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Q&A: Dr. Hugo Hervitz

Since 1990, Forum-Nexus has provided one-of-a-kind study abroad programs for 27 years to over 3,300 students and counting. Our team of faculty and staff is made up of internationally diverse, successful individuals who are all equally passionate about travel and education. For the next few months, we’ll be sharing Q&As with those who lead the FN team year-round.

We sat down with Program Director Dr. Hugo Hervitz, founder of Forum-Nexus Study Abroad, to ask him everything from what inspired him to start a multi-country study abroad program to where he wants to travel to next. Here’s what you should know about him… #thisisForumNexus

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Q: Tell us about your background. In what cities and countries have you lived? Where did you study?

HH: I was born in Argentina and I have lived in Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. I have a Master’s degree in Management from Imperial College in London, another Master’s degree in Economics and Latin American Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and a PhD in Economics from Indiana University. I have been a professor of Economics and International Business in Miami for many years. My wife is a clinical psychologist. We have three children who live in New York and Chicago.

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Q: What languages do you speak?

HH: I speak 10 languages. Five fluently, two at an intermediate level, and I have basic knowledge of three more. Spanish is my native language. I use it quite a bit with family and friends, and when we are in Barcelona during Forum-Nexus. Our three children are US-born but we made a point of speaking to them in Spanish, so now they are fluent. When I lived inJerusalem I learned Hebrew and Arabic. I have traveled extensively in Europe and I learned French, Italian, and German. I love Brazil and I learned Portuguese, which is quite easy for Spanish speakers. In recent years I’ve acquired a basic knowledge of Russian and Greek. I am now in the early stages of learning Mandarin Chinese in preparation for a new Forum-Nexus program in China, scheduled for Summer 2018. I love learning languages. Speaking other languages makes it so much easier to understand other cultures. It’s fun and it’s not hard. You just need the motivation! You can always find time in your schedule if you decide that learning a new language is an important priority.

 Q: What are your academic and professional activities during the fall and spring?

HH: I direct and coordinate the year-long work of the Forum-Nexus staff, involving the work of admission counselors, our social media team, contacts with the universities, processing of transcripts, addition of new courses and new professors, contacting companies for professional visits, addition of new cities and hotels, etc. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Economics at the Huizenga College of Business at Nova Southeastern University.

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 Q: Why did you start Forum-Nexus?

HH: Twenty-seven years ago, in the early days of globalization and soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a lot of things were happening in the world, especially in Europe. The international business course I was teaching in Miami required students to understand how countries differ in their economic, political, and cultural environments. I realized that I can impart quite a bit of knowledge through lectures and class discussions on campus, but learning can be more real, more intense, more personal, and more profound if it’s experiential; that is, if I can bring the students to the countries being studied and let them experience the local culture, observe the local economy first-hand, visit local companies and international organizations, talk to government officials and business leaders, talk to local students, interact with local waiters and taxi drivers, and understand the locals’ pride in their history and culture. I realized that being there was not just a better way for the students to acquire a more sophisticated level of knowledge, but also a way for the students to be more emotionally engaged with the new culture, to have more understanding, more empathy towards cultural differences. So, I decided to start a yearly summer program that would include 3-credit international courses taught on-site in various attractive European cities.

Q: Describe your role during the Forum-Nexus summer program.

HH: During the 5 weeks of the program in Europe my main responsibilities are:

-Being the program director, making sure that everything runs smoothly and ensuring that everybody has an amazing experience

-Teaching the International IQ Seminar, which is a course that all FN students take. The idea is to raise everyone’s level of International IQ by providing the essential knowledge that they should have about European history, geography, current events, art, culture, etc. It’s a very popular course, and my teaching style is to cover the material in a fun and informal way.

-Lastly, and most importantly (!), I am responsible for making sure that there is a lot of happy music (and dancing) everywhere we go :)  - in particular on the bus rides and train rides. I have to maintain my reputation as…DJ HUGO!

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 Q: What sets FN apart from other programs?

HH: There are a number of elements that combine to make Forum-Nexus programs quite unique:

-Instead of staying the whole month in a single city, the program is multi-country, allowing the students to be exposed to the culture and environment of several countries in one summer.

-There is a very close and warm relationship between the professors and the students, on and off class time. The professors are very experienced and come from different countries, and travel together with the students from country to country.

-The program includes numerous visits to European companies and international organizations. These are activities that you don’t get to do as a tourist. You learn a lot by interacting with business leaders and government officials.

-The participating students come from several countries, so there is a lot of learning that takes place by developing close friendships with young, intelligent, and cool people who live and study in totally different environments.

-The style of the program/the vibe of the program is relaxed and friendly. We are like family. We travel together through the best cities in Europe, learning a lot, while having a great time!

 Q: What do you find special about FN students?

HH: FN students are an amazing group of warm, bright, and ambitious young people who want to learn about the world, encounter new cultures, make new friends, acquire state-of-the-art knowledge and skills, acquire foreign language skills, and who realize that international knowledge and experience are becoming essential for successful careers in most fields.

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 Q: What do you find special about Europe?

HH: Europe is an enchanting continent. So much history, so many beautiful cities, towns, cathedrals, and landscapes within really short distances. And, above all, so much cultural diversity. Europe is an amazing laboratory for learning and understanding how societies cooperate and prosper, how Europe has been the birthplace of so many brilliant ideas, discoveries, and works of art, but also, a critical look at European history offers plenty of cautionary notes about how countries and empires fall apart as a result of political or economic mistakes.

 Q: Why is knowledge of Europe important?

HH: We are experiencing many winds of change in the international arena. China and Asia are emerging as stronger economic and political players, and both the US and the European Union are undergoing important political transformations that may determine new directions for the future. This is a crucial period for understanding the achievements and failures of the European Union and understanding the changes that are likely to occur in the next few years and being ready for them.

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 Q: How does participating in FN help students with their future careers?

HH: Employers are looking for individuals who are competent in their field of expertise (say finance, marketing, communication) but who also have street smarts, knowledge about the real world, experience traveling, ability to deal with cultural differences, and flexibility in coping with new situations. All of these skills are honed at Forum-Nexus. FN alumni tell us all the time how often during job interviews the interviewers are impressed by the student having personal experience visiting important European companies and international organizations. These kind of experiences certainly strengthen their resumes.

 Q: Which are your favorite cities in the FN itinerary and why?

HH: Each city in the itinerary has something special, something unique. I really love them all! Barcelona is an incredibly vibrant city — the people, the architecture, the beaches, the mountains, the food, the nightlife. The beauty of Paris is incredible. The river and its bridges are so picturesque and romantic. I love the French language and listening to accordion music on a sidewalk café. So many beautiful monuments and museums. I am also crazy about Italian cities. The warmth of the people, the musicality of the language, the colors of the cities, being surrounded by history everywhere, the fact that the pizza and the pasta are so good and affordable! Greece is culturally like an extension of Italy, in that the people are warm, emotional, and love music and dancing, with the addition of the beautiful Greek island landscapes, with blue seas everywhere, plus so much history around. In the middle of the program we spend several days in the mountain resort of Chamonix, which is very close to being in paradise! A small and pretty town, with lots of flowers, surrounded by snowy mountains and forests, waterfalls, and lakes.

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 Q: What is your advice to FN students about how to benefit the most from their experience?

HH: I tell the students to do some homework before the start of the program by reading about each city, its history, its culture, and the main attractions to visit, in order to be better prepared to make optimal use of their time. Also, I encourage them to take advantage of the program for improving their language skills: improve their Spanish, learn the basics of French and Italian, learn the Greek alphabet, etc. But above all, my advice is to start the program with an open mind about other societies and other cultures. The name of the game is not to decide who is better, but rather to celebrate the beauty of diversity and cultural differences.

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For more information on our upcoming programs, visit www.forum-nexus.com. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and check out our blog and YouTube channel.

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A Weekend in Paris

While every city that we visited this month was incredible in its own way, my favorite city was Paris, France. My best friend Julia and I decided at the last minute to book a weekend trip to this magical city with a group of students who we had met the week before. To start, it was so wonderful to meet so many amazing students who quickly convinced us that the Paris weekend trip was a must. Soon after, we had our flights booked as well as a (surprisingly cheap) hotel room in a historic Parisian hotel.

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Photo courtesy of Allie M.

Following Friday class in Chamonix, our group piled into a van and made the trek from Chamonix to the Geneva airport in Switzerland. After an easy one hour flight from Geneva we arrived in the beautiful city of Paris, and it is safe to say that it was love at first sight. Further, my first impression of Paris was pure awe. As an iconic location that I have seen in pictures and movies for my entire life, it was truly a dream to be standing in the middle of it all. I soon realized that Paris is by no means overrated, but rather upholds a beauty and romance that cannot be portrayed in pictures or even described in words. More specifically, when walking through the streets, almost every building holds its own history, with monuments left and right. I also found that, in general, the city felt very clean, safe, and romantic. In addition to seeing many of the most famous monuments including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Tuileries, I enjoyed some of the best meals of my life! For two and a half days I maintained a steady diet of croissants, macaroons, steak and frites, baguettes, cheese, and of course, the occasional French wine pairing. Specifically, our typical French breakfast at the world-famous Laduree was one of the best meals of the trip!

To add to this wonderful experience, Julia and I met up with our friend from our university at home who was studying abroad in Paris for a whole year. This was a great touch to our perfect weekend as we had our own personal tour guide to bring us to locations not frequented by tourists. This part of our trip really helped us get the flavor of the city through the eye of a local while seeing as much as we could in a short period of time.

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Photo courtesy of Allie M.

In this experience, I was pleasantly surprised to break some common stereotypes or misconceptions about the city. More specifically, while many warned me that Parisians dislike Americans and can be very rude, my experience actually proved the opposite. In my short trip, I met many friendly locals who were more than welcoming and willing to give recommendations and or directions.

Overall, my weekend in Paris was a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone taking this program in the future. In one short weekend I would recommend a picnic at the Eiffel Tower (with meats and cheeses from a local market), a walk through the Louvre, walking around the beautiful streets of Champs Elysee, taking a boat tour on the Seine river, and finally getting lost in the indescribable city with new friends!

By:  Alexandra M., Forum-Nexus 2016 Alumna

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Photo courtesy of Allie M.

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Destination 4: This is Paris!

Next, we’re sharing all about the fourth destination on the Forum Europe Summer 2017 itinerary and one of the most iconic cities in Europe… 12045794_10153086113137633_1622570489038539032_o

There’s a reason why Paris, France is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world; it’s everything good you’ve ever heard and more. Paris is the pulsing heart of French culture, politics, and business. The architecture, beauty, food, and glitz effortlessly captures the admiration of each visitor. To say the least, a real European excursion isn’t complete without a stop in the city of love.

So what’s a week in Paris like with Forum-Nexus? Read past accounts from our own alumni.

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Paris can cater to the desires of any traveler; there’s great shopping, art, museums, attractions, nightlife, food, and activities. While staying in the city of love, students will be able to stroll along the Seine river, visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, say hello to Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and snap a picture of the Eiffel Tower, of course! Paris is home to several influential companies and international organizations, as well. Students will have the opportunity to participate in professional visits to places such as Le Cordon Bleu, OECD, and UNESCO. And don’t forget about classes, which will be held on the campus of the American Business School in Paris. On the weekend, students can participate in an optional Forum-Nexus day trip to the famous castles of the Loire Valley, or take an independent excursion to Amsterdam or London.

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Follow along on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about this beloved city and our Summer 2017 program.

Like they say, Paris is always a good idea!

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Destination 3: This is Geneva!

The third destination on the Forum Europe Summer 2017 itinerary is a sweet, day-long stop in the breathtaking city of Geneva, Switzerland.

Piercing blue skies, a beautiful lakeside, rolling hills, and mountains adorn the cosmopolitan city of Geneva. Best known as the European headquarters for the United Nations, this Swiss city also offers luxury shopping, famous watch brands, world-renowned chocolate, and more!

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The day trip to Geneva will be split into two parts: A professional visit the United Nations headquarters and city exploration. Upon arrival to the UN, students will get the unique opportunity to participate in a guided tour of the Palais des Nations. Highlights may include seeing the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, The Council Chamber, Salle des Pas Perdus, art from around the world, a recap of the current activities, and more! The best part? Cameras are welcome! After the professional visit concludes, students will get free time to explore the Geneva at their leisure. Walk the lakeside, buy some chocolate, eat at a cafe – there is plenty to do, see, and learn!

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Take a glimpse of last summer’s visit to Switzerland here.

Geneva will serve as a middle point of transition from Chamonix to Paris. This dely memorable.

This week on the blog, we’ll share what Forum-Nexus alumni have to say about their time exploring the city of Geneva and experiencing the United Nations.

Follow along on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about this one-of-a-kind city and our Summer 2017 program.

Geneva awaits YOU!

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Chamonix: A French Alp Paradise

I live in a small town and have never been a huge fan of large cities, so it came as no surprise to me that Chamonix would be my favorite town during this trip.  Don’t get me wrong, I love how much there is to see/do/eat/explore/learn in larger cities, but I enjoy myself the most in quaint communities.  I like the idea of everyone knowing their neighbors and trusting one another.  Also, for a trip where less than a week is allotted in each destination, Chamonix was completely “doable.”  I left Chamonix  with plans to come back, but I also felt like I had seen the entire town and was comfortable to navigate through it myself.

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Chamonix is most famous for being a ski resort town during the winter months, but during the summer there is plenty to do as well.  The downtown part of Chamonix is small and picturesque. The main streets are lined with flowers and fountains, while also housing dozens of name brand stores.  The real beauty of the town lies in the views of the mountains surrounding it.  The buildings, which are primarily chateaus, are never more than a few stories, so postcard-worthy views can be seen at all times.  The mountains themselves cannot be described in either words or pictures.  They are too immense and breathtaking to justly depict.

As I mentioned earlier, Chamonix is condensed enough that it is “doable.”  Unlike other larger cities where I left with several activities I still wanted to do there, I did everything in Chamonix that I had planned, plus had time to find new things as well.  Although I had a good time in the downtown part of Chamonix, I found that I much preferred exploring the scenery away from town.  The first afternoon in Chamonix was dreary and cloudy, so sightseeing from the top of the mountain was postponed and Hugo led a hike instead.  We followed a stream up a mountain in the Gorges Diosaz Servoz.  I loved the bridges that laced back and forth across the stream.  Another event led by Hugo, taking the lift to the top of Le Brévent, was equally as enjoyable.  With few clouds in the sky, we were able to enjoy a view into both the Chamonix valley and of Mont Blanc, the iconic mountain of Chamonix.  Just a piece of advice for future FN students: Do any event or activity led by Hugo.  He knows the best things to do, and you honestly can’t not have a great time with his personality.

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Perhaps my favorite experience in Chamonix is when I went on a solo hike to Lac Blanc.  The hike itself was tough and steep, but the real challenge for me was finding the proper lift and hiking trail in the first place!  The entire 2 hours each way of the hike has panoramic views of the mountains.  The lake itself was amazing, the bluest water I had ever seen that was only more vivid being surrounding by snow and having a cloudless sky above.  I literally sat and tried to absorb the scene for several hours.  Although it was not my original plan to do the hike by myself, I’m actually glad it worked out that way.  Not having an agenda and being able to enjoy everything at my pace was very enjoyable.  I went on a similar unplanned adventure by myself in Barcelona, and I was equally as thankful to be able to experience part of that city on my own.  I would highly recommend that, providing that you feel comfortable and confident, future FN students try out traveling alone, even if for only a few hours.

While in France, my main goal was to eat a crepe.  I succeeded in this goal and actually ate around 5 during our few days in Chamonix.  My favorite was Nutella, but a savory ham and cheese crepe was a close second.  On the last night in this town, a group of us girls decided we wanted to go all out on a meal.  We shared among the table the notorious French dish of escargot, a.k.a. snails.  Although the texture was too chewy for my taste, it wasn’t half bad and I can cross that one off my bucket list.  For my main course that evening, I had tartiflette, a French potato cheese and bacon dish.  If I ever had to choose, this would be my last meal.  Even if you don’t take any of my other advice, trust me here and try tartiflette.

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While in Chamonix, I learned how to properly eat escargot, how to read hiking signs, how to wait for tartiflette to cool before consuming, to bring a waterproof raincoat everywhere, and that you can still get sunburnt when it’s cold. But most importantly, I learned that I love Chamonix and will have to come back in the future!

By: Alana E., FN 2016 Alumna

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Destination 2: This is Chamonix!

The second destination on the Forum Europe Summer 2017 itinerary is unforgettable, to say the least.

Nestled in the French Alps, surrounded by mountains, lakes, and forests, Chamonix, France seems as if it sprung from a fairytale. Best known for being the first host city of the 1924 Winter Olympics, Chamonix is a charming French town with mountains, streams, trails, restaurants, quaint stores, and a cozy nightlife. While in Chamonix, students will be able to admire, rewind, relax, and rediscover the unique naturesque side of Europe. For years, tourists and our students have fallen hard for this town.

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So you may be wondering what to expect on a getaway to the sweet, French mountain region. Get a glimpse of last summer’s visit to Chamonix here.

Afternoons will be free for students to explore the striking beauty of the area and participate in activities such as hiking to the Mer de Glace, one of the biggest glaciers in Europe, or taking the Aiguille du Midi cable car, offering a spectacular view of the snow covered peaks of Mont Blanc. For those who don’t feel as adventurous, students can explore the town filled with shops and restaurants or unwind at the Hotel L’Helopic Sweet and Spa. As for the weekend, students can participate in an optional Forum-Nexus Day Trip to the charming medieval city of Annecy. Think Beauty & The Beast charm with breathtaking water features.

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Up next on the blog, we’ll share what Forum-Nexus alumni have to say about their time in the Alps.

Follow along on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about this one-of-a-kind city and our summer 2017 program.

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Chamonix awaits YOU!

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International Education Week 2016

Happy International Education Week! That’s right, #IEW2016 is all this week from November 14-18. Follow along as we celebrate and reflect on 27 years of international education.

So what is #IEW2016? The U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs defines it as: “An opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.”

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At Forum-Nexus, we believe in providing a first-class international educational experience to foster an appreciation for the richness of other cultures, by offering unique and life-changing summer programs that encourage the exchange of ideas with individuals from around the world, while creating a community of students with a passion for learning and exploring the world with an open mind. 27 years with over 3,300 students.

We asked a few Forum-Nexus alumni from the past several years what international education means to them and how it has impacted their lives. Here’s what they said:

“My international education taught me classroom content and life skills. It gave me new perspectives, friends from around the world, and a chance to experience different cultures, customs, and environments. It has made me who I am today. I encourage students to study abroad because it is the perfect way to get an international education and all of the benefits that come with it.” – Gabriella G., FN 2012

“What I most enjoyed about my international experience is the bonds that I made with other students on the trip. I never thought that I would have friends all around the world and now I do. I have formed such  authentic friendships with people I had only known from a month, but now they are family to me.” -Jonna F., FN 2016

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“International education is important because we live in a world with a rapidly globalizing economy. It is important for everyone to have a general understanding of global cultures simply because of the economic effects that other countries have on every individual. A well-honed international education can also help to increase one’s ability to empathize, which is incredibly important in management or customer service positions.”  -Nick B., FN 2015

“International education gave me the ability to understand different cultures and see how they communicate, conduct business, and live. I was exposed to real world experiences and witnessed different countries and their real-time economic challenges. Every step taken overseas was a learning lesson for me. I took in everything I saw, felt, and did like a sponge. It opened my eyes to continuing with the same mindset upon returning home.”  -Selin B., FN 2014

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“An international education program was one of the first things that made me interested in exploring the world; in learning how people from other cultures lived, and what was “normal” or “common” for them, that wasn’t for me. Our communities tend to take many things for granted: costumes, activities, and perspectives that were defined a long time ago in our cities become ingrained in our society and are never questioned again. That’s where learning about the way of living (in all matters) in other parts of the world help us reevaluate our own values and ideas, so we can make a choice not by repetitive patterns, but by consciously comparing and analyzing different perspectives on daily topics, so we can choose what’s best for us.” -Carlos T., FN 2010

“Although I’ve always been traveling around ever since I was young, studying abroad was a completely different experience. You don’t just get to experience different cultures through the places you visit, but you get to live with international students who expose you to even more cultures than you expected and of course make lifelong friends from all over the globe. International education is an enriching experience from which you learn how to become more accepting, tolerating, and understanding of different ideas, people, cultures, etc. It changes your perspective towards life!”  -Nadine K., FN 2011

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An investment in education is an investment in yourself. What are you waiting for?

Learn more about our upcoming multi-country study abroad programs at forum-nexus.com