Taking the Classroom to Europe

PROVO, Utah – Aug 26, 2022 – Thirty experience design and management (ExDM) students traveled to Europe this summer to climb glaciers, see puffins, and participate in immersive games and performances. These activities were part of a BYU Marriott School of Business study abroad program dedicated to furthering students’ understanding of how to design memorable experiences.

The two-week trip across May and June 2022 took the group to England, Scotland, and Iceland. ExDM professors and program directors Brian Hill and Neil Lundberg wanted students to see how ExDM principles apply both outside of the classroom and anywhere in the world. Hill says he and Lundberg chose Europe because the region is one of the most advanced areas globally in experience design research and implementation.

“The best way to understand experiences is to have and be involved in them, so visiting countries that highly value those moments was exciting,” says Katie Hugie, a senior in the ExDM program from Franklin, Tennessee. “One of my big takeaways was seeing each place’s level of commitment to creating amazing experiences. I can try to implement that same dedication in my classes and the experiences I create moving forward.”

Part of the study abroad program’s course requirements included a journaling project meant to help students capture their thoughts at various destinations. Mary Anderson, an ExDM senior from Cincinnati, appreciated that the task facilitated understanding experiences in a new light. “Journaling prompted me to be more introspective. Even more importantly, I was able to understand what was important and impactful to me in each moment,” she explains. The journals were also useful resources when Hill and Lundberg talked to the group on bus rides between activities about what everyone learned, allowing for further insight and learning.

Beyond being on the receiving end of unique and thrilling experiences, the students designed their own activities, practicing a process vital to their future careers. Each of the trip’s four main stops had various visits planned by Hill and Lundberg, with one additional experience at each location prepared by students. The four areas were individually assigned to a different team of students, with each team creating an activity before leaving Provo for the rest of the group to participate in upon arrival.

For example, the London team scheduled time in the West End to see Hamilton, while the students turned from spectators to actors at the trip’s next stop in outer England when that destination’s team put on a Shakespeare performance in Stratford-upon-Avon, the playwright’s birthplace. The Scotland team members took their fellow students chocolate sampling, and the Iceland team led a puffin-watching tour.

“Conducting an activity was one of the coolest aspects of the whole program,” Hugie says. “Design thinking requires constantly trying to think about the needs of and empathize with others, so planning for people in our group provided a unique perspective and experience.”

As Hugie, Anderson, and their peers returned to the United States, each considered how to use what they learned in Europe in their ExDM careers. For example, Hugie works at a gym, where she helps members share their personal-fitness journeys. She sees similarities between her work and that of the tour guide who took her through a castle in England while telling stories about the historical individuals who lived there. “I realized the same principles used to tell a story about Henry the Eighth and his life could apply to a fitness story,” Hugie says.

While the educational benefits of the program were important for each student, Hill says the trip did much more. “Even more important for me than providing educational aspects is ensuring students have personal experiences that are transformative and broaden their views of the world,” he explains. “And the best thing that happens on a trip like this is the building of strong connections between students, resulting in deep relationships that will last beyond college.”

Anderson agrees, adding that the connections she forged put the program in a unique light. “I underestimated the insight I would gain from participating in various activities with other ExDM students,” she says. “We were in Europe to understand how to design better experiences. Being able to compare and contrast different moments with other people who care about ExDM principles the same way that I do was beneficial and eye-opening.”

The ExDM group at the end of their trip. Students made paper plate awards to celebrate the experiences they had together. Photo courtesy of Mary Anderson.
The ExDM group at the end of their trip. Students made paper plate awards to celebrate the experiences they had together. Photo courtesy of Mary Anderson.
ExDM seniors Katie Hugie (right) and Natalie Martin (left) at a glacier in Iceland. Photo courtesy of Katie Hugie.
ExDM seniors Katie Hugie (right) and Natalie Martin (left) at a glacier in Iceland. Photo courtesy of Katie Hugie.
ExDM senior Mary Anderson (right) at Stonehenge. Photo courtesy of Mary Anderson.
ExDM senior Mary Anderson (right) with ExDM junior Emma Larson (left) at Stonehenge. Photo courtesy of Mary Anderson.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller