1. Where did you study?
Eric: Maastricht University (Maastricht, Netherlands)
Bhavik: Vienna University of Business and Economics (Vienna, Austria)
Ali: Kedge Business School (Bordeaux, France)
Zach: Aston University (Birmingham, UK)
Rayna: Vienna University of Business and Economics (Vienna, Austria)
2. Favorite Destinations
Eric: Budapest, Hungary
Bhavik: Athens and Santorini, Greece
Ali: London, England
Zach: Rome and Frosinone, Italy
Rayna: A tough tie between Rome and Paris
3. Hidden Gems
Eric: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Bhavik: Salzburg, Austria
Ali: Cinque Terre, Italy
Zach: Honfleur, France
Rayna: Zadar, Croatia
4. Best Travel Tips
Eric: You can find some really high quality accommodations on Air BnB for a reasonable price. Although I did stay in some pretty decent hostels, it was really hit or miss, so make sure to read the reviews!
Bhavik: Hostelworld, Rome2Rio, and TripAdvisor are 3 incredible tools. Download the apps and travelling will be so much better, cheaper, and easier!
Ali: Buy a portable phone charger and bring a big travel backpack for all your trips (If you wear it on your back through the airport, the cheap airlines will never check to see if it's too big!)
Zach: If you have family members or friends that offer you to stay with them, do it! They make the best tour guides.
Rayna: Live like the locals! Look out for bloggers' and locals' recommendations to find the best restaurants serving authentic local cuisine. Lots of tourists rate restaurants on TripAdvisor, however even though they may find it amazing, it may not be a local hotspot.
5. Biggest Surprises
Eric: There is no such thing as free water in Europe. Or splitting bills.
Bhavik: How cheap travel really is if you time things right and do some research. I flew to London for 12 euros!
Zach: You will walk virtually everywhere in Europe. It’s definitely smarter to dress for comfort and not for style when travelling.
Rayna: How wide your networks really are! I was able to reconnect with my mom's friend from high school in Seville, and an old friend of my grandfather's in Vienna. Make sure you ask around in your family, as it's always great to know someone in a new place.
6. I wish I had…
Eric: Planned my trips further in advance. Sometimes I got burned from a financial perspective when I didn't book things in advance.
Bhavik: Got to learn more German while in Austria. I was able to speak the very basics, but missed the opportunity to dive deeper into a really cool language.
Ali: Spent more time in my exchange city. It’s really easy to get caught up in travelling, but some of my favourite memories are with my exchange friends from Bordeaux.
Zach: More time on exchange. You may be here for half of the year, but that still won't seem like enough time to visit all the places on your list. Make the most of it!
Rayna: Got to see a bit more of Austria, my exchange country. I never got the chance to see Innsbruck, Hallstatt, or Salzburg before I left, since I was focused on seeing the rest of Europe to check places off my list.
7. Biggest travel nightmare
Eric: I was lucky. I managed to make it to all of my flights and didn't lose any of my valuables. A 6-hour delay on our flight home from Dublin was probably the worst thing. Once we landed in Belgium we had to sleep in a train station until we could take the next train home.
Bhavik: The Paris attacks - all of Europe was affected really badly, and it made travelling (and security checkpoints) a nightmare. Also, my phone got stolen at Oktoberfest (a blessing and a curse).
Ali: Strikes in France (typical).
Zach: The person who drove us to the airport for our flight home from Italy kept getting lost, and we made it to the airport 14 minutes before our flight departed.
Rayna: I normally am on time, but caught my bus from Prague to Vienna with -2 minutes to spare. I sprinted down to the exit and banged on the window until the driver let me in, then proceeded to suffer from food poisoning for the next +4 hours on the hot, stuffy bus.
8. Best lesson learned
Eric: You need to chill sometimes. Traveling is often a lot of go-go-go and sometimes you need to take a rest day. Take some time to just enjoy where you are instead of racing to see another monument so you can get a picture.
Bhavik: People are always willing to help you. And it helps if you're able to start the conversation in their language - they really do appreciate it. Also, Canadians are loved worldwide.
Ali: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is really easy to get stressed out when travelling, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you have to make the most of it.
Zach: Whether you need a free bathroom or a Big Mac to remind you of home, McDonalds will be a constant in almost any country you travel to.
Rayna: Sometimes you’ve got to just go with the flow. When I did my trip to Spain, I went from planning 2 weeks ahead of time, to 2 hours ahead. It made for a more fun; spontaneous, and flexible trip overall. I do love a good plan, but when you have more time in one place, give yourself some leeway to just see what happens!
9. How exchange impacted your leadership style
Eric: I think living abroad makes you more aware of the notion that not everyone works like you do. Sometimes you put your blinders on and you think: "this is how I get things done, so this must be the way that everyone gets things done". That proved to be completely false. German and Dutch people are very direct, and it came across as harsh at first. I eventually realized that it wasn't them attacking me. It was just the way they operated, and I think having that mindset will really help me as a leader moving forward.
Bhavik: I've learned to really value diverse opinions and embody more of a global mindset. It's easy to get stuck into thinking that things we do don't have much of an impact on the rest of the world... but in reality, today, more than ever, we have the tools and technology to make a difference globally.
Ali: I learned to take a step back and ask for help. It can be more worth it to just ask someone for directions than to get stressed and lost.
Zach: Exchange has taught me not to be afraid to take risks. As a leader, you may be scared to try new things, but the greatest way to grow as a person is to step outside of your comfort zone.
Rayna: You've got to learn how to see everyone's opinions with objectivity if you want to understand very different perspectives. In my travels I encountered many political opinions or ideas that I disagreed with on a deeply personal level. However, it was in these situations that I realized the importance of open-mindedness and the importance of perspective. Though I disagreed with them, I'd always put myself in their shoes to understand their cultural upbringing and values.