UMSL business students gain new perspectives, experience different cultures through study abroad

Young Asian woman stands in front of a massive castle-like structure, Tom Tower in London.

UMSL business student Abby Foust studied abroad in Oxford, England, over the summer. Tom Tower was one of the sites she enjoyed. (Photo courtesy of Abby Foust)

Abby Foust had a long-held ambition to study abroad, and she had a chance to fulfill it this summer in the United Kingdom. Foust, a junior majoring in business administration at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, took a continuing legal education course at the University of Oxford and soaked up some of the culture of the country.

“I knew coming into college that I wanted to try studying abroad,” she said. “I like traveling and the idea of visiting another country. I tend to not be a person who gets out of my shell, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to have fun but also get out of my shell a little bit, out of my comfort zone.”

Foust was one of 25 business students who participated in UMSL Study Abroad program this summer. It provided each an opportunity to enhance their academic experience by taking their courses in other countries for either a few weeks or even a full semester. For business students, specifically, the program helps them see other parts of the world – some for the first time – and expands their cultural understanding, which can enhance their international business skills.

Students have the option to study in Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Slovenia and South Korea, with other options available.

Another business student, Georgeann McLemore, who always wanted to travel the world got her wish through the study abroad program. McLemore, who graduated this month with a bachelor’s degree in information systems and technology, has taken three trips overseas with a semester in South Korea, several weeks in Oxford, England, and, most recently, several weeks in Amsterdam, where she studied printmaking for her minor in fine arts.

“I’ve always wanted to go out of the country,” she said. “Nobody in my family has had the opportunity to do so. So that was really big. I wanted to but was hesitant because of money. I think most people look at study abroad as a luxury instead of something that anybody can do. I just wanted to get outside of myself. I’ve been in St. Louis for as long as I can imagine.”

Information systems major Georgeann McLemore made three study abroad trips during her time at UMSL, including to South Korea. (Photo courtesy of Georgeann McLemore)

In addition to providing an experience that can be academically and personally enriching, Joe Rottman, director of the International Business Institute and a professor of information systems and technology, believes studying abroad can provide a boon to one’s career pursuits.

“For most students, a study abroad will differentiate them in the job market,” he said. “Because with many of the interviews being situational interviews, students have great answers to interview questions.  For example, an often asked interview question is ‘Tell me about a time when you faced a situation with a lot of uncertainty.’ Well, when you study abroad, many things are uncertain. Study abroad can set our students above other applicants.”

Devin Womack, a nontraditional student majoring in business administration and entering his junior year, spent 3½ weeks in Bremen, Germany, taking a management course and an international business course. He heard about the opportunity when Rottman visited his accounting class to discuss the program.

He was immediately attracted to the opportunity to earn six credits in a short period and the packaging of the cost of courses.

“I thought it was a brilliant idea to really take advantage of,” he said.

Studying abroad also helped prepare him to work in the international business field.

“You’re going to be working with people from around the globe,” Womack said, “getting to know different cultures, different backgrounds and really learning about those communication barriers and knocking them down.”

For business students interested in the study abroad program who have concerns about cost, as McLemore did, there are resources available. All students who studied abroad this summer received a minimum of $2,000 in scholarships.

“I think most students, when they think about study abroad, the first thing they think about is money,” Rottman said. “That’s the first thing they should think about. But what I tell the students is I never want the money to get in the way of them having the best time of their life.

“Because of the generosity of our international business advisory board, it’s kind of like Oprah, ‘You get a car, you get a car.’ Everybody gets financial support. For the students who went to Bremen, like Devin, if they could get six credit hours for no tuition for courses they’d have to take anyway, they get to do it in Europe – it’s transformative.”

Foust has already noticed changes in her outlook as a result of studying at Oxford.

“The lectures are interesting,” Foust said. “Oxford is a really charming little European town. It’s so cute. I love it. I feel like one of the big things about the experience is broadening my perspective, which I feel is useful in professional life and everything. There are so many things where I’m like, ‘Oh, wow, I didn’t realize I took this for granted in the U.S.’ It just gives me a new way of looking at things.”

Aside from cost, some students may be intimidated by the idea of going abroad and being on their own in a country that is foreign to them. But McLemore asserts that it’s worthwhile to override the fear and take advantage of the experience.

“I’ve never done this before, being away from my family for so long,” she said. “It’s very scary. But I put that aside and said, ‘This is for you, this is not for them.’ So just go out there and take that first step. You’re doing this for you. You’re doing this to better your education, your career and just to get out there and see something new.”

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