GCC student learns about business from a European perspective

March 27, 2009

When Eli Ahrensdorf comments about European business practices or internet marketing in his classes at GCC, he speaks from direct experience. 20-year-old Eli spent the Fall 2008 semester as GCC’s first student to attend an exchange program with Dublin Business School.

While in Dublin, he attended classes with students from Ireland, Germany, France, and Pakistan. Along with taking classes in microeconomics and management, Eli worked in an internship for an Irish marketing and web design firm, getting first-hand experience with the way businesses work in the European Union and the nuts and bolts of internet marketing.

Eli lived in Dublin and also traveled in the north and west of Ireland. Before the exchange semester, he and 50 other American exchange students from colleges and universities around the U.S. attended a month-long introduction to Irish culture, politics, history and literature. Eli lived his international experience around the clock, sharing a six-person apartment with another American, two German students, and two French students. Realizing that living expenses were high, Eli and a group of his international friends saved money by cooking and eating with each other. They took turns in pairs cooking for the group, having big group dinners every night. The group became very close, all learning about each other’s countries.

Reflecting on Eli’s experience, Thom Simmons, Chair of GCC’s Business & Information Technology Dept., said, “I can think of no better educational experience for a young person than to be able to travel to a foreign nation and immerse themselves in a different culture. The ability to actually work in an Irish corporation, take classes in a European-styled school system, and experience another people on their home turf is life-changing. The ties between Ireland and the United States are strong, but even the best stories of ‘the old country’ are no match for actually being there. If I had the resources, I would try to require every student to spend a semester somewhere else in the world. In the future, I am hoping to raise interest in developing a scholarship fund to help more students participate in the Dublin exchange program.”

Back in class this semester at GCC, Eli is putting his expanded world view to work. In marketing class, when considering how small businesses market themselves, he realizes one would use different strategies depending on the country in which the business is operating and who the business is trying to target. He says, “My internship and courses in Ireland really helped broaden my perspective. With the world and businesses so globalized, it feels very important to understand how the rest of the world works. It was great to get out and explore another part of the world, and to learn from my friends about their home countries. I feel much better prepared to understand people from other parts of the world.”

After finishing courses at GCC this spring and summer, Eli hopes to transfer this fall to the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts or to Pace University in New York. Wherever he goes next, he’ll take with him his experience of all that GCC offers, here and abroad. For more information about the Dublin Business School and other international exchange opportunities at GCC, contact Business Department Chair Thom Simmons, (413) 775-1482.