Until Sajillah Gadson boarded the flight for Brazil, she had never been on an airplane, or out of the United States. Her dream of a career as an international business consultant was rooted in classes at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. With this trip, her dream took wings.
“I have a new perspective on what it is like to do business in a different region of the world that right now is experiencing exponential growth, which makes it unique in itself,” Gadson said after her return from studying in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife and other areas. “I knew that the only option I had to afford the program was to get scholarships. If it were not for the Coca-Cola Foundation funding, I would not have been able to study abroad.”
Gadson, who will graduate in December with a B.B.A. in business economics, was among GSU’s first 12 recipients of the new Coca-Cola Global Ambassador Scholarships. The Atlanta-based soft drink company made a $1.3 million donation to fund this program and also the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarships, benefitting students who are first in their families to go to college.
Tyler Sutherland, majoring in both actuarial science and risk management and insurance, studied transition economies in China.
“We are grateful to the Coca-Cola Foundation and its executives, such as chairperson Ingrid Saunders Jones, for their wisdom in investing in the development of an entire generation of future leaders,” said Paula Huntley, the study abroad coordinator for GSU’S Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER).
The Global Ambassador Scholarship’s purpose is to encourage more first-time study abroad students and those traveling to emerging markets. This funding supports GSU’s strategic goal of study abroad participation, so more students experience first-hand such critical global issues as sustainability, water stewardship and early education.
“These are students who, given the chance, can do great things,” said CIBER executive director S. Tamer Cavusgil, who also serves as the Fuller E. Callaway Professorial Chair of the Institute for International Business.
“They are hungry to see the broader world, to get a taste and develop a curiosity about what it means to be a global citizen and compete for global opportunities. There’s no way to avoid that competition now; it’s a reality. Studying abroad allows them to gain life skills and will probably change their perspective forever.”
Like Gadson, other recipients said that their international experience would have been difficult or impossible without funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation. Several described the impact of their experiences:
• Brittney Terry studied geographic information systems in Belize as preparation for using those systems in a career focused on developing housing.
“I have better cultural awareness. Customs that we don’t even think about in the U.S, like our concept of time, have a powerful impact on how we spend our day to day lives… It’s not until I saw the U.S. from abroad that I really understood my position in the U.S. relative to other global citizens.”
• Tyler Sutherland, majoring in both actuarial science and RMI (risk management and insurance), studied transition economies in China as preparation for a career in a large international insurance group. His group traveled across China to Tibet and the Three Gorges Dam, and large multinational companies based in Shanghai.
“This trip changed me in three main ways: culturally, academically and becoming more business savvy. From chaotic traffic with no wrecks to biking on top of the Xian city wall, from being the only blond person within a two-mile radius to seeing ancient Chinese monuments blend seamlessly with current businesses and vendors, this trip had plenty of eye-opening experiences. It made me appreciate my education even more, and it was very enlightening to see how these major companies handle Chinese red tape and transparency. Not only to handle, but to make massive profits at the same time.”
• Maureen Kelly, a student in the Professional MBA program with a concentration in international business, studied in Hong Kong and China.
“In our global economy, we are always hearing about China, and to be there, witness it, feel it and taste it … you just cannot be taught this. No books or professors can match this experience,” she said. “China no longer can just compete on just cheap labor – the country is also looking to produce products that stand out on their own, and this is not something to take lightly.”
• Carlos Wiley, a computer science major, traveled to Australia to intern as a software developer. While learning new programming languages, he also learned about himself.
“I gained the confidence to become more independent and learned that life is too short to waste thinking negatively,” he said. “My first week in Sydney, I was not able to work because my company office flooded. I had to stay positive and not get too down about the situation. I was given a different placement that was more than I could ask for, with amazing coworkers and a supervisor who is a great mentor… I learned how to quickly pick up new programming languages and figure out the most important concepts to look for.”
• Keith MacAulay, computer information systems major, traveled to Costa Rica to study Spanish.
“Not only did the scholarship grant me access to this beautiful new world, but
even just one or two weeks in, the change it brought into my life was apparent: through new friends, new conversations bringing up new viewpoints on arguments that I was sure I had the right answers to, and new activities. All led up to a more rounded and open-minded self. Even talking to random people on the street is a great practice for better speaking and listening skills, and inevitably Spanish is a desired skill in the world and may increase chances for employment.”
• Zachary Briody, a marketing graduate with an international business certificate, traveled to Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
“The trip opened my eyes to how the rest of the world lives to enjoy life just like people in the U.S., they just live in different ways. Every single company we visited prepared me for my career by showing me how international companies operate and how different supply chains work.”
• Ivanka Skovardanova, majoring in journalism and managerial sciences, traveled to Turkey.
“I learned that I could actually go to a foreign country and go to business meetings and visits and interact with the people there, even with the language barrier. I learned that I can handle stressful situations when they arise halfway across the world, making me into a better journalist. My final project was about the issue of covered women in the public sector, and I interviewed students and professors in the public university in Istanbul and listened to their opinions, not just the opinion of the government. Being out in the field interviewing people in a foreign country helped me prepare for my career.”