Everyone said these few months would go by in the blink of an eye, but it’s never been more true than it is right now. I’m sitting here, finished up with my classes and prepping for finals, facing roughly 2.5 weeks before my flight back to the states. I’m happy, I’m nervous, I’m content, I’m scared to close the book on this chapter of my life. I’m not quite ready for my farewell post, and my return post will happen after I land safely at JFK in New York, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on some observations I’ve made the last few weeks about my program and how studies are different here than they are at home.
Final exams and papers are due this week at ESADE! Within the past two weeks my five classes ended, two of which required group presentations for the final classes. In addition to the online finance course I took through McIntire, I took 5 classes at ESADE, a mix of business and humanities courses:
- Marketing in Spain: introductory marketing class, but in the context of Spain. I had an interesting group project in which I came up with a new product to introduce into the Spanish market. I conducted the entire marketing process from research to “implementation.”
Unfortunately, the classroom environment has not been all that I wish it could be. I have noticed that I am frequently disappointed with the caliber of the classroom content and the way it is taught. I understand that I am attending classes taught in English and that this may a have lot to do with why the quality of teaching suffers, however, I feel as if this school is not living up to the expected standards.
This past week has been extremely busy! My core class, European Business Strategy, is over now, which is bittersweet. I enjoyed learning about the EU and how its policies have such a huge impact on European businesses. However, I am happy to sleep in past 7AM on Mondays and Thursdays. The class concluded with presentations to Carlsberg. Our class had to develop a strategic plan for Carslberg throughout the semester, which was very similar to the structure of ICE last semester. However, I quickly learned that not everyone in my group had the same expectations and were not taught according to McIntire standards. It was weird to work with peers who didn’t know what a BLUF or SAS was; but definitely a good learning experience. We were all able to learn from one another, and I really appreciated having a diverse group with such different educational backgrounds. Our final presentation came out great and the marketing executive who we presented to really liked our idea. The presentation itself was much more relaxed than I am used to; it felt really conversational and I realized I was much more comfortable presenting in this type of environment. I also had to prepare for 2 presentations for my communications class; one individual presentation and one with my group. All of these presentations are really helping me overcome my fear of public speaking.
This has been a beautiful weekend in Copenhagen. I wish I weren’t leaving when the weather is finally getting nicer! We spent this morning on a walk around our neighborhood and went to brunch at one of our favorite local places. Our neighborhood is known for all of the young mothers pushing around strollers. It is definitely a family place, and that is always clear on sunny, weekend days. We saw tons of parents with their toddlers out on bikes and in the parks. The Danish children are just so cute on their little bikes.
As my semester comes close to the end, I have been reflecting a lot about my classes. My core class here is called “European Business Strategy” and the main focus and goals of the class revolve around understanding how business works in the European Union and both the opportunities and challenges this type of environment present. At the beginning of the course, I felt like I was learning a lot of things that I had learned or could expect to learn at my home university at UVA (such as Porter’s five forces, industry analysis, situational analysis, etc). I made the assumption that business in the US and Europe was quite similar and I was not going to learn anything differently here than back at UVA. Boy was I wrong! Once the semester got rolling, we were learning more and more about the EU including the commission, parliament, EU regulations, monetary policy, etc. Most of these are things that go overlooked in the US. Take monetary policy for example. In Europe, most companies will have to face the consideration of monetary policy due to the fact that the Euro is not used by all countries in the EU even, let alone in all of Europe. Companies must constantly take into consideration how to handle these differences in currencies and also the differences in economic health and strength of each individual country. In the US, most states are considered quite similar, at least in terms of economies, government and social structure. This is quite different in Europe and I have really enjoyed learning just how complex Europe is. It made business in Europe seem slightly intimidating but I also gained an appreciation of the complexity of business here. Each country presents a whole new market and opportunity for growth and expansion for companies. By learning about how to manage businesses in such a diverse continent, companies can grow so much and reach a great deal of success. Another one of my classes, International Marketing and Branding, also has helped me gain a greater understanding of the similarities and differences between the US and Europe. Again, I learned many of the same things that were familiar to me from the US, such as creating a marketing plan, SWOT, competitor anaylsis and the like. At the same time, I also learned about all the barriers that companies face when trying to advertise throughout Europe. Language is one of the most common barriers that is different from the US and something that we take for granted in the US. In Europe, if you are trying to develop a marketing strategy or advertisements for a product or company, you can only usually target 1 country at a time and make specific and customized strategies and messages to each respective country. I am really lucky to have gotten the opportunity to learn about the European business environment in Europe and taught by professors that have based their careers around it. I think I would not have gotten as much out of these classes had they been taught in the US by American professors because by being in Europe, I am seeing firsthand the things I am learning. I can’t wait to be able to take back this knowledge and use it in the years to come when I seek out my career/profession.
This semester I decided to branch out in my course selection and take a class on renewable energy systems. Energy production and procurement are keys to economic development and energy security is becoming an important issue in political circles. It has been said that the wards of the previous century were fought for oil, which underscores the vital importance fossil reserves have played in industrial development and economic power concentration. The course has been informative, I now know what is meant by peak oil, and have learned there is also a peak coal (the point at which resource production reaches a maximum before annual production declines). As part of a project for this course I have chosen to research the Danish island of Samso, which has recently become a globally recognized project in renewable energy and carbon emission neutrality.
In most of my blogs I’ve talked about traveling or a specific event, so today I decided to share what a typical day at HKUST is like.
On Wednesday mornings Corey (myroommate from McIntire) and I wake up at 8:20am. We groan for five to ten minutes and then finally force ourselves out of bed because we have a class at9:00. It takes about ten minutes to make the trek up five escalators and three elevators. We normally arrive at class on time or a little early and we sit alone until 9:10 when the rest of the class begins trickling in. One thing that has surprised me about school here is how acceptable, and almost expected, it is to be tardy to class. Even teachers don’t show up until five minutes after the start time. For me this has been hard to get used to because in the Comm School if you aren’t five minutes early you are basically considered late.
This is going to be a quick post, but I think it illustrates a very important point about classes in Switzerland. There is a major difference in the attitude of teachers at this school- there isn’t any humor. Or if there is, it is very toned down in comparison to what we get from McIntire professors.
In my ICE block last semester, my teachers were constantly cracking jokes about the material, each other, and just about general topics. Here, that doesn’t happen. Professors rarely even smile. I am not sure why, but it goes beyond and permeates Swiss culture as well. There is a lot less visible happiness than there is in the US.
After Spring Break, it’s hard to think that I have already been abroad for three months, meaning I have a month and a half left of living in Barcelona. This semester more so than others is flying by. I completed my final presentations and papers for three courses, and now have two remaining courses, Social Entrepreneurship and Business and Sustainability. Both conclude with a final group project, one of which is on GE’s innovations in desalinization. Researching the water industry clearly didn’t end with my group’s presentation to ABB in the fall. Which is fine since I think the science behind desalinization is quite interesting. The other assignment supports a Spanish entrepreneur—we are supposed to develop a business plan to tackle the food waste epidemic while also addressing the rising unemployment in Spain and the deteriorating conditions of the country’s new poor. What I learned in ICE has proved valuable in both projects, whether developing cash flow projections, marketing strategies or industry analyses.