Oct. 27, 2014Vol. 45, Issue 2

Expanding Horizons

Senior Liz Pankhurst, who is double majoring in international economics and project management, looks over the parliament building in Budapest, Hungary.

Summer Travel Yields Rich Returns for Business Students

International business acumen, group leadership skills, and an appreciation for other cultures are some of the intangible assets gained by nearly two dozen CSU, Chico students who traveled to Europe on a 10-day, three-country tour last June. 

The 19 upper-division business students traveled to Spain, Italy, and Hungary June 1–11, visiting with the CEOs of global companies and participating in cultural activities. Led by College of Business faculty members Ted Kromer and Reka Anna Lassu and CSU, Chico alumna and teacher Rachelle Holloway, the students traveled as independent clients of Expeditions to Planet Earth, a private venture aimed at building leadership skills in young people through purposeful travel.

The trip marked the first time out of the country for most of the students.

During the spring 2014 semester, Kromer, Lassu, and Holloway led the students in leadership training sessions focusing on small-group communication, preparing for international travel, and fundraising. The students raised $1,500 through both an online crowdfunding campaign and a community fundraiser to purchase physical education equipment for underserved students at a kindergarten in Budapest, Hungary.

On a 10-day tour of Europe last summer, upper-division business students met with executives at Hewlett-Packard in Barcelona, Spain, and made other corporate visits.

On a 10-day tour of Europe last summer, upper-division business students met with executives at Hewlett-Packard in Barcelona, Spain, and made other corporate visits.

Their journey started in Barcelona, Spain, where they met with representatives from Hewlett-Packard and Ernst & Young and toured Gaudi’s Casa Batto, among other activities. Their next stop was Milan, Italy, where the students met with Tesla Motors and participated in an exclusive luxury-industry workshop from a former Fendi designer/architect. They also toured the famous Duomo and explored Lake Como with a local guide.

In their final destination of Budapest, Hungary, the group met with the startup Prezi and volunteered at an underserved kindergarten. The CSU, Chico students presented the children with a see-saw and climbing ladder and other equipment aimed at enhancing their balance and agility, and later took them to a local zoo for the day. They also connected the Budapest kindergarten with one in Paradise, California, by exchanging short videos and photos so that the children and teachers in both places could get a glimpse of life on the other side of the world.

Lassu said that throughout the 10-day trip, the students rotated leadership responsibilities, alternately taking charge of travel details and managing teams of their peers. They were also encouraged to network with the business leaders they met and to solve problems that arose during the trip.

“You can imagine taking 19 students abroad—there were some challenges,” Lassu noted, adding that organization and small-group communication were key.

Lassu, who teaches business communications classes at CSU, Chico, says the payoff came in seeing the students break through limits they may have previously set for themselves.

Senior business management major Kaitlyn Marley, left, and Pankhurst chaperone children from Csipkebokor kindergarten in Budapest on a trip to a local zoo.

Senior business management major Kaitlyn Marley, left, and Pankhurst chaperone children from Csipkebokor kindergarten in Budapest on a trip to a local zoo.

“This idea of working abroad and having an international career, it can sound so far-fetched,” she said. “But when they visit these businesses, it seems doable and attainable. Seeing that sparkle in their eye and watching them realize, ‘I can do this,’ is definitely rewarding.”

For business information systems major Samira Arreguin, a senior, the trip opened her mind to the possibility of working overseas someday.

“I had misconceptions about international companies—that the companies are demanding and overwork you,” she said. “You make generalizations, especially with global companies with headquarters everywhere.”

Arreguin, who is bilingual, says she’s been inspired to study abroad and to learn a third language. The trip marked her first time in Europe.

“I went to Milan and fell in love with the language. Now I’m studying Italian on my own. I feel like my world expanded in those 10 days—and my possibilities,” she said.  

Expeditions to Planet Earth is an offshoot of Kromer’s former nonprofit, California Kids to Kids, which helped more than 100 students over the past decade build leadership skills by visiting world destinations. More information is available at expeditionstoplanetearth.org.

—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications