Though I was initially upset that I was forced to spend time alone, I learned to appreciate the uncomfortable feeling of roaming an unfamiliar city without being able to speak its language.
We went to a total of five countries and eleven cities and it blows my mind that I experienced all those places within a month.
Companies that we have visited include the European Union Court of Justice, Luxembourg Stock Exchange and even Skype!
Places we visited included: Coca Cola, the Diamond District, Duvel Brewery, the European Investment Bank, J.P Morgan, Microsoft, Skype and more learning about the ways they do business internationally. Listening to the discussions at the companies was a lot more enjoyable than sitting through a normal lecture and we got a way more in depth and hands on look on how they were ran.
I loved the flower market and cheese farm visits because it gave us a great inside view of not only business but culture as well and over all great experiences in Western Europe.
This was one of the first times that I realized studying abroad was not just an academic learning experience. Throughout my three weeks on the International Business Management program I learned that studying abroad was more than the six credits I was getting and something to put on my resume.
I remember giggling as I watched one of my classmates try to convey that all he wanted was water. The more she didn’t understand, the louder he would get. And hand signals were our way of trying to show them what we needed.
Going to the heart of Nazi Germany and going up to Hitler’s Eagles Nest in the same elevator he used was a surreal experience for me.
What I had expected to get out of the program only scratched the surface of the true rewards I would gain from my academic work in the Benelux countries.
After speaking with business professionals in the region it is pretty easy to recognize that they realize the importance of understanding the cultures in order to do business across borders. Many of the individuals in respected positions were fluent in three or four languages, and had educational backgrounds in a number of different countries.
Just by living across the Atlantic Ocean the names and numbers of divisions like the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” are relatively unknown, but here in Europe U.S. flags fly with the names and numbers of division, regiments or units and often names of soldiers to go with. The Europeans know more about WWII than us Americans who majorly fought it, but they don’t forget like we often do.
70 years later their memory remains in the minds and lives of Europeans as it should for all Americans, though it seems that education in this topic for American students is too limited as the places, people, ad events we learned about were often unfamiliar.
Even as I write now I can still feel the great range of emotions from proud at the American Cemetery to dejected and empty at Buchenwald. Not only do you get to experience the subject you may already know so much about, but you get to see it within the context of another culture.
The program in which I participated allowed me to see five different countries. In these various cultures, I was able to learn about business from a range of perspectives. The study abroad program brought material that I have learned in the classroom to life and gave me a solid global business perspective.
I was constantly being challenged to go beyond my comfort zone as I explored new foods, languages, and a world entirely different from what I had ever known. Not only did I discover a lot about new cultures but also discovered a lot about myself.
Each and every country we visited in Europe was so truly European. Not only were the cities filled with history, but also rich culture. Many people who haven’t been on a study abroad or never traveled outside the United States have a lot of preconceived notions as to what Europe is like.
By taking on these other cultures, I was able to see the beauty of another culture, something that most people of the world never get to partake in. I was able to realize that my way of life is not necessarily the only way to do things.