A visit Down Under gives students a new perspective on international business

Courtney Fields, a junior supply chain management major, was one of five students in UAH’s College of Business to take part in a 10-day study-abroad experience in Australia.

Destine' Brown had never been on a plane, let alone out of the country, when she set off for Sydney, Australia, late last year. But after working three jobs to save up enough money to go, the senior accounting major at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) wasn’t about to let a little trepidation about such a big adventure get in her way. "It was definitely worth all the hard work, because if I didn’t go on this trip I wouldn’t have had this experience," says Brown, who brought home a boomerang as a souvenir. "And this experience changed me – it was life altering. When it was over, it hit me pretty hard. I didn’t want to leave."

Dr. Dilcu Barnes (left) and her students enjoyed the rich cultural heritage of the city and explored local landmarks like the Sydney Opera House.

Led by Dr. Dilcu Barnes, a clinical assistant professor of management science in UAH’s College of Business, the International Business in Asia Pacific Program gives students the opportunity to take the MGT 450 – International Business course required for most business majors as a 10-day study-abroad experience. Through lectures, assignments, and guest presentations, students are introduced to the basic concepts of international business in the Asia Pacific Region; the key political-legal, socio-economic, and technological issues impacting international trade in the region; and the cultural and ethical challenges confronting small-medium and multinational enterprises that operate there. The culmination is a final project that tasks students with conducting a health check of a selected country in the Asia Pacific Region using SWOT and PESTEL analyses.

Five UAH students in total took part in last December’s program, which was hosted by Global Academic Ventures and facilitated by Dr. Nigel Bairstow, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Technology Sydney. Guest presenters included Alex Lynch, Government Relations and Public Policy Manager at Google; Ingrid Thompson, Founder of Healthy Numbers; Merlin Luck, Manager, Commercial Sales at Salesforce; Peter Scrine, Business Development Director at Crescent Capital Partners; David Irving, Director of Research and Development at Red Cross Blood Service; Nish Vithlani, CFO and Company Secretary at Costco; and Peter Kollar, Head of International Training and Development at Cruise Lines International Association; among others.

Senior accounting major Destine' Brown, who had never been on a plane or left the country, hopes to return to Australia after her “life-altering” experience there this past December.

"It was an extensive list of companies that came and talked to us, giving a presentation and then leaving it open at the end for questions," says junior supply chain management major Courtney Fields, who was encouraged by her parents to choose the study-abroad option for the course. "It was awesome because we got to talk and mingle with people who were high up in these companies, and now we have that connection." Her favorite presentation was by Liana Debono, Senior Manager of Customer Facing IT Australia at logistics giant DHL. "She talked about how she’d been with the company for 15 years, and how much she loved traveling and working as a team," says Fields. "DHL is now my dream company!"

When they weren’t learning the ins and outs of business in the region, the students were immersed in the rich cultural heritage of the city surrounding them. In addition to exploring local landmarks like the Bondi to Coogie Coastal Walk, the Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, they participated in excursions to the country’s Southern Highlands region, the Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park, and the coast of Cairns, where they snorkeled and scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef. "That was awesome," says Fields. "The water was so blue and clear and warm, and the topography was so different and cool. It was one of my favorite things." Equally impactful was their interaction with the Australian people. "Everyone there had a smile on their face," says Brown. "They were so happy and carefree." Adds Fields, "It felt like Southern hospitality in the extreme."

Now that they are back stateside, the students’ focus has inevitably moved on to completing their final projects. But neither will forget their one-of-a-kind experience Down Under. Brown, in fact, has officially caught the travel bug. After graduation this spring, she’s hoping to land an accounting job that will allow her the financial freedom to one day return to Australia – and maybe even work there. "If you can make it happen, studying abroad is the best thing you can do for yourself," she says. "I experienced a lot of firsts with this trip, and that has opened me up to more new experiences."


Dr. Dilcu Barnes


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