It’s always exciting to be back on campus after summer’s separation from great friends, a great university, and the good old Scranton, Pennsylvania. The go-to question of “What did you do this summer?” pops up in conversations campus-wide. This fall semester I am fortunate enough to provide a more interesting answer than the typical, “Oh, nothing special.” On June 13 I departed from my New Jersey home and traveled across the globe to Thessaloniki, Greece, where I lived and studied for five weeks—five weeks that, in retrospect, rank among the best weeks of my life.
When friends and family ask what I studied while abroad, they are amused when I tell them that I took a business course in Greece, and by now I am accustomed to the response, “Well I am sure you learned exactly what NOT to do.” It is undoubtedly ironic, but my studies in the economically crisis-ridden Greece immensely enhanced my knowledge of international business.
My course abroad covered topics that included the political, economic, socio-cultural and technological factors of the European business environment, the trends of globalization, the role of the European Union, internal imbalances, foreign direct investment and the problem of European integration, to name only a few. My thesis paper analyzed the plight of Starbucks in Greece relative to the success of Mikel Coffee Company, a company that has effectively expanded throughout the country from its original location in the Greek city of Larissa.
While I consider all of the knowledge I gained (even the life experience gained from traveling to a foreign country alone) to be extremely beneficial, learning about the global impacts of the collapse of the U.S. housing market and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers linked my studies in the U.S. with events in the rest of the world. The U.S. financial crisis is discussed in virtually every university business class, and while I was well aware that the crisis spread internationally, I never truly understood the reason why or even the relationships between the debtor and creditor nations abroad until I went to Greece.
I’ve been asked repeatedly upon returning from abroad if the financial instability of Greece was evident. Fueled by the media, the impression that many Americans have of Greece is that of an unsafe country in utter chaos with widespread riots. Although riots may have been frequent a few years back, I can honestly say that I never felt even the slightest bit unsafe, and I never saw any signs of social unrest. I fell in love with Greece, its people, its tranquility and its beauty.
My study abroad experience included much more than just studying, and I am grateful for the experience and my newly acquired perspectives. The first book I read upon returning from abroad was Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” which describes the inner workings of the Wall Street machine that led to the crash of 2008. Prior to studying abroad I would have read the book from a purely U.S. perspective, but because of my travel, I better understood the breadth of the crisis.
I am grateful to say it was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad.
By Larissa Hoffman