In this blog, BSc International Management student Bérénice talks about her year abroad experience in Belgium and Sweden during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how she learned to adapt to new cultures and build her resilience to uncertainty.
Hello everyone, my name is Bérénice and I am entering my final year of BSc International Management this fall. After living my entire life in France and being exposed to English from a young age, I made the decision to join Warwick Business School to experience a new culture while studying at one of the best business schools in Europe. On top of its academic excellence, I chose WBS for its culturally diverse cohort, global career opportunities, and the flexibility of its courses.
As I wished to pursue a global career upon graduation, studying a BSc in International Management was a no-brainer for me due to its compulsory year abroad, whether studying or completing work placements. I believed it to be the best way to combine studying business with my passion for traveling. Not only enabling me to develop a fresh and new perspective on the world, but also expanding my professional network by meeting people from all continents and challenging myself to visit new places that were geographically and culturally distant from what I previously experienced.
The process of applying for my year abroad placements during a global pandemic didn’t come without hurdles, yet the ongoing support provided by WBS was not only helpful but pivotal to overcome last-minute changes and secure my study placements. I attended multiple information sessions explaining destinations allocation and academic expectations from our placement. In January, I had to list my top 10 preferred partner universities and was extremely excited when I got allocated the University of South Carolina (most students getting one of their top 3 choices).
When the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly hit in March, I was provided with continuous guidance and support through emails and calls with the year abroad coordinator, answering doubts even though no one really knew how it was going to unfold. During the summer, I had to shift initial plans while I continued my research for work placements with the support of the CareersPlus Team. They helped me tailor my cover letters and CV to employers’ demands as well as guided me in my job search by providing useful online resources and personalised calls.
My advice to prospective students would be to start seeking work placements early and use the help from the CareersPlus team as much as possible. As classes form a central part of exchanges, I would also recommend to extensively research the course list at partner universities as well as being flexible when it comes to destinations. I was very disappointed when I couldn’t travel to the US, but I still managed to make the most out of my year abroad study placements at Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (Belgium) and Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden) as it is just as much about one’s engagement and interest in the academic and cultural life as it is about the destination.
My experience abroad amid a pandemic felt surreal yet incredible as I met people from a range of different cultures, developed new interests as well as completely shifted my mindset, and clarified my career aspirations. Despite restrictions, I was able to engage in student associations in Belgium such as the Solvay Consulting Club, enabling me to meet with professionals within management consulting, my area of interest, and work on a project for Brussels’ public transportation network alongside master’s students. In Sweden, I also made friends from all levels of study with which I shared life experiences, challenged my vision on geopolitical topics, and learned from their personal professional journeys. Having the opportunity to discuss successes and failures with students more advanced in their academic journey considerably helped me pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses and raised my self-confidence for future job applications.
Regarding the academic life, the knowledge I acquired at WBS has proven to be highly valuable for the multidisciplinary modules offered at SBS-EM (I was taking masters modules as their bachelors are primarily taught in French with very few modules in English) which required me to combine concepts seen in Finance, Economics and Law modules. The list also included modules focusing on the EU and politics as Brussels isn’t only the capital of Belgium but also of Europe with many big corporations setting up headquarters, thus, hosting a myriad of professional opportunities for international students. Most modules required working in teams, presentations, or group projects, which I was adequately prepared for at WBS where numerous year 1&2 modules include group works and most students come from outside of the UK. My favourite modules were Applied Business Strategy and the Art of Case Cracking, preparing for a career in consulting by presenting weekly case studies within teams, and Luxury goods and Art in the Market, where philosophy and business met to explain consumers’ relationship to luxury in the 21st century. Both of those modules were offered at SSE alongside others in partnership with different universities.
Apart from the academic life, the most unforgettable highlight of my year abroad must be my trip to Lapland on the Arctic Circle where I built and slept in an Igloo (took our group 6 hours to build it) under the Northern Lights while eating reindeer and exploring the wilderness. Lapland was the first time I truly felt disconnected from the world as we slept in a camp and ate around the fire in tipis at -20 degrees outside. However, Sweden’s extreme temperatures and the weather didn’t prevent me from immersing myself and cherishing the Nordic Lifestyle which allowed me to reconnect with nature by walking on frozen lakes in winter while observing the sunsets by the bonfire in Spring. Other noteworthy events included taking the boat to Stockholm’s archipelago and the island of Gotland as well as eating chocolate waffles in the city of Bruges, capital of West Flanders and medieval village, as well as climbing Brussels’ Atomium, built for the 1958’s World Fair, in Belgium.
From the Nordic lifestyle to Brussels’ historical landmarks, my year abroad was not only beneficial on a personal level, increasing my understanding of cultural idiosyncrasies and developing my mindfulness, self-awareness, confidence, and maturity, but also for my studies as I questioned my ideas within cross-cultural environments, gained skills and testimonies for career advancement while adapting to new cultures and built resilience to uncertainty.
For those considering taking a year abroad, I could not recommend it more! I believe university is the best time to experiment and do as much as possible to explore the world and oneself so do not miss out on the opportunities and do not fear to take the leap as it can only benefit your overall experience and make you grow as a person.
Every WBS Undergraduate* has the opportunity to study abroad during their studies, if you would like to find out more about our courses on offer, download our Undergraduate brochure.
*Joint degree’s may differ, please refer to the partner department for study abroad information.