Student Perspective on Study Abroad
Eberhardt School of Business
Senior marketing student Katrina Sohriakoff connected her study in business with her minor in Spanish while studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain. Sohriakoff stays busy with involvement in several business and social organizations on campus. As a member of Delta Sigma Pi and Alpha Phi, she has held many leadership positions. She also served as the Eberhardt School's marketing intern over the last several months.
Studying abroad is an invaluable experience on so many levels-culturally, personally, and scholastically. Although one's semester abroad is typically portrayed as an "academic vacation," most programs offer a rigorous course selection to students, allowing them to get a comparable education to that of their home university. Many also provide internship and job opportunities to deepen the cultural involvement and give students some practical work experience.
During my stay in Bilbao, Spain at la Universidad del Pais Vasco, I not only took several Spanish courses but I was able to keep up with my major as well by fulfilling my introductory marketing requirements abroad. While I received the same quality of education and learned the same basic material from an American textbook, my course was different in that we drew from local Spanish examples to demonstrate the principles being taught. This international perspective, I found, added a refreshing twist to the course material and made the students more deeply evaluate the similarities and differences in the two cultures in which we lived.
It was my experiences outside of the classroom, though, that made the greatest impact on my education. In all of my attempts to use the foreign currency, speak a foreign language and understand the cultural norms and taboos, I learned that it takes a great deal of effort to communicate in an international setting and that even the slightest misunderstanding can lead to an unexpected outcome. But as time went on and I gained more experience and practice in handling these transactions, I grew to become a more patient and tolerant person and eventually learned to pick up on the social cues.
My time abroad also made me realize that as the commercial world becomes more international, and therefore more intercultural, each party needs to be willing to concede some of their own expectations to meet the needs of the other. While part of the process of conducting international business is researching different cultures and how they conduct their business dealings, the most valuable tool is having first-hand interactions with the people of various cultures in a non-professional setting. It is from these encounters that I learned the most about what is considered appropriate and what to avoid, their expectations, as well as their perceptions of the American culture. These interactions were truly eye-opening and I believe that they will give me an advantage in dealing with any future international business situations.
In speaking with other business students who have gone abroad, it appears to me that getting experience outside of the U.S. makes people more perceptive and humble in the sense that they no longer believe that the American way is always the right way. We have a lot to learn from other countries and cultures; what better way to use this formative time in college than to try to discover these lessons?
I encourage all students to explore a study abroad option-whether it's for a summer, a semester or a year to gain valuable life experiences which will surely enrich their time at Pacific as well as beyond.