- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
My team and I did a five-week long consulting project in Ingolstadt, Germany for Media-Saturn, a major European consumer electronics retailer. We worked on helping them develop a model for shop-in-shop that they could use to rapidly expand in areas where they didn’t currently exist.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
I learned a lot about myself while on this trip. I thought that I would struggle a lot more to adapt to a different culture and work environment than I actually did. From a work perspective, all of my coworkers were really nice to me and I found that if I took an interest in their lives and work, that I could make a connection with them the same as if I was in the US. The language barrier was a little difficult to overcome, but I found that if I tried to speak a little German, everyone I interacted with was super understanding. That made the transition easier too. I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to adapt and take care of myself in different situations.
I was really surprised by how much everyone I met in Germany knew about U.S. culture and current events. Growing up in America, I found that I kind of grew up in my own cultural bubble, and assumed that was the case for everyone else around the world, but I realized that Germans tended to know a lot about what is going on not only in Germany, but in the rest of Europe, the U.S. and even Asia.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
Before I did this STEP project I had never had to work with people for whom English wasn’t their first language. I was really nervous about starting work and transitioning into a new culture, but the first meeting I had with the members of the department I worked for pretty much dissipated all of my anxiety. The more I got to know my coworkers, the more I realized that work isn’t really all that different between home and Germany. The people I worked with at Media-Saturn were really interested to hear about our experiences in Europe and our lives in America. These relationships I built helped me succeed in working there.
The other experience I had in Germany was having to cook for myself for the first time. I never had to shop for groceries and plan/make my meals before. The first time I went to the grocery store, I accidentally bought whole coffee beans instead of ground coffee, and I almost cried about it because I’m addicted to coffee and it would be another day before I could get some. But after that, I slowly learned how to buy and order food in German and by the end of my time there, it felt completely natural.
Many of my experiences regarding German life and culture came from spending time with students that we were paired with from the Ingolstadt School of Management. They all knew so much about American culture, listened to the same songs and watched the same movies as we did. It also kind of blew my mind that they grew up learning and speaking English, as well as German and one other language (usually French or Spanish). They also knew a lot more about American politics and current events than I did about Germany. People in Europe have a much more global view of the world than Americans do, which I think is a good thing.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
Having worked in a different country where I was unfamiliar with the culture and the language gave me all kinds of confidence going forward in my professional career. If I can adapt and thrive in that environment, then I can make it anywhere in the US for sure. This experience improved my communication skills, teamwork, and adaptability. From a personal standpoint, I feel like there is a greater need to develop and maintain a global perspective than I previously thought. Traveling made me not take everyday aspects of my daily life for granted, and made me realize that there is another way of doing things. For instance, I’m used to driving everywhere to do things and get around, but in Ingolstadt, you didn’t really need a car for anything and could easily get by with a bike or walking. In the future, as I go into a world that needs good problem solvers, I think that keeping an open mind and remembering that there are many ways to go solutions to everyday tasks and situations will serve me well.