For a group of 21 students, the streets and markets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil became classrooms over winter break. The group embarked on a seven day study abroad opportunity through UTC’s College of Business where they studied cross-cultural issues in management.
Their experiences became invaluable lessons as they visited Christ the Redeemer statue and soaked in the breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf Mountain. Dr. Katherine Karl, professor of management, led the overseas experience.
“There is nothing that compares to actually being there and interacting with people from other cultures. Customs you take for granted and don’t even think about may be quite different in another country. For example, we learned through experience that you have to ask for your check. It is considered rude in Brazil for servers to give you your check before you ask for it. Something else that took some getting used to is that meals take a long time (often 2 hours). No one is in a hurry,” Karl explained.
The students met challenges as they greeted a new land, experienced new customs, and faced a foreign language. During one of their activities, students made their way through a municipal market (a larger version of a farmer’s market), as they checked items off of their shopping list they grew to recognize the challenges that come with not knowing the native tongue. Most of the vendors they bought from knew little to no English.
For Early Childhood Education major Kelsey Batts, this trip was her first time travelling internationally. The program provided her with experiences that she can translate into her classroom for years to come.
“As an early childhood education major, it is very important for me to understand and appreciate other cultures for many reasons: I have to be able to educate my students about different cultures. Also, I have to be willing to learn as much as I can about a different culture, because there could be students from all over the world in my classroom. Finally, I want to teach my students more than just the facts about a culture. I want to teach them how to appreciate, respect, and accept other cultures.” Batts continued, “By going on this trip, I now feel like I am more capable of teaching students to be appreciative of other cultures because I have had first-hand experience myself.”
As a first time traveler, Batts admitted that she was both nervous and scared, “but the outcome of the trip was worth all of the worry!”
Her advice for other UTC students as they plan their international adventures, “Take a chance and I promise you, you will not be disappointed!”