BY KEVIN MOE
Education abroad can be daunting, especially for those who haven’t traveled extensively or who don’t know the native language. In collaboration with the Undergraduate Business Career Center, the Carlson Global Institute has launched a new mentorship program. The program pairs global immersion students with alumni living in a host country as a way to ease fears and allow students to get better acclimated to the global business environment.
Melanie Vossberg, a marketing and public and nonprofit management major, took advantage of the program to get a better understanding of business in Europe. “After narrowing my search to Europe, I selected Vienna because of its central location, block schedule classes, three-week orientation, and ease of transportation among other reasons,” she says.
Vossberg was paired with Ricarda Maywald, ’10 MBA and vice president savory EUR/general manager for Firmenich, the largest privately owned perfume and flavor company in the world. “We had a Skype call every month, and we continued with this until she came over to Vienna,” Maywald says. The two then met face-to-face at a coffee shop and enjoyed a traditional Austrian lunch.
Now in Vienna, Vossberg was given time to get to know the city as well as the Vienna University of Economics and Business. “This was essential in feeling comfortable in the city and making friends,” she says.
Throughout the semester, she spoke to Maywald on many topics, including comparing business practices in Europe and the United States, the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, and Maywald’s global executive MBA program. “Before being involved in the mentorship program, I didn’t know the vast number of jobs within business-to-business marketing. I am now more informed and considering a career in business-to-business marketing,” Vossberg says.
Vossberg’s biggest takeaway of the program was learning to push herself and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. “Being in a foreign city and not speaking the language, small stuff such as going to the grocery story was even a challenge at first,” she says. “I gained confidence and now don’t get as nervous as I reach the checkout of the grocery store having to communicate with the cashier. I also pushed myself to stretch my comfort zone and hang out with more than just Americans. That effort paid off with some of my closest friends being from Italy, Indonesia, France, Canada, and Hungary!”
For Maywald, working with a millennial was intriguing to her. “The challenge was to open up to a rather young and unknown person,” she says. “It was an interesting experience, and I will for sure benefit from this in my job. I am looking forward to continuing my learning curve with a new mentee this year.”