Claudia Spreng is a senior on the UGA Equestrian team. She is majoring in Management and International Business & Risk Management majors. She had the opportunity to study abroad during the May of 2016.
This past Maymester I had the opportunity to study abroad through the UGA Terry College of Business. I had known since freshman year that I wanted to take advantage of one of the amazing study abroad trips that UGA offers, and when I saw that Terry was going to Europe, I knew it was my perfect fit. I have always had an appreciation for traveling, as my family lives in Germany and so I travel frequently. One may think that me being a seasoned traveler would make this trip less special. However, it proved to be anything but my usual trip. The two locations we visited were Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria. I had never travelled as a true tourist or in a large group of people my age so this was different than anything I had ever done before, and I would do it over and over again.
To summarize, we spent a week in Budapest and then two weeks in Vienna. Budapest was an extremely cultural city with a lot of history behind why Hungary as a whole is the way it is today. We began most days with a cultural tour of some significant location within the city, such as the Parliament building, the historic castle district, and other museums. Other days we went on company visits which were extremely interesting to me, as I am an international business co-major, and it interests me to see the company structure in other countries and how they view the US’s business approach. We kicked off these visits with a trip to the US Embassy and met with a former Terry graduate who was the right hand to our ambassador in the Budapest office. Other company visits included large companies like Audi and smaller family owned companies such as Zwack, a Hungarian liquor company. Seeing both kinds of companies allowed me to learn about the different structures and company cultures. We spent twice as long in Vienna following the one week in Budapest, and again were submerged into a different culture and so many new sights and tastes, not to forget.
How did study abroad improve my college experience? Not only was I given the opportunity to discover new cities and companies, I also was able to study at the University of Vienna, which offered top facilities and education for its students. Our professor, Dr. Kristy McManus was an amazing mentor and teacher during the trip. Being able to be in a class with Austrian students not only allowed me to meet new people I otherwise wouldn’t have, but it also gave me insight into their education system which is of great interest to me as I am considering to do my post-graduate studies in Germany. On the subject of meeting new people, this was probably the best part of my whole trip.
I felt comfortable going into this trip because I knew two of the girls that were going as well, but I never thought I would get so close to the rest of the group as well. Spending every waking moment with 18 other people reminded me of my team, except everyone was so different and came from such diverse backgrounds. Basically the only thing we had in common was being in Terry. This diversity led to many interesting conversations which brought everyone together and ultimately created several super close-knit groups of friends. Some people had never left the state of Georgia but others such as myself had been traveling the world since they were babies, and seeing the extreme difference in the beginning as far adjusting to the new environment, compared to how everyone was super comfortable in the end was really amazing.
As with every big step I take in my life whether it be school, career, or just general life, I reflect upon how being a student-athlete has prepared me for taking on new endeavors. For this trip, the lessons I have learned from being on a team that I valued most included being able to work together in groups with people I did not know, understanding the importance of time management, and being able to adjust in any situation. Needing to navigate the subways and trains that were on a strict time schedule and needing to make sure the whole group was on board and no one got left behind was one of the most common challenges that required good communication and responsibility from the whole group. This reminded me of the team in the way that during competition time, it is vital that everyone is looking out for each other that they are where they are supposed to be. Time management was not the group’s strong side. I was complimented on always being on time but for me that was nothing out of the ordinary. Athletes as a whole have been told since day 1 that timeliness is something that shows respect and dedication, and I am thankful that I understood the importance of being early.
Lastly, being able to adjust in foreign situations helped me stay calm when unexpected things happened. As much as I am a planner, I understand that you cannot always predict the outcome, but you can prepare for it. Although the trip ran very smoothly, one incident that threw some people into panic was that our booking service booked a different hotel than planned in Vienna but were not able to be contacted when we arrived there. As much as I understood people’s concern, I learned from years of being on a team where the outcomes have often been far from what I expected, I knew that whatever happened would be for the better. Which it was, as we ended up staying in a way nicer hotel that we originally went to.
All in all, I now understand why so many people are advocates of study abroad. Without this trip, I would have seen way less of the world, missed out on great adventures, and most importantly I would not have gained the amazing friendships that I did. Because of these things, the UGA Terry in Europe study abroad trip improved my overall college experience, and I recommend that anyone who is interested starts looking now into upcoming trips.