Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

Written by MSGL student Steven Cummings, a participant in the Summer 2015 Munich & Athens program abroad.

Lessons for International Travel:

Lesson #1: Never freak out – go with the flow – there’s almost always a solution.

May 21st: I begin my adventure abroad with the incidental necessity of hitchhiking to LAX. On a shoestringer student budget, I elected to take an “indirect” flight path to arrive in Munich, our program’s first location, and already it was off to a rocky start. The surfliner train bound to deliver me to downtown LA, where I would catch a bus to the airport, gave notice of its cancellation within two minutes of its scheduled arrival. As luck would have it, I’d barely stuck out my thumb when a kindly yogi hailing from Encinitas saw fit to pick me up and deliver me within easy reach of my port of departure.

My connections in London and Zurich brought me eventually to reach Bavaria in time for our first program rendezvous, a bike tour of Munich. We gathered what culture we could from the Australians leading the tour, who had great insights as to the local biergartens, and began our more serious undertakings the next day at the FOM – a private university of fine reputation.  Our week’s study in Munich brought us into contact with German students and professors, as well as some local industry of typical German fastidiousness – notably the BMW factory. Our dialogues and discussions brought to bear the present status of the nation in terms of economics, business and entrepreneurial atmosphere, and its presence in the EU. Many students noted the emphasis on cleanliness, efficiency, and productive mentality of Munich and its citizens, and contemplated how this might give contrast to expectations we had for our impending trip to Athens.

Steven Cummings, Dr. Dimon, and Dr. Zocco at BMW tour in Munich.

Steven Cummings, Dr. Dimon, and Dr. Zocco at BMW museum in Munich.

Our suspicions were correct, for upon arriving to Greece’s capital we could immediately feel the change in environment from Germany’s conservative epicenter. But in addition to the relative disorder of Athenian business and daily life came the Mediterranean openness of its people, and engagement with locals proved a constant stream in comparison to the rather reserved stance we had experienced the previous week. Our daily classes in the Athenian Laboratory of Business Administration began with a terrific series of lectures by the dean and another professor, delving deeply into the roots, status, and future of the Greek Crisis. This topic had been a primary point of focus for our class, with preludes in America and Germany, so the week’s address of the crisis proved quite interesting. Having “boots on ground” in Athens also helped put things in perspective and will greatly aid the course of our class’s final presentation on the subject.

Munich:Athens SU14, Cummings 2

In front of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens


Lesson #2: Always participate! Interact, engage, and breach the comfort zone.

What assisted me further in this regard were the conversations I found when interacting with the Greeks themselves, both in Athens and in the subsequent places I visited in Greece after the conclusion of our program. These interactions shaped my understanding of the business environment equally as much as the lectures given in Munich and Athens. Therein lies the value of the study abroad pursuits; the itinerary of the program does not hold the edification, but the framework itself. Visiting the environment first hand, discussing it with the people who give its substance, evaluating current issues in and among the people to whom they directly apply. As a USD student, born and raised in America, now experiencing academic, economic, and quotidian cultural lenses of another sphere of civil society, the inherent duties accompanying said opportunity are to raise levels of awareness, absorb distinctions and similarities, and return home with the intention to share the collected extractions to those in America who would find benefit from a more globally minded view of the world.

Company visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company in Athens.

Apivita, Mun:Ath SU15, Cummings


Lesson #3: Maximize the experience.


MBA and MSGL students mingling in Athens – Acropolis in the background.

Time and money. Usually the international traveler has one or the other but rarely both. Fortunately as the “globe-trotting global citizen” gains proficiency it becomes easier to adopt a “more for less” attitude with either or both of the given dimensions. Studying abroad can be expensive, but it’s certainly an achievable and worthwhile aim. To further ameliorate costs of this venture, I utilized resources like couch-surfing and hostels to reduce accommodation costs as well as public transportation vs. taxis or other convenience conveyances whenever possible. In fact, some of my most developmental experiences came through interactions with my local couch-surfing hosts who were living the lives we viewed through scholastic observance. I’m very grateful for the Ahlers Scholarship that helped launch me on this voyage, and hope the Toreros and the nation receives benefit from the more globally conscious students programs of this nature are designed to produce.

June 6th: The university program has ended, but all work and no play is not one of the lessons! Onward to Ikaria, an “off the beaten path” island where Ikarus fell from the sky, to camp and mingle and attempt the famous nine-step Ikarian spiral dance of the Panigiri!


Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

For more information on Ahlers Center opportunities, visit our study abroad webpage.

MACC Adventures in London, Paris, & Rome: June 2015


This summer, student Hannah Mueller went to London, Paris, and Rome for 2 weeks as a part of the University of San Diego Master’s of Accountancy program. Check out her adventures abroad!

Check out our website for more info on the MACC opportunities abroad!

Ahlers Fellow Kelly Wu: ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program

During the Spring 2015 semester, I-Shen “Kelly” Wu, a senior double majoring in International Business and Accounting, completed the ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program as one of her Ahlers Center Fellowship activities.  The program is a series of workshops designed especially for business students who have an interest, or emphasis, in international business and trade. These “hands-on” workshops are designed to supplement academic coursework in international business.  Kelly, an international student from Taiwan studying abroad in the United States for her degree, describes her experience and take-aways from this unique program offered by the Ahlers Center.

Describe the activity and the role you played:

“I was an active participant in the ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program. The program consists of five three-hour workshops that focus on the topic of International Business and Trade. The workshops feature different speakers whom are international business professionals in the field. Each workshop has different focus areas within international trade. The first workshop was about global supply chain and logistics. The speaker Joel Sutherland was humorous and engaging. He shared with us many of his personal experiences on how to add the most value to your product in the most efficient way through international commerce. The second workshop focused on international market entry strategies, especially with the business opportunities presented in Canada and Mexico that benefited from NAFTA. Speaker Kenn Morris gave us and an overview of NAFTA and presented us the importance of rules of origin and the associated regulations. The third workshop was about the financial aspect of international business and the operations and services of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. We get a closer look at how international payments and financing operate and understand the challenges that comes with it. The fourth workshop focused on international marketing opportunities and resources. We learned about strategies to do research, selection, and preparation before entering a foreign market. The last workshop was on the topic of export/import operations and documentation. We learned how to read the tariff schedule in detail, and were also able to identify different documents needed in order to export or import goods.

All the speakers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic in their presenting topics, many of them were able to set up case studies for students to work in teams and apply what we learned right away. The lectures are informative and the activities were fun. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested in international business and trade!”

How will you be able to use what you learned from participating in this activity during your academic or professional career:

I-Shen Kelly Wu ABCs Certificate“The ABC’s of International Trade Certificate Program is a program that truly opens up your horizon to the real actions of international trade and commerce. It let me understand the complications and challenges when it comes to doing business internationally. However, the program also taught me that with thorough researching and careful planning, the opportunities beyond the borders are massive. With the improvements of technology, global trading is the trend now and in the future. I find the workshops on logistics and operations specifically interesting and useful. It is important to know the regulations and documentations of each country when you are trading internationally; some very basic mistakes can end up delaying your goods at the customs for a significant period of time. Many students/participants of the program are international students as well.  It was really interesting doing group projects or case studies together, because it created an even more realistic feel of doing “international” business. The program allows me to become more confident and comfortable working and presenting short projects with people coming from different backgrounds that often have diverse ideas and interesting thoughts. With the materials I learned from the ABCs of International Trade Certificate Program, I have become more knowledgeable of international trade and more aware of the challenges that may come my way when doing international business.”

Please see the following webpages for more information on the ABCs for International Trade Program and the Ahlers Center Fellowship Program!