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Semester-Abroad Experiences – “Do It,” Participants Say

Ryan Farmer pauses after a three-hour hike to enjoy the spectacular view in the Yellow Mountains
Ryan Farmer pauses after a three-hour hike to enjoy the spectacular view in the Yellow Mountains

In the past year, close to 90 undergraduate students in the NC State Poole College of Management added significant global experience to their resumes through semester or year-long study abroad opportunities.

One of the most popular is the exchange program that Poole College has with the Universidad Pontifica Comillas Universidad Pontifica Comillas in Madrid, Spain. Exchange programs are formal agreements that make it easy for students from two universities to study at the partner school.

“We have 10 international exchange students from Comillas at Poole College this fall semester, and six Poole students are at Comillas this semester (fall 2018),” said Ellen Frost, assistant director of global programs at Poole College. “It is by far our largest exchange partner each semester.” Twelve Poole students studied at Comillas in Spring 2018.

Poole College’s Global Programs staff work with the college’s students as they explore more than 100 study abroad options available through the university and Poole College specifically, to help ensure the one they select will keep them on track with their degree requirements while studying business topics in an international environment.

Following is feedback from six recent Poole College semester-abroad participants. Read their responses below.

Jada Hester: Spain | Sue Alley: Germany and Denmark | Ryan Farmer: China | Elizabeth Day: Austria | Sandhya Kumar: Singapore | Belton Moore: Mexico

Another Amazing Experience | Jada Hester (Spain)

After an “amazing experience” in her first study abroad program arranged through Poole College – the China: Operations and Human Resource summer program in Shanghai – Jada Hester said that she knew she “wanted to study abroad again for a longer period of time, and I trusted that Poole would provide me with another wonderful opportunity to do so.”

This time, Hester said, she wanted a global program that would allow her to take courses for both her majors – as well as travel.

Jada Hester and companions on one of her travels ... this one, with camels.
Jada Hester and companions as they prepare for a camel ride in Morocco. It was higher and bumpier than a ride on horseback, she said, but fun.

She found that in the Universidad Pontifica Comillas program in Spain, where she took the Introduction to Finance and Introduction to Marketing courses that counted towards her business degree. She also took Spanish History and Culture through the Visual Arts and Hispanic Literature, which counted towards her international studies degree. One additional course – Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility – counted towards both of her degrees.

Hester was learning along with about 20 to 30 other students from a range of countries: the United Kingdom, France, and other regions of Spain, as well as several from South Korea, China, Germany and Canada.

A pleasant surprise for her was the emphasis on collaboration for team projects and in-class presentations. “Almost everything in three of my courses was group work,” she said, and most of her courses included presentations. “Learning in a different environment did in fact, highlight the benefits of functional and productive study groups for me,” she said.

Beyond the classroom, Hester made time to explore Madrid during the week, and to travel throughout Spain and beyond. “I ended up visiting about nine different countries on two different continents,” she said.

“For the most part, I traveled every other weekend, in order to save money, reserve time to study and allow myself to explore Madrid in depth.

“Madrid is amazing,” she said. “There was so much to do, from seeing shows – flamenco and the international tour of The Lion King – to shopping on Gran Via and at the farmer’s market. Going to get tapas, going boating in the park, visiting rooftop bars or going clubbing or salsa dancing are all fun things to do in Madrid.”

The experience reaffirmed her love of travel, Hester said. “It has also made me more considerate of the differences in the world, in terms of understanding that U.S. is not the only culture, and it is not always necessarily the best. Cultures are simply different.”

She also learned a bit about herself: that she wants a job that will allow her to travel extensively, either on vacation or on the job, and that she does better as an engaged learner: consistently in class, right in front, and “asking a ridiculous amount of questions.”

Two Semesters, Two Countries, One Internship – Sue Alley (Germany and Denmark)

Sue Alley took her Mom sightseeing when she came for a visit during Sue's semester in Copenhagen
Sue Alley took her Mom sightseeing when she came for a visit during Sue’s semester in Copenhagen

Sue Alley, a senior majoring in business administration with a marketing concentration, is not back at the NC State campus yet. She began her study abroad experience in the spring 2017 semester at the European Business School (EBS) in Reutlingen, Germany – a choice she made because she had already been studying the German language, and “not the best reason to pick a program,” she said.

But after spending her summer break volunteering in Denmark at a non-profit café, she said she “really fell in love with the city, people and culture. Through these experiences and living in NC State’s Global Village (Alexander Hall), I had made a lot of very close Danish friends. All of these things made choosing my second study abroad program a very easy choice,” she said.

She selected the Copenhagen Business School, where she completed her spring semester. She also secured student employment with MAN Energy Solutions in Copenhagen, where she is assistant to the company’s head of communications. The German, engine-building company has branches all over the world, Alley said, adding that she is “in charge of putting out content on our social media channels and writing articles for the employee intranet. I really enjoy the work I do and getting to know all my Danish colleagues.” This fall, Alley is completing in her second semester at CBS in Denmark.

All Business is International

“Studying abroad has been a goal of mine since I started college,” Alley said. “Before college, I had never been out of the country and only knew a handful of people who weren’t American, so I was very curious about the world beyond the U.S. One of the phrases at Poole College of Management is that ‘all business is international business’, which rings very true,” she said.

“I knew that aside from my own desires to learn about other cultures, organizations have a high regard for students with international experience,” Alley said. “I knew that studying abroad would give me the opportunity to grow as a person. When you study abroad, you are away from the familiar and thrown out of your comfort zone. You learn to live in another culture and start ‘adulting’. All of these benefits were in my mind when I decided to participate in Poole College’s study abroad program, both the first and the second time,” she said.

Sue Alley on travels with friends during her semester in Germany
Sue Alley on travels with friends during her semester in Germany

Alley said she’s found that, as a business student, it was very easy to find relevant business courses at foreign business schools.

“During my time in Germany, I took Marketing and Strategic Management, Business Ethics, Business English, and Statistics, which were all major-relevant courses,” she said. “At Copenhagen Business School, I took International Marketing and Corporate Finance, which were major-relevant courses, and also Danish Integrated Skills and Intercultural Organization, which were counted as free-credit courses.”

Alley explains that she was able to extend her second study abroad experience from one semester to two by saving free elective credits in her degree. In addition to one marketing concentration course, Comprehending Consumers across Cultures, she now is taking several courses that are not specific to her major requirements but fulfill her free elective courses such as: “Foreign Policy of the EU, Asian Societies from a Comparative Perspective, and Event and Festival Management – my favorite,” she said.

Exploring, Learning in China – Ryan Farmer

Building in China, photo by Ryan Farmer during his study and travels abroad.
Photo showing the base of one of the most iconic buildings of Shanghai’s skyline, the Oriental Pearl Tower. Translated, the letters say: Shanghai welcomes you.

Ryan Farmer said he had many reasons for selecting Fudan University in Shanghai, China: It is consistently ranked in the top three or four universities in China, it is part of the C-9 League – known as China’s Ivy League, and it is located in a great part of Shanghai.

His courses there were Chinese, marketing, finance, China’s Population and Development, Korean Culture, and the Chinese Marketplace. The mix of students in his classes varied by course, with 50 of 55 total students in the marketplace course being exchange students, and only seven or eight exchange students out of 55 in his marketing course. Many of the exchange students were from the U.S., as well as Finland and Australia.

Like many other U.S. students studying abroad for the first time, Farmer was surprised that his class sessions met only one day a week, for three hours.

“While it took some time to adjust to sitting in class for three hours, it was nice not having it multiple times within the week. I was also very surprised at how heavily presentation-based my courses were. In every one of my classes, I had at least one presentation, but a few of my classes had four or five presentations,” he said.

“The teaching and testing styles were definitely different there. Throughout the semester, there were not nearly as many assignments as we have here. The last month of classes was when the majority of work was due in the form of final exams, papers, or presentations,” he said.

One Crazy Fun Adventure

Ryan Farmer pauses after a three-hour hike to enjoy the spectacular view in the Yellow Mountains
Ryan Farmer pauses after a three-hour hike to enjoy the spectacular view in the Yellow Mountains

Farmer admits that the ‘out of classroom’ experiences were his favorite part of the study abroad experience. “Getting to experience a totally new place and culture as a ‘local’ is such a unique and transformative experience. Within a few months, I truly felt at home in Shanghai,” he said.

“After the initial shock of trying to figure out the bus and metro system, it was very convenient to get around. Making friends with the local students is super helpful because they were able to recommend some apps and things that made living in the city much easier. Keeping a positive attitude and viewing my challenges as all part of one crazy fun adventure really helped me to adjust quickly,” he said.

Now that he’s back at NC State, he said, “I truly believe that study abroad changed me for the better. It taught me so many things about myself and it gave me the confidence to do anything that I set my mind to,” he said.

He’s also caught the global fever. “After coming home from study abroad, I have been considering how I would really like to have my future career plans involve Shanghai. I loved my life there and if I was able to incorporate it into my career – that would be amazing. Now that I am back on campus, I try to take any opportunity I can to involve myself in internationally focused opportunities.

“I would say that EVERYONE should consider studying abroad. It truly was the best semester of my life. With so many options of places to study, you are sure to find just what you are looking for,” he added.

Exploring, Learning in Vienna – Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day and friends on an excursion
Elizabeth Day and friends on an excursion during her semester in Vienna

“I knew I had wanted to study abroad since high school,” said Elizabeth Day, a senior with a business administration major and a supply chain management concentration. “Many of my older friends studied abroad and loved it.” She chose to participate in Poole College programs because “they seemed interesting and easy with the exchange.”

She selected WU (Vienna University of Business and Economics) in Vienna, Austria, because it offered many of the courses she needed for her degree, and because “it is a great business school with lots of opportunities” she said. The program had also been highly recommended by a friend who had gone the year prior.

“Vienna is unique,” she said, and it provided “great way to meet new people and to be immersed in a completely different culture.” It also had a few other plus factors: a great outdoors, centrally located so travel is easy; and it’s a modern city – language is not a barrier. There’s also a lot to do right in the city, including learning the history of the region.

Also, as an exchange student, Day said, “I was with other exchange students from all over the world, which was one of the best parts of the whole experience” A sampling of the countries represented by the exchange students: USA, Canada, Spain, U.K., Taiwan, Chile, Australia. “It was exciting to be with local students and hang out with them for group projects and such. WU (abbreviation for the university’s name: Wirtschafts Universität Wien) was a very interactive university (with) great programs and activities to meet students.”

She took four courses while there: Corporate Finance, International Supply Chain Management 1, Supply Chain Modeling and Design, and Sustainable Business: Managing for Tomorrow (a free elective).

The classroom experience was “very different – more like my concentration classes here at NC State,” she said. Class sizes ranged from 20 to 40 students, and as is the case with most other global programs, the class sessions consisted of mostly participation and group projects.

“The participation aspect was great because I was engaged in the material and was eager to learn,” she said.

“All my courses were ‘block style,’ so one course met about 7-12 times, for about three hours each day with a break in the middle, for a month or so. This style was nice because I could really focus on one subject at a time,” she said, adding, “I really enjoyed all my teachers and students from diverse backgrounds. It made for fascinating discussions with different perspectives.”

Beyond the classroom, Day said she “loved Vienna,” and enjoyed hiking, the festivals, concerts and more. “I learned to plan ahead and stay organized with all my school work so I was able to travel. Luckily I did not have much work outside the classroom,” she said.

Gaining Self-Knowledge, Confidence

“Studying abroad, I learned so much about myself, the world, and more in school. You learn to be more open minded, flexible, independent, confident,” Day said.

“I feel like I see the world with a different perspective (with) friendships that will last a life time. I still stay in contact with my friends I met abroad – and we come from over eight different countries. Being back home and at NC State, I feel more confident in my social skills and more adaptable, and I have a more positive, grateful attitude.”

Exploring, Learning in Singapore – Sandhya Kumar

Sandhya Kuma in Singapore
Sandhya Kumar in Singapore

Sandhya Kumar, a senior with a major in business administration with a finance concentration, wanted to incorporate a global experience during her undergraduate career – and needed high-level finance courses for her degree program. That led her to the Singapore Management University, a Pack Abroad exchange program in Singapore where her courses were Corporate Finance, Supply-Chain, Developmental Economics, and Psychology of Close Relationships.

Her fellow students “hailed from all over the world: the U.S., Mexico, Netherlands and Sweden,” she said, noting that she also got to know the local students and enjoyed learning about the local culture through them.

Her travels took Kumar throughout Southeast and East Asia. “It was a very different experience than what I expected. Although I did not feel the effects of culture shock while in Singapore, I did when I traveled. It was a culturally enriching experience that I am glad I had the chance to have.”

Now that she’s back on campus at NC State, Kumar said, “I feel more aware of the world and my place at NC State. I feel like there isn’t a limit to what I can do, due to my experiences abroad.”

Exploring, Learning in Mexico – Belton Moore

Belton Moore in Mexico, his third study abroad experience
Belton Moore in Mexico, his third study abroad experience

Belton Moore, a Poole College senior majoring in economics and political science who grew up in a small Lumbee Indian community in Robeson County, said he “was always fascinated by other countries and cultures that I had never been exposed to, and that has led him to complete several study abroad programs: India while in high school, and Hangzhou, China, during his first year in college.

By the end of that program, he said he “knew that I wanted to spend a semester abroad to immerse myself in another culture and study economics and politics from a different perspective.” He did that this year at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla, a Pack Abroad exchange program in Mexico.

When beginning his study abroad search, Moore said, “I knew that I wanted to study in a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. I studied Spanish in high school and after spending time in countries where I didn’t speak the language at all, I wanted to go to a place where I could at least get by in the local language.”

He selected the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) in Mexico “after considering the great reputation of the university, the cost, and the opportunity to learn about Mexico-U.S. relations from the Mexican perspective.” His courses there were Mexican Economy, Latin American Studies, Contemporary Mexican Politics, Spanish Language and Communication, and Cultural Manifestations of the Hispanic World.

Two of his courses were Spanish language courses for foreigners; in those, all of his classmates were also study abroad students.

“My other classes, however, consisted of mostly Mexican students and a couple other international students,” he said, including classmates from South Korea, Japan, France, the U.K., Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia.

One aspect of his experience studying in Mexico that surprised him, he said, was the closeness between the professors and students. “I was able to build really strong relationships with several of my professors at UDLAP,” he said.

He also was surprised that the professor for his Mexican Economy course was Dr. Luis Ernesto Derbez, head of the university. “He had served as Mexico’s Secretary of Economy and Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the administration of President Vicente Fox,” Moore said. “It was intriguing to learn about Mexico’s economic policies from someone who has played such a large role in shaping them.”

Moore said he found the teaching style at UDLAP to be “largely the same as at NC State, although the classes were much smaller due to the size of the university.

“I felt that the students participated in class more readily and this led to a lot of interesting discussions on various topics. It was eye-opening to learn how much most of my peers know about the United States government, when most people in the U.S. don’t really know much about Mexico. I was able to learn a great deal about the current perception of several U.S. policies, including immigration and international trade, from my Mexican peers, which is a perspective that is hard to get without studying abroad,” he said.

There also was time for travel and exploring Puebla on the weekends, he said.

“I got around in Puebla mostly using Uber and I took the metro most of the time while I was in Mexico City. Mexico has an awesome bus system that you can use to get to almost anywhere in the country, and domestic flights are pretty affordable, too,” he said.

And the food “definitely did not disappoint – I have a renewed love for all Mexican food, authentic and Tex-Mex alike,” he said. “The Mexican people are also some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met. So many people went out of their way to help me during my time there and I will never forget their hospitality. Mexico is such an amazingly rich country and I hope that more NC State students will be able to experience it.

Now that he’s back on campus, Moore said he has found that his experience studying abroad “has impacted me in so many positive ways. I feel like I’m able to relate more to people from other cultures now and I think that has helped to make me a better person. I’m much more informed when it comes to Mexico-U.S. relations and that knowledge has been very valuable in my classes so far. Going forward, I know that I want to pursue a career that has an international component and that will hopefully allow me to travel and work in Mexico at some point.”

Moore, similar to the other study abroad students, offers a final message for other students:

“Studying abroad is one of the best things that you can do to invest in yourself. The opportunity to live abroad for several months or even years is one that is hard to come by after college. I would encourage everyone to consider going abroad at least once. You won’t regret it.”