When I decided to come back to school to study for my MBA, I knew right away that studying abroad was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had been fortunate enough to study abroad once before, during my years in undergrad, but now, with years of work experience under my belt and under a different mindset, I felt that studying abroad could be much more than the whirlwind of travel and culture shock that it had been before; I was looking forward to exploring the business environment of Europe (particularly in France), expanding my intercultural business communications, and improving my linguistic capabilities. Of course, the history and culture of Paris, as well as the idea of spending three months in Europe, weren’t bad in convincing me either.
However, once I arrived in Paris, all of my assumptions went out the door. I had been to Europe before, and even to Paris, and maybe it was this lack of expectations that made me so utterly surprised and impressed. I had expected to meet interesting students from Paris, round out my global business perspective, and immerse myself it the French culture, but I was surprised to make friends from around the world and feel at home rather than a tourist in a foreign city. In addition to learning about French culture (which I did—from the food to the language to the lazy walks through the various quartiers), I was able to learn about other cultures as well, including South America, Asia, and Eastern Europe. I was able to have candid conversations about politics, life styles, and education and was forced to not only learn about but understand what it is to have truly global perspective. Not only could I practice my French, but was encouraged to do so—as well as my Italian and Spanish. And best of all, this was all happening in addition to the work I was doing in the classroom.
Now, I understand that giving up a semester in Seattle may seem daunting at first, after all, it’s when recruiting can start and contacts can be made. But for me, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Though I may have missed out on some of the formalized events and processes, I got to learn about how recruiting is done outside of the U.S. Though I missed my friends, and, I’ll admit, some professors, I was able to make new ones from around the world which I will keep in contact with for years to come. Overall, I enjoyed the people, the atmosphere, and the opportunities studying abroad afforded me. But the best thing of all (aside from the wine and baguettes) was the ability to realize that there is still so much to learn beyond UW, beyond Seattle, and beyond the U.S. And this fact, though humbling, has inspired me to continue learning, exploring, and taking chances in order to grow.
– Guest Blogger, Heather Trautman, FT 2011