The close of each spring semester brings feelings of accomplishment, excitement, and often a bit of nostalgia. These are only intensified when the end of the spring semester is also the end of a semester abroad—the completion of a life-changing experience in a foreign country, that ironically becomes a new place to call “home.”
These feelings are all too familiar for Patrick Finney, a rising junior and marketing major in George Mason’s School of Business who just completed a semester abroad at the KEDGE Business School in Marseille, France.
Deciding where to study abroad was relatively easy for Finney. With a commitment to mastering French fluently and considering schools that offered courses relevant to his major, KEDGE was a clear choice.
“KEDGE Business School is within the top 10 circle for the Grand Ecole system in France. It is a well-respected college on an international level and has a local reputation of being reserved for the best in the city,” explains Finney. “There is a broad level of international diversity in the streets, businesses, and the KEDGE campus. It’s similar to Mason in a lot of ways, and I feel that the diversity in our school has prepared me for international life like this.”
Additionally, KEDGE is part of Mason’s Direct Exchange programs, which makes the application process and credit transfer seamless. Finney’s courses at KEDGE in organizational behavior, principles of marketing, sustainable development, and management information systems all counted as credits toward his Mason marketing degree.
While Finney has enjoyed these courses, some of his greatest learning experiences have come from outside the classroom. In particular, he recalls a memorable meeting at the Bloomberg Financial Analysis office. While finance is not Finney’s favorite subject, to his surprise he enjoyed the opportunity to work in the Bloomberg Terminal and speak at length with one of the company’s marketing project managers.
“She and I spoke about her daily schedule, opportunities within the company, and then also my potential involvement. In this meeting, I got some well–needed perspective,” says Finney. “I’m on the cusp of some big opportunities, the likes of which I didn’t think would come so soon.”
On top of the immense professional learning opportunities, Finney has grown personally from an array of experiences most only dream about. From touring the South of France and skiing the Alps to mastering French from native speakers and celebrating Easter with Pope Francis at iconic St. Peter’s Square, it seems that he has done almost everything one could on this trip.
The one thing he has not done is regret his choice to study abroad, and Finney advises other students to thoughtfully consider their options before making a final study abroad commitment.
“Before making any serious decision, make sure that the product sits in line with your head and your heart,” advises Finney. “If the three don’t make sense together, you’ll eventually question your decision. Questioning leads to doubt and doubt leads to regret. The last thing you want to do is regret being alone on a flight out of the country for half a year.”
This study abroad experience may be all the more meaningful for Finney as it was made possible in part due to Finney’s receipt of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, making him one of 860 American undergraduate students from 332 colleges across the nation to receive the prestigious scholarship for the Spring 2015 semester. Finney describes the support of the Gilman Scholarship as irreplaceable and attributes it greatly to his success.
“No matter how much we want to be independent and for success to come by ourselves only, we will be able to achieve more, faster when we learn to be interdependent. The ever-prevalent idea that we are the ultimate determinants of our own happiness is nothing without the participation of others.”
In conjunction with this theme of interdependent success, all Gilman Scholars complete a follow-on service project after their time abroad that promotes international education and the Gilman Scholarship Program at the students' home institution or in their home community.
For his service project, Finney will develop a product that he says he wished he had during the application process: a student handbook for studying abroad. This guide will be made available for free in Mason’s Center for Global Education and will include an application schedule, checklists, helpful files, insider’s lingo, and photographs for inspiration.
For more information on study abroad opportunities at Mason, visit the Center for Global Education.