Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Poland and the end of Lithuania

With me being one of the last few people to leave I decided that I would have to do some adventuring on my own. I chose Poland. Vilnius has buses constantly going to Warsaw and back. Poland also had a long rough history and was an area that also seemed interesting to visit.

So after eating with my friends that were still here at Charlie's Pizza I took the night bus at 1015 to Warsaw. It was a very cramped double decker. I couldn't wait for the bus ride to end once I stepped foot within it. After sleeping a few hours of the 8 hour bus ride we were finally in Warsaw at 6 in the morning. The bus station wasn't the most beautiful thing and not a great initial image of Warsaw.

A couple days earlier I had looked online at local hostels that were considered adequate enough. I found one called Nate's hostel. So after I arrived in Warsaw I walked the whole 4 kilometers to the hostel. It was 6 in the morning what else did I have to do. I eventually made it there and slept for a couple hours. This was the first time I actually slept in a "hostel" environment where I had no idea who I was sleeping with. After getting up I made some breakfast and decided upon planning out my schedule for the day. This included starting off with the Warsaw Art Museum, Polish Army Museum, Warsaw Uprising Museum, the big clock tower, and Old Town Warsaw. I got plenty of exercise by walking all day to each of these locations. By the end of the day I was worn out. The next day I went to check out some other museums that I has on my list but unfortunately found out all museums are closed Monday's. Instead I went to do some gift shopping till my bus ride at 7. That was Warsaw for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

End of ISM but journey continues

My time at ISM has officially finished. ISM offered and gave all the exchange students a phenomenal time. They took care of us and made sure to make it the best time possible for us. All the teachers were very eager to help us learn and put in a lot of effort to teach us in an entertaining method. I hope that one day I will be able to once again maybe see some of these teachers.

The last week of classes were definitely very long and tenuous. With two PowerPoint presentations and two tests to study for I had a lot of work to keep up with. The last night before finals was especially tough because of all the last minute editing to the presentations and the extra study cramming in hoping we were studying for the right material. Jeff and I studies with a group of the Portuguese exchange students in the classroom at ISM till 2 in the morning. Very rough night.

The next day of finals I just wanted to breeze right by. It went by really slow it felt. The international management presentation and exam went very well. The marketing presentation went well also we just had some critiquing on what to improve upon, but my group felt strong about our grade. The marketing final was a totally different story. It consisted of 6 very difficult and brain numbing questions. I finished it and felt ok about it so hopefully my grade reflects well.

I decided that being one of the last US students to leave Lithuania I would spend my time wisely and tour around. I along with my friend Martino who was also staying late decided to venture upon some of the sites we hadn't been able to pass through yet.

The first day off Martino, Jessica, and I went to down south of Vilnius called Duraskinekaj to check out the well known Soviet sculpture exhibit. It was definitely a hidden treasure. The bus ride was about two hours, but when napping it goes by quick. There were all sorts of sculptures and monuments taken down from around Lithuania and dropped right here in this one location. The park even included a random museum with some fairly exquisit animals. At the end of the day we were very content with the choice we had made.

The next day Martino and I decided to venture around Vilnius a bit more. This included the TV tower and lookout tower on a hill overlooking Vilnius. We definitely got a workout in with all the walking we did to get to those locations. With still a few more days I decided to travel solo out to Warsaw, Poland.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Classes so far..

When I first came to ISM I had no idea what to expect in how classes were taught and the way people would be interacting with each other. I was coming to a whole new environment where I didn't know any of the other American students also coming to study or the foreign students from the other countries either. Everything has turned out great.

For four days a week we go to two classes a day from 9 to 4 with a lunch in between. Though the class days are long they go by relatively quickly and are taught by very energetic teachers making the overall learning experience more enjoyable. Teachers for both the international marketing and management classes are very knowledgable and helpful. The environment is very different from what I'm used to as well. At least three to four languages are spoken throughout the classes making for a very culturally diversified class environment. Mixing with students from different countries had been a great experience and something I would very much like to do in the future again with studying abroad. This melting pot experience of students from different cultures brings out new viewpoints from the different ways people handle their everyday activities. It has also greatly broadened my overall perspective on the world on how big and different the world really is. I have made many new friends here and gained new knowledge that I'm sure to utilize in my near future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weekend Vacation: Part 2 Helsinki, Old Town Tallin

After we all woke up refreshed and renewed with energy we decided to go and visit some of the historic Old Town in Tallinn. We took the local bus down to the middle of the city, only .50 Euros. Upon arriving I noticed a huge crane holding what looked like a huge platform in the sky. It happened to be called Sky Bar, a pretty intense way to have a dinner and drink. We continued our walk around the Old Town visiting all the ancient churches, remaining walls of the fortress that surrounded the old city, and beautiful buildings surrounding us. It was really interesting since Tallinn only has around three hours of total darkness every day. Ten at night was still very bright. After touring a part of the Old Town we decided to head back to our hotel and buy tickets for a ferry ride out to Finland. A chance to see the ocean and ride a two hour ferry ride up north to Finland sounded fantastic.

Another early morning was upon us. We bought tickets for 7:30 in the morning that way we could have the full day in Helsinki. Our ferry back was to leave around 7:30 at night, plenty of time to see all of Helsinki. The ferry ride was very relaxing and the two hour ride seemed to go by very quick. Upon arriving we needed to exchange for some Euros, so we went to the closest exchange center. The gentleman working spoke excellent English (as we learned many Finnish do) and gave us a nice detailed map of how to tour the whole city. Following the instructions we just received, we a bus to the center of Helsinki. The city of Helsinki is beautiful. I fell in love with the city's architecture and its atmosphere. It is a very modernly built city and the people are extremely kind. The Finnish people didn't hesitate in lending us a hand with directions or guiding us in the correct direction. We visited numerous churches and visited some interesting museums. One of  the stops we made was at the East Harbor. The East Harbor was full of merchant shops, bustling tourists trying out the amazing local seafood, and the ocean full with sailing boats. While there I got to try a local goodie. Reindeer and wild hog. Unfortunately they did not have any bear in that day, that would have been an interesting option as well. The meal was very tasty. The rest of the day we continued walking all around Helsinki and picked up many new gifts. At 6 we started heading back to the ferry station to catch the ride back.

Once we arrived back in Tallinn we were all very worn out from the long day or traveling. We took three separate taxis to get back to our hotel due to nine person group. Our taxi driver however had no clue about our hostel nor the English language. At one point we thought he understood us with the hotel information. The whole scenario turned out to be completely misunderstood and the driver took us to another random hotel. After some arguing, we were able to jump out without paying and jumped right back into another one who fortunately knew his way around Tallinn. The night ended with everyone going straight to bed.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weekend Vacation: Part 1 Estonia

This week we earned our first vacation outside of Lithuania. Myself and eight other female participants (don't know how that came to be) left Friday, July 6th early in the morning for Estonia. We had a pretty tight schedule lined up for the good first half of the day.

After rounding up at ISM University to meet with one of our professors who was accompanying us on the trip we took three taxis to the Vilnius airport. At the Vilnius airport we all checked in and waited for a little over a half hour to get on our first flight. Once we boarded we were going to take a quick stop in Riga, Latvia to catch another flight out to Tallinn, Estonia.

The whole flight from Vilnius to Tallinn is only a little over an hour. Having had no sleep the whole previous night due to an intense night with the Lithuanian night life I was ready to get a nice long nap in. That never occurred. A half hour later we were in Riga, Latvia. When we got there me and a couple of the girls were starving so we decided to try the only food stop available at the location, Latvian pizza. It wasn't that bad surprisingly. A hour hour later our flight began boarding for Estonia.

We landed in Tallinn and made our way out to the arrivals area to catch our ride. Our professor Maike hadn't planned our transportation out all that well so we ended up grouping up three taxis again after a little negotiating and made out way to the student housing of the university there. Once we reached the housing Maike told us we had a half hour to get ready for our first assigned tour. So much for being able to lay down and catch a quick nap. We reformed at the base floor a half hour later and began trekking to the Estonian Technical University where we were to get a tour of the school and gain a little knowledge about the Estonian culture.

We couldn't find the international department for a good 20 minutes due to misinterpretations and miscommunications, but finally found the woman we were looking for. We were taken to a little classroom where another lady, a pixie looking older Estonian woman was to give us the Estonian culture presentation. Never have I met a woman who was so expressive about presenting a culture and emphasizing her English accent with every little verbal tone she could. Having to watch an Estonian gospel concert video for half an hour was really making me wish I had never left my dorm room in the first place. After the dreadful presentation and a slight tour we were finally taken to the cafeteria. Hallelujah!

Once we had finished eating we were headed to our Skype headquarter visit. I was really pumped to see the headquarter since many never got a private tour of the very impressive company. We walked to the site location and very greeted by once again another pixie looking blonde Estonian woman. Her name was Heidi and she was the director of all operations of Skype. She informed us that she was known as the mother of the Skype family, so we definitely knew she was someone of great importance in the company. She was very enthusiastic and informative during our tour which made it more enjoyable. The Skype company environment was very well planned out as they were actually in the middle of expanding the building when we were there. She had oversaw all the designs and architectural planning that was already completed and of what was currently going on. There were vivid colors, nicely decorated rooms, very well thought out details around every corner, and creative ideas brought to life everywhere throughout the tour. It was definitely a modern design concept where comfort of the employees and an exciting environment were taken heavily into consideration. This is the kind of office you hope to one day work in yourself or construct for your own company (which I aim to have). The tour lasted almost an hour and we said our goodbyes. At this point we were done with our tours and were free to do our adventuring of the city. My dorm and my sleep was all that was on my mind at that point and that's what happened for the next few hours till we would later go out again.