How Studying Abroad Changed my Perspective on Communication

Guest Post By: Ali Fisher

Ali in Prague

First day in Prague

June 19, 2013 was the first time I needed a translator. I had arrived in Prague, Czech Republic to begin my summer education abroad experience through the Colorado State University’s Central and Eastern European Studies Program.  I had no idea what any of the signs said, what the numbers meant, or what social norms were encouraged for effective communication. Before my arrival, I had the privilege of speaking only English and had successfully communicated with nearly everyone in the United States. I had never been challenged to learn another language or taught the keys to communicating with people of different cultures. Reflecting on my experience as an English-speaking individual in a non-English speaking country, here are a few tips for those of you who plan to travel abroad.

Understand that people generally want to help you. 

When I registered at the University of Economics dormitory, the advisor’s response immediately indicated that she did not know English. I had been told that citizens would tell me that in order divert conversation barriers. In need of keys, contracts, and program information, I initially regretted not studying in an English speaking country; however, she went out of her way to pull up Google translator to communicate with me via computer. Throughout my education abroad experience, I encountered this same experience in restaurants, the university, the public transportation system and various locations outside the capital. I learned that if you take the time and brainstorm resources to understand one another, foreign-to-you language speakers will try to be of assistance.

Don’t assume everyone will adapt to your language. 


Kaufland Shopping Center

It was very easy to assume Czech speakers would try to understand me, but I quickly realized that I needed to understand their language as well. This required knowledge of Czech words, which I had zero background with. I invested in a small dictionary and would learn a few words every night. In the three weeks that I was there, I obviously did not become fluent, but it helped to show Czech speakers that I wanted to understand them. It made it even more helpful when shopping at “Kaufland,” the local market. All the food packaging was written in Czech, making milk even difficult to locate. One time my roommate and I purchased yogurt as a mistake because it was packaged in the shape of a milk carton. Since the store did not accommodate English speakers, we were unable to purchase our desired item and have made the similar mistake on various occasions.

Use gestures for further clarification.

I learned that communicating involves more than talking. The uses of pointing, hand expressions, and facial reactions have sometimes been the most effective. I was in the train station in Venice, Italy, for a weekend trip when I realized I had no idea where I was going. With my address and map in hand, locals were able to draw out which route was most appropriate. Being approachable and open to alternative conversation methods enabled me to connect with German-, French-, Deutsche-, Italian-, Croatian-, and Czech-speaking individuals while abroad.

 Be patient.

First day of school

It took studying abroad to realize how impatient I have been when overcoming language barriers in the United States. When I didn’t understand someone, it was almost guaranteed that someone close by could help me. But while abroad, this wasn’t likely. During school, I was challenged to present a business plan in a group of Spanish-speaking and French-speaking students. We experienced three language barriers and a set time limit, which led to frustration. After multiple attempts to finalize our project layout, we realized lack of patience in understanding each other’s goal was the only thing hindering our success. Allow time to understand one another before initiating action.

Studying abroad gave me a deeper understanding of the definition of communication. I have learned that English is not the only way to communicate with others. Differences in communication styles, culture, and language can produce barriers, but through patience, you can overcome them.



Spend a Semester in the Netherlands

by Tim Pate

The deadline is approaching to apply to study business in The Hague, – the “gateway to Europe.” Applications will be accepted until Nov. 1 for students interested in studying international business and management in a European cultural hot spot.

Downtown Hague

Downtown Hague

The Hague University of Applied Sciences is the host institution, and it features a modern central campus surrounded by water. Approximately 21,000 students from 135 countries attend the school for bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  As this is a CSU exchange program, two students from The Hague are currently studying at CSU.

Rob Ronci, a graduate of the program, says that the connections he made during his semester in the Netherlands left a lasting impression on him.

“I have made friends for life who want me to visit them in all different parts of the world,” Ronci said. “That alone is priceless.”

Students attending the university can expect to gain theoretical and practical knowledge that will prepare them for careers in business, communications, industrial design, law, and other fields. All students will be taught in English, and THU International Office helps exchange students find a suitable place to stay in a furnished single or double room in an apartment within 5-20 minutes from the campus. Most rooms offer internet connection and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.

The university is located near a large number of companies and organizations with global influence, including corporate headquarters of Shell, Siemens, the International Criminal Court, the War Crimes Tribunal, and Europol. The Hague has a reputation of being the international city of peace, justice, and security.

The HagueThe Hague, which is a short train ride from Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Luxembourg, and Copenhagen, will give students easy access to the most enthralling parts of Europe when they are not in the classroom.

“[Studying abroad] was easily one of the greatest and most important experiences I have ever had,” said Ronci. “It is really one of those things where once you do it, it will completely change you.”

Apply online at Applications must be completed by the deadline. (Late applications considered on space available basis.)

Extra credit: Check out these other great semester/academic year study abroad programs for business students:

4 Reasons Business Students Should Study Abroad

by Tim Pate

Former finance student, Jason Sandry (’12), smiles at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Colorado State University and the College of Business are dedicated to providing students with a first-class, well-rounded education. One of the ways CSU ensures the best education possible is through a rich study-abroad program. The College of Business supports the University’s efforts to encourage students to study abroad, so we have crafted a list of the top four reasons you should look into a school away from school.

Push your boundaries.

Studying abroad requires a level of stepping out of your comfort zone. Living in a new place, speaking a different language, learning new local customs, or even eating strange food can be a challenge. These experiences challenge students to adapt to these unfamiliar environments, and new skills are born. College is a time for adventure, and the world is full of them.

Broaden your perspective.

Study abroad students enjoy a camel train in Merzouga, Morocco.

Understanding business principles and customs in the United States is important to a successful career, but we cannot ignore the fact that the world is becoming more and more connected. Studying abroad gives students the chance to experience and become familiar with different economic and political systems than that of the United States. Learning about how other economies operate and the role they play in the U.S. economy is highly valuable knowledge to possess.

Get scholarships.

The College of Business greatly encourages students to study abroad – so much so that it has provided scholarships specifically for business students interested in exploring and learning in a new place. One such scholarship is the College of Business Study Abroad Scholarship, which offers up to $2,000 for summer, $3,000 for a semester and $5,000 for a year-long study abroad experience. The Chris Collins Memorial scholarship is also available to juniors and seniors in the College of Business, and is worth up to $3,000. The Office of International Programs also offers the Fulbright program to undergraduate and graduate students. CSU wants to help you reach your dream location.

Impress recruiters.

In addition to your accomplishments in school, recruiters want to see indications that you have practical knowledge and experience outside the classroom. Studying abroad shows independence, motivation, and ambition – all traits highly sought after in new employees. Having study abroad experience on your resume indicates to your potential employer that you are capable of navigating new situations and that you have experience you can’t find in textbooks. If you want to get hired, studying abroad is a great way to show employers that you can handle the job.

College of Business students and alumni: Have you studied abroad? If so, leave a comment and tell us when and where you visited and what you studied. What did you gain from the experience? What would you recommend to students embarking on their first study abroad journey?