My Short-Term Abroad Experience

James BlackStudents are often advised that a semester abroad represents a vital part of the college experience.  However, many undergraduates fret over the decision to go abroad – worrying about missing a semester at Penn or completing their many academic pursuits. Similar to others, I wavered on the decision to spend a semester abroad. While my two older sisters had some of their best college experiences studying in Europe, I would miss some of Penn’s incredible classes, lose precious time with friends, and halt my contributions to extracurriculars.

For these reasons, a short-term abroad experience through the Wharton International Program (WIP) was ideal for me. The ten-day trips give students access to the cultural and business aspects of different regions through tours to national landmarks and immersive visits to companies. The program, which takes place during Spring Break or following exams in May, provides course credit to students and takes place all over the world. Additionally, students may be able to qualify for WIP-specific financial aid.

My WIP experience took place following the Spring semester of my sophomore year and our group traveled to Istanbul, Turkey and Athens, Greece. For the cultural aspect of the program, we saw the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Bosphorus Strait in Turkey. In Greece, we visited the Acropolis, the Temple of Poseidon, and did an island-hopping tour of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. While these were all incredible experiences I would recommend to anyone, the unique aspect of WIP is the opportunity to visit local businesses and connect with alumni that work in these regions. Our business visits ranged from the central Microsoft office for Turkey and Eurolife ERB (a major Greek insurance provider) to the chocolate production facilities of Ulker and high-end olive oil producer Gaea. By speaking with the managers of these businesses, I was able to grasp the economic underpinnings of both countries’ economies. In my final paper for the course, I discussed both the drivers and potential concerns for Turkey’s and Greece’s economies and came away from the experience with a firm grasp on both regions’ growth potential.

As a senior looking back on my time at Penn, I can say WIP was one of my most worthwhile college experiences and greatly increased my understanding of international business. The WIP program and other abroad opportunities provided to undergraduates display Wharton’s commitment to providing diverse educational experiences. Whether your education includes time spent abroad is up to you!

James Black is a member of the class of 2016. From Gastonia, NC, James is concentrating in Finance and OPIM. He is involved with the Club Golf team, Wharton Council, and Wharton Ambassadors at Penn. In his free-time, James enjoys playing pick-up soccer at Penn Park, watching Modern Family, and taking advantage of Philly's food options (although nothing tops his dad’s BBQ restaurant).