“Studying abroad as a graduate student can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Opportunities to conduct research, gain work experience through an internship, or enroll in unique course offerings can contribute meaningfully to your educational and career aspirations.”
-University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center website
Even though nationally only about 10% of students study abroad, Carlson School students have a rich tradition of exploring international learning opportunities while enrolled in either an undergraduate or graduate degree program. The MA-HRIR program offers two main study abroad options for its students: Global Enrichment Programs which are January or May-June short-term programs, or Global Immersion Programs, which are half- and full-semester long opportunities.
We talked to four graduating MA-HRIR students about their time studying abroad and what they gained from the experience.
Kyle Swatfager just finished studying abroad in Oslo, Norway at the BI Norwegian Business School. Kyle, who was abroad for all of spring semester, says the opportunity was great from both professional and personal perspectives.
“Professionally, it allowed me to test previously-held assumptions and perspectives in a different culture to formulate myself further as a global thinker,” says Kyle. “Personally, it has afforded me the opportunity to explore my Scandinavian heritage and build my network of friends and experiences internationally.”
One of the benefits of participating in the Norwegian study abroad program was the ability to select his own courses. “I took both strategy and operations courses, which is directly relatable to my career in HR,” he says. Kyle says he gained the knowledge to be able to assist his business partners in an operations setting, and also gained experience in mergers and acquisitions.
“I firmly believe in opportunities to learn outside the classroom,” he says. “These opportunities present themselves abroad by expanding comfort zones, expanding perspective, and experiencing things first-hand.”
He shares this piece of advice to those considering studying abroad: “Take advantage of your time as a student to travel abroad because there is no better time to gain credits and life experiences,” he says.
Eniola Aderibigbe studied abroad in Stockholm, Sweden at the Stockholm School of Economics for the first half of spring semester. This isn’t Eniola’s first time abroad, as she is an international student from Nigeria, so she considers studying at the University of Minnesota as her first time abroad.
“I hope to have a career in international HR,” she says, “and considering how companies are expanding their international presence, I saw the study abroad program as an opportunity to learn and experience another culture in the classroom, business settings, and social outings.”
Coming to the United States to study I realized there is a difference between what we read about countries and what we experience in reality,” she says. “Even though there are elements of truth in the textbook readings and media, the opportunity to have a first-hand experience gives a better sense of judgment of what different parts of the world are really like.”
Reflecting on her experience, Eniola says she’s gained a “news lens for looking at how a problem is solved. I have a better understanding why it is important for businesses to understand culture difference, work culture, laws, and resources available in order to adapt and succeed in new regions or countries.”
Tracy Nwakanma spent 10 weeks studying at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Tracy took advantage of this opportunity because, “I felt it might be the last time in my life where I had the flexibility to live in and explore different countries” without being tied to a career or other responsibilities. It makes sense, then, that Tracy’s advice to students considering going abroad is, “Do it. When will you ever have the chance to take two-six months off of work and travel to a new part of the world?”
Tracy balanced her class schedule with traveling to several European countries, including Greece, France, Spain, Germany, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. “I made some new friends from all over the world,” she says, “and I was also able to discuss current global business issues and learn from people with different perspectives and experiences.”
I definitely have a new appreciation for human resources and business from a global context,” she says. “I’ve learned that within Europe, HR and business strategies differ drastically depending on the country and company. “I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned and use my experience of different cultures as a guide in my career.”
Anni Stringini also studied at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland for 10 weeks. This was Anni’s second time studying abroad, as she spent time in Rome as an undergraduate student. She chose to participate in a second opportunity, she says, because “it gave me the opportunity to not only learn more about other cultures and business from a global perspective, but the opportunity to travel around Europe during the off time.”
Anni says her time abroad “gave me the chance to learn more about different cultures and how business is conducted in different parts of the world.” Not only were her classes geared toward international business, she says, “but my international classmates brought their own experiences into class through examples and discussion, which I found to be very valuable.”
The 10 weeks went by much faster than Anni had anticipated. “I was a little nervous being gone so long,” she says, “but it went really quickly, and was a great alternative for those who don’t want to commit to the full semester.”
Like Tracy’s advice, Anni says, “if you want to have an international experience or did not get the opportunity to do so s an undergrad, take the time now because once you are working, it will be harder to get that kind of time off to travel and see other parts of the world.”