A group of Michigan Tech students participated in an inaugural faculty-led study abroad trip to Germany over the summer. Ulrich Schmelzle, assistant professor of supply chain and operations management in the Michigan Tech College of Business, led a group of eight Huskies to his hometown of Hamburg. This once-in-a-lifetime tour will have a positive impact on students’ future careers, and will return as a study abroad option for summer 2023.
“One of the objectives of the Germany experience is to prepare students for careers in a globalized and interconnected business environment,” says Schmelzle, who has two decades of international industry experience in semiconductor and aerospace fields. Increasingly, recruiters emphasize the need for students to develop intercultural skills and awareness about different business etiquette when dealing with business partners across the globe.
Why did you study abroad?
Studying abroad allowed me to see how economics and finance courses are taught from a European perspective. Also, to take classes with foreign professors and students gives you a large networking advantage, as well as the chance to work in multicultural teams, all of which are invaluable experiences for graduate school, as well as later in life. All too often, it seems that economics has the potential of being taught from a politically skewed or nationalistic point of view,so understanding how Germans view different economic theories or events like the European Sovereign Debt Crisis was appealing.
What did you experience?
The first part of the program was a course on German language,culture, and business, which is designed to not only give the US students a working vocabulary and knowledge of German language and grammar, but also to provide insight to German culture and political institutions. Students present on a variety of topics and have to write a paper by the end of the program. I presented on “The German Banking Sector” and “The German Social Security System.”So far, the difference has been that homework and projects aren’t that big in German education. It’s all about the exam grade. In fact, for university classes, you don’t actually register for them here, you just attend the lectures you want, memorize the note packet the professor sends out, and you register for exams and take them. Nothing else is graded.
What was the best part of your trip?
The best part of the trip is simply being in Europe and being able to travel around and experience the culture. So far, we’ve been to Hannover, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Luneburg. With travel plans to Rotenburg, Munich, Heidelberg, and Helsinki the capital of the land of my ancestry in Finland.
Would you study abroad again? Would you go somewhere new or to the same location?
Study abroad is an invaluable experience in many ways: academically,professionally, personally, and socially. You learn of new ideas, new ways of doing things, and meet tons of people you’d otherwise never have known. I definitely would do it again, given the opportunity. Germany is a great place, and I’m sure I’ll return someday, perhaps for work—I’d definitely need to learn more German first—but for sure for vacation some day. But in order to see other places around the globe, I’d probably want to check out somewhere new!