Freshmen Business Fellows travel to Poland

During winter term, 26 freshmen Business Fellows traveled to Krakow, Poland for one week to learn about economic growth and to start developing a global mindset.

Elon Business Fellows visit Krakow Economics University.

Students traveled to Krakow as part of the course “Foundations of Growth and Innovation.” The course focused on the determinants of economic growth, particularly the emerging economies of central and Eastern Europe. Krakow is rapidly evolving and is home to the Krakow Economics University, which has an exchange program with Elon.

Professors of economics Steve DeLoach and Tom Tiemann accompanied the students on the trip. Many students had never been abroad, so the course was just as much about gaining confidence and competence in different cultures. Students worked in small groups and had to complete tasks and assignments as teams, which helped build communication and problem solving skills.

“There was something beneficial about being forced into situations where we felt lost or frustrated because it really tested our ability to deal with travel hiccups and complex situations,” said John Johnson ’15.

Students learned how to appreciate the different talents among the Business Fellows and how to work together to accomplish a task. They learned to value the skill sets of each individual and really bonded as a group. Each night the students had randomly assigned small group dinners.

“The assigned group dinners connected me to people I would have never talked to otherwise,” said Elizabeth Bui ‘15. “Everyone I had dinner with during the week inspired and motivated me to try harder in class, find an internship or job that I really feel passionate about.”

The team assignments were in addition to two lectures provided by the Krakow Economics University, and a tour of Old Town given by university students. All programming related to the determinants of economic growth and included such topics as the role of legal and financial institutions, cities as an engine of growth, and the role of diversity and openness in the transmission of ideas.

Students met with a local entrepreneur who imports bio organic foods and learned how his business started and how it has evolved. Students also visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp and Schindler’s Factory, as well as explored the old Jewish section of Krakow.

Students visited a local farmers market and bought groceries for lunch. They also explored Nowa Huta and went on day trips to small towns around Krakow. Students also had one free day to explore, visit the salt mines or shop.

The overall trip was a success and a transformative process for all the students. They learned about being an American in a foreign city. Students used only public transportation and had to learn enough Polish to be able to ask for directions and order food.

“Having to embrace a new culture with little to no expectations was extremely difficult for me, but I gained a much greater understanding of foreign culture and a greater understanding of myself,” said Kimberly Gersh ’15.

Students learned more than just academic skills — they learned valuable interpersonal skills and about themselves as individuals.

“The greatest memory that I took back to the U.S. with me was the feeling of self-improvement and self-awareness…I did not imagine that I would have learned so much about myself in such a short period of time,” said Elise Grigg ’15.

“I can honestly say it was the best experience of my life,” said Erin Scally ’15. “Looking back, this trip to Poland was not about Poland at all. It was a chance for us to push ourselves in a way not possible in a classroom.”

By Rachel Vierling ’12