Benefits beyond borders

Leadership study abroad course in six European countries pays dividends for present and future

CNU Students in the Summer 2018 Cross Cultural LDSP 330 Program pose with a CNU flag on top of Mount Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland. COURTESY OF JORDAN CLARK

By Kristen Ziccarelli

For many, the fifth week of school can be trying. Tests, papers and assignments take a toll that comes in the form of a ‘20%’ staring down at you on the syllabus. Hours of sleep are lost, and cups of coffee are downed. Life as a student can become increasingly monotonous, as work takes over any dreams you had to live vicariously through your college experience.

While all this seems inevitable, it doesn’t have to be. The phrase ‘there’s another world out there’ can be one of the few things to emerge from this ennui, open up new doors, or at least change the odds (as cliché as it might sound).  

‘Leaving the familiar behind’ is perhaps one of the informal descriptions of CNU’s Cross-Cultural Leadership Study Abroad (LDSP330) opportunity in Western Europe. Led annually by Dr. Brent Cusher and Dr. Qingyan Tian, the course offers the three-week opportunity to study in six different countries with a home base in Maastricht, Netherlands.

While CNU offers a multitude of Study Abroad options, the unique chance for one to study in countries like Belgium, France and Switzerland but also have a ‘home base’ University experience offers plenty of cultural diversity.  After participating in the trip this previous summer, sophomore Michaela Nadeau appreciated this design.

“It was actually pretty cool because Maastricht is a college town and it’s really easy to travel around and the local restaurants were really catered to college students,” Nadeau says.   

Junior Jordan Clark expressed similar sentiments, adding that a three-week time frame did not detract from her overall experience.

“It was really cool to see multiple countries in three weeks,” Clark says. “I know some people would have wanted it to be longer, but it was cool to see different cultures very fast.”

Nadeau, who had never been abroad before, noted the immersive experience of studying abroad that contrasts studying from a textbook in a classroom. This multisensory learning offers more than a fuller perspective on the countries themselves – it pulls one out of their culture in one of the highest forms of independent and unfamiliar learning.

“One thing that Dr. Cusher talked about and emphasized was the fact that when we traveled to different cities we got to explore on our own,” Nadeau says. “I guess his purpose for the trip is that we could go out and really immerse ourselves in the culture … and that really helped with the leadership aspect.”

While students were able to explore many elements of the European cultures through travel and touring, part of the cross-cultural instruction took the form of leadership lectures in differing locations.

Sophomore Parker Wintink noted a specific lecture in the Central Bank of Luxembourg, where a lobbyist addressed how knowing his own culture helped him interact with others from the European Union.

“They actually did a really good job of directly tying leadership and followership and culture,” Wintink says. “It showed how… being a follower you’re going to think a certain way because of how you were raised and being a leader you probably weren’t raised the same way … so if you ever get someone in your group that you have to lead that’s from a different background it shows you different ways that you could relate to them.”

Although a striking cultural clash of backgrounds may not arise frequently at CNU, bringing this topic to the foreground through study abroad has made some students consider this phenomenon as a challenge to be pursued.

The group visited canals in Strasbourg, France during the three-week period. COURTESY OF MICHAELA NADEAU

“With leadership, I think that you learn that you can apply it every day with how you confront people or do meetings with Skype or go abroad for your job,” Clark says. “It makes me hope that I find a job that’s cross-cultural.”

Wintink’s overseas experience has led him towards a more cross-cultural future as well. After working with an American student intern from the University of Maastricht, he is exploring this program that could lead to yet another overseas environment.   

“That’s a program that I now want to look into, just because it seems so interesting to be able to help people,” Wintink says. “She wasn’t necessarily in the leadership position in the program, but she was able to learn more things working in some place that would have me work with people from different cultures.”

So, next time your college experience descends into a repeated schedule of studying for hours, drifting to sleep and spending all your dining dollars on coffee, pursuance of the unfamiliar just might prove a good remedy. If nothing else, it’s worth living by the wisdom of Wayne Gretzky: “you’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Feature photo courtesy of Jordan Clark.

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