Central Europe Connect - Digital course week at SGH Warsaw
Alexander Hilber participates in the Central Europe Connect program and reports about his impressions after the course week at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics, which took place digitally due to COVID.
Why did you choose the CEC program?
Different cultures have interested me since my childhood. In my youth, I was lucky enough to travel a lot and was always fascinated to learn from other cultures. After my positive experiences during my semester abroad, it was clear to me that I wanted to take advantage of all of WU's international opportunities. Since I had hardly been able to find any connection to Eastern Europe and the economic area that is very interesting for me there, the CEC program was perfect for me. Before the program began, I was already looking forward to working with students from other countries. I wanted to discover and understand new approaches and hoped to make new acquaintances from Poland and Slovakia. After the first week of the CEC program I can already say that these expectations were more than exceeded.
What is it like to participate in this (online) short study program?
When we were informed that the program would be held online this semester, I was a bit sceptical and disappointed. Of course, I was really looking forward to going to Warsaw and Bratislava. But already on the first day I was convinced that the place where you are right now does not play a big role in gaining intercultural experiences. Even though it was a big change to visit all lectures online and to coordinate the group work via video chat, the program was very exciting and interactive.
Through the numerous projects and tasks in small groups, we had the opportunity to meet new people from the first day on. Additional workshops and the online city tour as well as the company visit enriched the program even more. Every evening I was looking forward to having another exciting experience and learning something new the next day.
What have you learned academically from the first online CEC course week of SGH Warsaw?
The first week focused on the very exciting topic of consumer behavior. With the help of numerous examples and group work we were shown what influence consumer ethnocentrism, the views of a consumer on products from another country, has on consumer behavior and how this is relevant for companies and especially for marketing. This week I learned how to question potential customers in a meaningful way and how to obtain the right data. We were also shown how to interpret and use this data to make recommendations for product managers. Through our final group project, we were able to put the knowledge we gained into practice. First of all we created a questionnaire which we had students in Poland answer. We then processed the data obtained and received very interesting results. We could then use these results to make strategic recommendations for specific products. I found this project very exciting and through the constant discussion with colleagues from different countries, I got to know new approaches and understood the topic very well.
Which social and intercultural experiences have you had in the courses?
At first, I thought that the cultural differences between the three countries were not too great because of their geographical proximity. But after the first group work, this opinion changed very quickly. I found the communication of some of the group members a bit brash, almost impolite. But once we got to know each other better and understood our cultural differences, this feeling turned into the exact opposite. There was a great dynamic in the group and we motivated each other a lot. However, I learned from this that online it is even more difficult to assess the other person correctly and it took me a little longer to understand my colleagues.
I was particularly struck by the great importance of Polish history. The long influence of the Soviet Empire is still noticeable today and can be seen in many thought patterns and attitudes. Especially during the lectures with the Polish professors, this quickly became clear to me. I was very positive about the attitude of my Polish colleagues, who attached great importance to good cooperation and the success of the whole group.
"It was very great to experience and observe how the dynamics within our group developed during this week. Everyone wanted to learn more about the other group members and showed great interest in the common tasks. It was great to see how we respected and understood the views of others. My personal highlight was the point at which we had overcome the cultural hurdles and the feeling of shyness, which I felt at first, and became a real team. We motivated our speakers before each presentation and afterwards praised each other for the great success of the group."
Would you recommend other students to apply for the CEC program?
Yeah, definitely. The program offers a very exciting and varied approach to the topics. You learn to cope with cultural challenges quickly and find great new friends in other countries. I am convinced that in this program I have made a personal development in addition to the professional one, which will help me a lot in my professional life in the international business world.
SGH Warsaw School of Economics
Location: Warsaw, Poland
Population of Warsaw: ca. 1.790.658
Number of students: ca. 16.500
Exchange level: Bachelor, Master