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UW-Eau Claire offers immersion program in India

April 30, 2012
 India Study Abroad
Four students from western Wisconsin were among the 12 UW-Eau Claire students who traveled to India as part of a new study abroad program. Students from the area include (from left) Dustin Mitchell, Kindra Kressin, Heidi Ender, and Emily Norgaard.
EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students now have new opportunities to study in India, a country that is an increasingly important export target for businesses in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.

During Winterim, 12 students participated in the first study abroad program to India, a three-week immersion experience students say helped them better understand the country's business, economy, politics and culture.

"I've always been interested in specializing in some aspect of international business; my experience in India has only reinforced that," said Dustin Mitchell, a senior business major from Mondovi who traveled to India as part of the UW-Eau Claire program.

Wisconsin's exports to India have grown by nearly 30 percent in the last year, and opportunities there continue to abound, said Dr. Rama Yelkur, a professor of marketing and international business program coordinator, who co-led the immersion trip with Dr. Nancy Hanson-Rasmussen, lecturer of management.

"It is very important, particularly for business students, to have a firsthand experience of being in countries such as India that play a critical role in the global economy," Yelkur said.

In India, UW-Eau Claire students were taught by faculty at Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce, a renowned business school that is dedicated to commerce and economics education.

"Each UW-Eau Claire student was paired with two SRCC students and they collaborated in teams to work on a group project that resulted in a final presentation at the end of the program," Yelkur said. "This provided them with additional opportunities to learn from their peers as well as work in truly cross-cultural teams."

Students also visited businesses in India, including AC Nielsen, the hotel chain ITC Maurya and a Honda manufacturing plant.

The time in India expanded her understanding of the world and provided her with experiences that will stay with her well into the future, said Heidi Ender, a graduate student from Eau Claire.

"Through my India trip, I learned more about the world and specifically the global business world than I have through multiple years of work experience," Ender said. "The opportunity to be 'buddies' with Indian students helped immerse me in the culture and get a deep understanding of the culture. The business visits helped give me an in-depth perspective and broaden my understanding of what was learned in the classroom environment. This was not only an educational experience of a lifetime, but relationships and memories were formed that will stay with me for the rest of my life."

Economic growth in India today is being rewritten by India's highly entrepreneurial and rapidly globalizing private sector, Yelkur said, noting that projections indicate that more than 400 million people — 40 percent of India's population — will enter India's middle class during the next 15-20 years. With combined exporting and outsourcing prospects, India has become a potentially strong international partner for the U.S. and Wisconsin, she said.

"For students in business and other disciplines, India's role in the world economy and our lives means that learning about India firsthand will provide a body of knowledge that will enhance their UW-Eau Claire degree," Yelkur said.

In addition to their academic work, students also spent time learning about the rich history and geography of India, and engaged in a variety of cultural activities and visits, including trips to the cities of Agra, which is the home of the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur.

"Seeing the historical sights, especially the Taj Mahal, was a great experience," Mitchell said, noting that this was his first study abroad experience. "Just experiencing the culture of India was incredible."

Mitchell said his experience in India has given him a better perspective on global issues and other cultures.

"One may think they understand another culture, but unless you've been to that country it's hard to really appreciate it," Mitchell said. "The experience also taught me to keep an open mind and be willing to experience new things."

The India study abroad program, created in UW-Eau Claire's College of Business, received partial funding from the U.S. Department of Education and UW-Eau Claire's College of Business.

A second study abroad program in India will be offered during Winterim 2013.

For more information about UW-Eau Claire's study abroad program during Winterim 2013 in India, contact faculty leader Dr. Nancy Hanson-Rasmussen at 715-836-5833 or hansonrn@uwec.edu, or Dr. Rama Yelkur, international business programs coordinator, at 715-836-4674 or yelkurr@uwec.edu. Students can find other details or apply to the program online.

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JB/DW

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