Antwerp Study Abroad Program Celebrates Ten Years of Success


Antwerp study abraodImagine living and studying in Europe for several months, soaking up the ambience and culture of Belgium, Paris, and London. Hundreds of CoB students have been doing this for ten years now.

The Antwerp Study Abroad Program is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. The program started as a summer study abroad program and developed into a semester-long program.

The newspaper article (pictured at left) talks about the 10th anniversary, and the number of students who come and are taught business by Belgian professors. These students didn’t really know a lot about Belgium before they came. They notice differences, such as no big SUVs on the road, smaller shopping carts, two buttons on the toilet, and environmental protection. They talk about planned big trips, and smaller weekend excursions. When asked when they study, they responded, “During the week, although we also have to go to the pub then! We are still searching for the right balance.”

Program Director Dr. Mert Tokman says, "By studying abroad in Antwerp, students get the opportunity to take COB 300 abroad, they get the chance to obtain a concentration in European Business, and they have the ability to learn the business and social culture there." The students are able to stay on track and graduate on time. 

He added that students take many different field trips to businesses; they have the chance to talk to executives at top firms where they can network and make international connections. Students also travel to other parts of Europe during their free weekends. 

Anniversary celebrations were held on Jan. 24 and 25 at the University of Antwerp. During the celebrations, the students met Paul Thompson, a former president of the JMU Alumni Association who is now a top executive at McKinsey & Company Consulting, located in Brussels. University of Antwerp President Alain Cerschoren, welcomed the group with opening remarks.

Representing JMU at the celebration was Dr. Irvine Clarke, III, Interim Dean of the College of Business, and Dr. Lee Sternberger, the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Executive Director of the Office of International Programs (OIP), Felix Wang, the Director of Study Abroad programs at JMU, and Lauren Franson, the Assistant Director of Study Abroad programs at JMU. 

Dr. Clarke says, “Students can participate in the Antwerp program and can stay right on track with graduation requirements, get credit for COB 300, explore Europe, and enjoy all the benefits of studying abroad.”

Dr. Sternberger says, "Semester in Antwerp takes the College of Business upper-level core component COB 300 courses and adds the richness of studying in a major European business center.  With the inclusion of European Integration, Culture and History (COB 301), students return to the JMU campus with a European Business Concentration in addition to having completed those critical Integrated Functional Systems courses.  Their exposure to faculty, businesses, and institutions in another culture is fundamental to their ability to succeed in the increasingly global workplace they will enter after graduation.  In living and studying successfully in Antwerp, they are equipping themselves to be comfortable and confident in dealing with other traditions, whether social or professional.  Semester in Antwerp broadens their horizons on so many levels.” 

Former marketing professor Newell Wright started the program, which began as a summer-only experience.  It eventually evolved into a semester program, offering COB 300 and COB 301, European business and culture. Although the COB 300 students don’t write a business plan, they visit international businesses based in Antwerp, and write live case studies based on these industries. They have studied the diamond industry and Fiat. The University of Antwerp faculty teach the program.

The university facilities are part of an old Jesuit housing project. The magnificent buildings are lovely on the outside, with updated technology on the inside. JMU rents a building near the university, which serves as a dorm for the students.

The University of Antwerp is AACSB accredited. Dr. Clarke says, “We have a good partnership with the University of Antwerp. It has continued for ten years. We owe that to the excellent working relationship we have with Antwerp, and the excellent faculty and staff at the university. 

A number of faculty have served as Faculty Members in Residence (FMIR) for the program, including Bud Clarke, Joyce Guthrie, Matt Rutherford, and Molly Brown. Currently, Carey Cole is the FMIR in Antwerp.  Dr. Clarke recalls, “The FMIR experience was incredible; to work with a group of students at a level you can’t do when you’re on campus here.”

Joyce Guthrie adds, “A big plus for me was getting to know the students on a more personal level. Also, to have the opportunity to live abroad, if only for too short a time, to sample the everyday life experiences of another culture. I wanted to stay for another semester.”

Students also loved their Antwerp experience:

“Antwerp was a revelatory experience for me. I wish I could be succinct in my expression of how the experience changed me, but it was too life-changing to be able to tangibly convey. By and large, the biggest takeaway from my experience abroad was the dawning realization of how little I knew of the world compared to my European friends I met abroad, and how I needed to combat this ignorance (if you will) by propelling myself to learn, learn, and learn.” 
Quincy Nguyen

“Studying abroad was a truly life-changing experience.  By living in a foreign setting, you really learn more about yourself and are able to perceive the world differently.  Communicating and integrating with foreign students was very fascinating and unforgettable as well.  I learned so much about the European history and culture, and I really enjoyed traveling to multiple countries around the continent.”
Douglas Peppel

“Studying abroad in Antwerp, Belgium was by far the best decision I made throughout my college career. Throughout my 90 days of studying abroad, I learned more about leadership, teamwork, and diversity among cultures than the 7,500 days I lived on this earth before my study abroad experience.”
Jason Welsford

"As parents, we want to commend JMU for the planning, supervision, and organization of this program.  The semester in Antwerp was structured to provide not only a wonderful European experience but also a truly educational one.  The students were well prepared for the semester abroad and supported and supervised while there.  Our son is fortunate to have been part of the Antwerp program.  It was an experience which will change his future."
—A parent of a former study abroad student 

The Antwerp program has provided life-changing experiences for both students and faculty. The College of Business appreciates and values the excellent partnership we enjoy with the University of Antwerp. 

Visit our Facebook to view photos from Antwerp. 

Published: Monday, February 18, 2013

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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