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Combining Cultures: Students Participate in Study Abroad Trip to Paris and Munich

Recently, 22 Saint Peter’s University undergraduate and graduate students participated in the Paris and Munich study abroad course to Europe with Karl C. Alorbi, Ph.D., assistant professor of business administration. The curriculum for the trip was designed to expose students to the global business environment through a short-term study visit to selected overseas countries to help to develop a better and more practical understanding of the political, economic, legal and cultural environments of the sites visited.

To gain a better perspective on conducting business in Germany and France, students visited such companies as the BMW headquarters and the Invest in Bavaria Headquarters, both in Munich. The group was also hosted by the American Consul General in Munich, William Moeller.

“To actually be in the country is much different than being at home and doing research on how to do business abroad,” said Samuel Habib ’14, a graduate student in the master of business administration program. “This gave us first hand perspectives on information you simply cannot find on Google. Seeing firsthand how different businesses operate and how business etiquette is much different than back home was just priceless.”

As part of the trip, students had the opportunity to speak with Vice President of Invest in Bavaria Christian Gnam, and asked such questions as “How stable do you think the European Union is considering the situation of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal?” and “Do you think the European Union can survive on a single currency and not a single government?”

“We had the opportunity to sit with him and ask as many questions and gain as much insight as we sought,” said Habib.

During free time, students went sightseeing to such locations as the Palace of Versailles in France, the Neuschwachstein Castle in Germany and the birthplace of Mozart in Salzbeug, Austria.

The University offers several faculty-led travel courses for students throughout the academic year. Travel courses represent an affordable way for students to study abroad, and credits can be counted toward a semester’s course load. Eligible students can also apply for financial aid to cover the program’s fees.

“Trips like these are important for our business students because it exposes them to different cultures across the world,” said Dr. Alorbi. “It is one thing to read or learn about other cultures and countries in the classroom. It is a different learning experience when you are actually exposed to the other country and culture in a real life setting.”

Habib agrees with this notion, saying, “As a business major, I learned that the backbone of being successful in international business is culture. I learned that culture programs people both mentally and physically, from hand gestures to the things they believe and do. Understanding these complicated norms, traditions and values are a set of skills only traveling will help a person attain.”

For business students, especially those considering a career in international business, study abroad courses provide a number of advantages.

“In terms of academic and career benefits, students that study abroad typically demonstrate growth in the following areas: general cognitive skills, interpersonal and relationship skills, tolerance for ambiguity and adaptability, cross-cultural competency and personal traits,” said Wendy Garay, M.S.Ed., director of the Center for Global Learning at Saint Peter’s University. “This is significant because these characteristics were also found to make a successful career professional.”

Habib plans to take what he has learned from his trip overseas into the classrooms of Saint Peter’s University.

“I can share my experience with the classroom and how life is completely different outside of the USA,” he said. “I feel like I benefit myself and other students by sharing what I learned when I was away.”