As a first-generation American, Lucy Bedewi has had the desire to have international experiences since she was a little kid. This desire continued into Bedewi’s undergraduate career at Maryland Smith, where she studied abroad six times. Bedewi, a marketing major who graduated in spring 2020, says she chose business and marketing because she wanted a strong framework of skills and “loves talking to people and the consumer-facing side of business.” The Center for Global Business (CGB) interviewed her to talk about her study abroad experiences and how these experiences influenced her career path. Bedewi’s interview focuses on how her decision to be a marketing major and global journey led her to where she is today, post-graduation.
CGB: Where did you study abroad during your college career?
Bedewi: My first study abroad experience was as an incoming freshman as part of the Freshmen Abroad program in Italy. In my first year, I went to Japan during winter break with the QUEST program and in my summer going into my sophomore year, I went to Vienna, Austria for one month for a program in psychology. My last short-term program was in New Zealand over the winter break during my sophomore year. I also did a full year abroad as part of two separate programs in Italy, one at Bocconi University in Milan and the other in Turin through SAA School of Management.
CGB: During your undergraduate career, you learned about global mindset and the seven competencies that compose it. As a participant of our study abroad programs, which competencies did you develop while abroad?
Bedewi: I resonate most with adaptability, finding self-awareness, and relationship building. For example, when I was in Italy, I had some issues with my immigration status due to the fact that I was there throughout two semesters that challenged my ability to be adaptable. Towards the end of my first semester, I confidently traveled from Turin to Milan to register for my residence permit, which would have allowed me to be in Italy throughout the rest of my second term. I was denied and did not understand why, and unfortunately my conversational Italian prohibited me from being able to defend myself legally. Not until my fourth time going to Milan was I able to make some headway when I was able to calmly explain my situation to a police officer in Italian. Although this was stressful, I realized adaptability and language were so important to bridge the communication gap and ultimately solve the problem. I also developed a lot of self-awareness and learned what makes me happy and brings me joy. I realized through my study abroad experience, I am meant to take more of an entrepreneurial path in my career because of my love for travel and wanting to be mobile. The last competency I developed was relationship building. Through study abroad, I learned to appreciate having relationships with so many diverse minds.
CGB: Tell us more about your ability to be adaptable, especially during this experience when you were in Italy?
Bedewi: I believe that I am the only person who can solve my problems so I am very much a self-starter in that way. Even when people told me that there was nothing I could do, I knew I had to fix things for myself. I compartmentalized between my studies and my responsibility to take care of the resident issue. It is a matter of knowing you can only control as much as you can control, and realizing when I am in situations I know I can control. During these times, I have to be on my A-game and solve issues for myself, because I am the only one who can.
CGB: How did your time at the Smith School contribute to your global mindset?
Bedewi: I think it has contributed an enormous amount. In the classroom, we learn so much about global companies and all of the different aspects you need to succeed in a global market. This fueled my curiosity to go abroad. For example, when I learned about international marketing, this piqued my interest to go to the country, see things in practice, and experience it first hand.
CGB: Tell us about what you’re doing now after graduating from Maryland Smith and how your international experience led you to it.
Bedewi: Right now, I am in the Dingman Startup Accelerator for the summer. I launched my own company called Wanderlust Wardrobe and I work as a personal fashion stylist. My international experience had so much to do with the type of company I started. I wanted to choose a company that allowed me to work from everywhere in the world but also take my love of international experiences and mix it with fashion. My brand positioning is that I use international fashion principles to help mostly American women how to dress.
CGB: What are the skills and knowledge from your experiences abroad that you are bringing to this venture?
Bedewi: Going abroad and having a start-up use the same skills. Through having a start-up, I need to think for myself and there is no one to ask for decisions. I need to trust myself and just launch and do it. I have also had to adapt so much because who would have thought I would be starting a business during a pandemic. A lot of the skills that I acquired from studying abroad are what gave me the resilience and ability to have a start-up and not be afraid of failing.
CGB: What advice would you give a current student who might be interested in a business role with a global focus?
Bedewi: I am a big believer in if you want something to happen, you are going to have to make it happen, even if it’s in a more non-traditional way. You could think about learning a language, creating connections, or having more global experiences. You’re in the driver seat of your own life and if you want to make something happen, it might be difficult and require risk-taking, but I personally believe it is worth it to live a life that you want to live rather than settling for something because it is easier. I firmly believe in connecting through language. Even if you are working in a global role in the U.S, you can make such a deeper connection with a colleague or client from another country because if you speak their language they feel more free to express themselves.
This interview was conducted and recorded by Marina Augoustidis, associate director, Center for Global Business.