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Student Storyteller: Business Abroad

By Amy DeSalvo Class of 2014
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This past summer I enrolled in ACC 221, a required course for my finance major. What made this accounting class different than a regular semester-long class? Professor Terry Baker offered us the chance to study abroad and fulfill a degree requirement in one summer term.

Before leaving for my summer adventure in Europe, I felt overwhelmed with the idea of visiting seven countries in only six weeks. Would I be able to absorb any culture in such a short amount of time? Would I learn anything abroad that I couldn’t learn by taking my accounting course in a Wake Forest classroom?

The answer was an overwhelming ‘yes.’

Taking an accounting class abroad taught me so much more than I anticipated. The trip included formal classroom study of managerial accounting as well as hands-on field visits at factories and companies throughout Europe — giving us a chance to experience what we were learning instead of simply studying a textbook.

Not only did I gain a unique perspective on the business world, I gained a completely different perspective on life. Each day we were abroad posed new and unique challenges, whether it was attempting to order food in a foreign language, navigating an unknown city or town, or jumping off a 30-foot cliff.  I learned that amazing and unexpected things can happen when I step outside my comfort zone.

One of the most memorable days was our tour of the Land Rover vehicle production plant in Liverpool, England. Before this trip, cars and their manufacturing process did not particularly interest me; however, actually seeing huge robots construct the vehicles piece-by-piece, and talking to employees about the amount of work put into each individual car — I was in awe.

Part of my excitement was the ability to apply what Dr. Baker taught us in the classroom. Sometimes it’s difficult to find real-world relevance in the classroom, but on this trip I observed what we were learning and asked questions of employees and company managers. It literally brought the material to life.

After the site tour, we drove the 4,000-pound Land Rover vehicles around a crazy off-road obstacle course — with the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car.  Though I was convinced I would crash, I got behind the wheel and drove through a pond, over jagged rocks and off the top of a hill. Not many people can say that they’ve almost tipped over a $75,000 car!

Now that the trip is over, I realize how much these experiences have impacted my life and my plans for the future. I now have the confidence to handle any unexpected challenges that come my way, and I embrace them as an opportunity to learn instead of a reason to stress.

As I prepare for the rest of my career at Wake Forest as well as my professional career, I know that what I learned this summer will help guide me to unexpected and exciting places in years to come.

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