Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Is studying abroad valued in the workplace?


The importance of international experience in the workplace is commonly acknowledged among executives as a valued part of the skill set necessary for future managers. In fact, most organizations have a recruiting plan that specifically identifies applicants with international experience, such as study abroad. Almost one-third of senior executives report having studied abroad during their own college careers, and 84 percent of students who have traveled abroad during college feel the experience has given them valuable job skills.

At the end of the day, there is no longer such a thing as domestic or local business. Every business is now, in some way, affected by the international marketplace. All you have to do is take a look at the “made in” labels on products when you’re in Wal-Mart to understand the sheer enormity of the international impact on our economy. Even the small mom-and-pop businesses in downtown Springfield are affected in some way — be it suppliers, raw materials, manufacturing components, production processes, services or customers. The international marketplace provides a world of opportunity. It is here to stay, and it is becoming easier to access than ever before.

As a professor of international marketing at Missouri State University, I have been fortunate enough to be able to take students all over the world. I have traveled with students to Brazil, China, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Peru, Costa Rica, and France. We have fished for piranha in the Amazon jungle, stood among the ruins of Machu Picchu, been overwhelmed by the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and walked in awe atop the wonder of the Great Wall. I have had the unique opportunity of witnessing students experience things that have changed them as individuals — experiences that give them unique perspectives of life, experience with business practices that differ from those here in the United States, and an appreciation for people from diverse cultures around the world. Even something as simple as a reaction to unique foods can be enlightening. It provides students with a holistic understanding that can never be taught or learned in a traditional classroom.
Studying abroad gives students a broad perspective and understanding of our truly small planet. It helps them think “big picture” and opens their eyes to possibilities beyond what they see in their immediate surroundings. These students gain an appreciation for language barriers as well as the unique regulations, policies and systems that are common in other parts of the world. They develop a respect for diversity in others that helps them work well in cross-cultural business environments. The Institute of International Education shows that students who have studied abroad report stronger communication and interpersonal skills, higher levels of adaptability, and greater creativity and initiative than their contemporaries.

I often consider the student who has never traveled outside of the Midwest. In fact, there have been a few semesters I have had students in my classes who have never been outside the state of Missouri. Some of them have never flown on a plane or experienced the abundance of entertainment in New York City or the beauty of the beaches of California. I wonder — how does that limit an individual’s world view? What is their perspective of life? How do they handle diversity and complexity in the workplace, and what do they do when faced with a unique business situation? Studying abroad is one way to provide our students a unique perspective. It is a path that few explore, but it provides a rich experience that can bring understanding beyond our years.

Dr. Chuck Hermans, Ph.D. is a professor of marketing at Missouri State University. He is an expert in international markets and market strategy. Dr. Hermans teaches international marketing, global supply chain management and advanced marketing research. He can be reached at: chuckhermans@missouristate.edu

reprinted from Springfield News-Leader: http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/business/2016/12/10/international-perspective-studying-abroad-valued-workplace/95153776/
© 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement