This past fall, Kristen Love studied in Dornbirn, Austria. Kristen is a General Management major.
Why did you choose this program?
At first, I chose it because it’s a pretty central location. I wanted to travel a lot. Once I got further into the process, I realized that I could take a lot of credits.
How did this program fit with your academic plans?
The program definitely helped me graduate on time. I was able to travel to 12 countries, while taking seven classes that were credited back to Appstate.
What did you expect to get out of this experience? What did you actually get out of it?
We had a group of 80 students from all over the world. I made friends whom I still talk to. I am going back to Norway to live with a friend for three months after I graduate this May. I got to learn about different cultures that I didn’t think I could have without going there. Being able to travel, gain educational experience as well as develop friendships was very meaningful.
Did your time abroad give you a new perspective of yourself and your own culture/country? In what way?
I definitely learned that Americans are more close-minded than the rest of the world. We think we are better than everyone. Meeting people from all over the world made me realize that people are still people no matter where you are from. Cultures shape what you think, but at the core, we are all the same no matter what. Through this experience, I learned more about myself and discovered my passion to see and learn more of the world.
How will this experience enhance your future career?
This experience made me realize that I want to work somehow with international experience whether working with college international programs or pursue an expatriate assignment.
How did you spend your free time while abroad?
Besides traveling, I spent a lot of free time going to the local markets. In the city that I lived in, there were markets every week. A lot of the students all spent time together. We would go to the markets in the day and go to the bars at night. I spent all of my free time with other people.
What did you know about the host country? Was there anything you were wrong about? How did your understanding of the country change after being there?
I did not know much about Austria except for what I could read on Wikipedia. Once I got there, I realized that it was hard to get the locals to open up. An American who lived in Austria for 20 years explained it to me that once you get pass that barrier, Austrians become 100 percent loyal. Austrians were very efficient. I am impressed by the strict recycling program in Austria. There was one recycling can for each kind of trash in our classroom.
What was the most challenging aspect of studying abroad? What was the most rewarding part?
Knowing almost no German, the language barrier was the most challenging part. Fortunately, all classes were in English. I communicated with my friends from other parts of the world in English, but I also pushed myself to learn basic German.
It was rewarding meeting people and learning things about their cultures that I couldn’t just read about. You have to be in it to experience it.
How much and what kind of support were you given by the in-country international office?
They were amazing! From questions about where to buy groceries to what classes to take, the staff at FHV Vorarlberg not only responded promptly via email but also stayed available to us after hours. They wanted you to feel 100 percent comfortable and they definitely helped with that.
Would you recommend studying abroad to other business students? Why or why not?
It’s an experience that you have to be in 100 percent. You can’t just read about it. It is a good resume builder. As the world is turning towards working with other countries, if you understand a different culture, then you have a better chance of getting the job. If you are interested in another culture, you get to see it with your own eyes. It is definitely worth it.
If you could sum up in one or two sentences what this experience meant to you, what would you say?
Living in Austria absolutely changed my life; I met amazing people, saw amazing places, and learned so much both in and out of the classroom. A piece of my heart will always be at FHV.