Nov 02, 2017

Three weeks to experience the American college life? – It worked!

By Henryk Hieby

Henryk Hieby

In a changing education landscape in Germany, Fulbright gave 20 undergraduate students from dual-study programs in Germany the opportunity to experience the American college life in three weeks. Can this work? – Yes.

Now, several weeks after the program and with a look back, I want to share my most important and memorable experiences and takeaways from my Fulbright experience:

Fulbright has succeeded in giving us a comprehensive impression of the American college life in three weeks.

With its program, the Fulbright Commission Berlin would like to contribute to the internationalization of the dual courses of study and to provide the participants with a comprehensive experience of the American college life in a short amount of time.

During our time, we have been accommodated at dorms close to the campus. Not only have we been able to take courses at the Georgia Institute of Technology, we have also had the opportunity to visit the labs of the individual departments, were allowed to use all facilities on campus, and took advantage of the university's recreation center. With its own police station, bus lines to get from one building to another, supermarkets and a hairdresser the campus itself would work as an autonomous city. During our stay, we also had the chance to get more information about alternate study programs at Georgia Tech, which included a visit of the MBA program at Emory - Goizueta Business School. Finally, fraternity and dorm parties as well as a typical American BBQ on our last evening made the experience complete. The possibilities an American university offers to its students for self-development and self-realization are not comparable to anything I know from Germany. I experienced a warm welcome, cooperativeness and an open mind for intercultural exchange to be natural. Also, the cooperation and exchange between the university, research institutions and companies have been impressive to experience.

The North Avenue Apartments: In 1996, part of the Olympic village and now dormitories of the Georgia Tech - our home for three weeks.

Fulbright brings dedicated, curious and open minded people together.

20 students from different parts of Germany, with different study majors and different employers in their dual-studies came together to experience this unique program. In only three weeks, complete strangers became a group with strong bonding. New friendships grew and new networks were built. The various program confronted us with new opinions, problems and ideas and encouraged us to rethink and discuss these topics within the group.

The cooperation in class with students from all over the world gave us the possibility to learn about cultural differences and helped to reduce prejudices. Especially the intense exchange with Chinese students in several classes was a big enrichment. Their open minded and self-reflected personality was a big contribution for mutual understanding. We also got the chance to profit from everyone’s individual experiences and values while discussing distinctions in the countries` business environment.

We also had the chance to meet Georgia Tech faculty staff and visit several department. We discussed the future of the healthcare system and current developments in health policy in the U.S. with a professor at the Scheller College of Business for Healthcare Management. It was inspiring to listen to his stories and opinions and it was a pleasure to be a part of this interesting conversation.

The group of the 2017 "Fulbright Intercultural Communication Program"

The program provided new perspectives – in a personal and professional way.

Within the three weeks in Atlanta I was confronted with topics and questions that I have not yet experienced in my everyday life. Here are some examples that changed my perspectives on different topics:

Entrepreneurship: We got to know Atlanta’s innovation and start-up landscape. The growing start-up city in the South-West of America impressed me with its founding spirit and with its possibilities and support for young people creating their own businesses. While visiting the Tech Village and the Innovation Hubs of many companies and participating in a course of entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech, I experienced the enthusiasm Americans have for future questions, technology and trends and that those topics have a much bigger impact on their overall mindset. I took a part of their mentality back home and I will follow more often the principle of "Just Do It”.

During the three weeks, we also took part in a Service Learning Project. We have intensively dealt with the problem of gentrification and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. A number that will keep in my mind: the age of an average homeless person in Atlanta is nine years old. It was enriching to get to know the work of NGO's in Atlanta, working together with them and to discuss the role of institutions such as Georgia Tech for the surrounding communities.

In the "Leadership Across Cultures" course, we have dealt with cultural differences - especially regarding leadership in business. Basics for this course were the studies of Geerd Hofstede on different cultures and the Globe Study. Within this course, I have been subsequently sensitized for this topic and was directly able to convert the learned topics into my international working environment.

The Georgia Tech campus right in front of the skyline of Atlanta

Program summarization: A recommendation for every dual-study student

The program has not only fulfilled all my expectations but even exceeded it. It managed to put much of the American college experience in three weeks. It felt intense and exhausting but the value of it is tremendous for me in terms of a change in perspectives, building a new network of friends and colleagues and to further educating myself in topics as entrepreneurship, awareness of intercultural differences and communication in English. In my opinion the program reached all goals to give a U.S. campus experience and to learn about American teaching and training practices as well as further deepen the intercultural exchange und understanding for different countries in this world.

The time in Atlanta fascinated me so much that I decided to spend a semester abroad in California. I am very grateful for the opportunity Fulbright offered me and I am proud to be part of the Fulbright network.

Henryk Hieby takes part in an Undergraduate Management Program at BP Europa SE and will finish his dual-study program with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Nordakademie soon. In 2017, Henryk attended the Fulbright Intercultural Communication Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. This program is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.


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