Category Archives: Study Abroad


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.


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!

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

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

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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.


The Eurozone & the Greek Crisis: Strategies for Global Innovation & Competitiveness

By Philip Sheridan, MBA student

Due to my interest in strategic planning and innovation management, I participated in the 2015 Munich & Athens study abroad program with the intent to study strategies for global innovation, and how the political, legal and ethical climate can impact a country’s corporate and economic development. Despite the improving economic climate for a number of states within the European Union (EU), the tensions created by the current Greek crisis provided a unique (possibly historical) opportunity to learn first-hand how each country’s respective business and economic environment is impacting the health of the EU.

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Plaza in Munich, Germany

The EU consists of 27 member states (countries), of which Germany is considered Europe’s economic engine, with a longstanding record of high employment and productivity. Kicking off our studies, two lecturers (Dr. Richard Hofmaier, University of Applied Sciences Munich; Alexander Lang, Tu Munchen) described how the main driving forces (~99%) behind Germany’s economy are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs; up to 500 employees), referred to as the ‘German Mittlestand’ or ‘hidden champions’. Roughly 95% of Mittlestand firms are family-owned businesses, of which >54% have launched an innovation onto the market, contributing almost 52% of Germany’s economic output within the EU (~27% of EU GDP). Dr. Hofmaier and Mr. Lang eluted to how most successful German firms (large or small) try to capture the spirit of these ’hidden champions’ to drive innovation, and integrate knowledge of consumer-demands into their innovation management and product development practices and processes.

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters

The innovation practices discussed by Hofmaier and Lang provided a great international context for our course studies in global innovation management, particularly as it relates to ideation, opportunity identification, option development, synthesis and analysis. Together with Dr. Zimmermann, we discussed these topics and relevant case studies used by global organizations trying to establish and sustain innovative cultures. These class discussions and experiential exercises provided great exposure to practices and contextual tools that I can leverage in my strategic planning and business development activities.

Our time in Germany culminated with site visits to the BMW Manufacturing World Headquarters, as well as the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (within the University of Applied Sciences). At BMW, we observed how a large enterprise marries customer-focused development with innovative production methods to maintain their competitive edge and increase manufacturing efficiency.

At the Strascheg Center, we learned how the German government invests resources to establish entrepreneurship programs and seed university business incubators. We had the unique experience to hear from two start-up cofounders as to the resources provided by the center to help them develop and deliver their innovative products to the market.


Winning culinary team relaxing after the Athens Sensations Tour

Following our acclimation to Athens through a program sponsored ‘Athens Sensations Tour’, we started our studies in Greece with an orientation by Dean Nickolaos Travlos from the Athens Laboratory of Business Administration (ALBA). Dean Travlos framed out key financial events that led to Greece’s current economic crisis, which today is characterized by excessive debt (debt to GDP >170%), an over-bearing public sector (>50% public companies), non-competitive government policies (low government efficiency, 56/59), and a significant ‘black economy’ (>30%). As a result, the Greek government faces overwhelming pension obligations, extremely high unemployment (>25%; >50% for youths), a deflated private business sector (low business efficiency index, 53/59), and significant lost tax revenues due to the black economy.

Visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company

Of particular interest was a presentation by Prof. Babis Mainemelis (ALBA) who emphasized how Greek businesses could leverage their worldly traditions and heritage to spur innovation and differentiate its products on a global business stage. We visited Apivita, a family-owned company that specializes in using natural organic oils, plant extracts and beehive products to formulate holistic cosmetics. We toured their production facility and botanical gardens, including a hands-on experience as to the beekeeping practices used to maintain their hives for generation and collection of natural product ingredients. We also toured the Papagiannakos Winery and enjoyed a history lecture on wine in Greece by food consultant and sommelier Chrissa Giatra. It was interesting to hear how these two family businesses were leveraging their unique success in Greece to expand within the European market.

Athens ruins flag

Ancient ruins in Athens, Greece

It will be interesting to follow future economic developments within the EU. Will there be a Grexit (Greek exit from the EU)? Could this lead to a contagion where other countries (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy) also exit rather than continue to institute painful austerity measures (such as labor and market reforms). And what global impact could such developments have on international markets and economies?

While we wait to see what the future holds for Greece and the EU, I can say that the immersive nature of the Munich & Athens program provided direct exposure to these contrasting business environments, and cultures as a whole. The team–based course content and exercises fostered collaboration between individuals from various university programs, and together with lectures by international faculty and company site visits, delivered a unique and exceptional professional learning opportunity every student should have the good fortune to experience. Lastly, it was extremely stimulating to learn about these historical cities and their overall place in the world, from an economic as well as cultural perspective. Most important, it was great fun to meet new people, expand my professional network, and establish new friendships.


Read these other blog posts detailing student experiences in Munich & Athens:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

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

What Students are Saying About Munich & Athens


Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

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


The Mondragon Experience Told by a Student

By Emily Lapp, MBA Student

I signed up for the Mondragon Experience (GSBA 594 Models of Particpatory Leadership) because I wanted to study abroad and receive 3 units of credit during the summer semester. I briefly glanced at the syllabus and read things like “cooperative” and “employee ownership” and thought to myself, “Well, this ought to be interesting.”

Allison Czapracki, Tracy Zetts, Emily Lapp and Betty Trinh on the pre-trip excursion to San Sebastian

Allison Czapracki, Tracy Zetts, Emily Lapp and Betty Trinh on the pre-trip excursion to San Sebastian

As someone who currently serves in the military, I was apprehensive about the “workers cooperative” part, imagining a 1960s commune. Well, it turned out that the “workers cooperative” bit was the major part, but I was pleasantly surprised that the workers cooperative I found at Mondragon in no way resembled the workers cooperative of my imagination. I found Mondragon to be far more professional and global than I had envisioned and far more focused on technical and real-world education.

USD students visit Mondragon University's Innovation and Knowledge Center

USD students visit Mondragon University’s Innovation and Knowledge Center

After this trip, I would no longer immediately discard the suggestion of a cooperative. I do not believe everyone in America should immediately abandon their capital companies for cooperatives, but I am convinced that, in certain communities and in certain industries, cooperatives make a lot of sense. I was intrigued during one our final presentations when Mr. Michael Peck, the Mondragon North American Delegate, mentioned cooperatives might be the answer for the financially devastated coal mining communities in West Virginia. The sense of community already present there would be a fertile ground for the next step towards the solidarity offered by a cooperative.

MBA students Stephanie McQuade, Emily Lapp and Allison Czapracki at the top of Mt. Udalaitz, overlooking the town of Mondragon

MBA students Stephanie McQuade, Emily Lapp and Allison Czapracki at the top of Mt. Udalaitz, overlooking the town of Mondragon

I was most surprised by how many similarities existed between Mondragon and the Navy. The Navy, being an entity not driven by profit, is far more cooperative in nature than I realized. From the common values of a clear mission, trust and participation, I found the two organizational cultures had more in common than I would have ever expected. Yet Mondragon’s emphasis on transparency and worker participation at all levels really stood out to me and are values that I hope to implement in my naval career and personal life.


Enjoying the beautiful view from Mondragon’s Otalora Training Center

Lastly, the opportunity to visit the Basque Country in Spain was truly a once in a lifetime experience. While technically part of Spain, the culture and landscape is so different. Spending time with the friendly and hard-working people was such a pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed my Mondragon Experience and would highly recommend the class for anyone interested in learning more about organizational models and Basque culture.

To read more about the Basque Country click here.

What about you? Have you been to Mondragón? What did you think of it?

Company visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company outside of Athens, Greece.

What Students are Saying About Studying Abroad in Munich and Athens!

“The summer study abroad program in Munich and Athens was incredible because it brought what we were studying to life. The European Union is currently in the midst of an incredibly trying time and to actually be there, on the ground gave a real life perspective and dynamic we couldn¹t possibly get while at home in the U.S. I left Germany and Greece with a hands-on experience that not only brought many of the subjects in my coursework to life, but also that I will cherish as a move forward in my future career.” ~ Jaqueline Rodrigues, JD/MBA Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“My experiences abroad have enriched my understanding of cultural, language, and business aspects related to my studies to earn my Masters of Science in Global Leadership through the Business School at the University of San Diego. It is one thing to study international comparative leadership, as well as global policies, but it is an entirely different exposure when immersed with the people and their cultures for yourself–it is something that has highlighted my time earning my graduate degree at USD, and remains some of the fondest memories and robust learning experiences of my academic career!” ~ Allison Cameron, MSGL Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“The USD study abroad program in Munich/Athens allowed us to hear descriptions and perspectives on the Greek Financial Crisis directly from both German and Greek business leaders. It was a timely and insightful experience that I wish everyone could have experienced.” “While preparing to study for the Munich/Athens program, a handful of us decided to travel to Istanbul, Prague, and Salzburg. We had an opportunity to see so many places and combined academics, history and pleasure quite nicely to start our summer.” ~ Ivan Reed, MBA Student, about his experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

“Study abroad was an enriching experience that helped me understand how deep cultures can run, and how it influences business behaviors. The juxtaposition witnessed between entrepreneurial German companies and family owned Greek companies, opened my eyes and made me think about the benefits and necessity of diversity in the business world. Although different cultures and business strategies, both were successful, utilized their strengths and remain unconnected by the global economy.” Danielle Robles, MSGL Student, about her experience in the Munich & Athens program 2015.

Still not sure if the Munich & Athens program is the right program for you? Read the blog posts below for more relevant information on this study abroad experience:

Experience Munich and Athens Through the Eyes of a Student

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

Munich:Athens SU15, Cummings

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.

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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.


Closing the Gap: An American Experience with Argentine Economics

In January 2015, graduate student Elizabeth Tanner participated in the intersession course (Global Entrepreneurship for Social Change) program in Buenos Aires, Argentina and got a first-hand look at Argentine economics, including a growing wealth gap, which has been affected by both domestic political and financial instability starting in the 20th Century.

One of the ten wealthiest states during the 19th Century — a result of prosperous trading with European countries, flowing immigration and rich natural resources — Argentina began going through political and financial stability, as did much of the world, during the two World Wars. Add in political instability, degenerating fiscal policies and a domestic currency crisis in 2001, and socioeconomic inequality rose immensely.


The closing dinner for the students in Buenos Aires; Elizabeth Tanner is second from the right.

Fast forward to 2015, Elizabeth Tanner was able to see and experience how Argentinian businesses are working to decrease that gap. “The role of business and entrepreneurs [is] in finding solutions to the wealth gap, creating and providing sustainable jobs, and improving the social climate in Argentina… Many business and entrepreneurs are taking an active role in driving social change through business initiatives. We witnessed this first hand through site visits during our course in Buenos Aires,” said Tanner.

Outside of the classroom, the participants went on numerous site visits to companies and organizations who are directly modeling their company goals and practices towards helping decrease poverty and grow the middle class. Tanner commented, “I was most impressed by Fundación Avina. We visited their Argentine headquarters in Buenos Aires… At Fundación Avina, they are addressing social challenges by creating sustainable profitable ventures. We learned about their efforts in Argentina. In the slums of Buenos Aires (and every metropolitan area globally), there are a subset of people who create income by picking through garbage and reclaiming the valuable and reusable waste… Waste pickers are an important part of our society [as they] are preventing landfill and assisting in achieving environmental sustainability and reclaiming commodities.” However, because they are working informally, their rights and leverage concerning wages. Fundación Avina, in response, has created cooperatives that unite the workers and enable them to get higher wages. On the legal end, the philanthropic group has worked on pushing public policy to formally recognize these workers.

View of Buenos Aires at sunset from the hotel.

View of Buenos Aires at sunset from the hotel.

Overall, Tanner’s experience has shown her how many businesses around the world are concerned just as much, if not more, about the ethics surrounding their practices and goals as they are with their bottom line. “The Golden Rule is moving to the forefront of many entrepreneurial efforts globally and businesses are prioritizing social responsibility. In addition, individuals and businesses are recognizing that sound business models and sustainable revenue flows can benefit social initiatives in creating long standing change,” Tanner said.

Strangers in a Strange Land: Finding Love Abroad

In the fall of 2009, two young strangers, an Italian man named Nicolo and a Spanish woman named Anna, decided to embark on study abroad programs to the United States from their respective universities of Bocconi in Italy and EADA in Spain. Little did either know how much of a journey their time during their exchange programs would be.

Nicolo and Anna first met at their exchange student orientation hosted by the Ahlers Center, and soon developed a friendship while both living in Mission Beach and sharing a class and the same friend group. Two months later, the two multinational friends developed strong feelings for each other, and on their first trip to New York City during Thanksgiving, they officially became a couple. Fast forward five years, and the European couple are now happily married and living in Andorra.

Niccolo (center) and Anna (second from the right) in San Diego.

Niccolo (center) and Anna (second from the right) in San Diego in 2009.

Anna commented on her unexpected fairytale, “When I first met Nico at USD, I couldn’t have imagined that after almost 5 years I would be married to him… We have spent much of our relationship traveling and working together in countries such as Italy, Switzerland and Spain, and now we are living in the small but breathtaking Principality of Andorra. We are both so thankful to the University of San Diego for the study abroad opportunity that brought us to each other!”

Niccolo and Anna at their 2014 wedding.

Niccolo and Anna at their 2014 wedding.

International experiences bring so much more to the participants than what’s learned in a classroom or in tourist trap destinations; unexpected positive outcomes, such as the romance between Anna and Nicolo, can be hiding around every corner, waiting to be discovered. Although it may make you slightly nervous and take some courage, temporarily leaving your country on your path of higher education during international programs will expand your horizons and forever change your world in one way or another.

Do you have a similar story to share? Please comment below!