Eight members of the International Business Association (IBA) visited the Consulate General of Argentina in Chicago November 2, 2018.
Each fall the organization uses grant funding to send students to visit a different consulate. Destinations in recent years have included Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and the Netherlands
“It’s one of these outside of class experiences that really enriches the students. They get to really learn about a country from that county. It gets them genuine interaction with higher level government officials from another place,” observed Barbara Ribbens, director of the Carson and Iris Varner International Business Institute. “The students do the correspondence. The students arrange it all … I’m not leading them. They’re taking the initiative and doing it. I’ve really worked hard to keep it a student thing. I want them taking ownership of as much as possible.”
Senior Megan Asher is vice president of IBA and organized the meeting with the Argentinian consulate general and cultural attaché. She noted visiting a consulate provides an opportunity to learn about the efforts to connect different communities and to become more aware of another nation’s holidays and traditions.
“That’s important to see because if you’re not part of that community, you might not even know that exists,” she said.
In addition to hearing about economics and the flow of goods and services, Asher particularly enjoyed learning about how the cultural attaché serves as an intermediary between Argentinian musical groups and venues in the United States.
In the afternoon, the ISU students visited the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. Asher noted exploring the exhibits “sparked connections” with the course material she was studying in a sociology class about Latino culture and enrichened the concepts she encountered in the classroom.
The senior went on to explain the value of having personal interactions with culture instead of just reading about it in a textbook. She noted face-to-face communication allows students to study the voice and mannerisms from people of other countries.
“It’s just making other cultures more humanized for us,” she said. “You realize … we’re not that different. We’re all just trying to better the space we live in and connect with people and see people we care about … and fulfill our aspirations.”
Asher noted many of her peers do not realize there are such cultural opportunities available in Chicago. The city is not just a place to go to concerts or to eat at popular restaurants. It also is home to venues for building cultural awareness. She then issued a challenge to her peers to look for ways of connecting with other cultures whether it be through one-day trips like IBA took to Chicago or study abroad opportunities.
“Get involved with something with people who are different from you because your perspective is going to change so much,” she encouraged. “The world is just too interconnecting to ignore it at this point. You have to have knowledge about how it’s working. You have to know about these other cultures.”
When asked how spending one semester studying abroad in Japan and another in France helped to grow her as a person and student, Asher said, “Definitely, I’m more confident … I’m better with connecting with people.”
“It allows you to sympathize with people,” said junior International Business major Tyler Henson, who spent a year in Argentina as a high school student, as well as a year in Slovakia before coming to ISU. “If you get to know one culture very well or multiple kinds of well, anyone you meet for the rest of your life you’ll be able to relate to or be able to listen to them on a deeper level.”
He also noted studying abroad provides an opportunity to represent the United States overseas, as well as to act as an ambassador for the country in which one spent time as a student.
Although their time at the consulate was only for a few hours, the ISU students made a strong impression on their hosts. As a result, an additional benefit came out of this year’s IBA trip to Chicago.
“The cool thing about this one is the consulate was so impressed they wrote me an email asking if we could develop a relationship with some schools in Argentina because they were so impressed by the students, their preparation and their interest,” Ribbens said as she applauded the Redbirds’ professional behavior and demeanor. “We are starting to talk to some Argentinian schools about exploring some relationships. It all grew out of students’ interaction.”