Two trips to Seattle and Detroit gave groups of Mays marketing and honors students a glimpse at some of the nation’s top companies and urban cultures this October.

And, as Honors Director Kris Morley noted of her students in Detroit, it gave some young students the basic confidence to travel independently. “Tipping the bellman, hailing a cab, finding your way around with a map of the city—you name it, they got a handle on it,” Morley said.

The Center for Retailing Studies sent 12 retailing-minded students to Microsoft and Nordstrom headquarters in Seattle in early October, where they visited the “inner sanctum” of Microsoft and learned about the company’s vision of the home of the future and its role in retail. Students toured Nordstrom, REI’s flagship store and Fred Meyer, a multi-department grocery store owned by Kroger.

But seeing a vibrant retail market in action at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market might have proved the more impressive tour: students caught fresh fish from market merchants singing old fishmonger’s songs, fingered beads and leathers from artisan vendors and breathed in the fresh-daily grocer smells in the open-air vegetable, meat and seafood market.

Culture also characterized a trip to Ford Motor Company in Detroit taken later in October by 17 Business Honors students. For this group of students, the biggest glimpse was of career possibilities outside Texas. Clicking down the pavement in their heels and professional wear, students marveled that they could really see themselves working in a city like Detroit, Morley said. “That’s it, that’s our goal right there. It’s to help these students extend their view of the world beyond the borders of Texas,” she said.

Whether they find their possibilites in the factory floor at Ford or model their marketing on the engaging customer service practices of singing fish sellers, nationalizing students’ views of business is proving just as salient as ensuring they have a global view of corporate practice.

“We gained insight into four completely different companies, which were all outstanding models of successful retailing,” M.B. Zale Scholars Laura Hermansen and Joan Swetlick told the Center for Retailing Studies after their trip to the Emerald City. “Combined with Seattle’s beauty, it was the experience of a lifetime.”