A Student's Perspective: Study Abroad in Europe & Asia

by Stasia Lopez /
Stasia Lopez's picture
Nov 15, 2013 / 0 comments

In the College Programming Series, we’ve featured athletics, Greek Life, first-generation programs and study abroad. We had a series in October around faculty-led studying abroad. The first one featured Bruges, Belgium, the second one featured Prague, Czech Republic, and today’s feature is going to showcase two faculty-led study abroad programs: one to Ireland and Hungary, and the other to China and Japan. Meet Ms. Nikki Werner, a Duquesne University graduate who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and Psychology in 2008 and her MBA in 2012, both from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Read below her interview from her study abroad programs!



Nikki Werner studying abroad in China


Were you always interested in studying abroad? What motivated your decision to go abroad?

I travelled internationally when I was younger, and wanted to continue exploring different countries during my college studies. My first trip studying abroad was to Ireland and Hungary, which are countries I had never been to and wanted to learn more about them. My second trip was to China and Japan, and I had always had a desire to visit those countries to have a better understanding of the Asian culture.


What was your faculty-led study abroad experience like?

Both of my experiences were rich in historical and cultural excursions. My trip to Asia was a lot different than my European trip because of the language barrier. In Europe, most citizens were capable of speaking English; in China and Japan it was a lot more difficult to get around. For both trips, my courses included international business and supply chain, and we learned how business was conducted in each country. We spent a couple days in the classroom, learning about the culture, business, and overall etiquette. Another portion of the trips was spent visiting companies and interacting with nationals. The majority of the trips, however, included excursions to historical sites, and we, as students, needed to make the connection between history and business life today.


What skills did you develop from your experience abroad?

I developed a sense of appreciation and understanding for different cultures. I learned that each country prides itself on the history, and evolves with the current times to keep business flowing strong in their countries. I learned that conducting international business involves a certain amount of respect and compassion for each country’s uniqueness, and to create a business partnership relies highly on creating a bond first.


Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? If so, how and why?

I do feel a sense of accomplishment and independence for taking the time to learn and understand different cultures. I found these experiences helped me get to my current position because I interact, daily, with different nationalities. The parent company [I work for] is head quartered in Japan, so we accommodate different schedules, as well as work with expatriates to grow the business in the United States.


What were some challenges that you observed that happened on your study abroad experience?

The hardest part about the experiences was the language barrier. In Asia, very few spoke English, and I did not speak Japanese or Chinese. So, our way of getting around involved a lot of pictures and maps.


How did you prepare to go abroad? What steps did you take that really helped you? What advice would you share with other students? Did you have to attend a pre-departure orientation?

Our faculty held a class once a month for 4-5 months leading up to the trip. During each class, we would learn a little about the language, the business, history, culture, and food. Then, we had to research a business or cultural topic that dealt with the area we were visiting, and we had to do a report and presentation for the rest of the class. This helped us have a better understanding of the types of people and situations we would encounter.


Many students worry about the cost of going abroad. How did you pay for you study abroad experience? Were there any scholarships and grants available? Any tips you would recommend to students who’re interested in going abroad?

For my first trip to Europe, I had to take out a loan to pay for it. Some students received a small scholarship, but the majority of us paid for it out of pocket. My second study abroad, to China and Japan, I received a full scholarship because I was working at the University. In return for the scholarship, I spent the summer working at the University.


Did anything about your study abroad shock or surprise you? If so, explain.

The biggest shock to me occurred in China, and it had to do with how the Chinese citizens treated each other. One event I remember was a woman who was selling ice cream outside of a major tourist site. One of the other vendors, I assume, felt threatened by her business, so he stole her ice cream bars and threw them to the ground. No one stopped to help her, and if they did, you knew it was a tourist.




Once you returned from your experience, how did you reflect upon your study abroad experience?

We had to keep a blog throughout the entire trip. Upon our return to the states, we had to write a 10 page report about our experiences and make a connection to how business is similar and different between the country and the U.S.


Did your study abroad experience ever come up in a job interview? If so, explain.

Yes, I was asked if I had spent some time abroad and what it was like. I received my first internship because of my studies in Ireland. The employer was impressed that I had a great deal of knowledge about the country because their line of work involved working between Ireland and the U.S.

I received my first full-time position not just for my MBA studies but because I spent time in China and Japan. My current company is Japanese-based, and they too were impressed that I had experienced the culture first-hand.





Anastasia R.D. Lopez, M.A. recently graduated with her Masters degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs degree from Western Michigan University. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Her experience in higher education and student affairs ranges from Career Services, Academic Advising, working with first generation students, students with disabilities, international students, transfer students, undergraduate/graduate students, and study abroad and international education at both public and private universities. She also has related experience in business as well as hospitality and tourism management. Stasia is a Global Education Editor with Wandering Educators and lives with her husband, Fernando, in Michigan.
All photos courtesy and copyright Nikki Werner





This is part of a series on international education, as part of our commitment to #GenerationStudyAbroad and our commitment to the White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. You'll find many more inspiring stories here on Wandering Educators!