Students gain global business knowledge in Prague and London

Students gain global business knowledge in Prague and London

Undergraduate business students in Prague.
Undergraduate business students in Prague.

Combining travel to foreign countries with an itinerary chock-full of exploration and guided learning is guaranteed to lead to an exceptional educational experience. With this in mind, a group of 17 Oakland University business students set flight for the Czech Republic and England during winter break for a front-row seat in learning about the European Union.

The group was composed of undergraduates from OU’s Business Scholars Program, led by Professor Ruihua Joy Jiang, and MGT 4900 Globalization Impact in Europe, led by Professor Frank Cardimen.

Cardimen explains that traveling to Prague, Czech Republic and London, England “gave us an opportunity to study the European Union, study the history of the Euro, and look at two countries within the European Union that are in conflict with it.”

Study is one thing, but these students went beyond, experiencing foreign cultures and speaking with international businesses to aid their grasp of the impact of globalization on business today.

In Prague, students first met with the International Study Programs team at their headquarters. Jana Vodickova, director of sales and operations for ISP, talked with students about her firsthand experience growing up in the Czech Republic under communism, and what happened to businesses when the country changed to a capitalist economy.

Philip Carter, MKT ‘18, a MGT 4900 student says this presentation gave him an appreciation for the importance of historical context when it comes to business. “She really explained that having an open mind when interacting with people who are different from us is so important when it comes to business and forming relationships,” says Carter.

One of the many changes that came with the transformation from communism to capitalism is increasing encouragement of innovation in business, says Jiang. “What really makes it interesting is how entrepreneurship started to boom after Czech got rid of the communist command economy.”

To get a feel for the renewed spirit of entrepreneurship in Prague, the group visited Gravelli, a new business startup that uses innovative techniques to incorporate concrete in furniture, design and architecture. Here the OU business students learned about the operation of running a startup in a post-communist country.

Carter says the visit resonated with him because it demonstrated the importance of believing in yourself as a businessperson, and especially as an entrepreneur. “I would like to run my own business one day, and it was encouraging to see someone so passionate about something that he thought of, and really go at it 100 percent,” he adds.

After five days in Prague, the group traveled to England, where tours included Windsor Castle, Oxford University, Christchurch and Blenheim Palace. The itinerary also allowed time for exploring London.

To gain a business perspective from a trade partner across the Atlantic, the group met with a panel of three United Kingdom business professionals, who explained their views on how Brexit will affect the economy of the U.K. and the E.U.

“It turned out to be one terrific session,” says Cardimen. “They were very honest and they came from three different fields: accounting, media and a non-profit corporation.”

The group also visited Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” accounting organizations in the world.

Jahnavi Gudi, finance major and OU Business Scholar, says visiting Deloitte and learning about career options abroad will significantly affect her professional trajectory.

“The biggest impact,” she says, “is knowing that I want to go international. Before this trip I didn’t even know that was an option. It always sounded interesting, something you would see in the movies, something you would never really consider. But after this trip it became a lot more realistic.”

In feedback forms, students describe the trip as life-changing, allowing them to gain a new perspective on European political and historical issues. Through opening their eyes to new cultures and experiences, students enthusiastically agree the trip allowed them to see the interconnection of globalization, business, culture, politics and more.

As Oakland business students explored new environments and expanded their understanding of global business, they also gained confidence in their ability to navigate the globe and embrace out-of-the-box learning experiences.

“I feel that in any program for high-achieving students international travel should be a necessary piece of it,” says Jiang. “It’s an eye-opening experience, especially for our students who tend to be local, they tend to be born and raised in this area and don’t have actual exposure to a foreign culture.”

Everybody is limited by their experience, says Jiang. The best way to combat this limitation is to widen the net of experience.