Heather Cook, mother of four, wife to Andrew Cook, full-time employee at ABB, and online management student through the Tippie College of Business, clearly has a demanding schedule. Even so, she managed to incorporate a study abroad experience to China with the support of her family, scholarship funding (Ann Morse Study Abroad Scholarship and Nancy Hauserman Global Scholarship), and short-term study abroad offerings available to UI students. Cook recently returned from Beijing and Shanghai after participating in the two-week Business and Culture in China course led by Dr. Bob Walker. Cook recently shared some of her study abroad reflections with us.
Hometown: Ft. Madison, Iowa
Field of study: BBA management (entrepreneurial management track)
Currently working as: Production scheduler at ABB (formerly General Electric)
What interested you about studying abroad in China?
I’ve had an interest in Chinese culture for a long time. When I transferred to the UI in the fall of 2017, I got information about the Business and Culture in China program. It was actually one of the reasons why I chose to go to the UI. Even though I have a lot of outside responsibilities in addition to being a student, I really thought it was a global opportunity that I could do because it was such a short period of time.
What were some of your academic/professional learnings?
Learning about international business in China first-hand really put into perspective the cultural differences and why trade is done the way it is. I don’t think that I would have ever taken away the knowledge from any class without hearing the stories of business professionals and entrepreneurs who had done business in China. I was amazed how openly people in China would support an American wanting to be an entrepreneur in their country. Seeing the business side in China really expanded my knowledge on how business works on an international level. I don’t think I could have learned exactly everything I did from my online study without seeing the culture and business side of things first-hand.
What did you learn on a personal level?
Going to China was my first experience leaving the country and the longest trip I had taken on my own. I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to.
Did you push your comfort zone while in China? If so, how?
Yes, as an online student, I did not know any of the other students prior to this trip. I am also older than the other students. I had never flown in a plane before. I was excited to experience it but being in a plane for 13 hours was a bit rough. Also, I had to push myself physically at times to keep up with everyone, I sometimes felt that age gap because everyone was just pacing right along.
What were some memorable experiences from your study abroad experience in China?
My most memorable experience was climbing the Great Wall. We visited the less touristy part that was more ruins. I could not get over the scenery and how beautiful the mountains were, they went as far as your eye could see. I also appreciated visiting businesses in both Beijing and Shanghai, including: All-China Federation of Trade Unions, PTL Group, the General Motors Cadillac Plant, and Bao Steel.
What did your co-workers at ABB think about your global experience?
Everyone at ABB encouraged my decision to study abroad. My employer was very supportive of my decision because it was for education and, in the end, will be fitting for growth in my career with the company. A lot of my co-workers were really inspired and excited about me going to China. Many said how lucky I was to get the experience. Not everyone gets the chance to study abroad especially as a non-traditional student. After I returned, everyone I knew wanted to know everything I learned about China and what it was like.
How do you think your study abroad experience will help you in your career?
Having the study abroad experience looks great on a resume because it shows that you have international experience and understanding. It shows that you are open to cultural differences and possibly difficult situations including the ability to adapt. These are qualities that are very appealing in business and to employers. So, I’m sure it will be helpful in building my career and future job opportunities.
What advice do you have for other UI students considering studying abroad?
I would tell them to go for it. There are scholarship opportunities to help them out with financial costs. When people ask if they should study abroad, I always tell them, “Yes you should, you never know when you would have the chance again to travel like that.” The opportunity had never come up for me until the Business and Culture in China course.
To support students like Heather Cook and to ensure other students have access to funding assistance for global opportunities, consider making a gift online to International Programs or the Tippie College of Business.