International study challenges students to look at the big picture. Whether a student travels outside the US for a short course or for a semester, the benefits are both immediate and long term, personal and professional.
Short Courses, Big Impact
Assistant Dean John Hedeman planned the inaugural study trip for students in the College’s Honors Program and expects to offer a similar course each year. Hedeman selected Japan and Korea for the first Honors trip in the spring of 2005, countries he felt would challenge the students’ thinking in ways that go beyond the standard questions about the similarities and differences in countries and cultures. “We want students to think of the big picture. This spring, for example, Honors students were challenged to consider the relationship between the cultures and the manufacturing of automobiles,” he said. Honors students will travel to the European Union for the spring 2006 immersive study trip.
Hedeman believes these study trips are valuable to students because they provide them with experiences not available on campus. “Having an international experience while being an undergraduate in the College of Business broadens the base of skills for a student to do better in the classroom, during an internship, and in a future job,” he said. “They see business with new eyes.”
Erica Burks, a sophomore in accountancy and a member of the Honors Program, took part in the May trip to Asia. She thinks the Honors Program offerings provide benefits such as the immersive study experience for freshmen that other students don’t have access to until their junior or senior years. The most valuable part of the trip, said Burks, was the exposure to various marketing strategies – from how a manufacturer markets the car to getting it onto the dealers’ lots. Her advise to incoming freshmen is to prepare for the trip by doing research on the country, culture and industry being studied. “Otherwise you play catch up.”
Shorter study abroad programs similar to the Honors trip to Japan and Korea are offered by the College each year during breaks to a variety of locations. Christine Gozdziak, the associate director of Business International Programs, said that her top priority is to develop more short-term programs to more locations in the near future. While the locations and subject matter vary, the payback to the students is consistently valuable.
Semester-long Study, Similar Big Benefits
Teresa Dorsey, the recently retired director of Business International Programs, a unit of the Office of Undergraduate Affairs, said the College has numerous exchange agreements with colleges and universities outside the US. College of Business students can also study abroad through the campus Study Abroad Office that is part of the International Programs Office. Contracts with each institution spell out which classes are available and what credit is given for those classes upon returning to the Urbana campus. Such arrangements give participating students a clearer understanding of how their overseas classes will impact their program of study at Illinois.
Alyse Probst, a senior in finance, studied for a semester in Europe. The longer time outside the US offered her a chance to take classes and to travel in the region. “My family is originally from Germany and Austria, and it was important to learn more about my family culture and history,” she said. “I also realized the importance of learning about finance and business in a more global impact.” For Probst, the most rewarding aspect of the trip was finding out “how to be independent, to travel on my own, and how to survive in a country where I did not know the language or culture perfectly.”
College of Business students who have taken part in academic study outside the US give the experience an enthusiastic thumbs-up. The benefits are personal, professional, and often profound.