Munich Trip Provides Firsthand Experience for UTEP Business Students
June 20, 2012
UTEP students visit BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany during a Maymester course in international business.
By Sandy Hicks - UTEP News Service
American students can study the Euro crisis in classrooms, or they can study it in Europe itself. Business administration students from The University of Texas at El Paso would agree the latter is the way to go – and go they did.
In late May, 16 UTEP students from the College of Business Administration arrived at the University of Bundeswehr – Munich (UniBw) in Germany and were welcomed by Daniel Mook, of the UniBw International Office, and German student-mentors acting as volunteers for the school's study abroad program. Leading the UTEP student group on the Special Topics Maymester trip was international business lecturer Laird Smith and Director of Undergraduate Studies Jennifer Hennessey.
The goal of the one-week course for the UTEP undergraduates and the 10 German students who joined them for the classroom and cultural experiences was to study the history of the European Union (EU), its economic and political structure and the global impact of the European debt crisis. A sample of topics discussed during the course included international trade and trade policy as it impacts the EU, important European treaties, the challenges of a monetary union, the impacts of a customs union, European labor markets and migration, the progress toward a common agricultural policy, and the EU as a global partner.
The structure of the class incorporated several guest lecturers, including one from the Bavarian State Chancellery; as well as complementary tours and site visits that provided a glimpse into collegiate life in Germany, enriching the experience overall.
"The class and site visits were an outstanding way to teach UTEP students about another culture," Hennessey said. "The idea to incorporate German mentors into the students' daily activities made the experience much more meaningful. UTEP students were not only learning about the culture in the classroom but experiencing it firsthand."
UTEP junior Samantha Wells said she would highly recommend the course to her fellow students.
"The ability to view the European economy while studying it gave a different light to the information we studied," she said. "For example, we directly dealt with exchange rates and currency and traveled on trains through their land. Therefore, we were able to see why preservation of natural resources and transportation is so important and plays such a large role in the crisis."
The Munich course proved to be a positive experience for everyone involved, Hennessey said, with a significant part of the course's success due to the welcoming environment created by UniBW's faculty, staff and students. In addition to the classroom experience, the German hosts showed their American guests the ropes of the train system in Germany, took them on a walking tour of Munich, and organized visits to the BMW museum, a Bavarian castle and a local brewery, which included an in-depth question-and-answer session with the owner.
Kevin Duran, a UTEP pre-business major who concluded his freshman year with the trip, said the class gave him the opportunity to know and appreciate other political, economic, cultural and regional points of view in order to compare and contrast lifestyles among nations.
Fellow UTEP student and senior finance major Andrew Velasquez agreed.
"Being taught by professors who actually face the externalities of the European crisis makes you realize that there is a whole world out there that you can make a difference in; and studying the EU crisis at the University of Bundeswehr, Munich, is a great opportunity for anyone interested in international economics and finance," Velasquez said. He appreciated how the trip helped him and his fellow UTEP students to better understand the effects of the euro crisis on transportation, preservation of natural resources and currency.
Trip organizers from both universities hope to institutionalize the Maymester course as an annual event and explore other opportunities involving Master of Business Administration students in summer internships organized through UniBw. Another goal is to create a unilateral exchange program between UTEP and UniBw for undergraduate students.
"It was great for our students to have the opportunity to be so well integrated into the culture during the short time of our stay," said Lecturer Laird Smith. "They seemed to so enjoy it. Many of our students told me at the end of the trip that their image of Germans and German culture had really changed, and that they now plan to learn German so that they can return for further studies or to take up an internship."