Travel helps you realize that no matter how much you may think you know, there’s always more to learn.
Those who have been fortunate enough to travel abroad know they will return changed people. Traveling to another culture for an extended period of time leads us to see humanity from a new perspective. It also helps us see ourselves as cultural outsiders, where the language, food, clothing, and ways of thinking may all be very different than our ingrained expectations. Hopefully, a study abroad experience is ultimately humbling, as we see the way God moves in different cultures and places.
This summer, Professors Andy Little and Jim Litton led a COBA Study Abroad trip with 8 students to Montevideo, Uruguay. They also took an extended side trip to Argentina, and the students spent their free weekend at Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. Students were able to receive course credit for ENTR 419 (Global Entrepreneur) and BLAW 365 (Law and Entrepreneurship).
COBA partnered with Universidad ORT, a local Uruguayan university, to arrange for company visits and cultural excursions. The ACU group met with several local startups: GeneXus, a software development company, Verdeagua, a hydroponic farming company, and Qualabs, a video software development company. The group also hosted a diplomat from the U.S. Embassy at the ACU house in Montevideo, toured the Uruguayan Congress, met with consultants from the Montevideo office of PwC, and got to know leaders of two government agencies that offer grants to start-ups.
Senior management major Taylor Walling was one of the students traveling with the group and was moved by their visit to Verdeagua. She said, “One of the most memorable visits for me was with a company called Verdeagua. They are the largest producer of hydroponic vegetables in the country. We got to tour their facility with the founder of the company, who has been working there for 20 years. I learned a lot from this experience by seeing the passion the founder has for what he does. He continually talked about what they were doing to make their company better and to grow it, which really demonstrated an entrepreneurial mindset we all wanted to learn about. The company visits were a great way to see how business in Uruguay operates.”
Why travel to Montevideo with students? Little says it’s because “Montevideo is a hidden gem in Latin America, and an outstanding place for business and technology students to study abroad.” The experience of being immersed in a foreign culture provides students with unique experiences that will enhance their future education and work skills. Students learn more conversational Spanish and are able to interact with business professionals and entrepreneurs from a very different culture than America – providing valuable knowledge to anyone interested in working globally in the future. In addition, they’re able to gain insight about themselves and the world around them by living in another culture, even for such a short time.
Walling agrees with that sentiment. “I think the unique experiences of visiting different companies in Uruguay will enhance my education and work experience in the future. I enjoyed learning about concepts and ideas in the classroom and then getting to see the ways it was all applied in actual companies. Hearing the leaders at these companies was beneficial to me in understanding how they operate business. One interesting thing was that we talked to a couple of companies about their working relationship with US companies. This piece of information could really help in my future career if I were to work with other countries in my job.”
Studying abroad doesn’t just broaden students’ educational and vocational opportunities. It also broadens their relationships with their classmates and professors. Walling said, “Studying abroad is very different from the typical classroom setting in a multitude of ways. One of the things that stood out to me most was the relationship that we, as students, got to build with each other and with the professors and their families. Instead of just going to class and hearing our professors lecture we got to share meals with them and experience new things. Through Study Abroad I feel like I gained a lot of wisdom from my professors as they shared stories from their experiences and as they listened to our dreams for the future.”
The experience doesn’t just change students. It also is a formative experience for the faculty traveling with them. Little said that he learned more about Uruguay, Argentina, and the Rio de la Plata region and, “I got to spend several weeks with 8 amazing students. Diego Bravo, ACU’s local site director, continues to be a strong friend.”
Walling encourages any student thinking about studying abroad to “go for it!” She continued, “And if you are a student who has never considered it, I would recommend you look into it. At the start of my college career, I told myself that studying abroad wasn’t for me. Now I can confidently say that it was an experience that I will always remember and that I will take the lessons I learned into my future career. The one lesson that stands out to me is to go for the things that might bring fear because you never know where it might lead you. I am glad I did not let my fears and worries get in the way of going to Study Abroad because of the amazing experiences I had during my time in Uruguay.”
To learn more about ACU Study Abroad opportunities, click here.