Thursday, February 16, 2012
'Internationalizing' perspectives on career, life
Awesome Alpine landscapes overwhelm MBA students studying in the mountainous countries around Innsbruck, Austria, but more subtle landscapes strike students just as deeply when they begin to notice lifestyles and business practices.
“Each country we visited in Europe had its own unique sense of pride,” said Rebecca Sluss of Celebration, a pride evident in business practices. Salzburg’s Stiegl brewery, for instance, used only Austrian raw materials to make its authentic Austrian beer.
“Europeans are proud,” said Kayla Richmond of Fort Myers. “They appreciate their heritage and want to keep businesses in their country.” Austrians who live only five minutes from the border won’t go to another country to buy goods even if it saves them money. “They want their money to stay in Austria.”
European lifestyles struck other students as distinctly different from what they knew.
“My perception was Europeans have more of a meaningful social life,” said Reggie Lambert of Winter Garden. “They make time to enjoy life and appear to have more balance. In the U.S. there is this tendency to stay ahead and the definition of ‘stay ahead’ is to work…work while missing out on life.”
“From the moment we enter kindergarten, Americans are competing in some form or fashion,” said Matt Reynolds of Fort Myers. “I believe we sacrifice too much for the bottom line. In Europe the bottom line is a concern, but it appears that work-life-balance, family and happiness in general takes precedence.”
Different cultural and business landscapes are important lessons of the MBA Summer International Program, said Dr. Becky Oliphant, program director. It not only internationalizes students’ perspectives, but they gain understanding of themselves and their career plans, and return better prepared as world-class business professionals.
“The heightened awareness and understanding doesn’t happen just in European studies,” she said. “It happens in all study abroad (programs). Being immersed in a new culture puts students’ brains in hyper mode to absorb and learn in all dimensions and with all senses.”
Since the program began in 2006, Oliphant has led some 175 students to Italy, Germany, Austria, China and Japan, and she is planning trips to Australia, New Zealand and Korea.
The July 11-Aug. 5 international program included more than classroom business studies. Students visited a silver mine, an Italian winery, the Munich BMW plant, Stiegl Brewery, Grassmayer Bell Foundry and operations of Riedel Glass and Swarovski Crystal. They also toured castles, cities, the Dachau Memorial Camp, paraglided and rock-climbed down a canyon stream.
Seeing European manufacturing and production facilities gave students a deeper appreciation of European craftsmanship and quality.
“Most businesses refuse to sacrifice quality for quantity,” said Richmond, a trait she particularly noticed at the Stiegl Brewery. “Its priorities do not include selling to countries like the U.S. because, in the exportation, selling and purchasing of the beer, the story of Stiegl would be lost.”
Companies want customers to appreciate their product, she said.
“It’s all about the experience and enjoying things in life, instead of an impersonal experience when you purchase things in countries like the U.S. or China,” she said. “Americans are more willing to pay for the cheaper good or service instead of one that costs a little more, but is of better quality.
“In Europe, it is not about finding the cheapest route.”
Enjoying things in life includes enjoying work, said Reynolds. “It seemed that most of the workers we visited with loved what they did and really enjoyed being at work,” he said. “Wolfgang, our winery guide, had a passion for wine, and you could tell he loved sharing his experiences with us. Another guy told me he has the best job in the world.”
The summer experience may change his life, said Reynolds.
“The basic lesson I learned is that it is important to take the time to slow down and enjoy life,” he said. “It made me realize that I’m spending too much of my time worrying about tomorrow, building my resume, keeping an eye on my checks-and-balances rather than enjoying today.”
Another student, Nick Fantini of Windemere, said he gained a career advantage. “I truly feel this experience will give me a unique advantage in the workplace,” said the 14-year Disney employee. “I’ll have experience and an emotional perspective that few peers or leaders possess. I plan to leverage this perspective to grow my career and better create a memorable experience for our international clients and guests.”
For more information on international MBA study opportunities, check out the program website, or call (386) 822-7436 or email Oliphant at firstname.lastname@example.org.