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Adapting to a new environment. Learning with some of the most intelligent, hard-working students on the planet. Earning valuable college course credits. And, by the way, getting a taste of French culture.
Three Raymond J. Harbert College of Business finance majors -- Emma Goddard, Emily Ann Higginbotham and Zachary Miller -- studied for four weeks this summer at the prestigious ESDES School of Business and Management in Lyon, France, where they were offered a number of courses including Portfolio Analysis, Integrated Marketing Communications, the European Union, Financial Analysis, Art & Architecture, and French.
The school, established in 1987, is home to more than 1,300 students, including those involved in the international program.
"Probably the biggest benefit for me was just learning how to adapt to an entirely new environment,” said Miller, a junior from Birmingham, who took a variety of courses and said he was intrigued with learning about the European sovereign debt crisis. “Being able to adapt quickly and efficiently is always important especially in finance. Also, exposing myself to new cultures was something that I think I will benefit from for the rest of my life.”
Higginbotham, who chose the EDSES Finance module of classes, said it “helped broaden my own conception of my career path.”
“Studying abroad also forces the student to become more adaptable and responsive to a foreign environment, which is a skill needed in any workforce regardless of the location,” said the senior from Jacksonville, Fla. “Learning to navigate through a new campus and a new city grew me in ways that will positively impact my maturity and my capacity to adapt to any career.”
Why study at EDSES? Amit Mitra, a professor in quality and business analytics in the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management, explains.
“There is an additional benefit of taking some unique courses not available at Auburn University, such as France in the 21st Century, European Union – Foundation, Institutions, & Perspectives, Cross-Cultural Management, and others,” he said. “Some other unique courses in business are International Business Law, and International Strategy. As the business world expands beyond national boundaries, exposure to courses with a global perspective makes the student much more attractive to prospective employers.
“Students not only make progress to obtaining their academic degree, but importantly, gain an experience which they cherish for the rest of their lives. They learn to survive in a new environment and often make life-long friends and mature in the process. With the additional prospect of an international internship through ESDES, the exchange student has the opportunity to build a résumé that will be distinctive from that of others.”
Beverly Marshall, Executive Director of Global Initiatives at the Harbert College of Business, agreed.
“They (employers) are very impressed by the students who study abroad,” she said. “The world is an increasingly global place.”
Marshall noted that students needed to observe their peers from other nations, and referred to Amanda Ripley’s book “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Get That Way.”
“The book talks about the shock of American students when they go abroad and see how serious other students are,” said Marshall, who noted that applicants for the program are screened by Harbert College faculty. “It’s important to seeing who you are competing with in the job market. They also see other university systems outside the U.S. In Europe, finals may count for 60 percent or 100 percent of your grade.”
What were the classes like?
“The investments class was taught by a Greek man and it was the most conventional in terms of the teacher lecturing and having Power Points,” Higginbotham said. “It was essentially a brief overview to the fundamentals of investments. The Key Topics class was taught by a Welsh professor and he had a more Socratic teaching style, meaning his lectures were highly interactive. The class was designed to teach us the background of the Euro and the ways in which the economies are struggling to adjust to a single monetary system. At the end of that course the class split into teams and had a debate as to whether or not the austerity measures in Europe have gone too far. The debate was particularly enriching because it forced us to research the situation in Europe and be prepared to form an argument either for or against austerity.” Higginbotham considered Credit and Crises to be her favorite class.
“Our instructor’s credentials and experience were incredible and she was amazingly wise,” she said. “She broke down the financial crisis in America and truly prepared me to have a financial dialogue with whomever.
“Each class was taught in a different style, so it is hard to generalize the French learning environment. My personal learning environment there was very small and therefore the teacher to student ratio was very favorable, which allowed for us to talk personally with each professor and get to know them.” Miller was pleased to make friends with a variety of internationals.
“We took classes and lived with students from Argentina, Mexico, Norway, France and India,” he said. “We spent a lot of time getting to know each other, our cultures and how they are different, yet the same in some ways. It helped grasp the big picture of what being a citizen of this world is really about. Having a big picture view instead of a close-minded and ignorant view will always be beneficial no matter where you are in life.”
And, of course, there was sight-seeing.
“Europe's geography is so incredibly conducive to traveling because the train allows you to travel very quickly and easily,” Higginbotham said. “The first weekend I went to Geneva, then I traveled to Nice, Annecy, and finally Chamonix with the whole program. Between all of those cities I was able to experience nearly every climate that France had to offer, from the tropical coast of Nice to the snowy mountains in Chamonix. What stood out most to me was the warmth and friendliness of the French people. I had been warned that the French are often not the most generous to American tourists, but I can recount dozens of kind people who went out of their way to help me.” Miller raved about a number of day trips to villages in the Rhone-Alps region.
“We visited a Robin Hood-esque village called Perouges, a local château and vineyard in the Beaujolais region, and a beautiful ski town in the Haute-Savoie region called Chamonix,” he said. “I honestly had no idea how beautiful France really is until visiting this past summer.”