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Students can learn international business with trip to Poland

October 8, 2015
KOKOMO, Ind. — To an American, having a barista ask your name when you order your coffee is a sign of caring.

In Eastern Europe, however, it might be seen as intrusive.

Indiana University Kokomo students learn why understanding international culture is important in business, with a July 2016 international management class that includes travel to Poland.

Linda Ficht, associate professor of business law, spent part of July visiting business owners and leaders in Warsaw and Krakow, finalizing plans for the class, which will be available to Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) students, as well as those majoring and minoring in business.

“When Starbucks expanded into Poland, they had to explain why they ask for your name when you order,” she said. “The idea is, ‘We want to know you.’ We wouldn’t think about how in a different culture that would be off-putting. They keep a social distance out of respect. Businesses have to take that into account when moving into a new country.”

The trip, tentatively set for July 9 to 20, 2016, includes classes at the University of Warsaw, which is an IU partner school, together with visits to American-owned businesses, Polish-owned businesses, and businesses owned by people from countries other than Poland or the United States.

“The more I started looking at Poland, the more I thought it would be a perfect learning experience,” she said. “I want them to see the commerce side, which will be concentrated in Warsaw, the capital, but I also wanted them to experience the history and culture, which we will do in Krakow.”

They will hear the owners’ experiences of running a business in Poland, and why it is important to understand the culture to succeed.

The trip also will include visits to FCA – Bielsko Biala Engine Plant, and The Technical Center Krakow (TCK). Ficht visited both, with assistance from Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke and her contacts with FCA US LLC .

“I tried to find something familiar to our students, so they can understand the context and see how a familiar industry is run differently in another country,” she said. “Chrysler and Delphi are such a big part of our community, and I thought it was important for our students to see their counterparts in Poland.”

She noted that Poland, which is a member of the European Union, was the only country that did not have a recession in 2008. It is a good example of changing and thriving, she said.

“A lot of small farmers tried to block joining the EU, because they were afraid it would end the small farms,” she said. “These farmers were growing organic products, and now they are making a lot of money. Instead of being shut down, they’ve created a booming niche market, especially in Germany. Joining the EU allows them to transport goods across Europe easily, and has enriched them.”

The trip also includes visits to cultural and historical sites, in particular World War II sites such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.

“Before this trip, I never grasped the magnitude of what happened here during the war,” she said. “Much of the decimation of the Jewish people was in Poland. The country lost more than six million people. People need to know history so we can prevent bad decisions in the past from being repeated. When you go into a country like Poland, you can’t ignore it.”

Ficht needs 15 students to travel, and said there will be fundraising opportunities during the year. For more information, contact Ficht at lficht@iuk.edu.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 10/08/2015