Life-changing business experiences abroad

Two Haworth College of Business students were selected for highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, worth $2,000 each, to study overseas during the fall 2019 semester.

Catherine Lemus, a marketing major with a minor in biological sciences, spent the fall semester studying at the BI Norwegian Business School. Nijeria Peterson, a business law major with a minor in global business, studied in South Africa at the University of Cape Town.

Both Lemus and Peterson describe their experiences abroad as “life changing” and “truly transformative.” Having returned to the United States, they share the highlights, challenges and most moving moments from their travels.

CATHERINE LEMUS

Hometown: Plainwell, Michigan
Class standing: Senior
Campus involvement: American Marketing Association, Lee Honors College student, Alpha Lambda Delta, A Moment of Magic volunteer

Where did you study and what have you learned?
I studied in Oslo, Norway, at the BI Norwegian Business School. I took classes pertaining to Norwegian culture, international business, marketing strategy, and logistics and marketing channels. I spent a lot of my free time learning about Norway's business model and mentality around having "flat" organizations. In other words, Norwegians value being equal and have a strong welfare state, which influences how men and women are able to participate in the workplace.   

Why did you choose this location and program?
I chose this place because I was able to live in a capital city yet be constantly surrounded by nature. Norway has fjords, mountains and northern lights that I have experienced on multiple occasions. Even Oslo has countless hikes which I take advantage of since I love nature! I also came here to learn more about Norway’s approach to social welfare and how that influences business practices.

What was the most exciting experience you had while studying abroad?
I loved going to the city of Tromsø for a weekend trip. I went with eight other close friends on exchange, and we enjoyed viewing the northern lights as well as seeing the sunset at 2 p.m.! I could barely believe we were in the Arctic Circle, but I made some adventurous memories while there.

What was the most challenging experience?
Connecting with Norwegians. Culturally, they are known to keep to themselves and since my classes were taught in English, there were mostly other exchange students alongside me rather than locals. Regardless, I was able to make Norwegian friends with some effort.

How have your experiences in the Haworth College of Business and abroad helped you develop your business skills?
Countless individuals in the college helped me to find a study abroad program that worked well with my major and allowed me to become immersed in a new culture. I also received a study abroad scholarship from the college, which helped to offset the high cost of living in Oslo. Additionally, I learned how to work with people from all walks of life! In my international business course, I listened to presentations from students in all areas of the world and also had to present ideas from the U.S. Being a spokesperson for our country made me think critically about the way we live and helped me appreciate how different cultures choose to innovate and grow.

NIJERIA PETERSON

Nijeria Peterson in Cape Town, South AfricaHometown: Detroit, Michigan
Class standing: Junior
Campus involvement: Black Student Union, Seita Scholar

Where did you study and what have you learned?
I took general business classes for my business law degree in Cape Town, South Africa.

Why did you choose this location and program?
I chose Cape Town because it’s a step closer to learning about the possible birthplace of humankind, and also about myself. I was completely independent while abroad and relied on what my parents taught me growing up: how to be a decent person and how to interact with others while staying open-minded. I knew going halfway across the world would teach me more about myself than staying in one location ever could.

What was the most exciting experience you had while studying abroad?
Learning about the people and culture of Cape Town! Networking with people abroad helped me develop my business skills. I learned that connections, opportunities, skills and victories come from learning how to communicate with others. I applied material from my business classes to my courses in Cape Town, and learned that their business system is based on managing both relationships and finances. Once I mastered that, everything fell into place.

What was the most challenging experience?
The most challenging experience was school. Cape Town’s educational system is completely different from the U.S. From registering for classes to taking final exams, I struggled a lot. However, the friends and connections I met on campus made all the difference in my attitude and ability to thrive academically.

Why do you think it’s important for business students to have a global experience?
Business abroad is dynamic and interlocks with the business system right here in the U.S. You expand yourself, and your way of thinking when abroad. You learn so much beyond the everyday business experiences in your own country. The relationships you build globally will carry you a long way.

GILMAN SCHOLARSHIP

The Gilman Program offers scholarships for U.S. citizen undergraduate students to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad. The U.S. Department of State awards the Gilman Scholarship as part of a larger government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and interning abroad, helping them gain skills critical to national security and prosperity.

Lemus and Peterson join fellow Western Michigan University students Zoe Jackson and Angel Schramm as fall 2019 Gilman scholars. At a selection success rate of 50 percent, Gilman awards to WMU students are well above the national average acceptance rate of 29 percent.