Mai University: reading & writing Thai, speaking Thai, gender & sexuality studies, and an ethnic studies course about the hill tribes of Northern Thailand. It’s extremely fun and challenging to switch up my usual routine of studying math and science with some humanities courses.

I enrolled through a nonprofit program, University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), and I strongly encourage anyone reading this to check out their offerings: they’re extremely affordable, offer courses in fall, spring, and summer, and have locations on 6 continents! (Maybe one day, Antarctica…)

For my first trip out of the country of Thailand, I decided to visit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the weekend with my friend Rabia from Humboldt State University in California.

We left on Friday after our morning classes, and arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 8 pm. After exchanging some Thai baht currency into Malaysian ringgit, we headed for the train station inside the airport. Kuala Lumpur’s infrastructure is amazing: they have a nonstop train (allegedly, the fastest in Southeast Asia) that takes you from the airport to the city center in less than half an hour—way faster than a car ride! It’s a true feat of civil engineering.

Kuala Lumpur

After taking the train and a cab to our hostel, which was an apartment in a luxury complex converted to hold 10 bunk beds, we fell asleep quickly, as we had lots planned for Saturday.

On Saturday, we woke up early and headed for a morning market. We indulged in “nasi lemak,” a traditional Malaysian dish with rice, pork skins, peanuts, and a fried egg. We also had Hainan coffee, a bitter Chinese coffee drink.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

After wandering through the market, seeing many Asian fruits such as rambutan and mangosteen, as well as seeing culture-shock inducing customs such as people smoking indoors, we headed for the KL Eco Park.

Kuala Lumpur

The KL Eco Park is a canopy walk, located right in the center of the city. It’s bizarre to walk on it and be completely enveloped by the jungle, just to look through the trees and see skyscrapers! Kuala Lumpur has so much lush, green space, forests, and plants – America, take note.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

After the Eco Park, we travelled to the aquarium, which notably had a moving sidewalk through a tunnel surrounded by giant marine exhibit! There were sharks, stingrays, and a wide array of fish species swimming next to us and above us. Definitely a sight to behold, and there were plenty of my personal favorite aquarium creatures: jellyfish!

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Remember when I said our hostel was an apartment in a luxury complex converted to hold 10 bunk beds? One of the benefits of this accommodation was the most amazing rooftop pool I have ever seen. The view completely took my breath away – all the most iconic Kuala Lumpur landmarks, like the Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Tower, were unobstructed and panoramic in our field of vision. It was the perfect location to relax after a long day of walking and sightseeing.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

After resting up at the pool, we hailed a cab to what we thought was the night food market. Our driver, however, had a better recommendation, and we trusted his local wisdom. It was the best decision! We headed instead to Jalan Alor Night Food Market, and joined throngs of people in the pursuit of tasty, authentic, Malaysian cuisine.

Kuala Lumpur

We settled on a vendor peddling black pepper crab, hokkien mee (a Malaysian dish of egg noodles and rice noodles stir-fried with egg, slices of pork, prawns and squid, and served and garnished with vegetables, small pieces of lard, sambal sauce and lime), and satay. While we were elbow deep into tearing apart juicy crab meat with our bare hands, a server offered us plastic gloves, but it was too late! We resigned ourselves to getting messy as part of the meal.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

After all the excitement of trying delicious new foods, we headed back to our hostel, and fell asleep, anticipating another long day of exploring.

On Sunday morning, Rabia and I ate mango lassis, roti (a round, doughy flatbread native to India), and mutton at a local Indian-Malaysian restaurant.

Kuala Lumpur

There is a strong Indian influence on Malaysia, stemming from a history of Indian migration to Malaysia. Indian influence in Malaysia can be traced all the way back to AD 110, continuing through the colonial period, when Indians were brought to Malaysia as indentured servants under British rule. The migration continues today, in industries from tech to food. After our tasty breakfast, we then headed to one of Kuala Lumpur’s most famous landmarks, Batu Caves!

Batu Caves is one of the most popular Tamil shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. This festival draws over a million people during January & February. This temple has 272 stairs leading to the cave, and it is a colorful, joyous, remarkable place. Not to mention: monkeys roam freely all over the site.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

We recovered at the rooftop pool again, then headed to our next hostel, which was right next to Chinatown! For dinner, I drank a coconut, and we shared dishes cooked in clay pots! We opted for stingray meat, which tasted very similarly to crab, and had a very tender flavor. However, I couldn’t quite shake the memory of looking at stingrays in the aquarium just the day before.

Kuala Lumpur

For dessert, we drank cane sugar juice, and watched the street vendor extract the juice from the plant right in front of us! The liquid tasted so naturally sweet in a way that the artificially sweetened foods do not. Lastly, we stopped at a Chinese bakery, where I munched on a lotus cake, filled with lotus seed paste. I’ve had so many interesting culinary experiences on this trip, biting into foods with no inkling or expectation as to what the taste will be! The lotus cake was dense, rich, and doughy.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Tired after a long day of exploring, we retired to our hostel, in order to catch the train back to the airport on Monday morning. All in all, Kuala Lumpur was a beautiful, diverse, modern city, and I’m very pleased that I chose to travel there for my first Asian trip out of Thailand!

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.

ALT

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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!

ALT

ALT

ALT

ALT

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!

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.