“Work-Life Balance,” a phrase we hear non-stop as American business students seeking to enter the workforce. Companies preach their policies that give employees the opportunity to live a life outside of work, each claiming to provide the best balance out of every company. Through every internship recruiting event in the United States, I was always impressed by the number of benefits and opportunities presented by each firm. That was until I saw what real work-life balance looked like in France. My time studying abroad showed me that the French work to live, rather than living to work.

French businesses value their employees’ personal lives and prioritize time off. I saw many different exhibits of this while visiting businesses throughout Europe. One example of a balanced work-life was the length of the French lunch break. It is standard for French businesses to offer employees two-hour lunch breaks which allow people to socialize over a meal, go home and rest, check on family, work out, etc. Additionally, most businesses that are able will close down during the month of August to allow employees ample vacation time. I saw how both of these things improved the satisfaction of employees in their jobs and helped them feel valued by the companies or businesses that they worked for.

Seeing how France differs from America when it comes to work-life balance was very eye-opening during my study abroad program. There are many pros and cons to the approaches of both countries but ultimately, I think everyone could benefit from a two-hour lunch break and I definitely enjoyed it during my time in France!

Categories: France

This has been one of the best months of my life. I’ve never felt more myself. My day consists of waking up for class, getting lunch, and then wandering the streets of Florence or studying at the most beautiful library. I am obsessed with Italian Fanta (outranks any other carbonated drink I’ve ever had), kiwi and limone gelato, and the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. I also found out I like tomatoes (maybe Italy just does tomatoes better)!

Of all the places we’ve visited I would say my favorite cities are Florence, Positano, and Venice are my favorites. One thing that surprised me is that the more places I visited the more I realized how much I loved Florence. It really is the perfect blend of everything that sets Italy apart from every other country. It has fashion, finance, fine arts, food, and enough history to fill many books. I would highly recommend to live in Florence if you visit Italy for an elongated period of time. I know I’m definitely going back.

I know that I want to do international business now. I love learning about people from other cultures, but there’s a difference between watching a YouTube video and visiting the country. Being able to live in Florence I got to see how important family is and was surprised to find out most businesses in Italy are family owned. About 80% of the businesses in Italy are family owned. I could see the great pride Italians took in their work and that one of the most important things when doing business with them is trust. Being in Italy has encouraged me to want to learn the Italian language and be able to make it back there to do some sort of business.

The biggest takeaways I had from my study abroad is that being away from my phone is nice, I can do anything I set my mind to, I want to travel the world more, I want to work in fashion, and that I should always ask questions.

Categories: Italy

The first week has been the longest and shortest of my life. I flew into Italy before everyone else and it was really nice to be able to settle in for a day before the group arrived. However, despite the extra time in Italy, traveling internationally for the first time alone is scary.

Some of my first realizations when I arrived is that taxis are expensive, Discover cards do not work in Italy, cash is like gold, and don’t leave your phone in a taxi.

My second day in Italy I figured out how to get to the SAI office and get set up with the apartment I’d be living in for the next month. The taxi was really convenient, even though it was pricey, and lugging my suitcase up the hill to my apartment was the biggest workout of my life. I spent the rest of the day with someone who works for SAI and got my own personal tour of Florence. I was in awe not only with the architecture but the richness of the history the city possesses. There’s nothing that old in the United States and compared to Italy our country is a toddler.

I could go on and on in detail about every single day because there was so much to see but here are my main takeaways. Florence is a city of art, food, and family. In Italy family is everything. I hope throughout this program as my classes continue I’ll be able to learn MGMT 311 & IBUS 456, but do it the Italian way. I’ve never had a time in university this far where I only have to focus on school. I’m excited to not just visit this city but live here. I hope to come out more knowledgeable about the customs, history, people, fashion, art, food, and to see if I can understand a tiny bit of what it means to be Italian.

Categories: Italy

What an informative month! I started the program knowing very little about the inner workings of the European Union and left having learned a great deal about how it works–from the economic alliance, the political union, as well as the history leading up to the current agreement. I also learned a lot from our class taught by Dr. Panina, which covered more general principles of international business. It really helped open my eyes to how different international business is compared to domestic business. We covered topics like tariffs, trade agreements, and different legal systems that govern business. The classes were very informative and helped to broaden my view of how business is conducted. The trip overall made me think of other things differently as well. It really helped to widen my worldview by seeing the European way of life and how it differs from the standard of living we have in America. It really made me think about the areas that America could improve on, such as public transportation and maternity leave. Additionally, seeing so many sites with historical and cultural significance has made me more curious to learn about Spain and how the country evolved into its current form. Since I’ve gotten back to America, I’ve done more research into the places I visited to further expand the knowledge I learned from my time there. The trip also made me revise my future career goals. I hope my work brings me in contact with international contacts and even involves trips abroad. This trip has made me want to further explore the world we live in and meet new people in new places, both for business and for fun. I hope this trip gives me the competitive edge in my career to have more opportunities to go abroad to further develop the knowledge gained from this trip.

Categories: Spain

After spending a month in Barcelona I’ve noticed that my experience of day-to-day life in the States has changed the most. The difference in lifestyles is subtle in certain ways, but ultimately gives you a better perspective of how other parts of the world live. One of the key things I’ve appreciated is going to the grocery store, while Barcelona has several markets, they have nothing compared to the size and variety of an American market. This comes at the cost of quality in some areas. Specialty meats such as prosciutto and local produce are one of the things that I will miss most about Barcelona. Spain as a whole also has a far more laidback lifestyle. Businesses open later and then close for a mid-day siesta, and everything is closed on Sundays. It is a different outlook on work and convenience is not as important. In America, I can go to the grocery store late and get food somewhere almost 24 hours a day. In Spain, you don’t have that luxury. Cafes line the corners of every street, and the size of businesses are very small. A store might only carry a few products, and local shopping for the week might have to visit 3 to 4 different businesses to gather everything they need for the week. The city was also very hot, while nothing compared to the Texas heat, there is almost no relief from it. I left before this law was enacted, but Spain recently passed a law where businesses cannot keep the air conditioning below 82 degrees Fahrenheit, to conserve energy. Energy is an extremely expensive commodity there, unlike in America. Altogether, this experience helped me better understand and appreciate many of the subtle cultural differences that modern nations face both in business and in lifestyle.

Categories: Spain

I cannot believe that our time in Spain has already come to an end! We learned so much about doing business both in Spain and in Europe during our studies there, in addition to immersing ourselves in Spanish culture through the sights, food, and people.

One of the business excursions that I learned the most from was our visit to the Port Authority of Barcelona (we even got to ride a boat through the port to see different aspects of its commercial and logistics activities!). Barcelona is a logistics hub for Europe and the Mediterranean that generates 11.553 billion euros and accounts for 7.1% of Catalonia’s GVA, with 37,000 people working there every day. It has a city port for large yachts, a cruise port for tourism, and a commercial port for storage. I thought that it was interesting that they are making it easier for goods to reach the port using rail services from central Spain and southern France to make it more attractive to shipping services that pick up the cargo. The city port features something known as a “blue economy,” which includes all kinds of businesses that are in one way or another linked to the sea and benefiting from that. For example, businesses like hotels that do not have to be by the sea but that benefit from that location are part of the blue economy. The maintenance, repairs, and docking of luxury yachts is another example, the provision of which the port of Barcelona is known worldwide for. In addition, it is a European leader in cruise ports and provides economic benefit to Barcelona by creating a need for supplies for the cruises, hotels for passengers, etc. The port of Barcelona has the most important storage and logistics facilities in the Mediterranean and has a successful business model with its warehouses located so close to the port. Many leading international brands have distribution centers there, like IKEA, Amazon, Honda, Mazda, Mango, and Schneider Electric. The port is even making strides to become greener by offering rebates to companies who have their cargo arrive by train (as opposed to trucks), which is better for the environment. Being able to learn so much about the port of Barcelona was really interesting to me because I was able to compare it to what I know about doing business in the United States and especially what I learned about in my Supply Chain class. The port of Barcelona has a really unique position as the “door of Europe” that differs from the U.S. simply because it is surrounded by so many other countries.

Through the other company visits that we went on, such as our tours of the Freixenet and Via Romana wineries, the Estrella Galicia brewery, and the Sargadelos ceramic factory, in addition to our courses about the European Union, we were able to learn a lot about doing business abroad. In the future, I look forward to using this new knowledge in my career, which I hope will be an international one that will involve visits to many more countries.

Categories: Spain

I learned so much while on my study abroad in Spain. I took two classes, international business and economics of the EU. Both of these classes taught me that doing business abroad, like in the EU, is very different compared to business in the United States. In my economics class, we learned about how once the EU was formed, trade barriers were reduced if not completely eliminated in member countries. The introduction of the Euro also aided in advancing European business and trade because it made for easier transportation of both labor and goods within the EU countries. Our professor made a lot of comparisons between EU countries and the US, Canada, and Mexico. She especially noted how EU countries are more likely to help each other with economic stability since they are tied when compared to the US helping Mexico, which she noted we do not help out as much due to political tension. This is just one example of how politics can affect economic decisions. We also discussed how specialization varies in different areas due to trade difficulties. For instance, it is easier for EU member countries to import and export within the EU than it is for the US to import and export with other countries because we have more trade barriers. In my international business class, we made several trips to local Spanish companies and were able to learn about how they conduct their businesses. It was interesting to see that a lot of the companies we visited started as small family businesses and grew to a much bigger scale due to proper management. The company visits were definitely a favorite part of the trip as they really allowed for some hands-on learning. Overall, I learned a lot about business abroad, and personally, I learned that I love to travel and will definitely want a job that will help me accomplish my new goal of seeing more of the world!

Categories: Spain

Some of the greatest memories I made during this study abroad came from all the cultural visits and company visits that we did. The main difference that I noticed is that in every company that we visited, a majority of the employees spoke English but also their native language. Even when we visited small towns in Spain, I was amazed to see the number of people that could communicate in English. In Europe, many countries implement more worker-friendly labor laws than they have here in the US. Many companies would have longer lunch breaks so that their employees can rest but also not get as burnout as some employees here do. There is also a big separation between work and personal life. When employees are out of the office, they tend to forget their office life and focus more on themselves and their personal lives. By being able to come on this study abroad trip, I was able to experience things that I wouldn’t have had the chance to if I had stayed at home. Antonio Gaudi was a famous architect from Barcelona, so we were able to see all of his famous pieces across the city and they were truly beautiful pieces of art. I am grateful that I was able to experience a different culture, something that really pushed me out of my comfort zone. When a first arrived, I thought I was going to struggle with navigating myself around the city but by the end of this trip, I was able to easily get myself around with the bus or the metro. Studying international business also gave me a clear idea of what it is I want to do when I grow up, and that involves traveling and experiencing new things. I most certainly will be traveling back to Europe and especially Spain in the future.

Categories: Spain

The month I was a student in Barcelona was one of the most enlightening, eye-opening, enjoyable, and breath-taking months of my life. Thinking back to my initial goals, I am proud to say that I would not change a single thing about the experience I had. I am able to converse and understand Spanish in a new way. I became genuine friends with Aggies that I had never crossed paths with before. I was challenged and pushed by random, friendly strangers I met on the metro. Doing business abroad is different than doing it in the United States. You are dealing with people who have vastly different backgrounds, cultures, languages, laws, and more. These things on the surface are extremely obvious, but when it comes to business, these differences can complicate the simple. In Barcelona, I had two incredible professors, Professor Gundin and Professor Panina, who offered insights on the European Union, exchange rates, monetary policies, and the different ways business is conducted across cultures.

This was my first time I had ever been to Europe. We could walk in any direction and come across a beautiful, ornate building that was older than the United States of America. We could be at dinner and hear people speaking Spanish, English, Italian, French, and languages I did not recognize in a single restaurant. I was humbled when I was abroad. There is so much that I do not know about this world I live in. One of my biggest takeaways was the fire lit under me to learn more through traveling. It is one thing to read about places and history in books, but an entirely other thing to experience it in person. I long to experience the world more and it may involve me living abroad one day. I am incredibly thankful for this trip and the people I had the chance to meet on it.

Categories: Spain

After spending over 2 months in Europe and 6 Weeks in Spain I can say this is a truly unbelievable and unforgettable experience. The past month I spent with my fellow TAMU students has been amazing. We have been able to experience so many new things together and form relationships and friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I was able to learn so much about myself by fully allowing me to decide to do my master’s program abroad in a year hopefully. I loved all the group activities as the program was able to provide around 3-4 activities after school like a tour of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, and various wine and brewery tours as well to fit everyone’s needs. Something else the program was able to add was a group trip to Galicia. Even though I had low expectations, those few days in Galicia blew me away with its beauty. I especially loved being able to visit Santiago de Compostela, something that I could have only dreamt about visiting and I hope to go back one day after walking the Camino de Santiago. Lastly, the cooking class we did on the last day was most definitely my favorite. We were able to learn how to cook Paella and Tapas which were all delicious. Overall this program was amazing and would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about doing it. For sure had my best summer ever this year!

Categories: Spain