For my STEP transformational experience, I studied abroad autumn semester of 2016 in Germany. This was a program through Fisher College of Business’s Office of Global Business, where I was an exchange student at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany for the entire semester taking business and German language classes. Being a solely business-focused institution I was able to hone in on my passion for business alongside students from all over the world.
When I used to picture myself studying abroad, I anticipated that I would eventually adjust and have wonderful adventures, but only a few weeks of a lot of fear and culture shock. Yes, I had a bit of that the first few weeks living in Germany, but with the help of my fellow exchange students and German friends it was much smoother than I anticipated. The first lesson I learned was to use my network, and to not be afraid to ask for help. Months leading up to my departure, I started reaching out to friends who either live in Germany currently or spent some time there, even if I hadn’t spoken to them in some time. After some digging I even found out that my friend Dominic who was an exchange student at my high school currently attends WHU (Crazy coincidence!). In other cases, I had friends who heard I was going to Germany and contacted me. Talking to people with experience was the best preparation I could have had, from learning more about WHU, to simple things like how to navigate the grocery store. By putting in the effort to meet German students at my university I also felt much more integrated, and they helped me along the way as well. There were many situations, from figuring out my mail to needing to call Deutsche Bahn using German, where I was able to recruit some of my kind German friends to help me. I used to see my study abroad semester as much more of an independent and often lonely experience, but this was certainly not the case! I met so many wonderful people from all over the world, and we helped each other in so many ways in addition to our wonderful traveling adventures together.
A unique aspect of WHU that I was able to take part in at WHU are company presentations. Just about every week a different company came and offered a presentation and networking dinner. Many of these presentations were in German, but I was able to attend the Oliver Wyman (a consulting firm) company presentation which was in English. During the networking dinner I had conversations with representatives from the company (many of them being graduates of WHU) and I enjoyed how casual and honest the conversations seemed. Often times I find these sort of encounters to be quite scripted, but when it came to events at WHU it was not at all the case.
To be honest, consulting was not something I seriously considered before coming to WHU. But due to the fact that a large percentage of WHU students enter that sector after graduation, there was a huge consulting firm presence on campus. Through talking to firms at both company presentations and the career fair I started to realize that it really might be a great fit for me. I’m now quite excited about the idea, and it’s amazing to think that had I not gone abroad for a semester at WHU I may not have explored this option. It may be due to the fact that I stepped back a bit from my normal life in the US allowing me more space to think about what I actually want after graduation, or simply because there’s a huge push towards consulting there, but either way I’m very pleased about this! Even though I was away from Ohio State, I still interviewed and was accepted to the Fisher Emerging Consultants class next semester, and am excited to continue exploring this option.
Beyond the university-sanctioned events, attending an exclusively business institution also had its benefits. I thoroughly enjoy the fact that Ohio State has a plethora of majors available, with that comes such a diverse student population in terms of talents and perspectives. But there’s also something to be said for WHU, where you could talk about business internships, aspirations, and issues with everyone you met. There was certainly a unique drive and ambitious character to WHU students when it came to business. Never before had I been in a room with 4 other young college students, speculating over dinner about the future of the labor market as digitalization improves. To be around those students was truly inspiring! Additionally, the exchange student population was comprised of business students from top-notched business schools across the globe, so there was such a diverse set of backgrounds and business perspectives represented. My network definitely became much larger and more international while abroad!
Moving forward, I can see myself having a much more open mind when approaching problems or interacting with people different from myself, and have seen myself become much more flexible and calm under pressure. These were essential qualities to have when traveling and living in an unfamiliar environment for four months, qualities that I definitely didn’t consider myself having before leaving the country. Additionally, I was able to face so many of my fears while I was abroad. From living far away from my family to traveling alone, I certainly have so many crazy stories to tell. But now that I’ve survived many of my greatest fears, what do I have to be afraid of anymore? Fears that used to hold me back in so many ways have now lost much of their validity, giving me such a freeing feeling as I know I will face many more challenges in the coming transitional years.
So yes, it’s safe to say that I was able to travel and have a ton of fun while abroad. That’s to be expected, but my time there became much more valuable than simply bragging rights due to places I’ve traveled and something to stick on my resume, hoping that companies will see that I have an “international perspective”. I truly learned so much, both personally and professionally.
If you’re interested in hearing more about my time abroad, check out my blogs with the Office of Global Business: