UIC Business Stamps our Passport

Davis Birsan photoThe study abroad application deadline for Spring 2018 is October 27! For UIC Business students, study abroad can be an experience that allows for significant professional and personal growth.  Through a combination of classroom instruction, immersion in local culture, and independent travel, Davis Birsan, a senior Finance major was able to get the most out of his study abroad experience.

We sat down with Birsan to hear about his time in Seville, Spain as a participant with the CIEE International Business and Culture program.


Q: What advice do you have for UIC Business students considering study abroad?

Definitely do it! You learn a lot. First decide where you really want to go. There’s so many programs out there that you’ll be able to find a good one for you.  Focus on picking a program that is based in a place you want to live.

Make sure you look at the courses they offer and the courses you need. If you might want to study abroad, think about it as early as possible. Be smart about picking a program that will be able to fulfill your remaining requirements.  For example, I took science and language classes and classes for my minor while I was abroad. Other than that, don’t stress too much. You will meet with your UIC Business adviser in advance to make sure the credits will transfer for the right requirements. 

Once you’re in the country, get immersed in the local culture. In Seville during the spring there are two week long holidays, Semana Santa and Feria de Abril. The celebrations may look strange to Americans, but for locals, they’re religious celebrations. Classes do not meet those weeks so have time to travel, but I would recommend spending at least a couple days in the city so you can dive deep in the culture.

Q: What is your best memory of your study abroad semester?

I did a homestay, which I would 100 percent recommend. On my program, not only did my host family provide meals and do my laundry, but some of the best moments I had were with my host family.

My family had a patio outside where my host dad had speakers set up. He was a big fan of music and American music, so after dinner we would sit down for an hour and a half just listening to different songs and playing songs for each other and just talking. Before I left he made me a flash drive with a hundred of his favorite songs that he thinks that I need to know or that I should listen to. It was the sweetest thing.

Q: What was your favorite trip that you took outside of Seville?

Take as many trips as you can, whether it be within your home country or in the region. Especially if you’re in Europe, flights and buses are super cheap. The coolest trip was going to the Vatican and randomly stumbling upon the Pope.  I’m not Catholic, but it was really cool to see him. It was a great moment.

Q: What were you nervous about before your semester in Seville started?

I definitely was nervous about a lot. Financially, the programs are not the cheapest, but there’s so many scholarships available. I was able to fund my whole study abroad education with scholarships. The only things I had to pay for were the extra trips I took. Funding shouldn’t scare you away. Just be proactive and apply for the funding that’s available.

I was excited and nervous about being fully independent. The experience definitely made me more independent. I’d never booked a flight before. By the end of the semester I was making itineraries and taking solo flights, all in a different language.

Q: How did your time in Seville change your academic and professional interests?
Study abroad opens your mind to different jobs, even outside the U.S. For me, it introduced me to the consulting field. I’m interested in this field because some consulting firms have clients that are based outside the U.S., and working on those contracts would allow me to continue working with people around the globe. I also picked up international business as a minor after studying abroad.

Q: What skills did you gain from your experience that have been valuable back at UIC Business?

One soft skill you learn in a non-English-speaking country is communication. You have to learn to choose your words wisely so you don’t have misunderstandings with people, and this helps you to become more articulate.

My program definitely emphasized team work and group work. When you study abroad you might be doing group-based assignments with students from different parts of the world. Learning to deal with a difficult group situation is definitely a skill you can bring to UIC. 

Q: Why do you think UIC Business Students can benefit from a study abroad experience?

The business industry is so globalized that no matter what, you will be working people, either in person or over the phone, from a different country. Or maybe all your suppliers will be located in different countries. For example, in Spain they never have a set schedule. Work starts around 9:00 a.m., but people came in when they wanted to. And they have their siesta during the middle of the day and come back to work from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Instead of looking down on that, living there helps you adapt to different working styles and personalities. Study abroad definitely helps you appreciate other cultures and it helps you understand how business operates internationally.  

To learn more about the study abroad opportunities available to UIC Business students, visit the Study Abroad Office site and attend a First Steps advising session.