Intense Studies Abroad

Business students gain global experiences in Brazil, Czech Republic

Check out our photo gallery of Brazil and Prague.

“Cultural learning cannot be read about but rather must be experienced.”

Mark Ratzlaff, who earned a Miller College of Business MBA this past summer, notes that’s exactly what he and other business students sought from a summer study trip to Brazil. “My knowledge and experience of Brazil certainly help in rounding my understanding and experience of global economies and cultures.”

Eighteen students made the trip, led by of Mark Myring, alumni distinguished professor of accounting, and Cindy Van Alst, chair of the Department of Accounting. “It was an opportunity for students to understand how businesses operate outside the United States,” Myring says.

The Brazil experience began long before the participants boarded their international flight. While still in Muncie, they explored the country’s culture, economy, and government and gained background on the companies they planned to visit on their trip. Once in Brazil, “each day, excluding the weekends, we visited two different companies, getting a chance to learn about a number of industries,” says accounting graduate student Laura Anderson.

Students had access to high-level executives at many of the companies visited. At São Paulo, Brazil's commercial capital, the students were hosted by Anthony Smith, BS accounting '68, now retired partner and director, SASA Capital Markets Center, Ernst & Young, LLP who arranged for an extensive overview of the country's financial sector. They also visited Bloomberg and others in the financial services industry; Coteminas, a major textile manufacturer; the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce mining company; Embratel, a telecommunications provider; and jewelry designer Francesca Romana Diana.

“It really broadens a student’s scope,” Van Alst says. “It opened their eyes to good opportunities abroad and the need to understand them so we can better compete.”

Not only are businesses competing on a global basis, so are business recruits, Ratzlaff points out. That’s a great reason to study abroad, he says. “Business graduates who have been raised in the U.S. but never traveled or experienced other cultures are at a disadvantage when competing with international students at large multinational firms.”

“I had never been anywhere before this trip, and I quickly realized that I had been living in my own little world,” Anderson says. “It was a great experience to see how other people live and how business is conducted in another country.”

Some of the students came away from the experience thinking seriously about taking an overseas assignment at some point in their careers. The reality is to be more upwardly mobile in a career path, global positions are a necessity.

“A number of the students are more open to accepting positions, either temporary or permanent, outside the U.S.,” Myring says. “It broadened their perspective and made the environment outside the U.S. seem more accessible.”

Hear from our students about their observations of Brazil.

Check out our photo gallery of Brazil and Prague.

Experiencing Life Through the Prague Center

Another set of 16 students will have an even more in-depth opportunity to broaden their global horizons. In September, Miller College began providing a semester-long experience in the Czech Republic. Douglas Naffziger, associate professor of management, is leading directing the study abroad program.

Students are staying in a university residence hall and taking a full load of classes while in Prague, he explains. Among the offerings are 300-level marketing and management courses required for graduation—basically the same courses they might study in Muncie but localized to the international setting. Local professors add more course options. Each Wednesday, field studies get students out of the classroom to pertinent sites across the city and the Czech Republic.

Prague is a great place to gain a new perspective on international business, Naffziger says. “It is a thriving economy. A lot of American companies have offices and manufacturing facilities in the Czech Republic, with a lot of Fortune 500 companies,” he says. What’s more, “it’s a beautiful city, Prague has really been preserved in the World Wars, and is open, friendly, and safe.”