It has been a little over a month since I arrived back to Dallas, TX after spending five months in Vienna, Austria. In that time, I have created some of the most incredible memories – I met people that have become lifelong friends, visited countries I never thought I would have the opportunity to see, and pushed myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. All in all, Vienna marks a period of time in my life that I will always cherish, and I cannot wait to go back one day.
While abroad, I attended one of the most esteemed business schools in all of Europe, Wirtschafts Universität (commonly referred to as WU). Here, I had the chance to experience an educational institution that functioned vastly different from the one I was familiar with. Classes were block courses, each one varying from 3-5 hours per session, starting and ending at different points in the semester. For example, the “summer” semester started officially on February 28, 2019, and ended on June 29, 2019. However, my finance course was in March for only three weeks, whereas my Human Resource class started in April and lasted four weeks. A schedule like this took some adjustment, considering it is nowhere near the “MWF” and “TR” structure I was used to. As an exchange student, there were pros and cons to this – I needed to develop a longer attention span since some of my classes were five hours long, but I also had a lot of days off to experience Vienna and travel across Europe.
My experience at WU specifically taught me a lot about how to interact with people from different cultures, especially business professionals. Since many of my courses were international-based, I had the opportunity to interact with professors and lecturers who had firsthand experience in working with multinational corporations as consultants, expatriates, or many other roles. There was a lot of discussions that emphasized the importance of seeking out other cultures, learning from them, and respecting them. This included anything from the language spoken in the country they were conducting business with, traditional customs, and even something as minimal seeming as understanding the cultural contexts of their country. All of these play key roles in building and maintaining relationships with businesses that are based internationally.
Even outside of my interactions at WU, the curriculum was project and research-based, forcing me to learn how to write long 15-20-page research reports, and present in front of the class anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. That was perhaps the most daunting part of my studies abroad. I had never done literature review before, and suddenly I was forced to spend hours a day (some weeks) thoroughly researching a topic (like, “conflict management in virtual multinational teams”) to write an error-free, empirical-based, lengthy report. This was later to be condensed into an hour-long presentation with a thirty-minute-long interactive portion. In retrospect, as frustrating as the process of researching and typing a report felt at the time, it allowed me to absorb information in a way that was new to me. I now realize that the purpose of this style of teaching is to learn the material in a way that you will be able to teach a class on it. And I did, successfully. Through this, I was able to learn how to write a report, improve my presentation skills, how to take in constructive feedback from my peers and work in group/partner settings. It’s an experience I am glad to have had. This is just a fraction of the things I learned while abroad. Overall, my greatest takeaway was that although things may function differently than what I am used (and although it may seem like an inconvenience) it does not mean that it’s any less effective/efficient. I hope to implement some of my studying habits and skills that I picked up on at WU, back home at TAMU.