B-School Bon Voyage: Why Every Business Student Should Study Abroad

Written by Sydney February 22, 2017

I don't think I've stopped smiling since I got here...my cheekbones might hurt when these three months are over.

Flying into a new city at night is my favorite part of the plane ride

CIMBA's Tippie College of Business students looking glamorous for our first gourmet dinner

Posing for a picture by one of Amsterdam's many canals with my smiling, frozen, travel buddies

One of the coolest moments of my life: climbing 551 steps to the top of St. Peter's Basilica

As a diehard Hawkeye, I was truly bothered by the idea of missing out on my second semester of my junior year. Having only three semesters left in the heaven known as Iowa (yes, I just made a Field of Dreams reference), I had no interest in cutting it short.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t want to ever stray from my midwestern bubble; I just told myself that I would travel the world someday. Well, I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty bad track record of getting things done when I use words like “someday” or “eventually.” Acknowledging this, I decided to study abroad, but with some hesitation. However, it hasn’t taken me long to realize that not only was conquering FOMO (aka the fear of missing out) a lot easier than I thought it would be, but that this is the best time of my life to be taking on this adventure.

The most obvious reason that college is the best time to travel the world is expenses. Because you (along with your fellow travel buddies) have the sole goal of seeing everything you can, for as inexpensive as you can, it’s perfectly acceptable to be a college student staying in a hostel, booking EasyJet flights, and condensing your entire existence into a backpack. And because business students tend to be futuristic, analytical, and motivated, living out your dreams on a college student budget is a lot easier than you think it might be.

Not only has studying abroad given me an exponential return on investment, but it has also made me less of a diva. I’ve become far less concerned with the places I stay, and more entranced in my bunk mate’s life story. I’ve lost interest in deciding what shoes to wear, and care more so where they take me. While us business students tend to be very motivated by money and other incentives, it’s refreshing to put that in the passenger seat and let the social and tenacious side lead the way. The epiphanies are truly sempiternal when you’re able to realize that experiences will always trump things.

While you’ll have many of these life-changing, time-stopping, introspective moments while traveling, it’s important to note that traveling is just the whipped cream and cherry on top of what you’re learning in the classroom; after all, it is called STUDYING abroad for a reason.

Back home, it becomes very easy to see something on the news about another country, and then move on (I learned that this means I’m only being exposed to less than 5% of the world when I put my blinders on!). However, that’s not so easy to do while abroad (and that’s a good thing!). This semester, I have classes with professors from different countries, the opportunity to engage with Italian students of all ages, and I’m even taking a class called Business, Culture, & Society which has begun to dilute a lot of my ignorance about Europe. While my home university, and specifically the business school, pushes the value of cultural competency, it’s a whole different level of complexity and dynamism seeing this in action, and being a part of it. While looking back now, I can’t believe I went 21 years being a shell of a global citizen, can you imagine if I would have stuck to my “someday” timeline?!

As a millennial business school student, I have been taught for the last three years the importance of not only expanding my knowledge and expertise in my field, but also developing the soft skills that lead to successful professionalism, and just “adulting” in general. Studying abroad has allowed me to put my knowledge to the test in an experiential learning setting with the world serving as my laboratory. As a management major, I’ve learned extensively about adaptability, problem solving, and teamwork, but being able to apply them almost instantaneously solidifies their importance, as well as my understanding. So while in the classroom at CIMBA, I’ve undergone Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making training; however, the true application is when you find yourself lost in Amsterdam in a blizzard with no wifi, and you still make it out alive.

One of my professors is always talking about how if we give to the universe, it will give back to us. While I’m not so sure if I was sold on this idea during my first week here, I’m starting to see some changes in my thinking…

Fate gave me a business mindset. Chance gave me the opportunity to attend a business school that would give me the toolkit to succeed. Destiny put me in the CIMBA study abroad program with 80 other like-minded individuals. And for that, I feel lucky.