Manning School of Business (MSB) senior Claudia Vargas-Fregoso learned firsthand about the challenges of international management during a two-week study abroad trip to Barcelona: the complexities of global supply chains, the demands of product development and strategies for staying competitive during a recession. She also developed a deep appreciation for the city’s culture, experienced the local passion for football and cultivated her love of travel.
“The trip enriched all of us. I don’t think there’s anyone in the group who didn’t come home with a different perspective,” says Vargas-Fregoso. “It’s amazing how two weeks will change you.”
Vargas-Fregoso was one of nine students who traveled to Spain in January with MSB Asst. Prof. Silvia Salas to study global business at the Universtat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), a UMass Lowell partner institution. The course, called Comparative Management, included visits to Barcelona-based businesses and collaboration with international MBA students studying at UAB.
“Each student gave me great examples how their perspective changed as a result of the trip,” says Salas. “You could see the students’ eyes light up with one ‘aha moment’ after another.”
To prepare students for the trip, Salas posted assignments online two weeks before the group departed. Required reading included a chapter from “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands,” a bestselling guide to conducting business in different countries. The students had to take quizzes and do presentations and projects while in Spain.
Visits to Spanish Businesses
The students visited headquarters of Freixenet, the sparkling wine maker; Mercadona, a leading grocery distributor and retailer; L’Illa, a prominent upscale shopping mall; and Roca, a maker of bath fixtures. Executives from each business met with the students and talked to them about the challenges of expanding into new markets, fostering innovation and managing global supply chains.
“The field trips were eye-opening,” says Adam Hostetler, an MSB senior with a dual concentration in marketing and management. He also got a global perspective on different issues by collaborating with the UAB graduate students, who were from all over the world.
“We learned from them,” he says.
In one assignment, each group of students had to create a video commercial to launch Freixenet products in Australia. In another, they had to evaluate the operations, merchandising and layout of the shopping mall.
Appreciating Barcelona Culture
Jennifer Castro, a senior psychology major and one of two non-business student in the group, said she gained insight into the role cultural differences play in business. She also learned about the potential of working overseas through an assignment in which students had to conduct an online job search and compose a cover letter to a Spanish employer.
The students lived on the UAB campus, which is located outside the city center. In between classes and field trips, they had time for sightseeing and managed to get tickets to a Futbol Club Barcelona match, a feat similar to scoring Red Sox seats.
For Vargas-Fregoso, a highlight of the trip was seeing the concepts and principles she’s learned in the classroom being applied to real-world situations.
“I saw what I’ve learned in my classes put into practice,” she says.
The Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences is coordinating a growing number of faculty-led study abroad programs. This summer, several trips are planned offering students such opportunities as studying mental health and criminal justice in London or biodiversity and conservation biology in Cairns, Australia.