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How Study Abroad Gave Me Global Business Perspective - And More

Posted January 24, 2017 by Megan Factor - Student - Youngstown State University Williamson College of Business Administration

Sweeping views, riveting histories, and remarkable people. No, this isn’t a review for the latest best-selling novel. It is a review of the international experiences I have had over the last year. At Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration (WCBA), where I am an advertising and public relations student, a global perspective is ingrained in every aspect of our academic experience. From our professors who hail from locations all over the world to curriculum that analyzes marketing campaigns in the Middle East and Europe, international awareness is a common thread in every class I’ve taken.

As business students, it is vital that we understand how to navigate the ever-expanding network of professionals and peers that we will interact with for the duration of our careers, and beyond. I first learned about the WCBA’s week-long international study tours during the fall 2015 semester—one to Prague, Czech Republic, and another to Dublin, Ireland. Not long after learning about the opportunity, I found myself preparing to go to Prague for a week in December!

Prior to departing for the tour, I met with the seven other students in the group and the faculty member who would be leading our tour. We discussed everything from making sure we had the appropriate documents to enter the country to the local cuisine. What would become most useful during the trip, however, was our research on the Czech Republic culture and the differences and similarities we would encounter in their business world.

Over eight days, we visited 10 businesses that varied from an advertising agency to a nonprofit café that employed the hearing impaired. We learned about the struggles of a country that had emerged from decades of communism with the desire to be a capitalistic world player. This plight was most evident when we visited Skoda, one of the largest auto manufacturers in the country, at their main plant in Mlada Boleslav. Supply chain, human resources, and marketing are all things that one would expect to learn on a site visit; however, business in the Czech Republic is done differently than in the U.S., as the country has not been industrially competitive for as long as the rest of Europe. Instead, we learned about the rich history of the company and how it overcame significant odds under communist rule to be an international player in the auto industry in central Europe.

During our trip, we not only engaged our minds in the technical aspect of business, but we considered the human nature of commerce and the economy, as well. Although all of us on the tour came from very different backgrounds and locations, the people we met in Prague were incredibly genuine, and we found we had many more similarities with them than differences. Whether it was the staff at ISP or a business owner, the passion for what they were doing and providing to their community was commendable.

Of course, a major benefit of studying abroad is taking in the sights and learning what drives the economy from a local perspective. Prague—the City of a Thousand Spires—boasts some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. Protected from the destruction of both world wars, the city is bursting with rich culture in its open markets, restaurants, museums, and public spaces. And if you remember nothing else about the Czech Republic, keep this fact in mind: the country consumes more beer per capita than any other on earth. Beer is a cultural staple that is as common as water in restaurants, and is often even cheaper! However, beer is more than just a drink or a pastime in the Czech Republic; it is a main pillar of the industrial economy and is taken as seriously as the auto industry. Together, there are 338 industrial and micro-breweries in operation today, which accounted for more than 20 billion USD in total production for 2015 alone. Further, 75,282 full-time jobs are linked solely to the brewing industry in the country. An interesting move that several large breweries are making is the launch of beer marketed toward women—a huge step toward modernity for this traditionally conservative market participant.

The end of our amazing week was bittersweet, with a heavy emphasis on the bitter side. The friends I made and the networking that was done has set me up for business success wherever I go. My trip to Ireland that followed was equally as priceless, both in terms of the connections I made and the experience I had. I can easily say that I would not be the student I am today if I had not taken part in both learning experiences. Gaining an international perspective on business and how it influences every aspect of all countries was both a humbling and enlightening process. I feel equipped to go on my next great adventure, back to where my first one began—in Prague! I will be spending four months back in the beautiful city that sparked my love for international travel and learning.

Without the prior experiences through the Williamson College of Business Administration, I would not be in such an excellent position to make the most out of my semester. For any business student who thinks he or she would not benefit from time abroad, whether it’s a week or a semester, I would challenge you to reconsider. Gaining empathy, tolerance, and a sense of adventure will enhance every aspect of your life, on and off the job.

Megan FactorMegan Factor is a junior majoring in advertising and public relations at Youngstown State University in Ohio. She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society for students enrolled in business programs accredited by AACSB International.