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Darla Moore School of Business

  • Image of Émilie Ung-Sun and her friends in Brazil

Taking international business education to another level

The Moore School is known worldwide for its international business program. With a real-life look at how multinational businesses operate in and outside their countries’ borders, students in the Moore School’s International Business Education Alliance are given the opportunity to work and live in four different countries while they are undergraduates.

The international immersions prepare them for consulting careers with multinational companies thanks to a partnership between the University of South Carolina’s Sonoco International Business Department and three other international institutions.

The IBEA cohort program brings together four leading international business schools: USC, ESSEC Business School in France and Singapore, FGV EBAPE Escola Brasileira de Administração Pública e de Empresas in Brazil, and the University of Mannheim in Germany. Students who are part of the IBEA cohort participate in international immersion experiences on four continents in four years.

IBEA faculty director Wolfgang Messner said the program is helpful with overcoming the culture shock of living in another country.

“After having studied and lived in four different countries in different parts of the world, future culture shock is not excluded but limited,” he said. “This program makes an employee more confident and productive in an international business environment by achieving cultural sensitivity as an undergraduate.”

The international experiences and connections were some of the biggest reasons why students wanted to be a part of the IBEA cohort.

“I chose to be part of the IBEA program because it offers a unique opportunity to travel the world while learning and working on different projects,” said senior Katherinne Zuñiga from El Salvador. “When I applied to the IBEA program, I knew that the people who were accepted would have a unique mentality and that later on, we would become a family — a family of nomads that love to travel, see the world and live through new experiences.”

The exposure to such differing cultures among the four continents provides a unique experience for students in the cohort.

“I chose to join the IBEA program because it gave me quite the unique opportunity to live in three different international markets: Western Europe, Southeast Asia and South America,” said sophomore Benjamin Proulx from Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Working with leading multinational companies

As part of the curriculum with the IBEA program, students work on semester-long consulting projects with corporate partners at each university.  These real-life assignments give students hands-on global management practice before they are hired for professional jobs after graduation.

“Working with professional clients has been amazing,” said senior Ricarda Seitz from Heidelberg, Germany. “I learned how to navigate through cultural differences and work across different time zones, dealt with many different team members and working styles, understood the value of empathy and communication and acquired a global network.”

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel sanctions from each country over the past two years presented unique challenges. Students have had to maneuver around these issues as they attended different schools across the globe each semester.

“Our ‘honeymoon phase’ from the start of the IBEA cohort program was short-lived, and that was the first time for all of us to study online,” said senior Émilie Ung-Sun from Paris, France, and Wenzhou, China. “Fortunately, our cohort remained strong and united, and our professors adapted very well to the new format.”

Through some setbacks caused by COVID-19, the IBEA cohort has still found ways to create memorable moments in the program.

“My favorite experience has been the typical American Thanksgiving and all the trips I made in the United States with friends from all over the world,” said junior Mattis Hartmann from Mannheim, Germany.

“It’s hard to pinpoint one unique favorite experience in the program because there are so many, but I would say that my favorite experience were the frequent dinners in Singapore, in which we all came together after being apart due to the pandemic,” Zuñiga said.

The IBEA cohort program life skills the students learned will continue impacting them as they continue their education and begin their professional careers.

“The IBEA cohort program has taught me empathy, tolerance and cultural understanding,” Seitz said. “Through the work with international clients in consulting projects, such as with [Messner], I acquired relevant consulting competencies like presentation building, navigating through research platforms, conducting market analyses or writing strategic papers or case studies.”

Learning from each other’s cultural differences and perspectives

In addition to learning to adapt to cultural differences, the program pushed students to learn from their fellow cohort members, who were all high achieving with their own diverse experiences.

“There is always someone who will do better than you, or at least, work in a different yet inspiring way,” Ung-Sun said. “Staying open-minded and always seeking learning in all interactions are the main lessons from the IBEA program and are beautiful virtues to possess.”

Several students said as a result of their time with their IBEA cohort, they have grown personally and professionally.

“I have seen myself grow in many ways but especially in seeking adventure and new experiences,” said senior Julia Signorelli from Chicago. “Through IBEA, I have found myself wanting to take on challenges — professionally and culturally, as I have found this learning and growth experience to be very rewarding.”

IBEA students said they gained resilience by figuring out how to adapt quickly to new surroundings.

“I grew personally by broadening my horizon,” Seitz said. “By living in different surroundings, you really learn a lot about yourself, what you like, your abilities and how to navigate through really troublesome and challenging times.”

Thanks to the growth they experienced, students highly recommend the IBEA program.

“You’ll meet incredible people and make friends from all over the world so you can get a deep understanding of different cultures,” Hartmann said. “Additionally, you’ll always have a place to stay in at least four different countries as a part of the IBEA family.”

In the future, many IBEA students want to build careers in management consulting with multinational companies that would allow them to live and travel around the globe.

Signorelli will be working within management consulting at U.S.-based McKinsey & Company after she graduates.

“I am very excited to dive into the consulting world and into diverse projects and industries on an international scale,” she said. “I am also looking to expand beyond the U.S. within a few years and work abroad.”

-James Culbertson

More about the IBEA cohort program

Ahead of the 2015 academic year, the Moore School’s senior leaders and faculty from the Sonoco International Business Department collaborated with three international partner institutions’ leaders to create a more intensive and enhanced international business program.

“The Moore School Sonoco International Business Department has consistently been the world leader in innovative international business education and program design,” said Kendall Roth, senior associate dean of international programs and partnerships who has been with the Moore School since 1986.

The first cohort for the International Business Education Alliance was created in response to the Moore School and their partners’ mission to create unique international experiences for students in the global business sphere that didn’t exist elsewhere in international business education.

“The basic motivation underlying the design of the IBEA program was twofold. First, it represents the next stage of the international development for students that come to UofSC already having had introductory international experiences and language acquisition opportunities,” Roth said. “Second, it responds to the expressed corporate interest in hiring employees with increased international skills in areas such as global mobility, cross-cultural adaptability and intercultural competence, understanding of global interdependences between countries, etcetera. Such skills are enhanced through the multi-country, cross-cultural teamwork and corporate project experiences in the design of the IBEA program.”

Students in the IBEA cohort study at the University of South Carolina, the ESSEC Business School in France and Singapore, the FGV EBAPE Escola Brasileira de Administração Pública e de Empresas in Brazil and the University of Mannheim in Germany.

“The IBEA cohort program is something different that other institutions aren’t doing to the encompassing degree that we are, and I think we’re producing graduates who gain a deeper understanding of how organizations are managed across borders who will be highly prepared to navigate cross-cultural teams,” said Meredith McNeice, managing director of the UofSC undergraduate international business program.

Every academic year, the four partnering IBEA business schools each select 10-15 students to participate in the program. The universities have their own criteria for choosing students for the program but they each carefully consider students’ academic performance, cultural openness, willingness to travel and interest in management consulting.

The IBEA curriculum is focused on management consulting, however, students are not confined to consulting careers after graduation.

“We have students who go on to study for a master’s degree, others go to law school, so there’s really a wide range of possibilities,” said UofSC IBEA faculty director Wolfgang Messner. “Even if you work in a business management function in the industry, it’s good to know how consultants think and operate — to get the most out of them.”

Consulting techniques are also quite useful for internal project work with multinational corporations as well, Messner added.

Learning outcomes for the IBEA cohort program include:

  • Fostering intellectual and cultural flexibility; gaining deeper exposure to different cultural contexts
  • Developing mature and resilient leaders and team members academically, personally and professionally; includes high level of preparation to build networks, navigate cross-cultural teams and career preparation
  • Engaging in active-learning projects and language immersions; students’ knowledge, growth and development builds across their extended time together
  • Offering specialized best programming tailored to the cohorts, providing students with top educational opportunities at each institution

The Sonoco International Business Department faculty and the Folks Center for International Business would like to continue growing their collaborative partnerships with local and global organizations. If your organization would like to explore such opportunities, please contact Karen Brosius, executive director of the Folks Center.

Read more IB stories in the February 2022 "The Edge" E-Newsletter.

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