Learning abroad with Semester at Sea profoundly impacted my professional and personal life and changed the trajectory of my education, in ways that only a semester abroad can do. In each of the places I visited, I had first hand application of supply chain logistics, marketing, international business, and business ethics. I saw with my own eyes the domestic, global, and local impact each of these specialties has on the world, as well as how the world and its different people are changing business practices, or forcing business organizations to adapt. I like to say learning abroad ‘rounded out’ my education; meaning, I now have a better understanding of how the environment, politics, and all these different subjects seemingly unrelated to business all work together in the real world. Learning abroad ‘filled in the gaps’ and connected things like history, science, journalism, etc… and showed me how it is all relevant to me and my passions.
Not only that, but I developed strong soft skills such as time management, communication, teamwork, and problem solving skills in real world, tactical, and realistic ways. For example, consider managing a personal budget in 12 different currencies for four months? Or traveling through every time zone in the world, while still making travel plans and turning in course work on time? I didn’t have a working phone for three months, and therefore strengthened my communication skills without technology distracting me, sometimes with people who spoke a different language from me.
When I say that I learning abroad completely transformed me and showed me my fullest potential, I say it with every fiber in me. I owe the entire University of Houston a debt of gratitude for the chance to pursue a semester abroad and one through Semester at Sea. From the Scholarships and Financial Aide Office, professors in the C. T. Bauer College of Business (and those not in the business school at UH) my academic advisors, the Learning Abroad Office, the list goes on. Absolutely every person I came into contact with at the University of Houston in terms of planning and preparing for my semester abroad was excited, supportive, and did everything they could to remove obstacles from my path and make the process as easy as possible for me. I feel incredibly blessed to be at the University of Houston, because I know that they put me in the best position possible to leave for a semester abroad and my experience would not have been the same without their incredible support.
With that being said, I strongly encourage every student at the University of Houston to look into spending a semester abroad. It is possible, it is easier than you think, and it is cheaper than you think. There is a program for you that caters to your interests, needs, requirements, and budget- you just have to look (on their website, so it’s easy!) I had roughly half of my expenses paid for via scholarships from the University of Houston and Semester at Sea; I got more scholarships to go abroad for a semester than I do to attend the University of Houston for a semester here in Houston. Furthermore, learning abroad created opportunities for me that I would not have otherwise, so you could say the experience pays for itself.
Simply put, spending a semester learning abroad is an investment in you and your education. It is not a vacation, it is a time to really explore who you are, challenge what you know (or think you know), and see your education in action. Now that I am back home and reflecting on my experience, I feel an obligation to do something more with my life and my education, but I also have a clearer vision on how to do that. I have come from a place of opportunity, in just the ability to receive an education, much less in other terms, and now it is my responsibility to create that opportunity for others through business practices.
-By Lois Hamburger