What I Didn’t Expect to Happen While Visiting Europe

As far as I can tell, there are plenty of things in the world you have to see to believe or understand. Before my recent hop, skip, and a jump over the Atlantic Ocean, I knew that, but my international travel experience pushed me to see and understand things I didn’t even expect!

First, a little background—in May of 2018, I graduated from the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Engineering with a BS in Computer Science. One month later, I entered UK’s One Year MBA Program through the College’s Engineering/MBA Dual Degree Program, which includes a 2-week trip abroad to study the effect local culture and history play on business culture expectations. I had the opportunity to leave the United States—a first for me—to visit Copenhagen, Denmark; Tallinn, Estonia; Vienna, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary. In each of these countries, our cohort visited 2-4 local companies to witness their culture firsthand, toured many historical locations, and spent plenty of time enjoying the local cuisine. In additional, I was incredibly lucky to be awarded a travel scholarship through WorldStrides, which enhanced my trip even further, allowing me to devote more of my penny-pinching time to exploring, learning, and watching.

There were plenty of amazing experiences I had that I expected to have: I expected to tour giant museums, walk around beautiful cities, eat amazing food, and hear all about the deep history of each country. They were great, but several unexpected experiences and observations have been extremely impactful to my thoughts about the world, our country, and myself. For example, I accidentally stumbled into a massive concert in Tivoli—one of the most beautiful and gardens  in the world—in Copenhagen, Denmark and befriended a Danish student who I just so happened to be standing next to. I was also struck to actually see firsthand the incredible, lasting impact a history of being passed between numerous conquerors can have on a country’s culture and business focus as it has in Estonia, which gained independence from Russia just 28 years ago.

The Beautiful Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark

Perhaps the most surprisingly realization for me was about the United States! In the European countries where I traveled, I was surprised to see less apparent diversity  than I see, and believe benefit from,  every day in the United States (and clearly take for granted!). From this trip— venturing me far away from home— I definitely did not expect to have a resonating, newfound respect for the massive potential the United States has to benefit from our incredible, unparalleled diversity. Though we have plenty of work to do to support and empower the diverse voices in our nation to speak up and be heard, I feel a great sense of hope for the future of our country, as there is so much untapped potential just waiting for us. We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to use these diverse voices to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but it is most definitely true.

Company Visit with FLIR Systems in Tallinn, Estonia

Having been home for a month or so now, I feel immensely empowered and lucky to have had these opportunities and learn as much as I have. This trip has challenged me to think more deeply about why things work the way they do and forced me to question myself and my actions more regularly. It may have taken me a lot longer than most to recognize how much history impacts modern thoughts, but I guess I just had to see it to believe it.

Article written by Sydney Norman

Sydney Norman
Sydney is a University of Kentucky MBA student through the Engineering/MBA Dual Degree Program and a WorldStrides scholarship recipient.

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