This summer, COBA students and professors traveled the globe learning more about how globally connected we are through business and about the people and cultures on the other side of the world. This is the first of a three part blog series on the 2018 travels of the COBA Study Abroad program. We hope you enjoy living vicariously through these stories as much as we have!
In June, professors Sarah Easter and Mark Phillips led a group of students to Oxford, England offering course credit in International Business and Professional Development and Life Design. We asked Dr. Easter and Dr. Phillips a few questions to learn more about this fantastic experience and why other students should sign up to go in the future.
What made Oxford a unique place to study?
Oxford is a beautiful city, rich with stunning architecture, history and culture. As the home to Oxford University and its many colleges, there are lots of different university buildings, churches and museums to visit as well as numerous green spaces and parks. Plus, it’s very walkable and a short train ride to London and beyond.
Were you able to visit any companies or work on projects with companies in other countries?
In the Oxford area, we took a tour of the MINI Cooper plant and Oxfam International, a leading UK-based charity, to learn about their international operations. We also took a day trip to London to learn about Sodexo’s corporate social responsibility initiatives as a global catering service provider; experience Siemen’s The Crystal, one of the world’s most sustainable buildings; and have lunch with an alum based in London to learn about her experiences living and working abroad.
Our highlight excursion was a four-day trip to Slovenia where we met with the director for environmental protection for the city of Ljubjlana. She shared the city’s many initiatives focused on environmental sustainability including making the main city center largely car free; Ljubljana won the Green City Capital award for 2016 from the European Commission. We also met with professors at the University of Maribor to learn about the Slovenian economy, and with a leader for a faith-based organization focused on youth outreach in Slovenia to learn about enacting faith in a largely secular culture. It was a fantastic trip in a beautiful and friendly country!
Did you take the students on any sight seeing tours?
We wanted students to experience local culture in Oxford as much as possible during our short time there. So, we incorporated some local activities into our agenda, including punting on the River Cherwell (http://cherwellboathouse.co.uk/punting/) and going to an evensong service (a choral-based church service) at Christ Church. While in Slovenia, we took a city walking tour of the capital, Ljubjlana, as well as a day trip to the popular Lake Bled to experience the emerald blue lake and visit the Bled castle.
What is it like to be able to spend so much time with students in another country? How does it differ than being in a classroom setting in Abilene?
We really enjoyed getting to know the students in a much more personal manner than is typically possible in a classroom setting in Abilene. Not only did we interact with students in the classroom on a daily basis, but we also had the opportunity to live with and hang out with students as well. The Phillips had the students over to their apartment in smaller groups for dinner and I (Sarah) organized dessert outings around Oxford with them, which really contributed to us building relationships with them in a more relaxed (and hopefully fun) format.
What were your favorite moments/experiences of the trip?
Sarah: There are too many to name but a few of my favorite experiences include: getting to know the students via yummy dessert outings around Oxford; going punting as a group on the River Cherwell; and our excursion trip to Slovenia.
Mark: Working with our students on their Life Design plans. They have so many opportunities and it was wonderful to watch as they wrestle with their options.
If students could only learn one thing from this experience, what do you hope that would be?
Sarah: My hope for students is that studying abroad will instill a true appreciation for other national cultures (and how complex and varied they are) as well as to spark a desire to seek and serve others throughout the world – wherever God calls them to be in the future.
Mark: Texas and even the United States make up a tiny fraction of the world. As much as we love it here, I hope they began to get a glimmer of the amazing possibilities out there.
We would strongly encourage students even thinking about study abroad to apply (there are scholarship opportunities available!). It is truly a life changing experience that will not only provide students with much more of a global mindset that today’s employers are looking for, but it will also affect them personally and provide them with a more well-rounded view of the world in which they live.
Students can learn about upcoming trips for the summer of 2019 at fall study abroad interest meetings. Check your COBA newsletter for dates!