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13 posts categorized "Winter International Business (WBC)"

12/15/2016

A Page Out of a Fairy Tale 

Once upon a time, amidst the rolling hills and vast valleys of the countryside, stood a castle perched on the highest point that the eye could see. Surrounding the castle stretched endless acres of pasture dotted with a mix of white little houses and white not-so-little sheep, filling the atmosphere with a chorus of jingling bells & “baas” as they waited to be shaved.

This fairy tale is being lived out today, in real life: in Aracena, Andalucía.

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Weeks ago, I had blindly signed up for a day trip to Aracena, not knowing exactly what I was in for. I wanted to take advantage of all the excursions offered by my study abroad program -- despite the early 9AM Saturday morning rendezvous. With the combination of clear skies and warm weather complementing the city’s natural and architectural beauty, Aracena truly blew us away.

What’s special about Aracena is its beauty both above ground and below. Upon arriving, we began our climb of one hundred meters to reach the highest point of the city where the centuries old castle stood. The hilly terrain was prime natural protection against invaders, therefore the castle was more symbolic versus active during its time. From such a high point, the eye was treated to a breathtaking vista of greenery dotted with picturesque clusters of white pueblos.  

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Once arriving back to city center, we began our descent down one hundred meters underneath the streets of Aracena. The rocky limestone terrain is highly susceptible to the forces of erosion, leaving a labyrinth of underground caves covering 1200 square kilometers. Our jaws remain dropped as we continued through each section of the caves, in awe of the complicated structures produced by simple a combination of water and sediment. The prohibition of photography enhanced our senses of observation, shifting our focus on taking in the artwork of stalagmites and stalactites through our natural lenses.

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Taking a trip to Aracena was like walking into the pages of a fairy tale. It was a journey that left my quads and glutes whining, but more importantly left my mind and heart overwhelmed with contentment from such a magical experience.  

01/12/2015

WINTER INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS (SEVILLE + RABAT) NEWSLETTER, WINTER 2015, ISSUE I

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Greetings from Sevilla!

We just completed the first week of our International Business (Seville + Rabat) Program. This has been a pretty intensive week full of activities, classes, company visits, etc.

ORIENTATION

All of our students arrived safe and sound on January 2nd and attended the orientation sessions on January 3rd. Students not only received important information about housing, health and safety, academics, etc. but also had the opportunity to see some of the higlights in the City of Seville like the Cathedral, Plaza de España and the Real Alcázar.

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COMPANY VISITS: XTRAICE AND BASILIPPO

We have had 2  company visits during this first week:

  • Xtraice: a local company that are the inventors and unique world manufacturers of ecological ice, installing ice rinks all over the world.
  • Basilippo: an internationally awarded olive oil producer that sells high quality and gourmet olive oil.

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Company Visit: Xtraice

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Company Visit: Basilippo

DAYTRIP TO CORDOBA

Last weekend students visited the beautiful city of Cordoba. This city has an impressive personality and students could perfectly notice the mix of the 3 cultures that have been living here during the last 2000 years, visiting the amazing Mezquita-Catedral, the old Jewish neighborhood, the Roman bridge and the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.

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Thank you very much for collaborating with us and please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Wishing you our best wishes for 2015!

Antonio

03/17/2014

I see the cultural differences in myself

This post is by Jessica Anderson, a Marketing Major at University of St. Thomas, MN. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

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Before this trip I would distinguish and look at myself as culturally invisible. I’m white, middle class, Lutheran, belong to a family of 4 with a dog and only speak English. To add to that I’m straight, I work hard in school, grew up in the suburbs, and I’m a female that danced all my life. I find myself all too similar to most girls my age. Although this is not apart of my culture, I separate myself from most girls by my personality. I’m very easy going, don’t like to argue about anything and look for fun in any and every activity. I like to think I’m this way because of the culture I grew up around at home, seeing as my parents are similar to me. 

I was planning on going to the Cayman Islands for this month, but last minute figured out the course wouldn’t apply with my major, and I’m very happy that was the case. I wanted to grow and experience a different culture instead of paying for a month long vacation. Considering my easy-going manner, I didn’t have any expectations for the month except enjoying myself. I’m not sure how I can sum up or even express in words all the things I learned from this experience. Being in another country for a month with a bunch of kids your age puts a lot of focus on fun and less on academics, yet everyday during lecture I found myself engaged and being able to apply the information. The company visits were all so different and gave me a different perspective on how people go about business and all the various strategies there are. It was also very interesting to evaluate the unique personalities of each manager. I really couldn’t think of a better way to first hand experience and learn about success in the international business world. The Morocco trip was an experience to say the least. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, but taught me more than any other experience this month. Being in Spain, I could easily see the differences from the US, but after going to Morocco it put my whole perspective on a continuum. Morocco was the extreme and now Spain felt more like the US. Going through the medinas was a new and interesting way to look at the business world, and to see one way they go about making a living and the different strategies necessary to be successful in selling. Although, we may have found it annoying when they were yelling or pushing us to come look at their products, if you look at it with a business perspective they were just trying to market their products and advertise them the way that is normal in their culture.

I will apply what I’ve learned in this course to my everyday business life. I can now compare different cultural business patterns, know what to look for in terms of international behavior and think back to my experience for examples. I will always feel I have a slight upper hand when international business is brought up, because nothing beats seeing and living it first hand. This spring when I’m interviewing for my next internship, there is no doubt in my mind I will be using this trip to my advantage. More and more companies are going international, and this is something that sets me apart from a lot of other students. I will talk about my knowledge of different cultures and how they make decisions and go about business and use examples from our company visits to show the differences.

I’d love to continue to experience and learn more about other cultures and the reasons they do the things they do. I think the most important thing to be able to do this is to not use my own cultural lens. You can learn how different cultures go about things, but I feel it would be nearly impossible to understand and appreciate the way a culture functions if you are using your own cultural lens. This trip has ignited a desire to travel more and experience other places of the world. They say that seeing something once it better than hearing about it a thousand times, so being able to be immersed in a culture I believe is ten times more beneficial than reading about it. But, I am obviously understanding that I will not always be privileged enough to be able to travel somewhere to learn, so I’d like to research more and visit companies at home to learn more about why international businesses value certain things and how it varies from culture to culture.

Now in my final day abroad, I see the cultural differences in myself. The way I spend my time, what my work environment is like, how many family interacts and even the times of day I eat are all things I consider to be part of who I am culturally. I am so grateful for the opportunity to go on this trip and I feel blessed to have been placed with such a great group. Before coming I was worried about spending a month abroad, judging the experience before I left and assuming I would be longing for my “normal”. Now, I’m regretting not doing a semester and wishing I didn’t have to head home tomorrow. Not only did I gain knowledge and experience in my business perspective, I grew as a person and became aware of my own cultural identity. 

03/10/2014

The benefit of studying abroad cannot be obtained in the classroom

This post is by Jamie Charest, an Accounting Major at University of Delaware. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

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Before studying abroad, I never truly thought about the culture that I was brought up in. I lived my day to day life without thinking my decisions, actions, or beliefs were shaped by my own culture. If I had to define myself in cultural terms I would identify as an American female from New England brought up in the middle class and of Caucasian ethnicity. While these terms help compartmentalize who I am, I believe this experience has opened my eyes into how unique and diverse each person specifically is, not precisely due to their culture. From the outside, each girl on our trip comes across the same and for the most part fits into the cultural terms of my own. But what I have truly enjoyed is getting to know each of them on a personal level and seeing how they can influence me for the better. After discovering more about each other through this month abroad, I feel each of them is special in their own way. This has made me realize how each person can be unified by their culture but also remain unique individually.

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When I was a freshman in college, I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to study abroad. While the location was important, I was more interested in exploring a country that I may never be fortunate enough to see again in my lifetime. At my university, I found more difficult to find an abroad program that matched with my winter term dates. Fortunately, I found CIEE which offered not only January term programs, but also an International Business Culture course which helps me obtain more credits for my international business minor. Through this experience, I have had the opportunity to study first-hand international businesses in different cultures through class time, company visits, and through my own observations. I have valued this course so much because of the life lessons it has taught me. I found the class itself to be highly intellectual and utilize many resources for the corporate world, but I have also treasured the physical activities of visiting actual international enterprises and touring the various cities that thrive off foreign tourism.

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My expectations going abroad were that I would have an amazing time and have no trouble at all. What I found more often was that I felt very stressed and nervous especially living with host families and making my way through cities that I did not even know the native language. Even though at the time I hated it, being pushed out of my comfort zone was crucial to effectively experience a new culture. I was hesitant to stay with a host family because many abroad programs house their students together in hotels, but in the end I felt being individually placed with a family was really something that I benefited from. It allowed me to truly immerse myself and not be so sheltered from everything I am so comfortable with. From this experience, I have learned the essential skill of intercultural communication which is necessary to conduct business in our ever-expanding global market. One of the beneficial parts of this trip were the company visits because they were very engaging, interactive, and informative on how international companies function. Each company was from a different specialty ranging from clothing to medical products to olive oil which allowed us to learn particular industries still with the overarching theme of internationality.

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This course will definitely benefit my professional career and give me an advantage over other colleagues that have not have the same experience. With a career in public accounting, the firm I may work for could be international and I might have to work abroad for a period of time. I also will be working with clients whose companies may be international or have many workers from different cultures. By gaining this knowledge and first-hand experience at this stage in my career, it will only reward me in understanding how these enterprises work and function properly.  This experience could help me in future interviews because I now have the skills and knowledge of international business communication from personal experience. By learning about different cultures, I have realized I need to learn about peoples specific cultural core values in order to understand their beliefs, behaviors, and actions. In the future, I know the only way I can truly understand and appreciate a new culture is going out of my comfort zone. While this demands energy, the potential benefit which is gained from studying abroad is one that cannot be obtained in the classroom. 

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03/03/2014

One of the best times of my life

This post is by Elizabeth Hawkins, a Marketing Major at University of St. Thomas, MN. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

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This past month in Spain and Morocco has been one of the best times of my life. I made new friends and experienced things I never thought I would before. The International Business and Culture class taught me so much about other cultures and really made me appreciate a different way of doing things whether it be in business or just life itself. From getting orange juice at the top of La Setas to staying in a hotel that looked like a king’s palace in Morocco, my perceptions of both countries changed through this amazing experience.

The company visits were each very interesting. I loved going to the olive oil business because I got to learn about how the oil is made and what makes different oils better than others. The smell of the Basilippo oil was incredible and I can’t wait to try to find my own in the states. I also really enjoyed the XtraIce company visit; it was cool to learn about what they did to communicate better with other countries and how each place varied with their business procedures. Getting to skate on their plastic rink at the end was just icing on the cake! The last visit was to a company who created GlutenTox, which is a device that can detect gluten in any given food item. This small company created this product and made it usable to households and large business and the product is now sold in many countries. I liked learning about how the woman was able to create business with different people and different cultures just by changing the name or packaging of her product. Just shows how different kinds of people perceive things in many ways, not just the way I am used to. 

I loved going on the different tours to see all the historical buildings and learn about Spain as a country and how it has developed and changed over the years. My favorite was La Plaza where we fed birds, took millions of pictures of the government buildings, and just enjoyed the warm weather. I also really enjoyed going to the top of La Giralda tower. It is the tallest building in Seville and it was an amazing view of the whole city from above. On the last night in Seville, Taryn, Jess and I went to eat at the top of La Corte Ingles and that was also a beautiful view with gorgeous weather. My host family could not have been any better. They spoke great English, the mom cooked some of the best food I’ve ever had, and the kids were so sweet and fun to hang out with. I used my gymnastics skills to teach one of the girls how to do a handstand and by the end of the trip she could pretty much do it on her own. It was interesting to see how the difference in personal space varied from America to Seville and Morocco. In the US I feel like everyone enjoys having their alone time and it was weird to me that in Spain most of the time at home was spent with the family. In Morocco this difference was even more noticeable; the rooms weren’t separated by doors and the family even all slept in the same room together at night.

Morocco was more of a culture shock for me. My host family did not speak any English or Spanish and it was very hard to communicate the most basic things with them. When I met them the first day, I was very uncomfortable and didn’t know what to think of the home I was going to be staying in. The family told me to make their home my own and do whatever I please in it. They fed me much more than I could eat and were incredibly hospitable. As the week went on, I became more and more comfortable in the new environment and ended up really enjoying my stay with them. I loved going to the organic farms and seeing how people started with nothing and created a self-sufficient garden. The meals at both of these places were delicious and reminded me of home where my mother cooks similar dishes filled with vegetables and fruit.

The people in Morocco are so happy with each other’s company and love to joke around with one another. They definitely are a collectivist country, which is very different than the US. It seemed as though they really look out for the good of the community instead of each fending for themselves. The city was very modernized and different from what I was expecting. Before this trip, when I thought about Morocco I thought of camels and desert people. We did get to ride camels though and it was awesome. Glad I get to check that one off my bucket list! I would say the number one thing I learned on this trip was not to judge a book by its cover. I might get the wrong first impression and it could ruin what could be a great experience for me.

02/24/2014

Guidelines for future endeavors abroad

This post is by Stephanie Davies, a Business Administration Major at Worcester State University. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

Whenever someone asks me who I am I seem to always answer with “I’m just me” or “I don’t really know” or “That is too complicated to explain” but the last few years I have begun to really feel like I am the person who I have been working hard my whole life to become. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure myself out and much of it I already knew but this trip has solidified my own personal identity.

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I am a white American Bostonian Jew with a penchant for religion in all forms. I’ve spent much of my life trying to figure out what religion matches my faith and view of God and Judaism is absolutely the closest thing I could find it fits almost perfectly. Philosophically I fall somewhere between conservative Jewish views and strong spiritualist tendencies namely ideas about nature and humanity. I am pretty adamant about human rights, animal rights, and  environmental responsibility being a part of my life. I see the world by the light of many religions and philosophies and I don’t miss a chance to see meaning behind any action. I feel like every breath humanity takes is part of what was intended and that the world is far more connected than any of us care to admit. If something beautiful exists in the world it also exists in you and me and if there is something ugly about the world then there is something ugly about you and me.

This is a huge impetus towards me working towards changing the world around me for the betterment of mankind. I don’t believe in doing anything halfway or easily. Those things said I have a pretty heavy personal schema influenced by the many religions I’ve interacted with, my father’s insistence on diversity being part of my life(him being one of the first white teens to go to black schools as a kid), and very american views on equality. I’ve figured out very recently that I prefer scenarios with low power distance. I also find that I prefer and think as though I’m in a collectivist cultures though I live in an individualistic one which to me is very strange to learn as I am an introvert by nature.

As you can see the experience of this class has been very self actualizing. I have realized that I am very different from the students around me but my viewpoints are not particularly unique in the world as a whole. This was oddly comforting and caused me to place a high value on the total experience.

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Apart from these revelations about who I am there are many reasons why I chose to participate in this course. The first was because I have never travelled without a friend or family member before and I wanted to experience emotional solitude. I feel like this was a necessity towards understanding myself and boosting my personal confidence rather than simply having the support of friends and family around me. I needed to know that I could really make it on my own without my family surrounding me even though I prefer them being close. This experience has validated things that I suspected about myself while giving me new questions about who I am and who I will be going forward.

I also entered this class so that when working in human resources in the future I can be as sensitive as I can to the cultures that my employees, employers, and associates deal with.  I wanted to deliberately discover how to go about learning enough of a culture to deal with it’s inhabitants clearly and compassionately. I now have a framework in which to place cultures on a basic level. I have worked out ways to observe behaviors efficiently to find out the best way to interact with people of a certain culture. These guidelines I will use in future endeavors are:

  1. Research the country that you are dealing with or going to extensively using Hofstede’s, Trompenaars’, and Hall’s dimensions to give myself a basic idea of the culture as it is seen in those circumstances.
  2. Make a list of stereotypes I either have or have seen related to the culture and be aware of them.
  3. Learn what stereotypes the culture has about Americans and how to avoid the negative connotations of those stereotypes.
  4. Find a guide/interpreter with enough cultural know how to answer questions, help you get along, and who is native to the area you are going to.
  5. Look at the “tip of the iceberg” then move deeper. Do not be afraid to ask questions if something seems weird or different try asking “Why?” before reacting to it and really try to find answers.
  6. Be aware of “big ticket” circumstances like religion or social boundaries that can be really important to respect and understand.
  7. Be open to having ideas challenged, don’t “go native”, remain objective in all situations, and do whatever is necessary to keep an open dialogue running as it will be your primary source of useful information.

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As I enter my field this spring I will use these skills pretty regularly. I intend to present my experience here as an “enriching education in maintaining good communication with international cultures” and explain how culture is part of everything and even companies have a rich subculture within their culture. If I get the position I am looking at as a consultant this will be fiercely relevant and if I get the job I really want as an intern I believe it will help me interacting with the company. The ability to market myself as “culturally savvy” will be a useful tool in the process. 

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No matter how I use this experience I am grateful to have had it and cannot wait to share my experiences with my friends and family. The conversations and experiences I have had on this trip will continue to be a part of who I am and who I intend to be for a very long time. I cannot wait to see what more there is to come.

02/17/2014

Thank you CIEE!

This post is by Taryn Glynn, a Marketing Major at University of St. Thomas, MN. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

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While many college students around the world were enjoying their Christmas break with family and friends, I was packing my bags for a month-long trip to Spain and Morocco where I was going to study international business. Aside from booking the flights and packing, there was still a lot of preparation that needed to be done. First and foremost, this was my first time traveling outside of the country and I was excited and a bit anxious for the experience, as anyone should be. However, when two of my friends were also accepted into the program, I became less nervous and more excited for the adventure ahead of me.

When I told my parents that I wanted to study abroad in Spain and Morocco they thought it was an interesting choice of destination, due to the fact that I have studied the French language for the past nine years and studying abroad in France just made more sense. However, after some hours of convincing, my parents were onboard. Before I knew it, I was in the Madrid terminal with the rest of the girls from the program, waiting for our connecting flight to Seville. At the time, I was a little bummed that there were no boys in our program, however I have now realized that it was a blessing to have such a small group of girls. We all became so close over the past month that I would consider every girl a good friend of mine. I met girls from Boston and even a girl from my own school that I had never met before. If you asked any of the girls on the trip, they would tell you that I am a born and raised Minnesotan with an accent that sounds pretty goofy sometimes. I am currently a junior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota with a marketing major and French minor. Other than that, I would say that I am a pretty average person. I go to college, play a college sport, have a part-time job, and get pretty good grades. With that said, this program was my first opportunity to really be independent and set myself apart from other American students.

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When I was looking at possible study abroad courses, I initially wanted to go somewhere tropical and warm. Later on in the application process, however, I realized that many of the courses would not count towards my marketing requirements and traveling somewhere tropical would not give me the cultural experience that I believed Spain or Morocco would. Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect from the experience. I could read all the pamphlets and informational books I wanted, but the real experience began the minute I stepped foot on Spanish soil. In Spain, I expected a lot of fashionable people speaking beautiful Spanish and I was not disappointed. However, I also saw a mixture of homeless people, gypsies, and foreigners on the streets. The one thing I will remember the most about Spain is the way that people interacted with one another. I was not really prepared for the way men would whistle and howl at me in the streets. I was also not used to how loud people talk, even late into the night. As an American, I value my privacy and silence at times, and I found it very hard to find this quiet time in Spain. Aside from the noise, Seville was a beautiful city. The narrow streets and orange trees are now an image burned into my memory that I will never forget. It was also very interesting to visit the different Spanish companies and observe how they operate in relation to an American company. I learned that Spain is a much higher context culture than the United States; thus, if I ever find myself working with a Spanish client in the future, I will want to make sure that I develop a good relationship with the client and make time for socializing inside and outside of the office setting. I found these company visits to be a valuable experience because I will be able to apply what I observed and inquired to my future career in business. This experience will, most importantly, help me to become more aware of my cultural lens and to actively look at the world from a cultural perspective.

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My expectations of Morocco were most likely less negative than the rest of the students in the program because I have an uncle that was born and raised in Morocco. I was able to talk with him before my departure and he gave me great insights into the country and the culture of Moroccans. I think a lot of people have negative attitudes about Muslims simply because they dress differently and they associate Muslims with terrorism. However, after spending time with my host family in Morocco and knowing my uncle for the past 21 years, this simply is just not the case. The Moroccans were so hospitable and caring during my stay. They were always concerned with making sure that I was satisfied before they even began to worry about themselves. This just goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover. I also learned that you cannot judge the Moroccan culture by only what you see because there is a deep culture beneath the surface. Coming from a culture that is characterized by innovation and success, I think it was an eye-opening experience for me to live in a place so deeply rooted in tradition, religion, and history. The one thing I took from this observation is that the Moroccan people seem to be a very unified culture, which I think we Americans are often missing. Furthermore, this illustrates the greatest contrast, I believe, between our two cultures. Though I do value my individuality, I think it’s especially worthwhile to experience the collectivistic culture of the Moroccans and Spaniards.

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As I sit here writing this blog, it is bittersweet because I will have to leave behind tomorrow all of the wonderful people and scenic views that have become my second home over the past month. From the flavorful sangria of Spain to the chaos of the Moroccan medinas, I am truly going to miss it all. When I finally land back on United States soil tomorrow, I will be thankful to be home with my family but also to have made all of these wonderful memories with such a great group of girls and staff. As I continue on with my studies in Minnesota, I will be especially conscious of the way I view people with whom I interact. The Twin Cities are extremely diverse and have one of the largest Somali populations in the United States. Likewise, the University of St. Thomas is becoming more and more diverse as well. Sadly, I have never really put myself out there to introduce myself to someone from another culture at school; not because I was fearful or believed that my culture is better, but because I didn’t know what to expect. I can no longer use this as an excuse because my entire experience abroad was learning to be uncomfortable in situations where I did not know what was to be ahead. Whether it was trying to spit out a sentence in Spanish to buy a coffee or visiting the hammam in Morocco, I was putting myself out there in situations where I did not know the end result. With that said, I have made a promise to myself that, from here on out, I am going to continue to put myself out there. If I would have just taken a backseat to the whole experience, it would not have been worth my time and I would not have become so appreciative of the values and cultures of the Spanish and Moroccan peoples. In conclusion, I have learned that simply being “open” to learning about new cultures is not as valuable as really putting yourself out there. Once an average person, I can now confidently say that I am still a pretty average person but with a much greater appreciation and understanding of the outside world. From my new global perspective, I see the true underlying beauty of the Spanish and Moroccan cultures, and I hope that the rest of the world gets the opportunity to see it and live it just as I did. Thank you CIEE!

02/11/2014

The most important lesson I’ve learned: I am completely capable of trying new things

This post is by Sarah Haberman, a Communications Major at University of Delaware. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

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I’ve always considered myself a relatively open-minded person, but then again, I’ve never really experienced anything to keep an open mind about. I’m a 20-year-old white female from a small, affluent town in Massachusetts. Needless to say, we have about as much diversity in our town as a pack of gum. The most diversity I’ve dealt with was likely when I left home to attend The University of Delaware, though that’s hardly any more diverse than where I grew up. I believe that in general, I’m similar to many American students in my values and beliefs, though obviously every community and every individual has their own idiosyncrasies. It’s not until we leave our communities and immerse ourselves in others, that we truly realize these values and beliefs. Over the course of the past month, I’ve learned so much about the cultures of Spain and Morocco, and even more about my own values and beliefs.

I chose to take this course simply as a chance to study abroad. As a mass communication major, international business culture couldn’t have less to do with my area of study. Contrary to my expectations, this class turned out to be incredibly relevant to both my major and my life. After all, we live in an increasingly global world, so how can a class that allows you to communicate cross-cultural not be relevant to your life?

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My biggest learning experiences during this trip came, surprisingly, not from the lectures or the company visits, but simply in day-to-day life either in the homestay or in the streets. While it was the information we learned in the lectures that guided me, I felt that I took the most valuable lessons from my own attempts at cross-cultural communication. I was able to take what we learned about in class—Hofstede and Trompenaars’ cultural dimensions, Hall’s communication methods, the Cultural Detective values, etc.—and apply it to how I communicated with others. Aspects of the Spanish and Moroccan culture that I may not have noticed before became increasingly apparent to me, and characteristics I didn’t understand became comprehensible. The tight quarters of my Spanish homestay were understandable after we discussed the dimension of collectivism and values of family and social relations. The fact that four twenty-something-year-old children still lived with their parents in my Moroccan homestay became logical after we discussed uncertainty avoidance. While these experiences were not in the business realm, I still feel that they will be incredibly useful to me in my future professional career. I believe that the values and beliefs that people ascribe to in their personal lives carry over into the business world. Should I work with someone from another culture in the future, understanding what they value could prove incredibly useful to me in forming a mutual trust and strong relationship between us.

I feel that this course would be an incredible opportunity to talk about in an interview because it was far from your typical study abroad trip. In such a small, close-knit group, we were able to really get to know both each other, and our teacher. I think we received special attention that we may not have had in a larger group, and partook in an experience unlike any other. During company visits we were all able to ask questions and get up-close-and-personal with our lecturers. Similarly, during class we were able to go in-depth, relating stories to our own lives and helping each other spread the understanding of concepts through personal anecdotes about both our home lives and homestay lives. Outside of the classroom, the cultural activities we did all reinforced the lessons we learned during lecture. For example, when we visited Basilippo the owner reminded us of the importance of family, one of Spain’s cultural values. When we visited the clothing factory in Morocco, we were able to inquire about where and when the employees prayed during work hours, reflecting the cultural value of tradition. Everything we discussed in the lectures was both relevant to and reinforced by our experiences outside of the classroom.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned more about other cultures and myself than I could have possibly imagined. The most important lesson I’ve learned, however, is that I am completely capable of trying new things. When I first arrived at my Spanish homestay I was really anxious, but after a few days I felt completely at home with my host family. I found that if I told myself that “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad,” it was much easier to make the transition from the US to Spain. While the transition to Morocco was a bit more difficult, I told myself the same thing. I tried new foods, I attempted to speak the language, and I let myself be open to anything and everything. While I didn’t “go native,” by any means, I tried to really experience both cultures. If I didn’t, I would have simply been living in an American bubble on another continent.

In order to learn even more about why people in other cultures value what they do, I think the simplest answer would be, just ask them. While I spent the majority of my time here quietly observing, I didn’t take much of an active role in my exploration of values. Sure, I know what the people of Seville and Rabat value, but I don’t know why. I would be extremely interested in doing further discovery as to why certain cultures are the way that they are. While I don’t think that I would find any concrete, black-and-white answers, I think it would help me assume the role of that culture and better understand their point of view. Most importantly, to understand other cultures I need to learn to completely remove my American cultural lens. Sure, I studied abroad for 3 weeks and I may return to the US feeling as though I’m completely accultured, but the truth is that I am far from ever truly understanding either Spain or Morocco. After all, I was born in the US and I don’t fully understand my own culture. I believe that it’s only through returning to Spain and Morocco again, asking questions, and really immersing myself in every aspect of the cultures—not just the glamorous parts—that I will fully understand their beliefs and values (and I look forward to doing so).

Sarah Haberman 4

02/03/2014

An eye opening experience

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This post is by Liza Baier, an Accounting Major at University of St. Thomas, MN. During the Winter 2014 term she participated in the CIEE Winter International Business Seville + Rabat program.

Before this course began, if somebody asked me to describe myself I would have said that I am a young Caucasian woman currently attending college in Minnesota. However, now that I have had this experience, I understand my cultural background is much more extensive. I am an American with an Irish and German ethnic background. Additionally, I identify with the Catholic religion; although, I am not strictly practicing it. I am a middle class American and a college student studying business. Specifically, I am an accounting major so there are not many opportunities for international travel as accounting standards are different in America than they are from the rest of the world. I decided that I would take this winter course because that way I can finish all of my accounting classes on time while still getting an international study abroad experience.

My expectations coming in were that it was going to be a relaxing trip to Europe and a very modern area of North Africa. However, I was not prepared for the culture shock that I experienced in both Spain and Morocco. The lectures were very interesting and useful in becoming acquainted with the different cultures we encountered. The classes discussing cultural dimensions allowed me to understand the differences I was observing instead of being overwhelmed with them such as the more polychronic time schedule and the higher power distance seen in both Spain and Morocco. The lectures also made me realize that the way I do things in America may not be the most efficient and effective way of doing things in other cultures. I thought I was more open to accepting cultures that were different than mine, but I discovered that I was displaying an ethnocentric attitude towards the experience. I had to push myself to recognize that my American culture was not superior. For example, I was initially shocked by the conservative approach to cooking and cleaning. There was no space in the showers and laundry was done once a week without a drying machine, but eventually I grew to become more flexible with everyday tasks and learned to enjoy the low-maintenance lifestyle in Spain and Morocco.

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I also did not realize the differences in values that are so prevalent in various cultures around the world. My frustrations were very high when it came to not having a synchronous schedule and listening to people talking in the streets. Seville and Morocco had very noisy, abrasive environments that intimidated me. My assumptions had always been that other places were just like America where discussions are quick and to the point and everyone sticks to a specific schedule for the day. However, the first hand encounters we experienced through visits to businesses in Spain allowed me to realize that Spain and Morocco emphasized other areas of their lives such as family. Through this awareness, I was able to observe how people in these cultures chose to live in the present instead of planning for the future. It was refreshing to visit the olive oil farm and learn about how they have the means to expand their company, but they would rather enjoy life in Spain instead of taking on an international workload.

By better understanding the values of people from Spain and Morocco, I was able to realize what was most important for me in America. I thought I relied on my family more, but after this trip I recognized how much more independent I am than I originally thought. Many children that we encountered during our course were our age or older and still lived with their parents or came home for every meal. I can go for months at a time without seeing my family and I do not usually tell them where I am going or what I am doing. Additionally, while it was a good experience to be introduced to the Spanish and Moroccan idea of space, I realized how much more room I have in America. It is not just in houses, but in the streets and at restaurants our culture tends to have much less contact with others. I found myself really missing the way things were in my own culture, which allowed me to better appreciate what I have at home.

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I think it was essential for me to have the experiences I did in order to better understand what I want from life and to appreciate the opportunities that I have as a woman and as an American. Especially in Morocco, the inequalities in gender roles were very prevalent. Additionally, the shock from the level of poverty was quite significant for me.  I have never seen so many beggars in the street. Homeless people in my area of Minnesota are seen very rarely. It took a while for me to realize that this is not a taboo lifestyle for the people in Morocco. I grew to believe that if they were better off financially, they would still choose to live their traditional lifestyles. Thus, the trip to Morocco was the most eye opening for me because I realized that having nice things and a strong financial foundation is not the only way to find satisfaction in life. The people we encountered in Spain were recovering from an economic recession and those in Morocco did not have much money; however, they were still genuinely happy. People were out late at night visiting and laughing with each other and seemed to be living life to the fullest.  

I always heard growing up, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I never realized how difficult that really is to avoid. This trip allowed me to comprehend how important it is to look past the visual environment and become acquainted with a culture through the people. It is important to not only meet people, but to immerse yourself in their lifestyle to fully understand why people value what they do. For this reason, the homestay is a very important learning aspect of this experience. Additionally, this course taught me more than anything that you need to push yourself outside your comfort zone and experience many different cultural encounters in order to fully understand what you value most in life. After experiencing this short time abroad, I feel I have a clear idea of what my future values and goals will be in life from both a career and social relationships.  

01/27/2014

winter international business (seville + rabat) newsletter

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Greetings from Seville

Last Friday, we celebrated our end-of-semester dinner for our International Business Seville+Rabat students.

It was definitely a wonderful evening where we had the opportunity to share some of the exciting experiences lived in Spain and Morocco.

This was a truly exceptional winter session, full of enriching activities.

List of the main activities in Spain:

  • Company visit - Biomedal
  • Company visit - Xtraice
  • Compan visit - Basilippo
  • Lecture - Flamenco in Andalusia: Culture, Language, Music, and Dance
  • Lecture - The Close Historic and Cultural Links between North Africa and Southern Spain
  • Lecture - Doing Business in Africa. Morocco. Protocol and Negotiation Styles in Morocco
  • Lecture -: Doing Business in Africa II. Stereotypes and cultural values to take into consideration
  • Spanish Cooking class
  • Free time with Spanish students
  • Culture visit - Alcazar
  • Culture visit - Catedral and Giralda
  • Culture visit - Plaza de Esaña
  • Visit to Cordoba

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In Morocco, students had the opportunity to enjoy the following activities:

  • Trip to Tangier
  • Trip to Ashila
  • Company Visit – Larinor 
  • Moroccan Cooking class 
  • Free time with Moroccan students
  • Ceramic workshop in Oulja, small town devoted to the craft of ceramics 
  • Lunch at the Organic Farm and Botanic Garden of Zinneb Ben Rahmoun, President of the Association Marroc Nature Et Culture of Agro-tourism 
  • Tea Lecture - Gender issues in Morocco 
  • Tea Lecture - Comparisons of the Koran, the Torah, and the Bible; and their impact on the culture
  • Visit to The medrassa Ben Youssef, the most beautiful old Coranic School 
  • Visit to the town of Ouezzane, a place of pilgrimage for Moroccan Jews 
  • The art and history of Henna 
  • Group Dinner and Recital of Andalusi Music and PoetryTrip to Chaefchaouen

I’d like to thank you for your continued support of the CIEE programs.

Jaime Ramirez, Center Director.