Monday, August 23, 2010

Studying Abroad...An Update

So I have officially returned from my MBA study abroad program in Germany for the summer, and all I can say exhausted!
Countless people have approached me, asking the ubiquitous question, "So, how was it? How was Germany?", and I try my best to  cram a month full of experiences in a couple of interesting sounding, coherently structured sentences before I inevitably lose said persons attention, which we both know, is inevitable in this fast paced, "hurry up and get to the point" culture.

So how was it? You want my honest answer in a no-nonsense, straight to the point style? Fine...two words...F&%$'ing Awesome. Excuse my French...I mean German (?)

Never before have I learned so much yet managed to party so hard in my life. Funny though, when I tell people that I actually learned something abroad, I get a sort of skeptical half-sneer, as if they're saying "Yeah, right!". But to be honest, the program I enrolled in actually did require me to attend class and crack open a book once in a while. So what was the daily Itinerary like?

Here is a daily breakdown for you guys curious in enrolling in a MBA study abroad program. Now be forewarned, if your without any sense of humor (or an Accounting major), then you might find this description a bit crude and offensive. But hopefully, some of you readers are used to this by now.

8am - wake up, with inevitable hangover from night before after swearing to your classmates that "I cant go out tonight guys, I have class/a paper/ major surgery tomorrow". Possibly puke and rally. Think about rushing downstairs to make the free breakfast offered by hotel or university.

8:30am -You suddenly realize that you actually didn't wake up at 8am, you just hit snooze on your alarm until 8:30am. Class is at 9. You have time to do only 2 out of the 3 following  1) take a shower 2) change clothes or 3) get breakfast. Choose wisely.

9am - Finance/Economics class. Still hurting from last night, you pray for a teacher who understands that its an abroad program, and your still young and want to party a bit, and you may not be in top-form for a 9am econ class that focuses on European Central Banking Theory. You cry when you realize that your teacher is an ex-minister of finance for the European Central Banking Committee and he secretly loathes students because they think they can show up to his 9am class hungover. Also, your professor thinks that you remind him of a bully that used to pick on him in 4th grade. Awesome.

10:30am - the room stops spinning.

1pm - Your free! Your free! Class is over! Haha, just kidding, now you have a half hour to eat before going to your 3 hour long German class! You silently weep while stuffing a hot dog in your face so that you can get back to campus on time (or at least you think its a hot-dog, because, alas, everything on the menu is written in German. Which you don't speak. Yet.). Find out from fellow classmates what you did last night when you went out. Because you blacked out at 9pm, you reply casually that "No, i don't remember dancing on top of the bar/punching that midget/inhaling a bottle of Jagermeister last night."

1:30pm - Your stomach is telling you that you your lunch was definitely NOT a hot dog. And your German teacher is cold-calling you on how to conjugate a verb in German. Bonus: Its an irregular verb.

4pm - Your out of class and your hangover is gone. Time to sleep right? Wrong! Its time to go out! Dont want to go out? Then prepare to be left out of everyone's social calendars for the rest of the month there, because you will be officially labeled as lame (and rightly so!) Hello your studying ABROAD, your expected to party a little! Try to pull the "I cant go out tonight guys, i have class" line, and it will surely be met by cold stares or someone calling you a "Loser!", possibly followed up by a wedgie.

6pm - 3:30am - Drink copious amounts of cheap beer, cheap shots, and protein laden Jager-schnitzels. Bond with your classmates. Hear outrageous stories about "back home" from your fellow classmates. Get in hijinks with fellow classmates. Get kicked out of bars with fellow classmates. Most importantly, have lots of laughs with fellow classmates.

3:30am - 4am - Subways have stopped running. Find out how to get back home. Mix the 3 words you learned in German class with broken up English to try to talk to locals to find out how to get back to your hotel. Watch as the locals take pity on you, the drunk American, and try to give you directions using a series of hand gestures you don't understand. Confusion ensues.

4:15am - Somehow you get home. You Pass out.

Rinse, lather, repeat for 30 days, and this schedule becomes incredibly exhausting. Yes I learned a lot from class, but honestly I learned more outside of the classroom. What do students from China think about the world economy? What do people who were born in countries whose entire economies depend on oil think about the environmental movement in the US? Can I haggle the price of those Beer steins down from 30 euros to 25 euros? Can I manage to navigate a subway system in a completely foreign language? Can I hang out with person Y without offending Person Z, who happens to hate person Y?

Some of these accomplishments sounds trivial, but its overcoming these obstacles and learning from these experiences that not only make you a better person, but a more experienced and capable manager in the future. It sounds weird, but by going to a completely different country with people from other different countries,sucking up any shyness and just putting your best foot forward to reach out to these people, sharing your culture, learning how people from different backgrounds and other cultures react and think, negotiating with the locals, learning how to navigate in a strange city all by grow from these things. And to be honest, overcoming all these obstacles has really made me a much more confident person, which is key in management...learning to lead with confidence.

The hardest thing of the whole trip? Saying goodbye to 40 people who over the course of a month I had become really good, close friends with. These were all people I had ate, drank, told stories with, and frankly, had bonded with. And in the snap of a finger I had to say goodbye to them. That was the hardest thing to deal with, but I at the end of the day, I cant thank these people enough. People who had come from Africa, Australia, China, Europe, all parts of America, all people who really were just so open about sharing their culture, sharing their lives, that I feel truly blessed, that, even if in a small way, I was a part of that.

Now, after reading that, how the hell could I even tell all of this to someone in a couple of sentences, without leaving so much out. I couldn't. So when im asked what do I say? What can i say?

I had lots of fun. And Ill miss it.


  1. amazing recap of germany trip!

  2. Pazzuzu! This is making me thirsty for some jager. Glad you had a great trip!

  3. Hi,
    This is an interesting concept. You learned the language and fluent, but perhaps more important was how much you learned about cultures, people, and yourself. You learned this from the viewpoint of an active member of the community not from the tourist's point of view. Thanks..