Short-term Study Abroad Program – Logistics Global Lab
Hello there! During the 2016 spring break, I chose to do something a little bit different than most college kids typically do for a spring break trip. Rather than relaxing on a beach somewhere or going back home for a visit, I traveled to Europe as a member of the Logistics Global Lab (or LGL) program thru the Fisher College of Business. This program consisted of an 8-day trip to Budapest, Hungary and Prague, the Czech Republic with 14 of my fellow Fisher students and a couple Fisher staff/faculty. LGL is a multi-purpose program designed to enhance students’ understanding of Central European cultures and foster our growth as young business professionals thru visits to several prominent companies operating in Central Europe and beyond.
Throughout my years at Ohio State, I have learned a lot about the world around me, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself. As a senior, I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of myself, who I am as a person, and what I stand for. I have been traveling the world since I was a baby, so I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing diverse cultures from all around the world and learning to appreciate people and traditions different from myself. I had visited Western Europe twice before the spring break of 2016, but I had never experienced Central/Eastern Europe. LGL enabled me to venture outside of my “European comfort zone” by taking me to Central/Eastern Europe.
Prior to the trip, I had a lot of assumptions, expectations, and visions about what that region of Europe was like. I pictured this region of the world as a product of the destruction that resulted from World War 2. I envisioned a region that was still trying to recover from the carnage of the war and one that is not very aesthetically appealing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit this region so that I could put my assumptions and expectations to rest. After exploring the area, I confirmed and rejected some of my assumptions. I realized that the region is a product of World War 2 and it is still recovering. I also learned, however, that Hungary and the Czech Republic maintained their rich and long histories throughout all of the turmoil of the 20th century, and the citizens of these countries are very proud of their history. This was surprising to me, but very reassuring and uplifting, as well. By the end of the trip, I rejected my assumption that Central/Eastern Europe is not aesthetically appealing. Sure, there were some rough parts in both Budapest and Prague. But you can find that in any city. I was most fascinated with the “gems” that these cities had to offer – these were some of the things that really transformed me throughout the trip. These gems were so special and unique to each city and it made me realize that no matter where you travel, there will always be these gems, hidden or not, that truly exemplify the culture of that region of the world. It inspired me to find the gems that every country has to offer!
This transformation was just one of many that I experienced as a result of the trip. These transformations were brought on by countless different aspects of the LGL program. One of the primary aspects of the trip that changed me was my experience in Prague, the Czech Republic. Prior to visiting Prague, I had less-than-average expectations for the city. I had heard great things from family friends that had visited, but for whatever reason I did not envision it as a spectacular city. After exploring the city for 4 days, I quickly realized that Prague is one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, with the likes of Barcelona, Spain and Sydney, Australia. One of my favorite things about Prague is the way it blends the old with the new, its rich history with modern amenities. We stayed in a hotel just 5 minutes from Old Town Prague, which is a historic city square. In the square, there were tons of merchant carts selling various Prague treats and delicacies. I can still distinctly remember the sweet, savory, October-like smell in the square. But just 2 minutes from this old square, there is a 5-story mall called the Palladium Mall. It is modern, made of glass, and filled with all the stores anyone in the 21st century would want to shop at. The streets were primarily cobblestone and brick, but they blended into blacktop- and cement-paved roads as you ventured outside the city center. I had the pleasure of experiencing all of these things firsthand, and it was like nothing I’d experienced before. It was spectacular. This aspect of the trip enabled me to transform from someone who focuses a lot on expectations about future events and engagements to someone who tries not to focus too much on expectations or assumptions, but rather enjoy events and engagements as they happen and appreciate them for what they are.
Another phenomenal aspect of the trip was getting to travel abroad with 14 of my fellow Fisher students that I had never met before. I have traveled abroad with “strangers” before, so I felt somewhat comfortable traveling with students who I hadn’t met before. I got along really well with most of our group and I made some friendships that are still going strong today, 6 months after we returned to the U.S. It intrigues me how I meet some people in life, and the people I met thru LGL are no different. Several of my fellow LGL members were/are in my classes at Fisher. One of them is on the executive board of The Logistics Association (a student organization in Fisher) with me. Another was a friend of three of my roommates long before I met her. And the rest were strangers that I had never met before. LGL brought us all closer together and I am blessed to say that I had the opportunity to explore Budapest and Prague with these people. There are no friendships like the ones made while studying abroad. I think this experience with my fellow classmates transformed me into someone who is more willing to step out of my comfort zone and seek out situations in which I don’t know anyone. This trip transformed me in this way because I realize how much I gained from each person I met thru LGL. Everyone has something interesting or unique to offer that you probably didn’t know before meeting them.
There was one other dimension of the LGL program that transformed me as a business student and aspiring business professional. During the course of the week-long program, our group visited 6 different companies based in and operating throughout Europe. We visited companies such as Mondelez, Skoda, and Lego, among others. Through each of these unique visits, we had the amazing opportunity to network with executives from each company, discuss business problems and the business climate in Europe, and witness some real-life business operations in practice. These were a fantastic part of the LGL program because it opened my mind to business challenges and operations around the world that I had never seen before. This enabled me to transform my perspective as a young business professional to be more well-rounded and to have a global mindset when approaching business problems.
The transformations that I experienced as a result of LGL are tremendous. I am very blessed and appreciative of the opportunity to participate in such a great program. I believe that I have become a better individual, student, and professional as a result of my STEP Signature Project. The first transformation I talked about will help me to enjoy life to the fullest and live in the moment. I focus more on taking things at their face value and appreciating them as they occur, rather than getting bogged down on my expectations and assumptions. The second transformation I mentioned was about becoming more willing to step out of my comfort zone in social situations where I don’t know anyone. I believe this will open up my life to tons of new experiences and opportunities, simply because I’ll be more likely to engage with all different types of people even if I don’t know them. The last transformation I detailed was the transformation as a young business student and professional. The business operations exposure that I received in Hungary and the Czech Republic cannot be matched by any other program at a university. I had the pleasure of interacting with real executives that lead some of Europe’s largest companies. I was able to listen to them talk about the unique challenges (both in logistics and in general) that they face as a company operating primarily on the European continent. This experience will foster my growth as a business professional after graduation because it opened my eyes to challenges and different aspects of the business world (specifically logistics) that I had never considered before. In the modern business world, it is crucial to have a global mindset and that is exactly what this program provided me.