Maine Business School student Chelsea Leeman participated in a three-month study abroad program in India in 2010 summer, learning about the exotic country her Brunswick, Maine, family already had experienced.
“My mother lived in India when she was a child because my grandparents worked in the U.S. Embassy in Delhi,” said Leeman, a senior majoring in business management. “They loved India and encouraged me to study there. I’m glad I did – it was an incredible experience.”
Leeman, whose trip was sponsored by the University Studies Abroad Consortium, attended Christ University in Bangalore, India’s third most populous city. She took classes on international marketing, on the business relationship between U.S. and India, and on Indian culture. She also took a service learning class that provided her with the unique opportunity to volunteer at a number of rural schools.
She didn’t spend all her time in class. Her international travel experience included tours of the Coca-Cola and Toyota factories, as well as several IT companies. On weekends, she traveled around the country and visited well-known tourist destinations, including the Taj Mahal, which she called “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She hiked the Himalayas and saw the Kerala backwaters, a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets in southern India. She also visited Rajasthan, the largest state in the Republic of India, which encompasses most of the Great Indian Desert. She even got to take rides on a camel and an elephant.
Bangalore is a wonderful place for a business student to visit, said Leeman, who plans on pursuing a career in international business. The nation’s leading IT exporter, Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India. It is a major economic and cultural hub, and the fastest growing major metropolis in India.
Thanks to her interesting and informative classes at Christ University, she came away with a solid understanding of the business atmosphere in India.
“I learned that the business relationship between India and the U.S. is thriving. A lot of U.S. global companies outsource there because it’s cost-effective, because they know the latest software will be used, and because everyone speaks English. I also came to realize that someone who wants to expand his or her business to another country must be familiar with that country’s culture and must sometimes change their marketing to be more compatible. For example, since people in India typically don’t eat meat, the McDonald’s restaurants in India offer a vegetarian burger called the McVeggie. It’s very popular.”
Leeman said she particularly enjoyed her service learning class, where she got to visit a number of rural schools. “We had fun playing with the kids. They spoke some English and were really friendly. They loved to have their pictures taken. They took us around their villages and they showed us their homes and introduced us to their parents. Seventy percent of India’s population lives in rural areas. There’s a big push now to make sure most kids, even in the rural areas, have the opportunity to attend school.”
As her stint in India unfolded, she came to marvel at the way the past and present manage to co-exist in the country.
“The most interesting thing for me was seeing how India’s ancient culture and traditions fit with the recent modernization and westernization most of the larger cities are experiencing,” she said. “You’d see people going off to work at an IT firm, stopping at their Temple along the way. It seems like even though the culture is modern, religion is engrained in people’s lives and still plays a big role.”
Chelsea praised MBS faculty for encouraging her to travel. “The school’s motto is “Expect the World,” and they definitely stay true to that,” she said.