Visiting with top executives, touring bustling factories, and meeting with micro-credit applicants is not an everyday occurrence for Marriott School undergraduate students—unless you happen to be on a business study abroad.
“I still can’t believe that one day we were climbing the Great Wall and a couple days later touring a Mazda factory in Japan and meeting with their CFO,” says Heidi Green, a senior from Centerville, Utah, majoring in finance. “We met with top executives, factory owners, NGOs, and government officials. It was awesome to be able to see business theory in practice.”
Each year, the Kay and Yvonne Whitmore Global Management Center sponsors foreign learning experiences for undergraduate business students to places like Asia, Europe, and South America. For most, these are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Creating opportunities and programs to help internationalize domestic students is part of the mission of the Whitmore Global Management Center.
“Because of advances in technology, communication, and transportation, globalization is becoming more and more evident in the products we buy and use every day,” says Lee Radebaugh, Whitmore Global Management Center director. “As a result, we believe it’s important for students to recognize the competitive advantages and disadvantages available in different countries and regions. We want them to think more deeply about where a product comes from and to better understand different cultures.”
By spending three to four weeks in a specific region of the world, students are able to not only see local business practices and customs but also learn about the culture and interact with the local people. They are able to see how effectively or ineffectively theories from their business textbooks are applied.
“The biggest surprise of the study abroad was learning how diverse each country is,” says Spencer Johnson, a senior from Alpine, Utah, majoring in management. “I served my mission in Taiwan and expected all Asian countries to be fairly similar. But we discovered very different and unique business cultures in places like Vietnam and Japan.”
A business study abroad explores a large amount of curriculum in a very short period of time. To make the most of this experience, students are required to prepare academically before leaving the United States.
“We analyzed each market’s financial and economic structure as well as studied their histories and cultures before leaving campus,” says Joan Young, co-director of the 2007 Asia Business Study Abroad. “On the road we completed several case studies and combined previous research with site visits to round out the learning experience.”
Students who participate in a business study abroad not only receive academic credit but also credit toward fulfilling the Global Management Certificate, which is designed to add an international component to a Marriott School education.
“It was fascinating to meet with European companies like Ducati and learn how they have marketed such a small brand and turned it into an international name,” says Garrett Bradham, a junior from Suwanee, Georgia, majoring in international relations with a minor in management. “We also met with expats to learn about the challenges and opportunities of taking a job overseas.”
Regardless of the location, each program offers students unique learning opportunities and a healthy dose of adventure. “We had been on a bumpy bus for more than an hour and had tromped through the mud in the middle of a downpour in Vietnam,” Green says. “But the entire time I kept thinking this is one the coolest experiences of my life.”