Doing business overseas

As part of the Bachelor of Science in International Business program, Dan Schlemovitz spent his senior year in Madrid studying at a private university and doing co-op with a Paris-based global insurance group. He took classes with students from all over the world, including France, Germany, Italy, and Ireland, and made more than two dozen lifelong friends from Europe.

“It was the best year of my life,” Schlemovitz said, noting his affinity for the Spanish language and culture. “It had always been my dream to go to Spain.”

Schlemovitz will graduate this semester and was among more than a dozen students in the BSIB-Spain program who gathered in the Visitor Center on Tuesday afternoon. The young global citizens discussed their international experiences over light fare and then met with President Joseph E. Aoun and Emilio Botín, the executive chairman of Banco Santander, a Madrid-based financial services company.

In the spring of 2010, Northeastern signed a gift agreement with the Santander Group that allowed the university to expand the BSIB program to Brazil. Since that time, Northeastern administrators and professors have worked closely with representatives at both the Universidade São Paulo and Fundação Getúlio Vargas in São Paulo to build a sustainable program. This year, two pioneering students of the BSIB-Brazil track, James Wood and Sachin Mitra, are spending their “expatriate year” of overseas study and co-op in Brazil. Over the summer, two other groups of students participated in Brazil-based Dialogue of Civilizations programs.

The BSIB program, established in 1994, offers students an opportunity to both study and work overseas in the language of their host country, building upon the university’s strength in experiential education. By training students to become future global managers, the program develops highly qualified professionals who bring a more competitive edge in world markets to U.S. corporations.

The program—currently operating in 10 countries—aims to broaden students’ cross-cultural awareness, increase their knowledge of a foreign language, and bolster their understanding of international business practices.

Nicholas Athanassiou, the academic director of the program since 2003, compared the maturity level of students before and after participating in the international portion of the program. “It’s astonishing,” he said. “They leave as young college students and come back as polished adults.”

“It’s a very complex and in-depth experience,” he added. “Students come in rapid contact with reality and must find a place to live and a co-op job in the local language within a few months.”

Marta Ruiz-Falco is a fourth-year international student from Madrid. She completed her first two years of college at the Catholic Institute of Business Administration, Northeastern’s partner school in the BSIB-Spain program, and is a candidate for a degree in international business from both institutions.  

She chose the BSIB program for the chance to study in two countries, saying, “My favorite part has been meeting people from all over the world.”

Ruiz-Falco is currently on co-op with Sovereign Bank, a subsidiary of Banco Santander, and hopes to be offered a full-time position within the company. Schlemovitz, for his part, is interviewing next week for a position with AXA, the global insurance company for whom he completed a co-op in Madrid.

He noted that his dream job is to become a small-business owner and offered this reminder to anyone looking to break into the industry. “We may all come from different backgrounds,” he said, “but we’re all striving to accomplish the same goals.”