Another round of Olin BSBA students will prepare to evaluate their study abroad opportunities when the annual Olin Study Abroad Fair takes place on Wednesday. We bring you the stories of two students—Katie Zara and Matt Goldberg—who share some reflections on their own experiences abroad.
Zara, BSBA ’19, studied finance and organization and strategic management at Singapore Management University in the spring before her graduation. Goldberg, BSBA ’18, meanwhile, attended Universidad Carlos III Madrid to study marketing and leadership and strategic management, with a minor in Spanish.
The study abroad fair is February 6, from 2-4 p.m. in Simon Hall, and will provide an opportunity to learn more about the array of study abroad programs at Olin. Representatives from the global programs staff, prior participants and program representatives will be on hand to answer questions.
Here are Zara’s and Goldberg’s thoughts on a handful of questions the Olin Blog posed:
Why did you go abroad?
Zara: I decided to go abroad because I thought there was great value in living and learning in a totally new environment. I had never really traveled before and I wanted to expand my understanding of the world and have new experiences. I saw study abroad as a rare opportunity to explore new countries and cultures with other students in the same situation, with support and guidance from WashU and the program.
Goldberg: I decided to go abroad because I knew I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity to live in another country for an extended period of time. I also wanted to improve my Spanish language ability.
What skills did you gain from going abroad?
Zara: I think I acquired and strengthened many skills by going abroad. I became more understanding of and appreciative of other cultures and international business. My ability to help lead and work in a team of people with different backgrounds, different perspectives and different work habits/methods was strengthened. Additionally, I learned many things regarding how to safely and effectively plan trips to other countries.
Goldberg: I gained many skills while abroad related to speaking Spanish, cultural awareness and learning how to travel. However, the most important skill was learning how to adapt to new situations that constantly presented themselves during my study abroad semester. The ability to adjust on the fly is very valuable and something I directly attribute to studying abroad.
What was your most valuable experience abroad?
Zara: My most valuable experience abroad was the time I spent engaging with local people in the places I went—both while traveling and while staying in my host country, Singapore. Making the extra effort to approach people and ask about their culture, their traditions and their lives can lead to extraordinary experiences and create friendships (even if temporarily, while traveling). This allowed me to have a more immersive experience.
Goldberg: My most valuable experience was living with a host family for the entirety of my study abroad experience. This allowed me to fully immerse myself in Spanish culture and made me feel connected to the local people.
How did you select your study abroad program?
Zara: I read through and lightly researched every program listed on the study abroad site because I had never been to any of the countries. I have dreamed of traveling to Europe, and knew I would make a trip one day, so I chose Singapore. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something totally new to me. At the time, I thought I might as well travel to Southeast Asia now or else I may never go—and now I can’t wait to go back and continue traveling to new places.
Goldberg: I selected my program because it was the only Spanish speaking program offered to b-school undergrads. (Note: Olin now runs three programs in Spanish-speaking countries: two in Spain and one in South America.)
What would you advise students thinking about going abroad to consider?
Zara: I would advise students to really think about why they are going abroad and what they want to get out of their experience. It can seem scary going into something like this “alone,” but I would advise students not to follow their friends. Initially, I didn’t really know the other students on my program, but made lifelong friends with WashU students and exchange students from around the world. Don’t make any sacrifices. Do this experience for YOU and you’ll have an amazing time.
Goldberg: I would advise students not to select a particular country just because your friends are going there. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and go somewhere unconventional even if you don’t know other people on the program. Also, once you’re abroad, say “yes” to as many things as possible. You never know when you’ll have another chance to have a similar opportunity.