This March, eighteen Bryan School students spent their spring break in Belgium, cumulating a semester-long joint project with graduate and undergraduate students from the Université Catholique de Louvain. As part of their coursework for Management 303: Experience Business Abroad, the students spent the better part of a week collaborating with their European counterparts on business plans that outline opportunities for companies to expand their products and services internationally.
Dr. Nir Kshetri and trip organizer Bryan Tony traveled with the students to Louvain-la-Neuve – a city that was built more than half a century ago to house the French-speaking university. Students spent their days on campus, breaking into small groups to collaborate on project summaries and prepare presentations, and taking note of the contrasts and commonalities of American and European universities. They were immersed in the country’s culture, spending their evenings in the homes of the Belgian students or out on the town with locals and fellow classmates.
MBA student Olga Gumenyuk found the Belgians to be quite open to new experiences and highly knowledgeable of American culture, but says that she prefers the American education system over the European model. “There is much more communication between students and professors in American universities. In the U.S., people follow up with one another more and project deadlines are clearer.”
Dr. Kshetri explains that many of those communication differences are due to the transactional nature of American higher education. “One of the main differences here is that students are paying for their education,” says Kshetri. “Professors here are expected to provide regular feedback to our students, whereas in Europe, they are not; normally, there is just one test given at the end of the semester.”
International business major Charlescia “Cece” Walton was struck by the antiquity and historical significance of the country. “I was surprised to learn that the Battle of the Waterloo was fought just 25 miles from Louvain-la-Neuve,” she shares. Walton fondly recounts the quaint beauty of the easily-navigable town, which is dotted throughout with pedestrian-friendly pathways and vibrant murals painted by locals – many of them university students.
Upon their return to the States, the American students hosted the Belgians, reciprocating with lodging and hospitality. Gumenyuk had one student assigned to her and ended up hosting two additional students throughout the week. “Their impression is shared by the host, and I consider it an important responsibility,” she says. “They really enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in discussions. They liked asking questions and learning about our day-to-day lives. And they especially enjoyed the variety and options for food.”
“They were amazed by Greensboro and taken by the beauty of UNCG’s campus,” Walton says of her Belgian visitors. “They really did their research before coming. They knew about the Miles Davis trumpet and asked to go the music building to see it.”
As the week came to an end, the student groups presented their papers to Dr. Kshetri and his Belgian colleagues. Their expanded knowledge of international business was evident, Kshetri says. He is grateful for the Bryan School’s commitment to the affordable international travel opportunities it provides for students.
“This class was perfect for me,” says Walton, who is planning a future in international consulting after completing her masters in international business – a dual graduate degree she plans to complete both in the U.S. and abroad.