This summer, Les Hollingsworth, director of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Business, led a short-term faculty-led study abroad program to Hochschule Rhein Main in Wiesbaden, Germany. Three students participated in the two-week program to earn credit toward their business major: Everett Wegge, Molly Brooks and Sara Ditchman.
“I have always wanted to study abroad,” said Molly Brooks a junior from Plymouth, Wisconsin. “I love Germany and I always wanted to go; this was the perfect opportunity.”
“It’s different to read in a text book what a place is like versus actually being there,” said Ditchman, a sophomore from Batavia, Illinois. “There is only so much you can get from classroom experience.”
The curriculum focused on marketing, marketing careers and intercultural leadership. The program brought students and faculty from across the globe together.
“The first week we had students form UW-Platteville, University of Kansas, Wiesbaden (Germany), a Spaniard student, a French student and a faculty member from Cape Town (South Africa),” said Hollingsworth. “It was really cool having all these people from different places in the same room.”
The students were issued a project from a German technology company and split into cross-national teams. “Watching students make their way through the intercultural and communication issues was pretty awesome. It doesn’t get any more real than that,” said Hollingsworth.
“The students were fantastic, and they taught me so much about myself and how to work with other cultures,” said Brooks, who is majoring in human resource management. “There were definitely points when we worked in groups and had a language break and it was a stopping point – it was learning how to overcome and how to work well with others from different backgrounds.”
Ditchman, who is double majoring in business and fine arts, said she enjoyed communicating with faculty from all the universities. “We had a professor from South Africa lecture about how to face social issues in marketing when your product has something to do directly with that issue; it was something I’ve never thought about before. It was eye-opening hearing from people who have dealt with those situations,” she said. “To have an entire week full of people who are experts in their fields and be able to hear from them and talk to them directly through the different trips we did was beneficial.”
Outside of the classroom students traveled to different parts of Germany to receive a better understanding of the country’s culture and history. They attended a field trip to Mainz – the home of Johannes Gutenberg, toured Wiesbaden and went inside St. Elizabeth – which is known worldwide as the “blue church.” One excursion included a castle tour, a boat trip on the Rhine River and a visit to Rhudesheim’s renowned drosselgasse . The program was even highlighted by a German news station.
Hollingsworth emphasized the importance of students gaining international experiences, particularly in light of the United States changing relationships with the European Union and other trade partners.
“Industry partners have repeatedly told us that international competence is increasingly important so we want to do everything we can to meet that demand,” said Hollingsworth. “It’s also a huge part of our mission both as an institution and in the School of Business to create an engaged global citizenry. We have been deliberately trying to increase our opportunities in the School of Business for students to, at the very least, get out of the country and experience a taste of international life.”
“It will be great to say, I do have experience traveling and have experience working with people from different cultures,” said Ditchman. “I took this whole leadership camp in which we specifically learned how to do this. I think in a career if you’re not able to communicate with people internationally it’s a lot harder; this experience had real-world applications.”
Brooks encourages others to take the leap out of their comfort zone. “I cannot say enough good things because it was the perfect study abroad,” she said. “The first week it was structured and the second week we were on our own. I would walk home from class and I felt so immersed in the culture. I felt like I was on my own.”
Hollingsworth is working to increase both short programs and semester opportunities for students. “I want to give students an array of packages that meets their budget and provides valuable and interesting experiences.”