Few people would readily associate Hamburg with Columbus, Ohio, yet bonds linking the cities are being forged by regular student exchanges between two of their finest tertiary institutions, the KLU and Ohio State University.
The latest exchange has seen 40 freshmen business students from the Fisher College of Business at the OSU spend four weeks in the German port city, where they participated in a programme of study, language lessons and cultural exchanges at the KLU, as well as embarking on frequent excursions to local businesses and on sight-seeing trips.
“It’s been a cool experience,” enthuses Shelby Kohmann, a 19-year-old accounting major, of her time in Hamburg. “I personally loved the international business side of the study we’ve done here, because it merges business with history and politics, which is something I find really interesting.
“On the logistics side, it’s been cool looking out the window and seeing all the cranes, and boats coming into the harbour, seeing the commerce of the city right there. I’ve never had that before.”
Classmate and fellow 19-year-old Tommy Lowden from Greensburg, Pennsylvania says he has also been impressed by the seminars and the opportunity to pick up some of the local language. “Before I came here, I knew zilch German. Being able to order food and having the person respond in German has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me.”
Shelby admits she hasn’t learnt as much of the language as she would have liked, but that hasn’t proved an obstacle to living in the city. “It’s pretty easy to navigate round Hamburg without speaking German. I feel I picked up my bearings here much faster than I thought I would. After being here for a month, I don’t feel out of place in Hamburg.”
The environmental friendliness of the port city has also struck a chord with the Cleveland native.
“I’m very impressed by the sustainability and efficiency here. Handing in glass bottles for refunds and paying for plastic bags are things that we could take back to the US,” she says.
“It’s much cleaner than at home and I wish we had the public transport that they have here,” adds Tommy. “I like how green it is - people in Hamburg value being outside.”
In addition to their study programme, the OSU students have taken tours of the harbour and the city, visited the headquarters of Nivea manufacturer Beiersdorf, and gone on trips to Lübeck and Berlin.
There have also been plenty of opportunities to meet and mingle with KLU students throughout the study trip.
“We’ve hung out with a lot of KLU students outside of the class and that cross-cultural experience has been cool. It’s been great to exchange cultures and then be able to go back home and share that with friends and family,” says Shelby. “The trip has helped me catch the travel bug and maybe I’ll work in or run my own multinational in the future. I can see myself networking with my classmates and the students I met here in the future.”
“I liked experiencing the different language and culture,” agrees Tommy. “It gives me a different viewpoint on what it might be like in the future if I want to pursue a career in international business. And the KLU staff, they’ve been really open and approachable. I wouldn’t feel awkward about contacting them in the future.”
This trip also heralds the beginning of a new opportunity for KLU students to study abroad, with the Fisher College of Business at OSU offering a place to one KLU BSc student to study at the college for the January to May 2018 semester.