The Self Designed International Experience course empowers students to get a different view on international business and explore an unfamiliar culture, on their terms. Each year, 25-30 Carlson School students choose to intern, volunteer, or conduct research abroad, and are able to fulfill the international experience requirement in the process.
“We know students get unique opportunities overseas. The self-designed option allows them to pursue these opportunities and receive credit,” says Deirdre Opp, education abroad program director. “I think they’re appreciative that they’re able to combine their personal passions with the requirement.”
These experiences offer lessons and skills that alumni draw upon years after they return home.
Mentorship abroad shapes avid global traveler
While weighing education abroad programs offered by the Carlson School, Katie Boardman, ’14 BSB, struggled to find an opportunity to suit her interests. But with the help of her employer and the Carlson Global Institute, she designed her own international experience in Balma, France.
The management information systems major and Land O’Lakes intern arrived in France in the summer of 2014 to assist with a substantial software upgrade at Geosys, a Land O’Lakes affiliate company. Throughout 30 days, Boardman assisted with the preparation, launch, and post-launch support for the new software.
Looking back on her time abroad, Boardman says she got a crash course in nimble decision-making and managing new challenges.
“I planned everything myself, from how to get to the airport, to whether I would have a cell phone in France,” she says. “All the work was definitely worth it, because now I feel like if I were to travel to a new place again, I could do it.”
Intercultural communication presents new challenges
In the summer of 2013, Tommy McQuillan, ’15 BSB, spent his weekdays interning at a leading global corporation and his weekends visiting new destinations across Europe. In a few short months, McQuillan visited 25 cities in nine countries.
As a business intelligence intern at UPS, McQuillan worked from an office in Neuss, Germany. He compiled relevant news and data about UPS clients to share with the sales and account staff to support the logistics branch of UPS’s business.
The experience led McQuillan to recognize the importance of cultural nuances in interpersonal and professional communications.
“I got to work with people from France, Belgium, the UK, and Italy,” he says. “I had to be very direct and convey my ideas in a simple way to communicate effectively. The importance of being concise in business matters was driven home.”
The flexibility to build his own international experience enabled McQuillan to enrich his professional experience and personal outlook on the world.
“Working for three months in a foreign country helps you stand out, it’s a huge resume builder,” he says. “I really got the most out of my experience—I found an internship that fit what I wanted to do, and I got to travel all over Europe for three months.”
Business takes shape in new language
While interning with the logistics team at General Mills in Spain, Caitlyn McCarthy, ’14 BSB, sharpened her business vocabulary in two languages.
“Not only was I learning about logistics, I was learning a lot of Spanish,” says McCarthy, who spent the summer prior to her sophomore year in Spain. “At first, I didn’t pick up on everything, but as I attended more group meetings in Spanish, I started to wrap my head around all the business terms.”
She observed the supply chain process for brands like Häagen-Dazs and Nature Valley, from production to store shelf, and realized how cultural nuances can impact business operations. For example, McCarthy helped the supply chain team ensure General Mills warehouses in Europe remained stocked through holidays when the plants were shut down.
Today, McCarthy is part of the operations development program at Polaris, and identifies opportunities to optimize the company’s supply chain. Looking back, she remembers her time in Spain as both overwhelming, and enriching.
“What I did was not something I was comfortable with. I was scared on the flight over, I was scared until I got there, and scared until my first day,” she says. “But getting that experience where you can really push yourself out of your comfort zone is crucial. It really builds your character.”
Independent travel inspires internship of a lifetime
Nate Shrader, ’15 BSB, got hooked on international exploration when he traveled solo to Singapore and throughout Asia in his junior year at the Carlson School. Reflecting on the trip, he pledged to make travel a permanent priority, and sought opportunities to see new parts of the world. When it came time to fulfill the international experience requirement, a chance meeting led to an internship in India.
Last fall, Shrader met alum Steele Lorenz, ’10 BSB, at a school event. They chatted about their individual experiences in the Carlson Ventures Enterprise—a program that enables students to champion a new business idea in the real world and develop entrepreneurial skills.
Throughout the discussion, Shrader expressed his passion for leveraging entrepreneurship to make a difference in the world. As founder and CEO of MyRain, an emerging company that provides tools for small-plot farmers in India to improve their operations, Lorenz shared some advice. When Shrader proposed a project to promote MyRain, Lorenz embraced his ideas.
“I explained what I wanted to accomplish and I convinced him to let me come out there,” says Shrader. “I think he could tell I was passionate about learning from him and his organization.”
Shrader teamed up with Ben Cherrey, ’14 BSB; Trevor Thill, ’15 BSB; and Mitchell Jacobsen, ’15 BSB, to develop a new channel for MyRain to expand its reach. The team worked in Minneapolis throughout the fall semester of 2014, using videoconferencing to collaborate with Lorenz. In December, they traveled to Madurai, India to complete the project at the company’s headquarters.
It was an exciting time for MyRain, which tripled its workforce and grew to serve 600 dealers last year.
Shrader returned to the United States with a renewed sense of social entrepreneurship.
“If there’s anything I’d want to replicate in the future it would be to solve big problems in a developing part of the world,” he says. “It takes people like Steele to plant their feet on the ground where those problems are and that takes a lot of courage and determination.”
Nate will embark on his career as an IT manufacturing development analyst at 3M after graduation this summer. Much to his delight, the position entails plenty of international travel.
For more stories about students, faculty, and alumni, check out the Carlson School magazine