Over this past summer I got the privilege to travel to Switzerland for Summer Session II as a part of the Duke in Geneva summer program. I was able to take classes in international business and the political philosophy of globalization. Two subjects I had no prior knowledge in WHATSOEVER. A particularly eye opening part of this experience for me was being able to read books in our curriculum about how economies arise and persist, but also seeing how these factors manifest in day to day life in a foreign country.
Not only did I increase my literacy in international business and global politics through participating in discussions and case studies on foreign investments, multinational corporations, and supranational collaboratives I also took REAL LIFE visits to these places like the UN, WTO, ILO, and had dinner with Proctor and Gamble administrators. How culture influences business and government has got to be the most prominent lesson I have learned from this experience. With things like negotiations and technology transfer there has to be a level of empathy beyond the general scientific advancement that the new venture promises. Learning through discussing US and EU failures and successes, a lack of consideration for the culture, consumer customs, and business norms can break any corporation or initiative.
I also got to make friends with members of my cohort and other students of the university we stayed at! I met friends from Saudi Arabia, Germany, Japan, Austria, France, Columbia, Vietnam, Senegal, Great Britain and now I still have everyone’s contact! It was so cool to talk to everyone and get to know their stories, learn what they’re hopes and dreams are for the future and have fun with each other by playing piano and Heads Up with each other.
This experience definitely ties into things I would like to do in the future as I would like to increase my understanding of how foreign governments work and help to increase food distribution, environmental justice, and education access around the world. Duke in Geneva also drove home the importance of SPIRE for me. Having a community of adept STEM people who also are culturally aware and empathetic to differences is important for the professional realm but also for personal growth.
One of my highlights of the trip was being immersed in the French language. I now want to pick up a French minor! I think that seeing it spoken in everyday life on the buses, in the stores, on every sign in the city helped me to improve my speaking and listening skills! My absolute favorite immersion experience was going to a Swiss church: Evangelique de Reveil. Attending service and meeting my friends there was one of the absolute highlights of the trip! I will never forget when me and three friends of mine ate at Chick-Chicken (Switzerland’s KFC) together on my second to last night. The laughs we had at that table for three hours straight wrapped up my Geneva trip in the most beautiful of bows. Overall, I would say this experience opened me up both academically and personally to wanting to learn more about how the world around me works from a geopolitical perspective. It opened me up as well to stopping and taking in the people, places, and views that are around me everywhere I go, so that I can be not only an avid student of academics but a student of life.