(CONTRIBUTED/ Bria Jansen)
Every year, the Sorrell College of Business provides global business majors the opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador as a part of their global leadership experience. The week-long trip takes students to Salinas, a small rural village nestled in the Andes mountains in Ecuador, where they spend time engaging with local micro-businesses.
“The class is called global leadership experience, so it is teaching you leadership skills,” said Clint Relya, associate professor of management at Troy University. “But you’re also doing some consultancy in the micro businesses and getting hands-on experience on how little businesses are run.”
Students can work in the small businesses that make jams, essential oils, chocolate, cheese and more to understand how the local economy and business processes work.
According to Gabrielle Ann Byrd, a global business student from Birmingham, the first day of the trip involved flying into Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador, where the group spent most of the day in the city’s downtown area. Byrd took the trip in spring 2019 and shared that after that they visited the equator, they travelled around to nearby places to get accustomed to the elevation of Ecuador. The majority of the time, however, was spent at the village of Salinas working with the micro industries.
“The three factories that I worked in were the marmalade factory, the chocolate factory and the mushroom factory,” Byrd said. “And that was my favorite part of the trip, working in the businesses and then at the end of the trip.
“And at the end of the day, coming back and talking about what we saw as business students and even what we think we could change and help them out.”
For Bria Jansen, a junior global business student from Canada, the experience was an important one as it gave her an insight into working with different cultures.
“It gave us an opportunity to understand how different cultures operate through businesses and working with the micro industries with a lot of people that didn’t speak English,” Jansen said. “So, having the language barrier between us, they were very accommodating of the fact that we didn’t speak Spanish but still managed to work together and get the job done at the end of the day.”
Relyea stressed the importance of this trip as a learning experience where students are taught how to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation where things are not necessarily familiar.
“This is a very rural area in the Andes mountains and its very different from what you see here,” Relyea said. “But what we are really trying to do is give them an experience that is different from what they were raised in.
“Our biggest major in the College of Business is the global business major. So, of course, we want our students to have a global business mindset and to understand people who are different than them.”
Jansen shared that being a global business major and having gone on the trip to Ecuador has given her more compassion for different cultures and what global business looks like, being around other cultures, doing business with them, and experiencing the culture in general.