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Students see international business concepts in practice, with Poland trip

July 25, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. — Before June, Shelby Beltz had never been outside the United States.

After spending 10 days in Poland, she’s now considering living outside the country. 

“I enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle, the work-life balance, and the culture,” she said, adding that she’s already identified the small town where she wants to live, based on the nearby scenery.

“I can’t live near castle ruins in the U.S.,” she said.

Beltz visited businesses, as well as historical and cultural sites, as part of an international business class at Indiana University Kokomo.

Led by Gloria Preece, director of the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program and Adam Smith, assistant professor of management, 16 students traveled to Poland to learn how international companies operate in the Polish business environment.

The trip helps to provide students an understanding for how a country’s history, values, and social norms shape and impact the business environment, Preece said.

The visit allows students to see first-hand the application of the business concepts they’ve studied the classroom, Smith said.

“They learned more about international business in their 10 days in Poland than they do in 16 weeks in the classroom, by seeing it in person,” he said.

Beltz, from Alexandria, was especially intrigued by how Starbucks had to change its business model to adapt to the culture, noting that while here in the U.S. Americans think nothing of giving their names to the barista, the name request is viewed as intrusive and off-putting for many Poles.

There are also no pre-packaged baked goods there, she said, because they wouldn’t sell. Instead, everything is made fresh in the stores.

“Polish food is good food, that is prepared fresh, and doesn’t have preservatives,” Beltz said. “Starbucks can’t bring in pre-made foods and expect to have customers in Poland, because that’s not how they eat.”

Shawn Pietrzyk noted that they visited FCA USA LLC Kokomo, and then saw its Polish counterpart during the trip. 

“It was interesting to be able to compare and contrast how two divisions of the same company operate in different countries,” the Kokomo resident said, adding that FCA in Bielsko-Biala has earned gold status in the company’s World Class Manufacturing program. 

The trip was his first overseas, but he’s already looking for additional opportunities through IU Kokomo.

“It was a good opportunity to see all the international business terms I’ve studied, put into practice in real life,” he said.

Their trip also included visits to the University of Warsaw and the Warsaw School of Economics, where M.B.A. student April Wheeldon was surprised that professors lectured, with no time for students to ask questions.

Wheeldon, from Burnettsville, added that the local culture values relationships and spending time together, which is demonstrated by the importance of dining together. Dinner can take two or three hours, and servers only come to the table when called.

“They really cherish their communication and relationships,” she said. “Americans like speedy service, we like to be waited on all the time. There, you have to call a server if you need something, and they don’t give you the bill until you ask for it. They don’t take tips, so they don’t care how long you stay there. They want you to be there, and be comfortable and happy.”

She enjoyed the opportunity to visit The World Bank, to ask questions and learn more how it works, and combining business visits with cultural sites.

“It really allowed us to piece those two things together, to better understand their culture, and how it impacts their business practices,” she said. “You can do all the bookwork you want, but seeing it first-hand is amazing. It was overall a great experience to grasp all the concepts we learned.”

Students received scholarships to defray some travel costs, including the David and Anna Global Scholarship, the Emita B. Hill Travel Scholarship, the David Starr Jordan Scholarship, the Allmayer-Williams Study Abroad Scholarship, and the Kathleen A. Sideli Overseas Scholarship.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 07/25/2018