Hi, this is London calling … via Skype

Alumni shared travel experiences in person and via Skype. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)
By Danielle Leng
Correspondent

Four alumni — two via web chat — returned to the College on Wednesday, Nov. 16 to tell students and faculty about the benefits and challenges faced in international business as well as their personal experiences being abroad.

They all have traveled around the world to places such as Tokyo, Japan and Rio, Brazil.

All four alumni said they agreed that studying abroad is very important in future careers, as the world is becoming more connected.

“Everybody does it, so it is a critical component,” said Dave Lewis, a 1998 graduate from the College with a MBA from Columbia University.

Studying abroad also enhances resumes for applying to graduate school or a job, he said.

Lewis used to work for Coca-Cola, and through the company, he was sent to Brazil. He told the audience via web cam from Rio that he always wanted the opportunity to travel and work.

“Every day is a personal venture,” Lewis said. Not only does traveling provide cultural experience, which was what Lewis said he always wanted, but it is also a learning experience.

Greg Gatesman, a 1997 alumnus with a MBA from Penn State, said that he is able to see the different ways businesses work in other countries. He is now working as COO for the international wealth and investment management group at Merrill Lynch.

“Everything enhances (your) experience,” Gatesman said.

Reviewing his time in Brazil, Lewis talked about the differences in business practice and culture in Brazil compared to the U.S. The places are very different, he noted.

“There are multiple ways to get things done,” he said.

However, there are challenges and obstacles when working abroad.

The language barrier was the biggest one for Matt Johnson, a 2006 finance graduate who spent two years in Tokyo and now works for Morgan Stanley. He explained that although English is mainly spoken in the office, Japanese is what he heard out on the streets.

Another difficulty is separation from family and friends.

Johnson had to leave his girlfriend when he left for Japan. There was trouble communicating because of the time zone difference, he said. Nevertheless, Johnson is now happily married to his girlfriend.

Despite these challenges, the benefits seem to outweigh the negatives, according to the alumni, and Johnson said that one must embrace everything about the experience.

Matt McCann, a 2008 graduate working for Goldman Sachs, also told the audience via web cam from Bangalore, India that going abroad is important.

“Personal travel helped my career,” McCann said, adding that “you have to take a long-term view.”

Ashley Attinello, freshman accounting major, said that the panel discussion enhanced her interest in studying abroad.

“I considered going for a minor in Spanish, so this kind of encouraged me to pursue possibly studying abroad even more than I did before,” Attinello said.