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Innsbruck program offers business perspective

Students meander through wildflowers in a picturesque mountain meadow during a hike in the Alps near Innsbruck. Photo by Dr. Jim Mallett. 

Doors to Europe swung open again this summer for a lucky band of 40 students who mixed class work with international travel and returned as winners on both fronts — academic credits and cultural acuity.

The “Work Hard, Play Hard” motto of the Business School’s successful Summer Innsbruck Program has worked for students and faculty for 16 consecutive years. Rigorous, concentrated class work is balanced with long weekends of European explorations.

“I had a blast,” said Jarian Martinez, senior Finance major.

Studying in cool Alpine landscapes, living in another culture, traveling through Europe and developing more personal relationships with professors are all benefits, said Martinez, from Pompano Beach.

“The classes were more laid back and hands on,” than those he took during the year, said Justin Bosco, a Marketing and Management senior, and they seemed to have a more practical approach.

Fewer classes and fewer, shorter school days made it easier to juggle studies, but required projects, papers and tests could avalanche toward the end of the semester, said Matthew Labron, a junior Psychology and Philosophy major. Time management was critical, he said.

Assignments and exams seldom interfered with long weekends, students said. Professors plan the class work that way because travel is an essential element of the program.

“With a Eurail pass, you can go pretty much anywhere in Europe,” said Labron. “I traveled to Rome, Florence, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, and Munich, all on trains.”

“I still liked Innsbruck the best,” said Bosco. Travel was easy from there, it was “less touristy,” deep in the Alps and easy to hike and bike. “It was the perfect location.”

Amanda Steel sits on Jarian Martinez's shoulders during a visit to Paris.

“Innsbruck is the ideal study abroad location in terms of mountains, climate, travel and cultural activities,” said Finance Professor Jim Mallett, who is the Innsbruck program director. “The faculty take ownership of their classes and insure that student experience is ideal both in and out of class.”

Understanding the world beyond our borders is vital for business students, said Dr. John Tichenor, who taught a Business Statistics class and one on Leadership Psychology. The program is a good kick-start for grasping business, political and cultural differences, and for learning perspectives, tastes, trends and technologies of many cultures.

“Spending six weeks in Europe is a great way to begin developing the cross-cultural competencies business students must have in order to thrive in the ever-changing global marketplace,” he said. “We spend lots of time in class talking about students’ cultural observations, from mundane issues such as the importance of being able to read a train schedule to large issues such as confronting their own ethnocentrism and prejudices.”

By Ronald Williamson