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As a third-year commerce student at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, Marcel Glaesser spent an academic semester at the University of Mannheim last year. After completing his studies in Germany, he decided to stay longer and landed a six-month contract with BMW in Munich.

A worker puts an emblem on a BMW 5 series car at the plant in the Bavarian city of Dingolfing.

“The coolest thing is that I got to do so many things,” he recalls, citing marketing-related assignments that included preparations for the company’s annual meeting held in a stadium, complete with a display of prototype cars.

His experience typifies a growing trend among undergraduate and graduate business students to study and work abroad while earning their business degree. For Mr. Glaesser, Germany held appeal because he was born there before his family came to Canada 10 years ago. He took his classes in English at Mannheim, but had to brush up on his German to work at BMW.

His advice to other students is “go abroad, go abroad. It will set you apart.”

The same message comes from Canadian business schools, some with formal and informal arrangements to promote international experience opportunities for students before they graduate.

For example, Beedie recently signed an agreement with the British Columbia and Caribbean branches of the Certified General Accountants for an accounting student to spend a work term in Barbados every year.

“We feel it is a great opportunity for students because they get to work and learn,” says Andrew Gemino, associate dean of undergraduate programs. “We would love to do more,” he adds. “It is a matter of finding those opportunities and working on them.”

About 1,700 Beedie commerce undergraduates – about half of the enrolment – are at one stage or another of the school’s co-op program, either completing a prerequisite semester, applying for a placement or actually on the job. Every semester, between 170 and 240 students are actually working, with about five per cent choosing to go abroad.

“Through a variety of different ways, the students are becoming more comfortable and more interested in working internationally,” says Shauna Tonsaker, co-op education program director.

Her office provides financial and other assistance to students before, during and after their work stint. Prior to departure, all students complete an online course to minimize culture shock. This summer, students have chosen placements with major firms in half a dozen countries, including China, Japan and Germany.

“They get the experience of working in a culturally diverse work environment, gain experience for the first time of living on their own and get a global perspective,” she says. “It is of huge value when they are out there to apply for careers, locally and internationally, and can bring that [experience] to the workplace.”

Now completing his fourth year at Beedie in business marketing, Mr. Glaesser says the biggest bonus of working abroad was his new level of confidence. “It was the first time working in any big organization and seeing how it works from the inside,” he recalls. “For me, it was really valuable.”

excerpt from The Globe and Mail, by JENNIFER LEWINGTON

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eric stein; d-day; study abroad
Senior history major Eric Stein bags sand from Omaha Beach for his grandfather during the 2012 D-Day study abroad program. Stein’s grandfather landed on the beach during D-Day and asked him to bring sand back as a souvenir.
study abroad; american cemetery
The D-Day study abroad group poses for a picture in the American Cemetery at the grave of Louisiana war hero Sgt. John P. Ray. On D-Day, Ray dropped in behind enemy lines as part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was fatally shot in the stomach by a German solider. Before he died, Ray saw the German aiming his gun at two other American soldiers and saved them by shooting the German in the back of the head.

by Bryan Perissutti

We all know the story. On June 6, 1944 the Allied powers began the liberation of France from Germany on D-Day.

From June 16 through June 24, 24 Southeastern students went to the place where it all began to study first hand the D-Day Invasion. The trip was one of Southeastern’s study abroad programs and took the group from London to Paris, visiting numerous sites in between.

The trip was led by associate professor of history Dr. Harry Laver who believes that study abroad brings popular topics into a unique perspective.

“The topic has considerable interest among the general public which includes students,” said Laver“Walking the ground brings a greater understanding as I think most of the group saw.”

The group listened to guides, browsed museums, met new people and took in the culture all while earning up to six hours of college credit.

For history graduate student Natalie Worsham, this was exactly why she decided to participate in study abroad.

“I decided to participate in study abroad as a way to earn credits while visiting Europe, a chance of a lifetime,” said Worsham.

Among the sites in Normandy, France, the climactic moment for many students was visiting Omaha Beach, the site of the battle that was dramatized in the 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan.”

“Being on Omaha Beach was surreal. Our grandparents were part of the Greatest Generation, the generation of soldiers that made the end of the war seem within reach on the sands of Normandy,” said senior history major Eric Stein.

For Stein, the trip was much more than class work, it was a way to walk in his grandfather’s footsteps. Stein’s grandfather, Nick Stein, landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day as part of the 1st Infantry Division known as “The Big Red One.” While on the beach, Stein collected two bags of sand to give back to his grandfather.

“Collecting the sand was an experience,” said Stein. “You go through all the emotions as you dig your hand into the sand and you become overwhelmed.  In the back of your mind, it’s like a scene from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ playing in a permanent loop.”

Graduate student Michelle Dufrene also collected some sand from the beach and is excited about sharing it with her students at Madisonville Junior High.

“I’ll be able to share first-hand knowledge, artifacts and pictures from my experiences abroad,” said Dufrene. “Want to know how to hook a kid into your lesson? Pass around a bag of sand from Omaha Beach.  That’ll get a discussion going.”

Laver expressed the possibility of doing this trip again next summer and suggested that students who were interested start the application process early. He believed that students with an open mind and adaptability were the perfect candidates for study abroad.

“For someone to have a successful study abroad trip, it’s got to be somebody with an open mind and somebody with flexibility and someone willing to adapt,” said Laver. “Eisenhower’s point, which we all learned within hours of starting in New Orleans, once the operation starts, throw all the plans out.”

Source: The Lion’s Roar

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