My seminar in Europe this summer was definitely worth every penny I paid for it. This was the first time I had ever been out of the country whatsoever, much fewer places like London, Paris, and Venice, which it would have been only possible for me to visit in dreams not even a year ago. At first, I was worried that I would find it difficult to find my way around foreign cities (I still do not know how to use the subway in downtown Chicago!). However, the way that IBS structured the program made it very simple to figure out how to get around, with no language barriers. Overall, I would say that the wide variety of experiences combined with the priceless knowledge that I gained from the company visits made IBS the perfect first study abroad program for me!
Exploring European Cities
IBS provided me with some of the most unique experiences that I have ever had in my life. In London, viewing the entire city with a bird’s eye view made me ponder all the history that had happened where I was standing over the last couple thousand years, all the way up to German bombers flying over the city during World War II.
In Paris, our cruise on the Seine was an experience unlike any I have ever had. The pictures I took of the Eiffel tower from the river at night are gorgeous, and I still look at them and cannot believe I was there.
In Italy, riding a Gondola through Venice was not only something on my bucket list but being there right after a year of studying the Italian language at NIU made that experience that much more meaningful. I will never forget how baffled the Gondolier seemed to be that I spoke Italian, unlike every other American tourist there!
In Austria, getting the chance to view Innsbruck from the summit of a mountain in the Alps and then, quite literally, flying through the Alps while Paragliding gave me a new perspective on life. Our problems look so small and insignificant when looking down on them from a few thousand feet! All in all, IBS provided me with memories that will last a lifetime.
The Business Seminars
Just as important as the unique experiences that IBS provided is all the knowledge that I gained while on the program. This knowledge includes both academic (business) knowledge as well as a sort of cultural literacy. As far as academic knowledge goes, a great example would be the new perspectives I gained on Brexit.
While it is one thing to read an article about Brexit on the internet, being in London during the weekend of the royal wedding gave me the perfect environment in which to talk to locals and ask their perspectives. In fact, in the time we were in London, it seemed that locals only were talking about those two things: Brexit and the wedding!
In addition, IBS greatly increased my cultural literacy. Specifically, I can now say with certainty that I understand how Europeans’ perceptions of time differ from ours. The British and the Germans are like Americans. They live in the future, looking forward to events, talking about their future plans, etc. Italians live in the present. They are not worried about papers due the next day. Rather they just want to enjoy today as if it were the last day of their lives. Finally, my most exciting discovery was the French’s perception of time. They live in the past. The French look on the days of yore with nostalgia, longing for the “glory days” of the Belle Epoque or the Age of Napoleon.
Therefore, I can say that IBS was definitely worthwhile. It was not so short that I felt like I did not get to see enough, and it was not too long such that I would feel like I was bored or “stuck” in one place. It was the perfect balance of free time and seminars, and it provided me with a much broader perspective on a number of global issues such as Brexit, tourism, language barriers, and perceptions of time. I would recommend this program to anyone looking to have just as much of an amazing and informative time as I did!