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Success Starts Here: Exploring the World

| Gretchen Hutterli

"Success Starts Here" is a series of six articles that introduce new students to the UW-Eau Claire College of Business. A new article will be posted each week until the fall academic term begins.

Expand your horizons by exploring the world

"Business students who study abroad grow personally, academically and professionally in ways that may not be possible on campus," said Dr. Nancy Hanson-Rasmussen, assistant professor of management and co-coordinator of international business programs for the College of Business. "Our students consistently tell me that it is a life changing experience."

UW-Eau Claire continues to be a leader in sending students abroad. With opportunities in almost 30 countries, UW-Eau Claire students can choose a program that meets their personal and academic interests, and fits their budget. Many of those programs also offer business classes.

Assistant Dean Gretchen Hutterli interviewed Hanson-Rasmussen to learn more about study abroad opportunities available to business students.

GH: Why study abroad?

NHR: We are all citizens of the world. I know that sounds cliché but it is true. By studying abroad, students get to experience a different part of the world. They meet the people of that country and experience their culture by partaking in their day-to-day activities. They also learn how life is similar and/or different from the one they lead in the United States. Studying abroad also gives students a chance to enhance their skills in a language other than English.

A study abroad experience is beneficial for business students because we work in a global economy. A student who studied in Germany, for example, may one day be working with clients from that country. Many companies that recruit on our campus work with customers and clients around the world.

GH: Suppose I plan on staying in Wisconsin after I graduate. Why should I care about international business?

NHR: Wisconsin-based companies are very involved in international business so chances are you will work for a company that imports or exports internationally. According to a recent report by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, 8,500 Wisconsin companies are successfully doing business around the world. And these aren’t just large corporations like Oshkosh Corporation. In fact, 88% of these companies are small to middle-sized businesses. A good local example is Chippewa Valley Bean Co. in Menomonie, which exports the dark red kidney beans it grows to Western Europe, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, and Japan.

Wisconsin is also host to many international companies. In 2014, for example, foreign-owned companies employed 90,000 Wisconsin workers. FOXCONN, a Taiwanese manufacturer, recently announced that it will invest $10 billion by 2020 to build a manufacturing campus in southeastern Wisconsin. Nestlé, a global company headquartered in Switzerland, has a plant in Eau Claire. So it's not inconceivable that you may be working for an international company even if you stay in Wisconsin.

GH: There are so many study abroad opportunities at UW-Eau Claire. How do I know which one is best for me?

NHR: Start with your personal goals. Maybe you have always wanted to explore Australia, or live in a castle in England. Perhaps you want to improve your language skills or experience total immersion in another culture. Then there are practical things to consider, such as the length of the program, course offerings, language competency, grade point requirement, and program cost. 

Advisors in the UW-Eau Claire Center for International Education are available to discuss the different programs with you. They also host a study abroad fair once a year where you can talk to students who have studied at various programs. This fall's Study Abroad Fair is October 4 from 11 am–3 pm in the Davies Center Ojibwe Ballroom.

GH: Be sure to check out the CIE's Flickr page to see photos taken by UWEC students at programs around the world. Our students have had some amazing experiences.

Earlier you mentioned language competency and price as two important things to consider when selecting a study abroad program. Let’s discuss language competency first. Do most programs require that you be fluent in another language?

NHR: No, most don't require a second language. However, it's helpful to have some knowledge of the language prior to going abroad because it makes it easier to get around.

GH: What about price?

NHR: Prices vary by program. The Center for International Education provides cost estimates for each program on their website. Their website also offers tips as to how to use financial aid or secure scholarships to help pay for your trip.

GH: Many students like the idea of studying abroad, but they haven't done much traveling. Will they be alone or part of a group?

NHR: The vast majority of our students go in a group of 5-50 students. Some programs, like our Winterim trip to India or Interim trip to China, are led by our faculty. This past summer, accounting professor Brenda Thalacker and economics professor Dr. Maria DaCosta took a group of students to China. In January, business faculty members will lead a trip to India.

GH: When is the best time for business students to study abroad?

NHR: The best time is the time that best works for you. That said, many business students study abroad their sophomore or junior year because they haven’t progressed too far into their major and may still have some liberal education requirements to fulfill.

GH: Some students might not be able to go for an entire semester. Are there shorter programs?

NHR: Yes, the College of Business has the two shorter study abroad programs I mentioned earlier. In addition, the university offers several shorter study abroad programs, such as the Winterim program at the Istituto Lorenzo de' Medici in Italy.

GH: An issue we haven’t discussed is safety. What tips can you offer us?

NHR: Safety is a concern for all travelers — even those who never venture outside the U.S. The staff in the Center for International Education maintains ongoing contact with the schools and programs where our students are studying so they are alert to changing conditions. The CIE also has students register with the U.S. State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that provides travel alerts to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. Be sure to check out the CIE website for more information.

Some general rules for travel that hold true in the U.S. as well as overseas are keep alert and be aware of your surroundings. Try to blend — to avoid looking like a tourist, you may want to leave your Minnesota Viking or Green Bay Packer clothing and baseball caps at home. Finally, don’t travel alone. If that isn’t possible, let someone know where you are going and check in with that person from time to time.

GH: Any final thoughts about studying abroad?

NHR: College is a great time to study abroad — whether you want to revisit a country you have traveled to before, or explore a new country. UW-Eau Claire has a program for you.

GH: It all sounds exciting and I am sure our readers have many questions. Dr. Hanson-Rasmussen can answer your questions about study abroad and the college's international business major at the COB New Freshmen Meeting on September 5. Be sure to check your email for more information.

Nancy Hanson-Rasmussen

Meet Dr. Nancy Hanson-Rasmussen
Co-Coordinator, International Business Programs; Assistant Professor, Management

Hometown: Brooklyn Center, MN

What I do . . . I coordinate the college's international business programs. In this position, I meet with international business majors, work with the International Business Advisory Board, coordinate our immersion program in India and work with several campus committees. I teach courses in diversity/inclusion, ethics, leadership, and organizational behavior for the Department of Management and Marketing. Finally, I am the faculty advisor for International Business Student Professionals student organization.

When I am not working . . . I like to travel, and have visited Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, India, Ireland, and Mexico. I also love to read, attend music festivals/events, exercise like crazy and spend time with my family and our Burmese mountain dog, Stella.

People are often surprised to learn . . . I am a first generation college student/graduate.

My best college memories include . . . the student organizations I was in (and I was in a lot of them!)

My favorite thing to do on the UW-Eau Claire campus is . . . to go for long walks through Putnam Park with my husband and Stella.

One thing on my bucket list is . . . to travel to a wildlife reserve in Africa.

This article was previously published on Aug. 18, 2016 and has been edited to reflect recent changes to the student abroad experience.