Abroad in Austria

I had the pleasure of spending time abroad in Steyr, Austria as part of the Dual Degree program at Concordia University Wisconsin. For academic scholars with a concentration in International Business, the partnership with the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences allows for them to gain a second masters concentration in Global Sales and Marketing. The two week, ten hour day schedule is able to compress the five classes needed to gain a concentration by executing each of the eight, four hour sessions in a class each day. This rigorous schedule is difficult, but allows for a very in depth and immersive training process.

I arrived early to Austria in the summer of 2015. I had flown for 9 hours over the Atlantic to Vienna, taken a subway line from the airport to the main transport hub in Vienna, and then a train to St. Valentin. I didn’t speak a word of German, which wasn’t really an issue until I was on the train from Vienna to St. Valentin. The conductor didn’t speak English, and I didn't understand how train tickets worked, having never bought one before. There was a student thankfully in the car who was commuting home from school who was able to help me. After I changed trains in St. Valentin and finally arrived in Steyr.

The first few days of my stay were the last few days of most of the usual students time at school. This meant there were school hosted festivities where I met the professors. I used my early first days to explore Steyr, which I have come to love, and settle into the apartment I had sublet from one of the students leaving for Italy for the summer. Steyr, for those who wish to travel, is my perfect European hideout. This beautiful city is both ancient and beautiful. The city is built in a valley near the Alps and slopes into the Steyr river, which is both bitterly cold and exceptionally clear. The water is safe and clean enough to drink from the river, which is fed from the cold snowmelt.

As a new international traveler, there were adjustments that had to be made. My normal caffeinated soda was unavailable and thus my new breakfast became a freshly baked croissant from one of the many small bakeries and a can of coke on my way down the hill to class in the morning. Due to the nature of the program that year, my class was made up of myself and five other students from Concordia. Our professors were brilliant, and because of the small nature of the classes, we were all very deeply involved in the discussion. I found the classes challenging, but not impossible. Interestingly, the focus was built around business to business marketing rather than the more traditional business to consumer marketing common in the U.S. After speaking to some of the other students that were there over the summer I found that this is common in the European business education world. Despite these differences, the information was invaluable in helping shape a more well-rounded view of global business.

These rigorous weeks were broken by a weekend of traveling to Salzburg. This involved a van ride for several hours through the winding roads of the Alps, with a stop at the Red Bull Hanger 7. That week had been one of the hottest of the summer, and air conditioning is very uncommon in Austria due to a general lack of need for it. In Salzburg, the heat settled into the city, similarly built in a river valley. We escaped by visiting the castle, which was built on a steep hill that rises above the city. It was there that we sang the national anthem on the Fourth of July. On our way back from that weekend, we got lost in the Alps and after three hours of driving in the wrong direction, almost ended up in Italy. Being lost driving through the Alps is not an unpleasant place to be lost.

The next week went by as the last had, with intense study, and the final weekend came quickly. Our final trips took us to Mauthausen, a concentration camp in Austria. The oppressive weather set the backdrop for this place of immense pain and suffering. From there we went to the BMW plant in Dingolfing. This massive plant, sprawling over 30 million square feet, houses nearly 17,500 employees, making 340,000 cars annually. Truly a marvel of human innovation, the combination of advanced robotics and plant layout creates an incredibly efficient and fast method of creating several different types of cars.

After this trip, the program was officially completed. Various members of our group took trains and planes to other parts of Europe to continue their adventures, while I flew home. This program was an incredible time for me. Educationally, it explored aspects of business that I would never have otherwise been able to participate in. The professional staff was incredibly well educated themselves and their many years in the business created a well-rounded teaching style that I enjoyed. Furthermore, the time I spent abroad changed the way I look at the world. I began to see how vital it is for our companies in the United States to engage in the world of global trade. Through trade, we open new markets and further global growth. I will always be grateful for my time abroad.

Additionally, the partnership between Concordia University and Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences has continued to grow over the past several years by providing students from both campuses the opportunity to not only earn a dual-degree from both partnering Universities, but to truly experience being immersed into a culture from an international perspective. This opportunity is changing a little in the future only to enhance the experience of the students who participate. If you or any interested students would like to learn more about what Colin experienced or how it may change in the future, please contact the trip lead instructor, Prof. Erik Hollander at erik.hollander@cuw.edu or 262-243-4482.