Nicholas Bondura – First, what led you to Germany and doing all the things you’re doing now?
Jacqueline Kwan – I always thought of Germany very favorably because in high school I had to write a paper on the Greek Economic Crisis and I was really impressed with how Germany managed to stay above water during that entire time. Then when I joined the QUEST program, I had a friend who went to WHU and really emphasized how it was such an academically strong and fun university. That really convinced me to choose Germany. As for why I decided to study abroad as a whole, I did a short-term study abroad program this winter and I had such a great time experiencing the culture and being with a close-knit group of people during those two weeks that I thought I would have to do a semester abroad because there would be no other time for me to integrate myself in a different culture at my leisure.
NB – If you were to introduce yourself to a group of Maryland students with a focus on your Education Abroad experience, how would you describe yourself?
JK - I never pegged myself as particularly creative or flexible, but studying abroad definitely helps with that. Going abroad empowered me and not only have I become increasingly independent, but I have also become better at understanding and working with different opinions and mindsets.
NB – Could you describe your role and responsibilities that you have in your position abroad?
JK - I am president of the Tauschie Government, and “Tauschie” is just the way to say ‘Exchange Student’ in German. The International Relations Office and Vallendar Integration Program work with me and two other members to ensure that all exchange students do not encounter any issues with the school. We were all elected by our fellow students- around 150 – to plan the end of semester party as a thank you gift for the WHU students. In order to fundraise for that party, we throw Tauschie Tuesdays which are events where different students can showcase foods from other cultures for the German students. We started off with Italy and Spain and we’ve done Japanese with Sushi as well. This week is actually Mexican food, and it’s a great way to interact with the German students.
NB – How has studying abroad changed your career outlook?
JK - It hasn’t really, I always knew I wanted to work abroad because I can speak conversational Mandarin. Getting to know different languages is always a plus because the world is becoming more and more globalized. Studying abroad has made me realize that I could be open to working in an international location, but I want to work in a US-based firm and then travel to other places.
NB – Do you have any lessons that you’ve learned from being abroad?
JK - One small lesson would be to take your time adapting. No one is used to everyone immediately and it can take a while to warm up to different procedures, such as all the shops closing on Sundays or European lunch breaks. That and just be aware of the cultural differences. Things that are really small are sometimes really huge in the end. Here they are really big on independence, which you can say about anywhere, but here they handle it very calmly.
NB – Any stories about stark cultural differences?
JK - I haven’t experienced too many stark cultural differences other than their independence and their working hours. The WHU students’ diligence is constant versus what I am used to back home. Back home during exam time, everyone is very stressed shortly before an exam takes place. Here they get very stressed about memorizing and for weeks ahead of time. All the tests are very heavily based on remembering the information rather than applying it. The way that they process information is very different and challenging.
NB – How do you plan on bringing your experience back and what does a global mindset mean to you?
JK - When I talk to recruiters they’re always very interested in the differences you see between home life and the city you went to. That’s one way I plan on bringing back experiences. Before, I never really had real leadership opportunities, but here I was given a lot of autonomy with how I choose to budget money, plan events, and work with intermediaries and suppliers. It isn’t characteristic of what I plan to do, but it has made me more well-rounded in what I can handle and it has helped my one-on-one negotiation skills. I can bring that skill set back. In terms of a global mindset, I would go back to having flexibility. Being global means you have to know the cultural differences and know how to move through it and leverage that in a beneficial way.
Interview conducted by Nicholas Bondura, Marketing 2015.