Author Archives: Christian Meheula

Accounting Program in Paris, London & Rome – Spencer Andrews

Spencer Andrews, USD accounting major, traveled to Paris, London and Rome to participate in the summer 2016 MACC/ACCT study abroad course on International Accounting Standards and European Accounting Business Environments.  Spencer discusses his international experience and its impact on his life:

“I would like to start by thanking the Ahlers Center for the scholarship I received. Without it, I may not have been able to go on this amazing journey to London, Rome and Paris. This trip was truly one of the best experiences of my entire life. I’m not going to lie, before this trip, I was probably one of the least cultured people I know. For that reason, I was eager to have the opportunity to go on this voyage.

ColoseoThe class leading up to the trip was great. It really prepared me for things that I might see and experience abroad, but there is nothing like learning from experience. As accounting majors, we all knew about the prestigious Big Four, we all had at least some semblance of an idea of how they functioned in the States, and some of us even had jobs with these firms. So, I was very excited to have the opportunity to meet with these firms overseas.

Obviously, there are many similarities to how businesses function in Europe, the UK and the US, but I was fascinated to learn about how the differences in culture are able to affect the operations of a business so dramatically. The speed at which work flows in Europe is substantially slower than the pace in the United States. In France, employees are more likely to constantly question why things are being done. This is not necessarily because the employees feel the work is being done incorrectly, rather the employees want to understand it more thoroughly, as well as think through other possible alternatives and find better solutions. Another issue of doing business in France is the education structure. Depending on what level of degree a person earns, their job will be very specific to that degree. For example, Larry Lemoine, a partner at KPMG in France, described the difficulty of asking his secretary to perform a task for him. All Mr. Lemoine needed to know was how to work the computer in the conference room, but he could not simply just ask her to go set it up for him. Mr. Lemoine came to her asking if she could do him a favor, rather than telling her to do something. In France, the people are very proud of their job positions and can be easily offended if they are asked to do work or tasks that fall outside their job description.

LouvreHaving the ability to experience these cultures firsthand, not only in the business aspect, but also in everyday life, was huge to my growth as a business person and as a member of society. If I am ever fortunate enough to be able to work abroad or do business with a foreign company, this trip really gave me the tools to be successful. Regardless of whether I were to do business in Paris, London, Rome, or elsewhere, I learned some very valuable lessons in doing business outside of my home country. One thing I learned was do not expect other cultures to operate as people in the US do. In order to be successful, one must come in with an open mind and the willingness to adapt. As I mentioned earlier, things tend move more slowly in Europe, so you need to be prepared for that and get things rolling earlier than you might be accustomed to. The biggest thing, though, is to go in prepared. Research whichever culture you are doing business with before you begin business. It is important to understand people’s tendencies and to align yourself accordingly, rather than expecting them to accommodate the American way. Other cultures will greatly appreciate the effort, if they notice that you are trying to adopt some of their work habits.

I can truly say that I had a life changing experience on this trip. The opportunity to visit these beautiful cities, not only to see the sites, but immerse myself in the culture from a business perspective, is something that is very unique about this study abroad program. It is a fantastic experience that may lead to the opportunity to work abroad for a couple of years or the rest of your life. I could not be happier with my experience, and I thank the Ahlers Center again, for helping to make this possible! Merci!”Big Ben

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Ahlers Fellow Jon Bocketti: Hong Kong Intersession 2016

Jon Bocketti, a USD junior majoring in International Business, traveled to Hong Kong this January to take a course in International Economics.  These are his reflections and takeaways:

“During Intersession 2016, I took a whirlwind of an adventure to Hong Kong. With little knowledge of the Chinese territory, I packed my bags and hopped on the plane with high hopes of being fully immersed with new foods, smells and unique culture that defines the island nation. My decision to go to Hong Kong, as opposed to the other intersession study abroad programs available, was based off my increasing fascination in Asia as an economic entity and trade partner to the United States.

After a sixteen-hour direct flight from Newark, I landed in Hong Kong International Airport tired, hungry, but above all ecstatic to be starting my adventure. Arriving a day earlier than the start of the program it was up to me to find my way to the NTT House on the Hong Kong Baptist University campus. After a quick trip to the airport McDonalds, I took the airport express to Kowloon station. My excitement was clearly demonstrated as I was constantly shifting to the left and right of the train trying to get a glimpse of Hong Kong whizzing by in the night sky. After departing at Kowloon station, I frantically pulled out my directions to give to the taxi cab driver. His thick accent and limited knowledge of English solidified that I was no longer in familiar territory. After a few fast stops, turnarounds, and direction clarifications, I made it to a yellow painted, slender high rise that I would soon call my home away from home.

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of rain tapping the window. I got out of bed and quickly tore back the curtains to reveal a panoramic view of never ending skyscrapers stretching from Kowloon all the way to Hong Kong Island. I was ready to explore. I quickly got ready and took the elevator down ten stories to the lobby where I got to meet some of my fellow classmates. Our professor Dr. Gin gave us a very thorough tour of all the places around Hong Kong that might be of use to us during our stay. As we progressed throughout the day, I walked around feeling like I was separate from my body. How could I be here smelling, seeing, tasting something so different than just one day ago? This is a question I would consistently think about as I continued to experience what Hong Kong had to offer. This first day excursion set a perfect tone for the rest of the trip.

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As an island nation, Hong Kong has a great connection to the sea. This picture shows the connection between the land and the sea, as well as the cultural fusion due to international trade.

After only a few days in Hong Kong, we all piled onto a bus to make our way into mainland China. After what felt like a five minute ride, due to a wonderful thing called jet lag, we arrived at the cruise ship terminal. The boat went so fast that we were gliding above the water, and this was not a small boat. In no time, I could distantly see the Macau skyline made up of the numerous casinos and skyscrapers, including Macau tower, the highest place in the world to bungee jump. Looking out the window on the bus, there were many similarities I could see between Hong Kong and Macau.




There was this unmistakable mix of east and west, not only in the buildings and the food, but in the people as well. In a city where my pre-conceived conceptions led me to believe Macau was just newly developed land, I was delighted to find and experience years and years of history in the ancient temple and maritime museum. Day quickly turned into night, and the neon lights lit up the dark sky.

Following a late night, I found my seat back on the bus and we headed to Zhuhai, China. Passport in hand, I passed through immigration once more and boarded yet another bus that was to take us to our scheduled company visit. Immediately I felt a sense of familiarity. I don’t know if it was the “California Noodle” restaurant that was situated adjacent to the bus, or the fact that, unlike Hong Kong and Macau, people in mainland China drive on the right side of the road. We soon arrived at MTU Maintenance, a large airline jet engine maintenance company. Seated at a large conference table, we were all introduced to the top management of the Zhuhai division. Being a half-Chinese, half-German company, it was interesting to witness and learn the dynamics and complexities of foreign business in China. The gentlemen giving the presentation were very knowledgeable and conducted themselves and the presentation in very German fashion. The presentation concluded, and we were led on a comprehensive facility tour, which included a venture into the wind tunnel where they test all the engines. After friendly goodbyes, we boarded the bus and made our way to Guangzhou.

Our hotel was lovely, with modern conveniences and amenities to satisfy any USD student. But, no matter how nice the hotel was in the inside, the harsh reality of a city blanketed in smog lay just outside the door. In the case of both Guangzhou and Shenzhen, I was able to put to use my Mandarin speaking skills. While these cities are located in Southern China, where Cantonese is the dominant dialect, it was not difficult to find Mandarin speakers. Walking into the Shenzhen fake market, I was in awe at the pure scale of the operation right next to the Chinese/Hong Kong border. Walking through the five story mall, you could feel the energy of the shoppers looking to find a fake designer handbag for a fraction of the cost. It was exciting to go into the markets and bargain for a lower prices using a mix of English and Mandarin. I believe the simple gesture of trying to adapt to the Chinese culture helped me score some really good deals. After sifting through all the little shops and pathways, we went traveled back to Hong Kong.

I woke up the next morning to the harsh reality that I was not on vacation that I was actually here to take a class, International Economics (ECON 333) to be more precise, taught by Dr. Alan Gin. I enjoyed taking this class, especially in a foreign country, because unlike some classes where it is all theoretical, the things I was learning in class were directly applicable to my Hong Kong experience. I learned how currency exchange rate can dictate so many aspects of international business. Hong Kong is regularly in the top three of the world’s busiest ports. We learned how Hong Kong became such an economic power, by looking at the effects of different economic policies, inflation, government intervention and how the supply and demand of currency can shift due to these factors. The material covered in the course will help me in my future career in international business, specifically when dealing with international contracts and exchange rates.

Jon HK 3

As a lover of photography, Hong Kong offered boundless opportunities to capture the “perfect pic.” The contrast between hard and soft, modern and tradition provides an outlet to take a picture that not only captures the beauty here and now in the present, but also captures the story and history of the people and landscape and how it all fuses in a way their either works or doesn’t function in today’s society.

While I could go on and on about my once in a life time experience in Hong Kong, I will briefly touch upon my top five highlights:

  1. Monkey Mountain – While this used to be a scheduled excursion for the program, it was later suspended because of potential risk.  So, naturally, that made us want to venture over and see the wild monkeys for ourselves. Stepping out of the cab, we were immediately greeted by over 10 wild monkeys. There was a large sign stating all the rules in regards to how to conduct oneself when around the monkeys, the most important being not to feed them. I soon found out that some of the monkeys were not friendly. I was viciously chased by a monkey at one point during the walk. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life. While this was a once in a life time experience, I left the mountain with my heart racing and a new found fear of monkeys.
  2. Victoria Peak– During our tour of Hong Kong with the entire group, we ventured up to Victoria Peak. On a sunny day the peak offers incomparable views of all of Hong Kong and the islands. Unfortunately for us, we could only see five feet in front of us because the peak was in the clouds. A group of us went back on a clear day to take in the spectacular views.
  3. Ozone– Being the highest bar in the world, Ozone offered 360 degree views of Hong Kong Island and a perfect spot to watch the light show.
  4. Night Markets– I went to countless night markets in Hong Kong. These offered a true taste of Asian culture. I was able to taste local street food, shop for things not found in commercial shopping malls, and truly feel transported from the modernity of Hong Kong.
  5. Singapore– While not part of the Hong Kong program, I decided to take a weekend trip to Singapore. It was amazing to see the similarities and differences between Singapore and Hong Kong, and how they both seem to be majorly successful.

Overall, I had the best time in Hong Kong. I hope to apply the physical skills I learned in my economics class, as well as the soft skills I learned throughout the interaction with the city and its locals in my future international business endeavors. Thanks to the wonderful staff, supervisors and the best group of students, I will forever cherish the memories I made in this dynamic city.”

Read more student blog posts about our Ahlers Fellowship and study abroad opportunities!

Visit our website for more information about study abroad.

MBA International Experience in Spain: Swastik Mukherjee

Swastik Mukherjee (USD MBA student) studied for one semester at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain as part of an international exchange program…these are his reflections as his time abroad came to an end:

20151114_163713 “I am still in a sense of shock. My feeble attempt at collecting my thoughts at the Barajas airport in Madrid is leaving me with a sense of void. It is a strange feeling to have, really. I just spent four months in this country and when am leaving, I am realizing that I barely scratched the surface. That I probably explored an iota of what was on offer. My own sense of adventure came up short against the grandiosity of this majestic country of Spain. I had finally met my match and the country’s victory loomed large over me. It was a challenge that Spain had thrown at me 20151127_024240when I first arrived because it’s sense of history had taken me inand I had told myself to explore as much as I could. Looking back, I realize that to know this culture inside out is a mammoth task, one that I was too small to accomplish. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a time to reflect on failure. It was a time to celebrate the opportunity of a lifetime—to study in Spain.

For an international student like me, one could say that studying abroad may not be have been as beneficial as compared to someone who is a native of the United States. I have been 20151114_163614fortunate to have studied in three different countries and have experienced different cultures throughout my life. But as Henry Miller famously quoted, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Gaining international experience is a never-ending sojourn, one that only adds another level to your existing knowledge. It takes you out of your element and places you in a place where you are less comfortable. Out of this lack of comfort arises the need to be flexible and adaptable, enabling you to learn in a new and more practical way. Experiencing other cultures around the world broadens your knowledge base and teaches you to think and live differently. It is extremely important, today, to have a solid understanding of different cultures, and getting an international MBA experience at a world-renowned university such as IE is definitely a glorious prospect to emphasize the international nature of my MBA as well as personal experiences.

20151010_212538Mere plaudits will not even come close to Spain’s intoxicating effect on global tourists. Wine and tapas in full and cheap flow, the inherent friendliness of the Spanish natives, the romanticism of Madrid with its fresco dining options, worldclass museums, vast open spaces, makes Spain an amazing experience, waiting to be experienced. The chances to visit mountains one day and a beautiful beach the next, the ability to walk around and admire the architecture, both in the day as well as the night, gives Spain an identity aped by none. Spain is one of my favorite countries and my experience in Madrid has made me fall more in love with this country.

Studying at IE, a top global business school, renowned for its quality in teaching and learning, taught me so much. My classes were full of interesting fellow students and the professors all came from tremendous backgrounds.


IE has always had an extremely strong base in finance and investments which was my area of interest. With its innovative vision and focus on academic rigor, IE is committed to educating professionals and experts who will make a difference in society. I am confident that with the education at both IE as well as USD, I will come out of the MBA program with a far more rounded approach to corporate life as well have inculcated skill sets that would make me an asset in any organization.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.


Ahlers Fellow Kayla Meijer: The Challenge & Reward of the CUIBE Case Competition

“The Northeastern CUIBE International Case Competition was by far the best thing I have ever done in my undergraduate career. It was extremely challenging, intimidating, and overwhelming, but that was all outweighed by the fun, excitement, and reward for our hard work during the trip.

When I was a freshman at USD, I was a member of the International Business Club. Upon hearing about CUIBE, I knew right away it was something I wanted to do, mostly because it was in my hometown of Boston, MA. I applied knowing full well that I wouldn’t be selected because I had not taken the necessary upper division courses and was far too inexperienced. However, I was hoping that whomever was reading my application would see that CUIBE was definitely something I was passionate about and truly wanted to do. When sophomore year came around, I applied again, and then again my junior year, knowing I wouldn’t be chosen but still hoping that my persistence was being noted and would eventually pay off.

I pushed myself to take the classes I needed to become eligible for CUIBE, to gain more knowledge in my upper division classes, and to become involved with the Ahlers Center. By the time the CUIBE application came around this year, I was finally ready. I worked hard on my application for the fourth and final time, and submitted it with a touch of anxiety, knowing that it was a very competitive opportunity. Although I felt much more confident about my submission at the time, I still had some nervousness that I might not be selected for the one undergrad opportunity I had been wanting for my entire time at USD.

On September 25 – arguably one of the most exciting days of my life – I received an email from the Ahlers Center and saw the first word: “Congratulations.” I was finally going to go to the CUIBE competition and complete one of my long time goals. Needless to say, I did a “happy dance” and probably embarrassed myself publicly. Laura Glennie, Michael Burrafato, and Enrique Contreras were the others selected to be in the competition and were my new teammates for this exciting ride.

I knew I was in for a tough few months, filled with practice and uncertainty, but when November 4th rolled around I was ecstatic. We got into Boston that Wednesday night on the 4th, and we were able to grab dinner and do a little exploration of the city before we went to bed. The next day, we had almost the entire day to explore the city, which was incredible and allowed us to relax before things really got interesting. We were given the case that night at a banquet with the rest of the teams and spent a few hours mapping out a game plan for Friday, which was our day of incredibly hard work.

We had until Friday (less than 24 hours) to decide what we wanted to suggest as consultants, create a thorough PowerPoint and strategy, and practice the presentation. We worked hard all day, stopping only for a short lunch at the delicious Union Oyster House in the North End of the city. We were able to finish and have time to sleep (some groups did not even get this luxury!). The next day, none of us could decide if it was anxiety or excitement we were feeling before our presentations. It quickly turned out to be pure excitement; after a lot of practice, we felt very confident about what we had to share with the highly esteemed judges. We presented to two different sets of judges, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon with lunch served in between.

On Saturday evening, the awards ceremony and networking reception was held in the hotel where everyone involved in the competition was staying. We got to know our competitors, the judges, and the team advisors, finding out where they were from and how they felt about the trip. We were then asked to take our seats for the awards ceremony.

They started with the 3rd place teams, which turned out to have come to a tie. One of the 3rd place teams happened to be another Southern California team from San Diego State University. Knowing that we didn’t get 3rd meant we did really well or we didn’t place at all – I thought my heart was going to pound out of my ears. In fact, my heart was pounding so loudly that I barely did hear the next name announced: 2nd place was the University of San Diego!

There aren’t words to describe the type of excitement and happiness we all were feeling in that moment. I felt like I was floating as we walked to the front of the room to receive our plaque and our “Winner” snapback hats (kind of a unique prize, but we liked them regardless!) and to get our picture taken. It was the perfect ending to make all of our hard work and stress pay off, and to show off the incredible talent that comes from the International Business program at USD. For me, it had an extra special touch because I had not only achieved my goal of going to CUIBE, but thanks to the caliber of my team and the education we are all receiving at USD, I was also a part of winning 2nd place at the competition of my dreams.”

Read more about our Ahlers Center Fellows on the Fellowship blog page!  For information about applying for this Fellowship program, contact Danielle Levanetz.

Going Global: An Asian Excursion

Torero Travelers

Following Torero Travelers around the globe not only brightens our day, but also sheds light on what our fellow Toreros are doing internationally. USD has a large and impactful presence in the international education community, hosting students from an expansive range of foreign nations and offering programs for the university’s students in 44 countries. In this episode, we follow the journey of USD graduate student during studies in Korea and China through the Ahlers Center for International Business.

Going Global: An Asian Excursion

Written by Steven Cummings (MSGL student)

IMG_2144In the ides of October, I joined a happy company of MSGL students (M.S. in Global Leadership pursuants) to embark on a mission to the Far East, seeking ken of the currents of commerce and as well as the rich cultural vestiges of an ancient past. Our host nations included the Republic of Korea and the Peoples’ Republic of China, lands long familiar with a flux of foreigners visiting their shores and cities.

As one descends onto the streets of Seoul, the first destination on our voyage, the mildly opaque air is not immediately refreshing…but well-structured city blocks and clean streets sweep away any impression of Korea’s history as a developing nation. Full of bright cultural traditions, a colorful palette of Korean cuisine, impressive displays of advanced technology & infrastructure, and a calm yet bustling crowd, Seoul is characterized by a distinct blend of the East and West.


East-West encounter at a Martial Arts demonstration

Possessed of a rather conspicuous “Californian” look, I did not blend in particularly well in Asia. Drawing stares on the streets proved an easy feat, even those lost in their smartphones could generally be shaken from their Confucian decorum by a long blonde mane on a tall striding male. Public courtesy oft prevented more than a few seconds’ glance, but experiments with sunglasses revealed many wide-eyed gawkers at this alien creature crossing in their path. While Korea has a strong international presence, its society is relatively homogenous in comparison with our melting pot nation: 96% of the population comes from the Korean ethnic group.

By day our group would walk among the markets, sometimes of the less formal variety with a myriad of unidentifiable fruits, fish, rice-based creations, a hundred kinds of kimchi, sometimes the highly modernistic malls that inhabit the upper floors of the city streets as well as the interlocking subterranean levels below. The food ranged from spicy to really spicy, with highlights including the famous Korean barbeque, the signature dish “bibimbap,” and an inexhaustible assortment of side dishes that were constantly refilled and often mysterious. Street food presented further opportunities for mystery and bewilderment – one especially succulent dainty came in the form of a still live & wriggling squid tentacle that would suction desperately to the cheeks and throat on its way down.

The people of Seoul dressed smartly but in plainer styles, as if they all shopped at the same department stores. Exceedingly polite and often decently versed in English, interactions by day felt slightly reserved – but by night, especially if soju had seeped into their veins, the Koreans let fly a very vibrant nightlife social scene. Introduced to Korea centuries ago by invading Mongolian hordes, soju retains its spark of chaos and reigns supreme as the alcoholic drink of choice for the nation – capturing 97% of spirits sales. It’s also an excellent weapon in one’s arsenal to reign supreme in the karaoke den…

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Factory visit to AmorePacific, a Korean cosmetics company

The nightlife scene subsided substantially as our group transitioned to Beijing, the municipal and cultural capital of China. While Shanghai may steal the show with regard to afterdark pomp & circumstance, Beijing contains not only many of China’s most important historic monuments but a strong sense of where the country stands today. Its newly upgraded metro system is fast and efficient, unusually-shaped skyscrapers decorate its skyline, the air breathes much easier than the pre-Olympic days, and a veritable shopper’s paradise greets the residents and tourists of the commercially booming city. Yet it also holds space for a more traditional generation, as well as the envelope-pushing avant-garde – artists, students, and champions of free thought have found the most expedient channels of growth and change on the streets of the capital. With a population of 23 million and growing, Beijing has a bit of everything.

As a group my fellow students and I took in as many of the city’s hallmarks as we could, touring by walk or run the large grounds of the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Behai Park, and also material attractions like the Silk Market and Wangfujing. While the immensity of the Forbidden City was impressive, my personal favorite of the city sights remains the “Nine Dragon Screen” of Behai Park – a spirit screen depicting nine dragons in relief that served to protect the ancient princes of state. Of course, no trip to Beijing could be complete without a trek to the Great Wall, so together (or rather, in a long string) we climbed to a lookout tower of a section of the Wall bordering a garrison.


Posing on the Great Wall of China

My individual journey in Beijing took me to some of the more underground parts of Chinese culture, sects previously unknown to me. A rendezvous with a longtime friend from my days as a European expatriate deposited me squarely in the midst of the “Chinese Punk” scene, where again my long hair won me attention and allies. Later we went for refreshments with her companions to a nearby vintage shop, the owner of which (another friend) being an organizer of “vintage festivals” all over China. The shop sat nestled in an old hutong of Beijing, essentially a neighborhood of narrow alleyways and buildings constructed long ago in traditional courtyard style. We met again the following night to prepare dinner together, where we set about concocting five customary dishes for a first time houseguest. As “garlic peeler,” my task left the husky remains of no less than thirty bulbs of garlic at my feet by the time my mound of ingredients was deemed satisfactory.


Steven’s Chinese dinner hosts

Once the graduate studies had concluded in China, I couldn’t bear to leave the country having seen Beijing alone. Luckily, the nation’s expanding network of bullet trains place many of the distant destinations within reach. A six hour ride at 300kmph brought a fellow student and me to Xi’an, the first capital of China and principal city of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Renowned for unifying the host of warlords occupying the lands that would become China, the emperor is also made famous by the remains of his Terracotta Army that accompanied him into the afterlife – over 8,000 unique figures representing his warriors, chariots, and horses, as well as non-military personages such as officials, musicians, and acrobats. Its discovery in 1974 put Xi’an on the map as a tourist destination, although its ornate palaces, pristine city walls, peculiar Muslim Quarter, and salubrious hot springs also make it an attractive site. Unfortunately, time constraints did not allow me to climb Mount Huashan, one of the five sacred mountains of China, and thus I suspect this visit to Xi’an will not be my last.


Nor to China. International travel, especially over the course of one’s studies in higher education, serves to provide some of the most edifying experiences of a person’s life. The intangible lessons gained through journeys abroad have certainly been a boon to the formation of my character as a global citizen, and I would wish that those faced with the opportunity to travel abroad pursue it with zeal and intention. This excursion to Korea and China has furthered my knowledge of how the world and its people interact, how they exchange information, ideas, memories, and hopeful prospects, and how we are all so universally similar and dissimilar. In the unending quest to leave no stone unturned, I look forward to a future of skipping across the water.

To read more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

More information regarding study abroad opportunities can be found on our website.

Aventuras en Madrid Pt. 1: Adapting to Spanish Life

Swastik Mukherjee, USD MBA student, is studying at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain as part of a semester exchange program.  In his own words, he describes his personal experiences adjusting to this new city and opening himself to exploring all that Spain has to offer:

“Getting the opportunity to do a study abroad program during an MBA is something that one cannot miss. Getting that opportunity in a top ten-business school in one of the most vibrant cities in the world is definitely the icing on the cake and a definite no-brainer. As a content for my first blog post, I wanted to talk about Madrid the city. Or about the gastronomic experience. Or about the language barriers. In fact, I wrote three different versions of this blog post earlier and discarded all of them. Somehow, I was not able to hit the nail on the head. What is it about this experience that has been the standout feature? The answer hit me last night. It is the people.

Dinner at San Sebastian copy

Now before coming to Madrid, I was scared. Very scared because I was told by numerous people that Madrid is not a very tourist friendly city. That only 22% of the population speak English. That my absolute lack of Spanish knowledge would get me into problems. Even forums on tripadvisor said that Madridistas are rude. Well, 2 months in and I have the ammunition to vehemently refute those claims. Madrid has been a revelation and how!

Exchange Students Social

I will not really touch upon the service industry as much as talking about my classmates. One never really understands the importance of finding common ground until you meet students from different walks of life. I would agree that I warmed up to my fellow IE students quicker because of the lack of language barrier, but I have had the chance to study with people from Peru, Chile, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, United Kingdom and Japan. It truly made sense why USD had collaborated with IE in the first place. IE shares similar traits with USD in terms of being internationally focused, and it has truly given me great networks and a great education. The acceptance that I have felt at IE has been truly amazing given the fact that I am only there for 3 months and they are extremely busy preparing for graduation and their quest to land that dream job.Getting Some Study On

My group meetings have been extremely fruitful; they have welcomed me warmly. My group members have been very flexible and accommodating with scheduling, so that I am able to experience Madrid and Spain as much as I can. Different people have greeted me during lunches, introduced themselves and had conversations with me. I was slightly overwhelmed by the new city and the language barrier loomed large in my mind, which probably made me go in to a shell for the first few days or so. Nevertheless, the fellows at IE and my fellow exchange students have made this experience of mine a brilliant one.

The camaraderie that I have shared with everyone has lifted my spirits and has made me more adventurous. I have tried more food here in Madrid than I would have dared to anywhere else. More than being adventurous, I think a sense of trust has developed with the city and with my fellow classmates. I think trust is the keyword here for me after two months. You visit a new city, a new environment and you try to do it all Wine & Tapas Dinneron your own. It does not quite work that way. One needs to feel the place and trust the place. Developing this trust can be challenging at first. Though, when you have fellows that open up to you from day one and encourage everything there is to experience about Madrid, you come to realize that the people are actually what make your experience in Madrid. Otherwise, your time here just remains a stamp on your passport.”


Stay tuned for more on Swastik’s semester abroad!  To read more exchange program experiences, visit our Semester Abroad blog page.

Information regarding our exchange partners and programs can be found on our website.

MBA Experiences Abroad: Emily Lapp

Emily Lapp, USD MBA student, describes the three study abroad experiences she has participated in and her goals for her fourth and final study abroad trip to Shanghai during Intersession 2016.

This student has certainly taken advantage of the international opportunities we offer here at USD and will have completed 25% of her units abroad when she graduates!


To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

10 Must-Do Experiences in Munich

Rebecca Johnson in Munich

This past summer, Rebecca Johnson (USD MBA student) participated in the Munich & Athens study abroad program.  She took advantage of every opportunity to explore the city and experience German culture, and was kind enough to share (in her own words) her list of the top ten things to do while in Munich!

This list will be especially helpful to students interested in traveling to Munich this intersession for the international practicum course!


1.   Visit the Beer Gardens

The Beer Gardens are famous in Bavaria for their fun, easygoing atmosphere. The English Garden (“Englischer Garten”), one of Bavaria’s most popular gardens, is a large public park in Munich. People ride bikes, walk their dogs, lie in the grass, have picnics, swim in the water and drink beer there.

Munich Bike Tour SU15


2.   Do a Bike Tour

On a bike tour, you will experience Munich like a local! Munich is the second most bike-friendly city in Europe (behind Amsterdam). You will learn about the symbolism, customs and traditions while getting some exercise, fresh air and having some fun.



Munich Square SU15


3.   Walk around Marienplatz

This is the center of the city, where many people gather daily to shop, walk around, eat or enjoy the scenery. One of its famous forms of entertainment is the clock in the center of New Town, which has wooden figures that come out 3 times per day.



Munich BMW SU15


4.   Visit the BMW Museum-

This museum gives you the opportunity to see how BMWs are made and what processes are followed to develop a vehicle to prepare it for its intricate inspections before it is released to its new owner. BMW has a long history of developing its quality vehicles. You will learn all about the history and the evolution of their cars.



5.   Take a Tour of Dachau

Dachau is 10 miles Northwest of Munich and was one of the first concentration camps established by the Nazis in Germany. This camp was intended only for political prisoners. A tour of Dachau will give you a close look into the devastating history of concentration camps in Germany under Hitler’s reign.


6.   Tour the Residenz Munchen

The Residenz Munchen is a palace-turned-museum which used to be the Wittelbach residence and was opened to the public in 1920. This visit will give you a glimpse into the lives of former rulers of Bavaria, including apartments, ceremonial rooms and chapels. There are also works of art and sculptures from the 16th through 19th centuries.

Munich Beer Garden


7.   Drink a Beer and Eat a Pretzel at an Augustiner

This is a traditional pass time for locals and tourists alike. Any local Augustiner in Bavaria will have a few varieties of beer, which are commonly paired with a snack, such as pretzels with mustard. There is often live entertainment, such as traditional German music with traditional dancing.



Munich Dress SU15


8.   Wear Lederhosen or a Dirndl

Where else could you get away with wearing leather shorts with suspenders and high socks or a cute girly dress with an apron and braids? This is a fun way to accessorize while enjoying German Culture to the fullest. During Oktoberfest, this dress is commonly worn to celebrate the German way of life. It is especially fun if you plan to do some dancing!


Munich River Surfing SU15


9.   Watch the River Surfers

This is something you might not believe until you see it. River surfing has been an enjoyable activity in Munich for many years. Many famous professional surfers from the U.S. and Australia have visited Munich to experience this unique form of surfing. It is a creative way these athletes are able to experience their sport even far from the ocean’s waves!


Munich Fish SU15


10.   Eat Traditional Bavarian Food

German food is unique and delicious. You must bring an appetite, as this food is not light! Apple strudel, wiener schnitzel (thin, boneless cutlet of veal), spatzel (noodles), wurst (sausage) or bratwurst (fried sausage) are all delicious and should all be sampled while in Munich.




Want to read more student experiences?  Check out our Study Abroad blog page!

Visit our website for information on the upcoming Intersession 2016 Munich Practicum Program.

Ahlers Fellow Kayla Meijer: Intersession Abroad in Argentina

Over Intersession 2015, Kayla Meijer, an Ahlers Fellow majoring in International Business, studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Having taken away so much from her short time in Argentina, Kayla shared her many experiences and lessons learned abroad…

“Traveling to Argentina has been a dream of mine ever since the first day I arrived on campus as a freshman. I had friends who had gone there for study abroad and it seemed to me like the most amazing and unique place I could ever go. I finally got the opportunity when a class on the Latin American Business Environment (BUSN 494) was being offered in Buenos Aires over Intersession of 2015. It seemed like fate for me because I now had the prerequisites and it was in the place I had been hoping to go for years. It was my first time traveling internationally without my only world traveling companion, my mom, but I was excited. It would be a chance for me to apply all the travel skills she has taught me over the years and allow me to grow as an individual like never before (it also helped to know that she was going to come meet me at the end of my class so that we didn’t miss out on this adventure together).

I had booked a flight that landed at 1:00am in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and thought that this arrival time was not only a bit strange, but was also going to give me all sorts of problems. Turns out I was in for a big surprise when I learned that in this culture the time schedule was VERY different than it is the states. I ended up having quite a few dinners starting at midnight during my stay, which was just unheard of to me previously.

Another aspect to my trip that was unexpected but truly amazing was the new friend and Argentine family that basically adopted me during my stay. My now good friend Catie was traveling to Argentina for the class, but also to see her fathers’ side of the family that lives down there and that she rarely gets to see. Not only was Catie incredibly nice, she even let me hang out with her and her family, who treated me like I was just another member of the family. It was so refreshing to be a part of a family that was so accepting, welcoming, and warm, and it really spoke volumes to me about the country I was in; I was falling for Argentina fast.


My new Argentine family showed us all the good places to shop, eat, and tour while we were there, which was extremely helpful so that we maximized the short time we were there. In particular, my favorite experience by far on the trip was the night that Catie and I visited their first apartment (now office) to have empanadas and pizza on their gorgeous deck with the entire family. I not only learned a lot about this family, but of the culture as an extension, because they were so open and willing to talk to us about anything we wanted to know that we heard about in class. Lucky for us as well, they all spoke excellent English!

The business class itself was extremely interesting because it was so dynamic; we took a trip to the only Walmart in Buenos Aires to learn about the challenges a successful U.S. company faces abroad, had a variety of guest speakers, and also used case studies as our main mode of conversation and understanding of the Latin American Business Environment.

Walmart was really quite a wakeup call for us as undergrads, because it really hit home that just because a company can succeed in the U.S. does not mean it will succeed abroad. In fact, Walmart Argentina was failing miserably because the business model it was built upon does not apply in many other countries. Sure it’s always better to save money in stores, but what about when the population does not have the disposable income for the things sold at Walmart, or the space for things bought in bulk or the transportation to a megastore location? This was eye opening to a lot of us who hadn’t really considered these problems before, and allowed us to have conversations about why companies fail abroad and talk about their solutions or approaches to solving this. For example, Walmart decided that because people couldn’t afford and didn’t need the bulk sizes or the superstore, they tried a chain of smaller convenience-like stores that saw a bit more success. They also learned that the locals were coming to the store to eat at the restaurants inside, not necessarily to shop, and as such made a larger food court to keep their customers coming back, even if it wasn’t for their intended purpose.

Walmart Argentina

Though I have only touched on the tip of the iceberg of knowledge that was this trip and course, the most important thing I learned was that as a business person just entering into my career, I can never assume I know anything about a country until I have really put in the time and energy to get to know its people, history, and economics. While this may sound obvious to some, I think it is largely ignored in the business world today, causing many problems for businesses abroad and also for our own culture having a reputation as ignorant and aloof. It is important for us as the next generation to be mindful of how we interact in the business world, because every country is unique in its own way and deserves our attention, thought, and respect when entering it with our products and services. While it would be possible to write a novel about my experiences for just 3 weeks in one country, I think it would be much more beneficial for you to go out and experience it for yourself, so book a flight and I’ll meet you in Buenos Aires!”

Read more student blog posts about our Ahlers Fellowship and study abroad opportunities!

Visit our website for more information about study abroad.