“How does a fish know what water is?”
This is the first question Professor Kevin MacGabhann asked in our International Human Resource Management class. “You take the fish out of water,” he replied.
It makes perfect sense. A fish doesn’t know that it is in water, its comfortable home, until it leaves the water and experiences life without it. But how does that relate to us? How does that analogy compare to students from all over the world, studying abroad in a foreign country and culture for four weeks?
Although the class that day was longer than usual, it was one of the most impactful lectures I have listened to. We watched a video, participated in case studies, and worked in groups throughout class that brought us to the overall idea – to be culturally sensitive and respective of other cultures, you must learn and live in that culture. We cannot fully understand another culture unless we leave our comfort zone and immerse ourselves into that culture.
As I settle back into the usual routine at home, I can’t believe that my summer study abroad has already come to an end. We visited 11 cities in the 39 days, and I cannot wait to go back to Europe! Strasbourg is an absolutely beautiful city. It is known as a “European City” because it is home to 2 major EU institutions: The European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Strasbourg has also gone back and forth between being controlled by France and Germany for hundreds of years, and you can see that in the architecture of the city and its buildings.
Although we were in classes 5 days a week, we had company and cultural visits as well. We had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament a few days after Greece voted no to the proposed bailout plan. We listened to the Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras give a speech to Parliament, along with responses from members of the European Parliament. It was very interesting to hear the feedback members gave, and you can hear the difference in culture, values, and beliefs between each person based on what they said and how they said it. My favorite response was an intense criticism from Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgium leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. This was by far the most interesting cultural visit of the trip!
We didn’t have classes on weekends, so we took the opportunity to travel! Out of all of the places we visited, I’d have to say that Switzerland was my favorite. Even just driving through Switzerland was beautiful – the Swiss Alps are extraordinary and there are waterfalls everywhere! We stayed in Lauterbrunnen, a small village in the valley of the mountains. As soon as we arrived, we had some delicious Swiss cuisine – Swiss cheese fondue, Rösti, and hot chocolate (probably my favorite meal from the entire trip!). After that we took a cable car up the mountain, and ventured on a 3-hour hike full of breathtaking views, small villages, and lots of pictures. The next morning we took a 2-hour train ride to the Jungfraujoch, also known as the Top of Europe, which is a building at the top of a mountain at 11,782 feet. On a clear, sunny day you can see Germany and France! It was snowy that day, but we still ventured out to the top of the mountain (even while experiencing altitude sickness)!
So why should you study abroad?
It gives you the opportunity, as a student, to experience new cultures! As a business student, it is imperative to have a sense of international cultures, as business is becoming increasingly more global. The Kelley School of Business is expanding with new programs, and there are so many ways for you to finance these trips as well – seize every opportunity you can to grow as a student, and study abroad!
After all these adventures, I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to study abroad. I would especially like to thank the Kelley School of Business, and Eric Raider, for continuing to provide and expand study abroad opportunities for students.
If you ever have any questions about the Strasbourg program, or studying abroad in general, I would be more than happy to help! Again, thank you Kelley – for providing me the opportunities for unforgettable experiences, and a trip of a lifetime.