When master of business administration student Brandon Rogers recently returned from a study tour to China, he summarized the value of international study for students. “Penn State would do well to continue leading such trips,” he said, “especially considering the profound impact it had on not only my business perspective of the second largest economy in the world but on the way we all, whether Chinese or American, are still looking to create a better life for ourselves and our families.”
Rogers was one of 62 Penn State Harrisburg students and four faculty members who, over spring break, passed on relaxing during the time off and instead traveled around the world to complement their classroom studies, volunteer their time to humanitarian work, experience new cultures, and visit locations of intrigue. Rogers’ group went to China, while another travelled to Guatemala, and a third to England, all returning with new perspectives on themselves and others.
“Being geared toward a career in entrepreneurial business, I am anticipating a lot of travel. I felt that getting my feet wet with a trip to the second largest country in the world by gross domestic profit was a good way to get acquainted with foreign business practice,” Rogers said.
Master of business administration student Leo Knepper looked forward to the trip as “a great way to see beyond the headlines in the newspaper or the version of China depicted in the nightly news.” He also said he hoped to sample authentic foods, including some of the country’s more adventurous fare.
The business-focused, nine-day study tour took students to Shanghai, Xian and Beijing, where they visited global companies, including the Pennsylvania-based Hershey Company. The group also visited Chinese cultural heritage sites: The Great Wall, Tian’Anmen Square and the Forbidden City.
The trip met Knepper’s goals. He said it put into perspective the economic development that has taken place in China. His culinary goals were fulfilled, too, as he sampled cuisine that included spicy frogs.
The study tour to Guatamala had a humanitarian foundation. Penn State Harrisburg students taught Guatemalan schoolchildren, met with The Mayan Families Organization, and helped build stoves with adequate venting to improve the air quality in local homes. Students on the tour also learned about the Guatemalan textile and folk art industries, spent time in Antigua and Panajachel, and visited The Ixchel Museum of Mayan Textiles, Lake Atitlán, and a famous indigenous market in Chichicastenango.
An undergraduate science major, Rosanny Reyes said she most enjoyed reaching out to help Guatemala’s people and learning the country’s culture. She said meeting with and reading to Mayan schoolchildren was a highlight, and she now plans to pursue similar endeavors in the future.
“…I would love to go back and become a volunteer teacher at a school or help one of the medical programs advocate women’s reproductive rights,” she said.
Finance students on the eight-day London tour became familiar with the U.K. banking system, financial and derivatives markets, and international capital markets, meeting with the British Banker’s Association and touring The London Stock Exchange, Goldman Sachs, and The Bank of England Museum. Students also toured The Tower of London, Westminster Abby, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Oxford University.
Aaron Richmond, also a master of business administration student, saw the trip as practical experience for his future career, providing access into European culture through corporate visits and sightseeing. For Richmond, the value of studying abroad can be summarized simply. “Hands-on is the best way to learn,” he said.
Next year Penn State Harrisburg will offer study tours to China, England, India, Italy and Peru. Visit the Office of International Programs webpage for more information.