Languages open doors!
These Penn State Behrend students credit extraordinary educational, travel, and professional opportunities to their study of a global language.
Studying Spanish while majoring in business has provided me with many different opportunities that have accelerated my business career. During my college career, I have studied abroad three times. I spent a summer in Buenos Aires, I took an embedded course to Cuba, and I spent a spring semester in Ecuador. All of these trips enabled me to learn new cultures and to step out of known ways of life.
While in Ecuador, I lived with an indigenous Andean family who did not speak any English. Everything they ate was what they grew and raised. I spent much of my time down in Ecuador there going to their farms and playing with the animals they raised. I learned how live on a farm and to communicate without having much fluency in Spanish. Through this trip, I have become more aware of the world around me and became more understanding that one way of life is not the only way of life. This will help me be able to connect with my fellow employees and hopefully allow me to work abroad one day.
Alexa Haverly ʼ18
Management Information Systems major
When I was a student, I discovered very quickly that learning languages was an essential skill to accomplish my goals.
As an archaeologist who works in the Middle East, it is necessary to learn some ancient and modern languages. I need to be able to interpret ancient texts that are discovered on an excavation, such as the Akkadian script inscribed on a cuneiform tablet. Modern Arabic helps me to build relationships with the people I work with in Jordan. Since important research is published by other archaeologists in French and German, it is important that I can read those languages to keep up on the scholarship in my field.
As an aside, as an archaeologist, it is not necessary to be fluent in any of these languages. I am actually better at Hebrew than Arabic, since I studied Hebrew intensively, whereas Arabic is something I picked up along the way in the trenches.
Dr. Leigh-Ann Bedal
Associate Professor of Anthropology
When I arrived in Rosenheim, a university town in the heart of Germany, I did not speak any German, and I was under the impression my job would be in English. I quickly found out this was not the case! I was learning Spanish, so I didn’t really have the opportunity to learn German before I went.
Americans are spoiled. We can go anywhere, and someone will be able to speak English. But when you get into the business world, knowing a little bit of the language will take you far. My relationships with colleagues were strengthened whenever I would ask, “How do you say that in German?” I learned how to say good morning, how to ask people if they enjoyed their meals. It made a world of difference.
Speaking a bit of another language can mean the difference between closing a deal and losing a contract. You are on their territory. You need anything you can get to create a bond, to make your interactions personal. We can’t take advantage of our privilege. To succeed in the workplace, you must break the cultural barrier. Little phrases go a long way.
I learned very quickly in Germany that I could not be my loud, obnoxious American self! When working for a company abroad you are the face of a project and your country. In Germany, things are more formal; you must use people’s titles, for example. Knowing a language, and having some cultural sensitivity, makes you better equipped for the workforce. It’s important to note that you are representing your country... some people have never met an American before and you are their first impression.
Aimee Ozarchuk ʼ18
B.S. Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies
B.S. International Business
Summer intern at Krones, Rosenheim, Germany
Learning French was the single event that put the rest of my career in motion. Thanks to studying French, I was accepted to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Not only does the Geneva Graduate Institute offer the world’s best master's degrees in international affairs, but it is also bilingual in English and French.
Thanks to studying French, I was able to secure a position as chief operating officer of a Swiss-based company, which conducted business in both French and English, within four years of my first Behrend French class.
Without studying French, I never would have been able to register as an official lobbyist at the European Union, and secure meetings with high-level diplomats who insisted on speaking French in meetings. Without studying French, I would have been locked out of so many cultural exchanges, international experiences, and career opportunities that make it without a doubt one of the most valuable parts of attending Behrend for me.
Perhaps most importantly, learning French has taught me I'm capable of learning anything. German. Spanish. Or even a type of traditional Brazilian dance. How to start companies. Learning a second language and using it for such rich experiences has taught me that, even as an adult, no learning goal is unattainable with the right amount of work, focus, and dedication.
Connor Sattely ʼ11
B.A. Communication and Media Studies
B.A. Political Science
Business Acceleration Agent, HiiL
The Hague, Netherlands
As one of many young females with a dream of becoming an early childhood educator, I had to find something to set me apart. Being bilingual and studying abroad is giving me just the upper hand I was looking for. I am currently the only Elementary and Early Childhood Education major at Penn State Behrend pursuing a Spanish minor. Not only does this benefit me as an individual, but I will also be able to better serve my future students.
As a freshman in college, I decided that there was no better time than the present to start seeing more of the world and pursuing my dreams. With Penn State Behrend, I was part of one of the first groups of Americans to travel to Cuba. I spent ten days immersing myself in this Spanish-speaking oasis and it was an extremely humbling and fulfilling experience. I have grown so much as an individual because of my study-abroad experience. I couldn’t imagine going through these best years of my life without taking the opportunities Penn State Behrend has given me.
I am now in the process of planning a portion of my student teaching abroad in either Spain, Costa Rica, or Ecuador. I can’t wait to see what this opportunity and experience will bring me!
Mariah Knott ʼ19
Elementary and Early Childhood Education major
My German experience at Penn State Behrend was a positive one. Having taken all the available courses at my high school, I was excited to further my learning at the college level. I was able to take German 2 online through Penn State World Campus to receive credit, and it was fun to have open chats with other students. I continued with German 3 on campus, and I was happy to be learning from a native German-language speaker. Dr. Eva Kuttenberg was very passionate about the subject matter, and I was able to continue to learn more of the language and culture.
Dr. Kuttenberg and Ruth Pflueger were also very helpful in helping me find Marburg University, where I spent a semester abroad. At the conclusion of my senior year, Dr. Kuttenberg helped me become one of 150 finalists (out of over 700 applicants) for the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals program. I was excited to take on the challenge and ultimately live in Germany. However, life had other plans and I found employment with a large German manufacturer of milling and grinding machines called Waldrich Coburg, which has its service for the entire U.S. here in Erie. By pairing my passion for Germany and my dual major of International Business and Business Economics, I was able to start to build a career.
Hayden Weaver ʼ13
Concurrent degrees in International Business and Business Economics
Founder, Erie Ultimate League Enterprises LLC
Häutelwerk. Kalbsmilz. Rindermark. After receiving an Original Bayrisch cookbook, or Bavarian cookbook, from my Siemens coworkers, I was able to examine what ingredients went into my favorite Bavarian dishes that I enjoyed during my three-month stay in Munich, Germany. Having always been a struggling picky eater trying to go beyond my comfort zones, I am thankful I waited until after my stay to dissect various Bavarian delicacies.
Prior to being offered an internship opportunity at Siemens’ Information Technology Headquarters in Munich, interning abroad had always just seemed like an impossible feat on every aspiring global-business student’s to-do list. However, through hard work and relationships I had built with professors, I was presented with an incredible opportunity—but also with many doubts. Could I afford the trip? Was I psychologically prepared? And most pressing, Should I learn the German language?
I only had four months before traveling to Munich to work, a much shorter time frame to prepare than most students are typically given. If I had known prior to the semester that I would be traveling to Germany, I would have scheduled a German speaking course at Behrend. But as we all know, life is never that easy and we must learn to adapt and overcome. In whatever spare time I had during my 21-credit spring semester, I practiced my German speaking skills on Duolingo.
When I finally began working at Siemens, I quickly discovered the vast majority of my colleagues spoke excellent English, both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing they spoke fluent English because it made work operations go much smoother, but it was a curse because I was never forced to really speak or learn much German from them. Most of my German speaking skills were honed at Bavarian restaurants ordering food, at the supermarket, traveling Bavaria, or around a campfire with my German pals.
My advice to business students regarding learning global languages: Choose a language and learn it thoroughly, especially if you know you are traveling abroad and have the proper amount of time to learn. It will take an immense amount of stress off your trip and will allow you to navigate foreign territory more efficiently. And if you are simply struggling with the decision to study or intern abroad: Do it! Having international business experience is invaluable in today’s global economy. Having international experience and foreign language knowledge often means a higher starting salary and more diverse job opportunities. If your employer is doing business with China and you are the only employee who can speak Mandarin, guess who gets sent on the weeklong business trip to Shanghai?
Calf head. Calf spleen. Bone marrow. Had I known the German language thoroughly prior to working there, I probably would have never eaten some of my favorite Bavarian dishes. Knowing a foreign language is invaluable when living and working abroad as it will allow you to better navigate and connect with residents, ultimately allowing you to take away more from your international experience. And when entering the workforce, you will quickly notice how knowing a foreign language and having international work experience opens many doors. I, myself, am still learning German on my own so when I travel back to Bavaria to visit, I can impress my old friends!
Ethan Moody ʼ17
Intern, Siemens, Munich, Germany
To the students considering internships; think about going overseas. Although you may be skeptical, speak with and question those who have done them. Being one of those who have worked abroad, I can easily say it is one of the best experiences of my life thus far. Knowing what I know now from working abroad, I would have deeply regretted not taking the challenge of completing an internship overseas.
It forced me to leave my comfort zone and actively meet new people. I was able to travel to places I have always dreamt of visiting. It opened up my eyes to new cultures, cuisines, and a completely different way of life. I think it especially showed me how vast the world is and that there is so much to explore, which opened me up to the adventurer I am today. I have never looked back.
I understand the hesitation and nervousness, but I would strongly recommend applying for such opportunities. I personally think internships abroad show that one is not afraid to try new things, take on new challenges, and successfully operate in an environment completely foreign to them. Yes, it was expensive and I honestly didn’t profit from the experience monetarily, but it is an incredible journey that will help you grow as an individual, and one you can share with friends, family, and future employers.
Ryan Mitcheltree ʼ15
Senior Associate, Business Consulting and Technology, Grant Thornton LLP
Olivia Duryea ʼ14, a History major, spent the 2014-15 year on a fully funded teaching fellowship, teaching English in Bad Hofgastein, Austria, through the USTA Austria Program.
Nicole Gall ’10, a Physics major, spent the summer of 2009 on a fully funded fellowship from DAAD RISE (German Academic Exchange Program Research Internship in Science and Engineering). She worked in a physics lab at the University of Tübingen, Germany.