Student Exchange Stories
Ioana Benea - The experience of a lifetime!
During the fall semester, I went on an exchange program offered by Modul University to Orlando, Florida. The partner university there was Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Even though it was a part of University of Central Florida, the campus was on a different location and was itself different than the main campus. The atmosphere was distinctive, students were more dressed up, and it had this hospitality flair. I lived on campus, which was the most convenient thing ever – a 5 minute walk to class!
Going on an exchange semester in a different country, even more a different continent, is indeed a lifetime experience. Rosen College was my first choice due to its high level of recognition in the hospitality industry, the location - Florida the “Sunshine State” - and the fact that it was in the USA. I thought if I go on an exchange semester, why not go to there if the opportunity is there. It common knowledge that traveling to the USA, especially when you need a visa, is not an easy thing!
In the beginning I had a hard time getting around, because of the location of the Rosen College campus – far from main campus, far from downtown, far from anything. Not having a car in Vienna is normal; not having a car in Florida is crazy. Next door there was a Rosen Hotel, a Publix (groceries store), a NYPD Pizza Restaurant, a Chinese take-away, and a beauty salon, nothing else. And walking in Florida plus 40 degrees Celsius is not the smartest thing you could do. I did miss the Viennese public transportation so many times during my stay there. Being in that situation, made us (me and the other 9 exchange students on Rosen Campus) make more local friends as opposed to what all exchange students usually do. And it worked out perfectly well!
We managed to see the famous theme parks – Disney World, Universal, Sea World – we went on weekend trips to Miami, Tallahassee, Clearwater and Cocoa Beach. We explored the state and made so many friends from so many different places. Even in class you would meet people with diverse backgrounds, with whom you will eventually end up working with on a school project. It is interesting to see how people can get along so well, even if they have only known each other for few weeks.
Another interesting fact that caught my attention was how devoted sports fans are in the States. I went to some of the UCF games and what was even more important than the game itself is the ‘tailgating’, which is a big celebration on campus before the game starts. What I loved the most on my exchange semester was the campus life – more on main campus than Rosen Campus – you had practically anything you could possibly need there – restaurants, dorms, gym, bank, pool, parking, etc. There were always something happening! Shopping in the US is anyone’s dream – cheaper than Europe and all those brands we wish we could have in here.
Once successfully completing my exchange semester (I did study in all this time after all), I planned a wonderful vacation with my family all over the USA – Miami, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and finally San Francisco. It was an amazing time, an intense 4 weeks of travelling and seeing so many beautiful places, and again how different it can be from one state to another. I managed to meet with the previous exchange students that where in Vienna at Modul and I celebrated all the winter holidays there, but I do have to admit Christmas is nowhere better than at home.
After 6 wonderful months, it was time to come back to Vienna. I am really grateful for the cultures I learnt about, the people I met, the friends I made (who I am still in touch with), and the places I have seen. Last but not least, I want to mention I met my soul mate, just two weeks after arriving in Orlando, at a UCF football game, which is the reason why I am going back for three weeks in December. Thank you Modul University for such an amazing experience!