Category Archives: Undergrad
Your International Services Office welcomes you to an International Student Coffee Hour. Please join us at Gelman Library’s Global Resources Center this Thursday, October 30th from 9:30am to 11:30am and enjoy a snack with our Specialists.
While our GWSB Abroad Fall 2012 Bloggers are getting settled into their new homes in foreign lands, Todd Morrill, GWSB Senior and this year’s President of the UBA, is going to kick off our blog with a post reflecting on his time abroad in China last year. Read on!
Host Country: Shanghai, China
Program: Alliance for Global Education: International Business Program hosted at the Shanghai University of Finance
What was the most valuable lesson you learned while abroad? The most valuable lesson that I learned abroad was what it really meant to look after myself or be on my own, which included everything from my personal health and finances to my professional life and living situation. Add a foreign language into the mix and it’s sure to be a good time!
The last week before you move is always frantic. Finish working and teaching, get your host family a teaching plan for the next 2 months, have dinner and/or lunch with 4 people and tell 12 others that you’re going to do your best to meet them, even though you know it is physically impossible. Get a suit from Yaxiu clothing market, where I paid about $200 for a three piece, which might have been a little high but in my defense I didn’t have much time to bargain, “I chose a good material,” and the suit surprisingly came out great. Get one more $3 haircut. Don’t forget gifts for everyone you have encountered in your time in China. Don’t forget gifts for everyone back home. Exchange your currency to that lovely green American paper that we all love, but beware, I found out the day before I left that China only lets foreigners exchange $500 worth of RMB per day. How 麻烦 (inconvenient) is that? Pack your stuff, lose that bloody VPN, cancel your phone, and finally don’t sleep the night before you get on the plane to accelerate your superhuman ability to adjust to new times zones in 48 hours.
So what have I learned in China? I have realized that what my boss told me on the first day at USCBC was absolutely correct. He said, before you come to China, you could write a 100 pages about it, after arriving you can only write a few dozen, after a few months only a page or two, and by the time you leave you can’t write anything. He says this because of how quickly China is churning and also due to the complicated nature of its development. There are regional and cultural differences within China, different laws and exceptions to rules all over the place, things that would impress you and things that would make you shake your head. But regardless of what new things you discover in China, it is all changing at the speed of sound. And as much as I appreciate the openness and transparency of Western news media, it does not do a particularly good job of capturing the essence of China’s development and new trends. It tends to focus more on hot button issues such as currency manipulation, which really is only one small piece to the puzzle here.
It has become tradition in the Bejing Office of the USCBC to ask their interns what they have learned while working there. So over lunch, my manager asked me and told me that I could respond in Chinese or English. She gave me a moment to collect my thoughts and I was surprisingly able to respond in Chinese by saying that working with the USCBC has given me a firsthand look at the structure of the Chinese government and how it influences all American business interests. I have gotten a glimpse of the business culture here in China, what challenges American firms face, and what best practices are for conducting business. I have had the chance to continue using my Chinese both orally and through my research projects. I have gained so many other noteworthy experiences while here at the USCBC, but it will likely be years before I fully realize all that I have learned or how it will all help me.
I have grown personally. Navigating another country using a foreign language is no easy task, and doing that while living on your own makes it even more challenging. This summer, for the first time in my life, I only spent the money that I had earned from working and truly began to understand what it means to “be on your own.” It’s a critical experience for many of us and I’m glad that I was able to discover it before I graduated college. I feel like I have strengthened my survival skills and become a more responsible young adult. In fact, when you finally come to the realization that you have to face fierce competition from every country in the world and that you and only you are responsible for your success within that scope, it is very stimulating. Before coming to China, I was aware of this notion in theory, but in reality, I had not felt the effects of globalization or the real-life challenges of supporting yourself.
Sitting here at gate E08 of Beijing International Airport, looking at the plane I am about to board stirs up a lot of emotion. It has been a fantastic time in China, and I owe a lot of that to being surrounded by good people, namely a great roommate and his family in Shanghai, great classmates, a generous host family in Beijing, and the diligent staff at the USCBC. I miss China already and while I don’t know how it will play into my long-term personal and professional goals, I do know that it already holds a very, very special place in my heart. Until next time, China, farewell.
Greetings from Paris!
Packing for Paris was a tad of a challenge. It is quite difficult packing a semester of your life into just a few bags! Yet, after all preparations were complete, I said goodbye to my family, once again hoped I wasn’t making a huge mistake leaving GW for a semester, and departed from JFK International Airport in New York.
After 7 hours, I arrived in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris! We were picked up by our Residential Director, Florence Claassen, at the airport along with a cadre of Sciences-Po students decked out in GW gear! Already, I was feeling at home. After taking us to our apartments and giving us a few hours to get acclimated, we were treated to a lovely welcome dinner.
The next day we were given a run down of the basics: a tour of the area, how to do laundry, how to get to school, buy groceries, phones, etc. Besides the language barrier, I was surprised at how similar a lot of it was to the United States (although there are a few crucial cultural differences).Then we had our first French class. All students are required to take a one-week, 20 hour, french survival class, followed by a guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay, an Impressionist art museum.
Day three included more class, as well as several special guest lectures from Sciences-Po faculty. We also attended a wine and cheese tasting in the evening.
On the weekend, there was a scavenger hunt around the city, which really tested our knowledge of the roads, bus and metro systems, as well as a bus tour of the city.
Finally, we started Marketing, our introductory french classes were over, and we got down to business. The capstone event in our orientation was a cruise along the Seine River.
So far Paris has its ups and downs. The city is quaint and European, but also an international metropolitan hub of art and commerce. Sciences-Po is a fantastic school in a great area. While I miss my friends and organizations back in DC, this city is lovely, and I am learning so much. My outlook remains positive, and so far, so good!
It’s hard to believe that I have been abroad traveling Europe for over two months already. I began my journey in late July using my last few weeks of summer vacation to visit my extended family in Prague, Czech Republic. From there, I made some side trips to Greece and the Czech mountains before ending up in my final destination: Vienna. So far this city has been nothing short of awesome.
An unfrequented travel destination for American students, Vienna has a unique culture in that it is the perfect blend of punctuality, easygoing people, and rich history. In my first few weeks here, I have tried my best to experience the most authentic parts of the culture. This included having a mid morning cappuccino and sachertorte (special chocolate cake with apricot frosting) at a Viennese coffeehouse, drinking wine with soda water at a Heurige (local Viennese vineyard), going for a run in the Vienna forest and watching an opera outside in the plaza of the Vienna courthouse. Although it seems like I’ve done a lot, there is still so much for me to see.
My classes here so far have been great. After orientation in the Austrian Alps I began a three-week intensive German class followed by a weeklong break. After a quick trip to Florence, Sorrento, Capri and Positano, it was time to start a regular load of classes. The best thing about the IES program I am on is that, like GWSB, my professors here have relevant business experience. My finance professor comes from his daytime job at UniCredit Bank Austria to teach our class about monetary integration among the Euro members and my economics professor comes from Budapest where he is a scholar at a university doing research on transitions from central planned economies to market economies.
I am so fortunate to be able to study abroad because it is giving me the opportunity to study business from a different perspective. Plus, I feel like I am really heading towards my goal at achieving a working knowledge of German. I hope that a lot of other students decide to take the opportunity of studying abroad, because it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Until next time! Bis Bald! Rob.
Florence: First Month In
Since landing in Florence, Italy I have had to trade my dollars for Euros, Whole Foods for the local San Lorenzo Market (cheaper, fresher and shorter lines!), cupcakes for gelato and a clothes dryer for a clothes line. My walk to class is no longer alongside the White House, but past the picturesque Duomo. While I miss D.C. and GW, Florence has been a dream so far.
College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, but studying abroad will probably be the best four months of your life. I chose to study in Florence this semester, and already one month in, I know that this experience is going to be the most unforgettable four months of my life.
Having studied Italian language both semesters my sophomore year at GW, I was anxious to challenge myself in the home of the beautiful language. While being an American is hard to hide from most Florentines (I swear they have a flawless radar to detect us), they often appreciate our efforts to speak their language. Florence has been a happy medium for learning the language. It is unbelievable the number of people who speak nearly perfect English, so rarely have I had any language “barrier” which is more common in smaller towns outside Florence. However, walking down the gorgeous streets of Florence, or through the busy San Lorenzo market, I find myself pausing to listen to conversations between the locals. My goal the end of this semester is to be able to jump into one of those Italian conversations and fool the Florentines with my Italian (wish me luck!).
Strengthening my Italian is the Italian language class in which I am enrolled. My class of five students makes it easy to participate and less intimidating to make mistakes. All those mistakes have really made me more confident in practicing the language outside the classroom. Along with Italian, I am taking Finance, Business and Government (two of my undergraduate business requirements) and Art History. My three person Finance class is pretty unique. Learning finance from a local Italian allows for conversation about the topic beyond the slides and white board notes. I was hesitant to enroll in the Art History class, because I am not one to enjoy looking at old paintings. However, my professor’s enthusiasm for the history behind each piece of art in this historical city makes it difficult to be anything but enthusiastic too.
Not only have I been able to soak in the Italian language and culture here in Florence, but I have also been able to travel throughout Italy and Europe. This past month has been full weeks of classes in this amazing city, and several unbelievable weekend trips. I am writing to you a few hours after returning from opening weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Coming to Florence, I felt like I went back in time a hundred years, while, at times, Munich felt like I was walking through streets of the future with their train system that barely makes a hum as it whizzes down the tracks. Waiting in line in the pouring rain to spend hours taking part in Germany’s most celebrated holiday was the opportunity of a lifetime. My third weekend sent me to Cinque Terre, the unbelievably stunning stretch of five small cliff- towns overlooking the Mediterranean. Last weekend I found myself climbing Mt. Vesuvius in the ancient city of Pompeii, riding a boat around the island of Capri, and spending a beach day on the shore of Positano.
All of my travels and time in Florence have been accompanied by amazing meals- pasta, paninis, brioches etc- and unique people, both of which have helped to make every moment truly remarkable so far. While I wish everyone were able to share my experiences, pictures have become the next best thing. I hope you enjoy some pictures that have captured much of my first month in Florence!
Month One in Paris:
Here’s a rundown of what’s gone on so far:
Classes: We take three classes concurrently – one GW class and two Sciences-Po classes. The GWSB class that we are just finishing up now is Introduction to Marketing with Professor Liebrenz-Himes. We have 12 hours of Marketing per week, plus a site visit to a company on Friday. I am really enjoying Marketing; although it is not the area of business that interests me the most, the structure and small size of the class really leads to some wonderful experiences.
The two Sciences-Po classes we’re taking are European Economics, and French Politics & Culture. The Sciences-Po faculty instructing us are highly qualified, world renowned intellectuals, so as you can imagine, these classes are quite difficult! You have to think on your feet, and be ready to defend your logic at all times. One student even remarked on the difficulty, “This is what it must be like going to Harvard!” Haha, well, perhaps, but the each class only meets once a week for 3 hours, so it’s not so bad.
I’m looking forward to the Marketing Final Presentation, Final Exam, and Paper Report, and for Human Resources Management and Introduction to Financial Management classes to start.
Onto more interesting things!
Trips: We have had three site visits so far, one was to Moet et Chandon, a large champagne producer. The trip was informative, we spent time with the government agency CIVC, as well as at Moet et Chandon and got to do champagne tastings at both! We learned about the champagne industry and got a tour of the vast cellar network.
The second visit was to Living Social in Paris. Much like Living Social in D.C but smaller, we had a detailed site visit and discussion with some senior Living Social employees about their business model. It really was quite a lot of fun.
The last trip was to the Sofitel and the W, which are 5 star hotels in the heart of Paris. We learned about the culture of service, and the logistics it takes to successfully run a 5 star hotel.
Several GW students have taken trips to Florence, Rome, Dublin, Barcelona, Munich (for Oktoberfest), Berlin, and London, but I prefer to explore Paris. There is so much the city has to offer and so much to do! The other weekend I checked out the Palace of Versailles, located right outside of Paris. It was truly a marvel, especially the gardens, and I recommend everyone visit at some point in their lives.
In the future, I am looking forward to our trips to Disneyland, Normandy, Brussels, and Giverny. I will possibly travel to Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, and London on my own as well.
Europe is amazing, and I recommend everyone study abroad if they can, although I do sorely miss GWSB back in D.C!
There will be more updates to come from other GWSB students, so stay posted!
Bonjour from Brussels!
The fact that I have been in Brussels for almost two months, and that my study abroad experience is nearly halfway over is hard to believe. I arrived in Belgium in August and the time has flown by ever since. In the time that seems to have disappeared, I have been busy exploring the city of Brussels, traveling, and taking classes at Vesalius College.
I arrived in Brussels with few expectations of what the city would be like, because many of the people I know have never even visited Belgium, let alone Brussels. After two months though I have gotten to know the city very well, and despite its small size, Brussels has a lot to offer. There are numerous museums, parks, and being the capital of the European Union, several different institutions to visit. Brussels also has one of the most beautiful central plazas I’ve ever seen, and is home to several cultural activities and festivals that take place. One of the best parts of the city though, although somewhat insignificant, are the frites. They are the best fries in the world and I can definitely say that I’ll be miserable without them back at GW.
Aside from Brussels, I’ve been able to fit in a lot of traveling both with my program and on my own with my friends. My program, CIEE, takes us on several trips within Belgium and in nearby countries, such as to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and to the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg. The past four weekends I’ve spent traveling with friends though. We ventured to Amsterdam, Munich for Oktoberfest, Paris, and Dublin, which within just a few hours of touring became one of my favorite cities.
In between the adventures on the weekends, classes at Vesalius College make up the weekdays. So far, the five classes I take have been great. We are required to take a French class, which has helped me improve my French quite a bit, and has proven to be quite useful in Brussels. A course on Belgian history and culture is also mandatory, but I really enjoy it. I am learning a lot about the country and Brussels in this class that I would never learn otherwise. The rest of the classes I am taking are all business classes, International Business Negotiations, Finance, and Marketing. The school is an American-style college, so these business classes are taught in ways similar to GW. However, being taught by foreign professors and having a majority of native students in my classes allows me to learn business from different perspectives.
My study abroad experience so far has been nothing short of amazing, and would recommend everyone to take advantage of the opportunity. I can only hope that my second half of the semester abroad is as good as the first. Au revoir for now!
GW offers students an incomparable experience in regards to providing an engaging environment for applying classroom knowledge to the “real world.” In some cases that is learning about Christine Lagarde’s policies at the IMF, and then wishing Happy Easter upon leaving church (I am thrilled to inform you this actually happened). In other, more formal instances, it is the ability to listen to the Armenian Ambassador speak about relations with Turkey, after a week’s lesson of lectures on the topic.
Having chosen Buenos Aires as my location for study abroad, I must admit my first focus was not applying collegiate material to the lively metropolitan city. Rather, my intentions were more improving Spanish language, enjoying the vibrant city center, and taking my first tango lesson. I quickly learned, however, that the political and corporate environment in Buenos Aires acts as a paradigm for the materials presented in class. The 3 million inhabited federal capital has thrusted upon me the fortune of a boundless learning environment once again.
It was in our first few weeks in Intro to International Business that the class was given the opportunity of a site visit at the Quilmes factory. I personally had never heard of Quilmes before my trip, but soon discovered the national Argentine draft has an overwhelming presence in the country. Restaurants, convenience stores and advertisements constantly bare the logo and the products themselves are sold everywhere.
The visit included presentations by both marketing and international resource representatives. We learned interesting marketing strategies that the company uniquely applies to each country it sells to. It is funny realizing the immense work and effort put forth into products that are so ubiquitous they become everyday staples…but therein lies the beauty of a successful business. So much of an “everyday item” in fact, that Quilmes has 75% of the Argentine beer market share. The company became the largest brewery company in the world when it merged with Anheuser- Busch, and as such, European products such as Leffe and Stella are now produced by Quilmes. The company also produces PepsiCo products such as Tropicana and Gatorade in Argentina.
This is just one example of classroom-city integration, but the exposure is constant. The ability multinational corporations have in adapting to host country norms is commendable. As you pass McDonald’s “McCafe”, you may very well need a second glance, because what you will see is leather chairs and dark wood tables with china coffee cups and delicacy baked goods. Afternoon coffee is leisurely, enjoyable, and social in Buenos Aires, and as such McDonald’s caters to the native practices. Seeing howthese multinational corporations adapt to host countries may be the most interesting application of business abroad. Hellman’s mayonnaise comes in plastic packages, not jars. Oreos are most often sold in its popular “alfajor” candy form. Stella is more often sold in the 3/4 liter bottles as opposed to individual size, and never in 6 packs.
And so I leave you with my reflection of my experience thus far. The premise of studying international business while abroad has proven to be like milk and cookies; you can have one or the other, but they are infinitely better together.
To read more about GWSB’s IBUS in Argentina program, click here.
Election Day from Abroad
Being abroad, and far from the political hub, following the presidential race requires a bit of effort. I have had to find the debates online rather than being able to turn on the news and hear the summary of the debates the next morning. In August, I had to request an absentee ballot before jumping on a plane to Florence to send in my ballot from across the Atlantic.
Politics has not always been my favorite topic of discussion, however the overlap of business and government is undeniable. Being abroad while learning more about this overlap, and during a bustling election season, has been unbelievably advantageous. Last week my Italian class almost got cancelled because I would be the only student present, but my professor thought having a conversation with me would help with my Italian. While it definitely tested my Italian, in such a small setting, I was able to hear her view on the Euro-crisis and international relations particularly in the European Union. Discussing economics and dabbing into politics with my professors and other ‘regular’ Italians has allowed me to really try to understand the European Financial Crisis and other global relations, not solely as an American, but also from the insider view of an Italian.
Aside from learning about business and government relations in the classroom, my program in Florence has brought me into the European business world. After training through the picturesque Alps for seven hours with the other business students in my program, we arrived in Geneva, Switzerland. Our trip opened with a visit to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. An intimate conversation with a communications representative opened my eyes to the vast functions of the single organization and its effect on global relationships. The WTO has over 150 country members, with the goal of creating a healthy international trade environment while settling disputes and other tensions between countries. The U.S. just recently won a case before the WTO against China for putting duties on U.S. steel exports (produced in key swing states). I came across a New York Times article the other day that suggested this victory could “buoy” Obama in the race. Intersection of business and politics? I think yes.
Studying business is inherently an international study. Globalization and the increasing volume of international trade have made understanding international relations and foreign economies essential to the study of business. But clearly, the events that occur in the business world and international trade, are also huge factors in political decisions in our country. Being abroad as a business student at this time has really provided me with the opportunity to see this big picture.
While discussions about “Obama vs Romney” are far less frequent than they’d be on campus, I have been asked numerous times about my political opinion by locals here in Italy. People here are truly interested in our views as Americans and many of them have strong opinions about our government and future President. This morning on our walk to class, my roommate and I were stopped by a local news camera and asked our choice: Romney or Obama. Whomever our country selects, I look forward to seeing the reaction of the Italians here and other Europeans as I travel the next month.
While you are all voting and watching the polls, we will be staying up late with our gelato tonight or rising early tomorrow over cappuccinos here in Italy awaiting the announcement!
This past August nine other GWSB students and I began the first ever undergrad “IBUSin Argentina” program at Universidad Torcuato di Tella, a small private business and architecture focused school in the Belgrano neighborhood of Argentina’s capital.
Buenos Aires is a bustling international city, full to the brim with passionate “Porteños”. The city offers a little something for everyone, as most big cities do, but in a unique fashion. BA is a meat and wine lovers haven, offering countless couplings of “ojo de bife” and Malbec as a expectation rather than exception. The city has a few KosherMcDonalds to cater to a Jewish population only matched by a few other cities in the world. The largely European heritage of the people intertwines with their South American location and allows for a distinct culture alltogether, with a unique dialect of spanish, internationally envied empanadas around every corner, and a general European sentiment being passed around by the people walking the crowded streets, reverberating through the archetecture, and articulated in the slang.
The following are a few notes that together compose a cross section of my thoughts on the program and experience as a whole thus far, with a focus on the business environment in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is an advertising powerhouse in South America. All the major marketing and media agencies have a branch in BA that represent their clients throughout the Latin American markets. TV ads are well polished and thought out, like this Young and Rubicam spot for Quilmes, the local brew. Out of home ads are also prevalent, and even the street signs are sponsored by telecom providers.
There are plenty of American “gringos” living in Buenos Aires looking for a cheaper rent while freelancing, starting businesses with cheaper labor, or even just craving a change of pace. There are several hangouts throughout the city where you are bound to find Americans, like a Sunday brunch spot that serves mimosas and bloodymarys alongside french toast (as opposed to the typical Argentine breakfast of toast and coffee), an English language bookstore, or even gringo comedy night in San Telmo. Plenty of people come for a visit but fall in love with the city, or one of it’s inhabitants, and have trouble saying goodbye. I have also met entrepreneurs in DC that outsource some work to Buenos Aires for cheaper labor and a similar time zone (only an hour ahead).
Any Argentine is happy to talk politics with any stranger, without the sense of Taboo that isn’t hard to come by in the States. Most people I have encountered are eager to explain their hatred for the current President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Forty-six percent of the country opposes her and even call themselves “the 46 percent” although it feels like much more when she speaks on television and the people drown her out banging on pots and pans all throughout the city.
There have also been large protests and polarized media input as the country’s major news providers present the same stories in very different lights, according to their allegiance to the left or or right sides of government. Argentina has a long history of corruption and has more than a few socio-economic challenges to overcome, despite their vast resources.
Inflation has been on the rise in Argentina, despite the government’s efforts to disguise the situation. The International Monetary Fund recently warned the Argentine government to get their numbers straight if they didn’t want to face consequences. Kirchner responded with much offense taken, assuring that she wouldn’t be bullied by them. In a recent tour to the US, she did not perform favorably on the international stage,completely ignoring and rudely responding to questions at a Harvard Q and A. Others worry she has more communist aspirations a la Chavez in Venezuela.
The government also restricts a large amount of imports in an effort to keep pesos within Argentina, and Argentinians are taxed at least 15% on credit card purchases made abroad. The official exchange rate for the US Dollar floats around 4.6 pesos to the dollar, while the “blue market” offers about 6.2 pesos to the Dollar. As of less than a year ago, Argentines are not allowed to purchase US Dollars, making it even more difficult for them to travel.
My personal favorite Argentine economic move is the government subsidy of the Big Mac at McDonalds, because the price is used as an international economic indicator (Big Mac Index). If you go into a McDonalds in BuenosAires, the average combo will cost around 45 pesos (11 USD) while the Big Mac combo costs near 25 pesos (about 5 USD). The dishonesty and uncertainty of the economic situation when paired with an increasingly tense political environment makes for a weak investment climate for this developing Latin American country.
As a developing economy with a rich culture and history, Argentina has provided a uniquely fascinating lens from which to study international business. Another benefit is to knock out all the IBUS courses in a single semester in 7 week modules as opposed to taking five classes all at once. Two of the courses, Introduction to International Business and Managing in Developing Countries, were actually taught by GW professors who flew out to join us for seven weeks at a time.
Professor Fernando Robles introduced topics of international business with cases and incorporated perspectives of Latin America with a flexible syllabus allowing students to decide what type of assignments best suit their learning style. Professor Danny Leipziger brought 28 years of World Bank experience and expert knowledge of developing countries to the classroom, allowing for engaging real-world relevancy.
Jacqueline Pels, our International Marketing professor did a fantastic job of relating the topics to both Latin America and other developing regions, and stays up to date with her passion for marketing as the director of a think tank on inclusive businesses. Our final two classes, International Finance and Doing Business in Argentina begin after our week long “spring break” at the start of next week.
Adventure & Exploration
One of the most incredible parts of studying abroad has been South America itself, and getting to know the various landscapes and cultures that are offered. From a trip to the Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, to a 20-hour bus ride to Peninsula Valdez to greet the first penguins of the season, to camping along a river beneath the Andes, to stargazing and sandboarding in the world’s driest desert located in Northern Chile, to revisiting Magellen’s passage through the heart of Patagonia, South America has provided countless incredible adventures and transformed dreams into memories.
You can see more of my adventures over at the GW Study Abroad office blog.
(written from Torres del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia)