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Jeff Miller's Study Abroad Experience - 9/4/2009

Harlaxton College StudentsOn May 7, 2009, a group of non-traditional Marian’s Adult Programs (MAP) students headed to study contemporary European business issues at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. This course was an intensive, immersive, experiential learning course that consisted of overseas travel, concentrated course work, a diverse group of business visits, tours of assorted historic sites, visits to a varied group of cities throughout the country, topped off with an assortment of cultural experiences both planned as well as unplanned.

The course work was designed to show the similarities and differences, as well as the challenges and opportunities, businesses face in the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). This course work covered everything from cultural differences, social and employment priorities, and how a fluctuation in exchange rate can have enormous impact on a company’s profitability when considering expansion overseas. Added to the course work were several trips to a variety of businesses. We visited a small brewery, the Wedgwood China factory, the Jaguar factory (now owned by TaTa, an Indian company), the UBS bank, and several local pubs and restaurants. Each business visit added to a better understanding as to how small to large businesses operate in the UK. As one might imagine, the economic problems that currently plague the United States are also affecting the rest of the world in much the same way. This became much easier to understand through these unique business visits.

Our travels allowed us to take in a divergent group of villages, towns, cities, and numerous historical sites, all paving the way to countless cultural experiences. We visited Grantham, Harlaxton village, Lincoln, Nottingham, York, and London. These represent a diverse and contrasting view of English life and business, from the rolling hills of the countryside, small to large towns and villages (old to modern), and finally to a vastly cultural and ethnically diverse and cosmopolitan city, London. The UK is rich in history and traditions and it brings a new understanding to how incredibly young the United States really is. Our cultural experiences ranged from visiting a fifteenth century pub and conversing with the locals, to attending a church service of the Church of England in a church nearly 1,000 years old. The historical sites including Harlaxton Manor itself were beyond words, adding deep historical context to our understanding of the country and how it developed over the years.

This intense experience was the quintessential exercise in experiential learning. We were allowed to experiment, experience, reflect, and analyze. We did not just learn about contemporary European business issues, we learned about history, cultures, and people, including ourselves. We all came away at least a little bit altered in our understanding of the world as a whole. Our worlds will forever be bigger and better for having this experience and enhanced understanding. As our economy becomes even more global, this knowledge will be of substantial benefit to me. I am eternally grateful and want to thank Marian University for a truly remarkable opportunity and experience.