Studying at sea.

FIU Business students studying at sea

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A life full of experiences can give a person the tools and resources to face daily situations with better response capacity, but few will inspire you as much as travel.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program called “Business at Sea,” aboard a transatlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. It was directed by Dr. Doreen Gooden and Dr. Marc Weinstein for students looking to learn about management and international business in an in-country environment.

I had always wanted to travel to Europe, but because I work and study full time, I wasn’t able to. When I heard about the program and the way it was set up, I thought that it was the best option. I’ll admit that two things came to mind – because it was on a cruise ship it would be a full-time vacation or that after a few days, it would get boring. However, neither was the case.

The 15-day classroom at sea departed Fort Lauderdale and included stops in Ponta Delgada, Azores Islands; Lisbon, Portugal; and Vigo, Spain; as well as Le Havre and Paris in France.

We took the “Study Abroad in International Business” course that teaches how to identify how cultural, economic, and political aspects from the countries that you are visiting take a special role when conducting business. I also chose “International Business,” which focuses on the opportunities and challenges that companies face when entering the global market.

It was a win-win situation.

In addition to the lectures, we had group presentations about topics including the history, culture and special events of the cities visited, and of the cruise industry. We visited the interior of the ship and the command bridge. We heard first-hand from employees in the different departments on board, including navigation, engineering, guest services, food & beverage, talk about their backgrounds and different roles on the ship.

FIU Business students studying at sea

One of the most amazing things was to cross the Atlantic on a cruise ship. When I look at a map and think about the immensity of the ocean, I realize that it was a unique and amazing experience that not many people have lived. It’s like an adventurous way to travel in style.

During our days in port, we had city tours in addition to a presentation from the U.S. Commercial Services Agency in Lisbon and a visit to the Port Authority in Vigo.

On our visit to Normandy, standing on Omaha Beach overlooking the English Channel, I felt an overwhelming sensation. It’s so quiet; it’s difficult to think that 72 years ago, thousands of Allied soldiers initiated the liberation of France. The experience of being on the same grounds the battles took place, feeling the cold and the thickness of the walls in a German defense position and seeing the craters created by the bombs makes you recognize the courage of those who sacrificed their lives.

FIU Business students studying at sea

One night, my classmates and I decided to go to the helipad at the front of the ship to look at the sky; we could see a lot of stars and planets. We talked about our expectations of the trip. Being there in the middle of the ocean, sharing that moment with 24 other people you barely knew, helped us interact better and made the studying abroad experience more enjoyable. Today, I call them friends.

Ultimately, a study abroad opportunity like this could be a very enlightening experience, if you do it for the right reasons; there is an element of pleasure intrinsically included in the fact that you are traveling, but underneath there is more, It will help open your eyes, understand customs, interact with people from different cultures, be a more tolerant person, and, most importantly, to form your own opinions through personal experiences.

Luis A. Ibarra is a College of Business student majoring Logistics & Chain Supply Management. He will graduate in summer 2017.

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