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Europe for First Timers

Traveling is without a doubt one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s hard to fully prepare for your first European experience. The beauty, cultures, people, food, and sites are unparalleled, and each country is more unique than the other. Transitioning into another culture can be a little intimidating, but don’t sweat it! Here are a few helpful things to know for your first time abroad in Europe:

  1. Water is not free. Except for the very occasional public water fountain, water will cost you. There is no such thing as a free glass of water at a restaurant. You will be charged just as if you were getting a soda drink.  However, when you do buy water it will be high quality and deliciously refreshing!

  1. European public transportation rocks. Between metros, buses, cabs, trains, and planes, there are so many affordable options in exploring European cities. The most common mode of transportation is usually the metro.  Do not be intimidated by foreign metro stations! Each rail/course is color coded and numbered; making the journey a very organized process. Before setting out, look at your current city’s map and pick your destination. Head to the nearest metro stop (there’s usually one on every corner) and follow the closest colored railed and numbered stop to your selected destination. Some transportation companies even offer student discounts; be sure to look into that before purchasing your ticket!

  1. Knowing a little language will go a long way. Okay, so learning five different languages in a few months is not exactly realistic. But, it is wise to learn a few common phrases in the language of your travel destination. A few important phrases and words to know are hello, please, thank you, where is the restroom, yes/no, goodbye, how do I get to_____ , how much is this, and what is the wifi password? Make a little cheat sheet on your phone for easy reference. Putting forth effort to use the host language will help you navigate the city and culture more quickly, as well as make the locals more receptive and friendly towards you.

  1. You don’t have to carry your passport on you at all times. Traveling from country to country, yes, but while out exploring, it’s best to leave your passport safely tucked away in a suitcase. If you carry it around all the time, you risk the chance of pickpocketers stealing it. The only time you’ll be asked for a passport is when crossing various borders or taking a flight. You can travel around with just a copy or picture on your phone!

  1. An old-school paper map is always useful. Yes, maps are a bit touristy, but never underestimate how easy it is to get lost in a popular city, especially if there is a language barrier. Keep a map in your pocket or bag for your wandered-too-far emergencies. It is also a practical tool in getting to the attraction points easily, which are usually labeled on the map. This is also another great way to save on cellular data charges by not using maps on your smartphone!

  1. Be prepared to plug your devices into European power outlets. The outlets in Europe are much different from American outlets. They’re shaped differently and they host a 220 volt charge. If you are an American traveling abroad, you must purchase an outlet adapter. This may seem like a well-known fact, but it’s usually one of the most forgotten items to pack! Outlet adapters are cheap and a good investment. The price for an adapter ranges anywhere from $5-$20. Purchase a universal adapter to use for future travels in any country or continent. You also must read the tech specs on chargers and all appliances to see if they can be plugged to a 220 volt power outlet. If you only buy an adapter that does not have a voltage converter and the charger is not equipped for 220v (but only for 110/20v, which is the standard in the US), it will burn your device! Purchase a converter and adapter just to be safe.

  1. Less restaurants and more food from local markets will save you some money! Just like any other country, markets sell much more affordable goods than restaurants or street vendors. Instead of spending a few euros for a glass of water, get a 1 liter of bottled water for .87 euro! Grocery markets are also a great place to stock up on small snacks like granola bars, candy, crackers, chips, and fruit for a very low cost! Having a small snack on you while exploring or traveling is always a smart idea. It’s also very interesting to browse foreign grocery stores; there are so many different goods sold!  *Note, most grocery stores in Europe charge for bags to carry out your goods. Bring your own bag or backpack to save you the hassle and waste less plastic!*

  1. Public restrooms are a rarity, and 99% of the time not free. It is considered rude to walk into a place of business and ask to use the restroom without purchasing something first, much like many places in the U.S., but taken much more seriously. Some places even lock their doors to prevent public use. Usually, shopping malls and train stations are the only places that have large public restrooms. These are very clean and well-kept by a bathroom attendant, but it will cost you anywhere from 1-3 euro to get in. Save your money and remember to use the restroom when at a restaurant and especially before leaving your hotel or hostel.

  1. Street performers are to be taken seriously. In the bigger tourist cities, it is common to see many street performers sprinkled all around large attraction sites. The skill sets and talents widely range, but they all are dedicated to their chosen profession. Whatever you do, do not try to make them break character or seemingly mock them or else you will greatly offend them. Also, it is very rude to take a picture with them without tipping them first. To combat this, they usually put some prop in front of their face until you give them money. Drop .50 euro in and they will spring to life for an amazing picture to show to friends and family!

Remember: traveling is about learning and experiencing a different culture than of your own. Don’t focus on comparing one city to your home; that will take away from the trip. Embrace the beauty, uniqueness, and customs of every country and city. Take lots of pictures, journal your experiences, and soak in as much as you can while abroad. After all, you can only visit Europe for the first time once. Happy travels!

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Visiting my favorite European City: Rome!

From the history, all the way to the fabulous food, Italy’s Rome was the most fascinating city I visited on my Forum-Nexus European adventure. Rome contains a great amount of history, extending all the way back to the B.C. era, mixed with a great amount of modern day lifestyle.

One of my favorite things about Rome was seeing something new around every corner. The old historic buildings placed right next to modern day shops gave the city a very unique feel. Visiting the Pantheon and the Colosseum was very educational and mind-blowing. Seeing pictures in school textbooks while growing up versus standing in the buildings, is a feeling that cannot be described. Reflecting on how these two buildings were built almost two-thousand years ago gave me a great opportunity to understand the way of life during the Roman Empire.

I also visited Vatican City. There I was fortunate to see the Sistine Chapel as well as St. Peter’s Basilica. I was simply in awe over all the famous art of the Sistine Chapel and found it hard to believe that I was seeing this, too, in real life. Walking on the grounds where life-changing decisions were made, seeing the tomb of St. Peter, and walking into the “Rock of the Church” gave me an indescribable feeling.

Looking back on my experience in Rome makes me realize that I will forever cherish it. From learning about the famous Roman Empire to so much world history, I am fortunate to have finally experienced the culture of this magical city.

 Abigail Morris

By: Abigail Morris, 2014 Forum-Nexus Alumnae

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Franklin University Switzerland

Studying abroad with Forum-Nexus really is the best of both worlds. Aside from exploring European cities daily, students are also able to experience higher European education first-hand?. The third host institution of the Forum-Nexus program is Franklin University Switzerland. Located in the lovely city of Lugano, Franklin sits in a manicured, green campus overlooking beautiful views of mountains and Lake Lugano.

Program Director Dr. Hugo Hervitz has kept a close partnership with FUS for several years. Every year, Franklin has warmly opened their arms to the visiting students of Forum-Nexus. “We have had a special relationship with Franklin University Switzerland for many years. FUS is one of three academic institutions who serve as academic co-sponsors of our program. FUS is a selective liberal arts university located in Lugano. The language of instruction is English and FUS is fully accredited both in Switzerland and in the U.S.”, says Dr. Hervitz.

After weeks of bustling around bigger cities, a day trip back to the quaint and beautiful Switzerland adds a nice mix to the trip. Dr. Hervitz says of the fifth stop,” Lugano is located in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland. The cultural characteristics of the population are very interesting: emotional, warm, and passionate, like Italians, yet having a profound sense of order and abiding by the rules, like the Swiss!”

Arriving in the morning from Chamonix, the day is divided between education and exploration. “Every summer, as part of our itinerary, we visit the campus, we hold classes there, we listen to presentations by FUS professors, and we also have time for sightseeing activities in beautiful Lugano!”, explains Dr. Hervitz.

Anyone who visits FUS will immediately notice the laid back atmosphere and welcoming people. Another unique characteristic of this university is in fact the student body.  Just like Forum-Nexus, their students come from all over the world. Between classes, Forum-Nexus students can sit and chat with FUS students in the campus cafe.

One of the Forum-Nexus’ senior professors, Georges Rocourt, has been a full-time professor at FUS for many years; making this stop extra special. “Just like he is adored by his Forum-Nexus students, Georges is extremely popular at the Franklin campus in Lugano. He is very close to his students and he is often seen in the local bar near the campus talking with groups of 4-5 students about European politics or…about European soccer!”, says Dr. Hervitz.

Franklin University is another memorable destination on the full and exciting itinerary of Forum-Nexus. It’s hard not to fall in love with the beautiful views, unique town, and warm people!

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What I learned while abroad in Switzerland

It is impossible to be unhappy when surrounded by Swiss chocolate, gelato, watches, and breathtaking Alps.  According to the OECD’s better life index, Switzerland rates a 10 on the life satisfaction scale. Of course, this can’t only be contributed to the delicious chocolate. The high ratings are a result of various cultural characteristics; country neutrality, well established healthcare systems, financial opportunity of citizens, and trust in public institutions.


Looking at the history of Switzerland, it is apparent how the “hedgehog mentality” of the Swiss is embedded in their culture. The mountains surrounding the country are a key factor for free movement and even now when transportation is much easier than ever before, the Swiss continue segregating themselves from the neighboring countries. The mountain sports also counterbalance all the passion-fruit, chocolate, and cherry flavored gelato I wouldn’t be able to stop eating.

Switzerland’s isolation is exemplified through the country’s foreign policy and their choice to not seek membership in the European Union. Switzerland is the oldest neutral state. They have not participated in any wars in nearly 200 years. Since the Swiss population is composed of Italians, Germans, French, and Romansh speakers, maintaining neutrality is the best way for the country to preserve national security. While the different nationalities have integrated nicely with each other, a minute conflict could spark nationalistic interests that would lead to the unsettling of a very peaceful country.

Due to strong citizen involvement with government decisions, the country ranks high in trust with public institutions. Switzerland has one of the best examples of direct democracy, which can be witnessed first-hand in their yearly open-air assembly. These assemblies are held in all 26 cantons of the country and the referendums are practically held on a weekly basis. Since Switzerland opted against joining the EU, the Swiss have been able to maintain their direct democracy, which plays an important role in the culture of the country.

Switzerland is also known for its highly structured regime within the country. This has earned the Swiss a reputation for being somewhat boring. On the other hand, structure is also responsible for the country’s many successful organizations and economic prosperity. As I walked the streets of Geneva and Lugano, I could see this reflected through the impeccable infrastructure of the city and behavior of the people living there.

In addition, their structure contributes to a general well-being of citizens. One of the biggest issues in the lives of young professionals is that they underestimate the importance of a well-balanced lifestyle. Switzerland doesn’t leave you with much of a choice than to live a well-balanced life. If the only downfall to subjective life happiness is living within a somewhat boring structure, then you can find me in Lugano happily bored, eating cherry-flavored gelato!

Yuliya Kolomiyets

By: Yuliya Kolomiyets, Forum-Nexus 2014 Alumnae

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UniCredit Group

Time changes but money remains one of the largest parts of life, and banks continue to  influence national economies. Although highly regulated in many countries due to its importance for local, national, and global financial systems,  banking institutions are susceptible to many forms of risk. Only a few banks are able to stand the challenges of globalization. I wondered how a bank could possibly overcome all of these issue, much less become a leading institution. My question was answered during our professional visit to the global multifunctional banking company, the UniCredit Group.

Leading commercial banking in Europe, UniCredit operates in 17 different European countries. It was very interesting to visit the UniCredit headquarters in Milan, since Italy is where the origins of modern banking are traced back to. The corporate side of UniCredit includes many components such as financial, technological, marketing, organizational, and communicational cultures. Unlike other banks, the UniCredit Group has expertise in marketing and communication, which earns them their good reputation. Even after all the crises and financial depressions, UniCredit continues to put trust back into the banking system. More than 7,900 UniCredit branches incorporate the concept of combining business, local cultural development, and charitable activity. Due to UniCredit’s strong set of business values, including leadership in international awareness, they succeed in many aspects of banking.

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A few things UniCredit excels in are investment banking, corporate banking, private banking, insurance, consumer finance, foreign exchange trading, commodity trading, trading in equities, future trading, and money market trading. Their solid marketing system allows them to overtake most of their competitors, turning many local brands into a single master brand. Unicredit adopts a common look and feel across all banking geographies, while also maintaining local proximity to engage with the communities where they operate. For example, through the integration of two UniCredit Groups in Ukraine, the newly renovated bank is now considered to be one of the largest multifunctional banks of Ukraine. A powerful bank with high financial indices, an increased solidity level, and improved line of competitive products and services was created at the banking market of the country.

What I like most about Unicredit is how they incorporate all cultures into brand engagement, awareness, and reputation. They develop this by arranging various cultural events, such as exhibitions or performances. For example “Summer Edition of Music Streets”, “PastPresentFuture”, “People and the City”, and “Art and Charity” are all marketing and communication events Unicredit hosted to promote their banking brand.  I was able to attend one of the music festivals hosted by UniCredit while in Milan. This gave me a chance to experience and see how their brand positioning works in building likeability throughout the communities they serve.

UniCredit has also progressed in other ways. Their headquarters are currently the most modern complex in Milan, which saves 25 million dollars of logistic costs, and they also released projects for the community through their first free app dedicated to the Festival in Verona.

Visiting UniCredit is a great experience for anyone interested in the banking field or not. The main thing I learned from UniCredit  is how to turn challenges into opportunities and overcome all obstacles sitting in my path.

Anastasiia Chaplyhina

By: Anastasiya Chaplygina, Forum-Nexus 2014 Alumnae

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The Mad Box, Ferrari

Our professional visit to The Mad Box in Milan demonstrated several interesting aspects of running a fairly new company, characterized by a use of younger and innovative employees, as compared to the older institutions based on tradition we had previously seen. Based on an impressive list of clients and apparently a strong local reputation, it is clear that The Mad Box is a successful marketing firm despite its contrasting atmosphere. For me, the three primary aspects that stood out were the atmosphere, age of employees and means of advertising used by The Mad Box group.

One of the first and most interesting things I noticed at The Mad Box was their use of space and the friendly environment the management had created. For example, there was an outside area where employees could play table tennis or smoke as well as network during breaks. Also, they worked on large tables, with no division between spaces, in a friendly or almost family-style environment. However, to contrast this, when we visited UniCredit Bank, their office space was characterized by cubicles and division with less room for networking and collaboration amongst employees, which from my perspective made The Mad Box a much more modern and inviting place to work. Although the difference in sector between banking and marketing could also play a role in this discrepancy between two fairly new corporations, it is still interesting to see two completely different environments while each company still experiences their own success.

Second, it was quite interesting to see the average age of The Mad Box’s employees, as compared to everywhere else we have visited. When I first noticed the young age of the employees, I was quite skeptical that this strategy may be beneficial for reaching younger audiences, however I was unsure if a work force this young could create advertisements that were appealing to older generations. However, based on their initiatives of LED advertising and modernizing the marketing sector, it is clear that catering to older generations is not the focus at The Mad Box.

Finally, during the question and answer session, I found the means by which a marketing firm goes about advertising particularly interesting. For me, it makes perfect sense that within the Milanese and Italian markets, they can rely on word of mouth as well as just the fact that they produce quality advertisements as well as results. However, I was more interested in the means by which they plan on expanding into a more globalized group. When this question was asked, for the first time of our professional visits, I was shocked that they do not plan on expanding globally and seem quite content with the market share they hold in Milan. This aspect of their plan demonstrates that of a small corporation that is still in the development stage (as we learned in international business) and lacks the capital or need to expand, but will once it becomes fiscally desirable.

In all, the professional visit to The Mad Box was rather shocking to me, because the office set up and demographics of the company certainly did not parallel any other corporation we had seen and although their plans for expansion were not necessarily impressive, they did match that of the international production life cycle theory. In terms of future prospects, I believe that The Mad Box has excellent prospects for success due to the inviting and collaborative atmosphere it exhibits.

By: Nicholas Adams, Forum-Nexus 2014 alumnus

Nicholas Adams

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Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

One of the best aspects of Forum-Nexus is experiencing international education and business on the daily. Students who participate in our study abroad program get to see first-hand the insights of  successful European businesses and universities all in one unforgettable summer. Adding to the diverse list of partnerships Program Director Dr. Hugo Hervitz holds is the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy.

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy has warmly opened their doors for several years as a host university to our study abroad program. Each summer, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore has done an incredible job welcoming our multi-cultural students and faculty to Milan. Dr. Hervitz says of Sacro Cuore, “The Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore is a leading Italian university. They have a beautiful campus in an old monastery in the center of Milan. They are very involved with international student exchanges and they have a large study abroad department.” Sacro Cuore, meaning “sacred heart,” gives students an inside look at higher Italian education. Located in the cosmopolitan area of Milan, Forum-Nexus students get to attend classes at the exquisite campus of Sacro Cuore and see an authentic side of the city, away from tourist destinations.

The Università Cattolica has left lasting impressions on our students and faculty for years. “Their professors are excellent and for many years I have had a close personal relationship with one of the best, Professor Edoardo Brioschi. Professor Brioschi is an old-school scholar and a gentleman! He is a meticulous dresser, usually wearing a white linen dress, a hat and a handkerchief. He is one of the top European experts in marketing communication. Most of the marketing directors of the leading Italian companies have been his students!”, says Dr. Hervitz.

We are so happy to hold a partnership with the Sacro Cuore  and we are even more excited for future students to experience the great qualities and opportunities Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan has to offer!