Italy, Mexico, Sweden. Three locations far away from New Paltz, and ones that might sound alluring to students wishing to get away from class or even just the weather. For 17 students on campus, despite the fact that these locations are called home, they chose to spend two months living on campus at SUNY New Paltz.
The Institute for International Business (IIB) offers a program once a semester for a select group of graduate students in other countries to come study at SUNY New Paltz for two months, after which they spend their remaining two months at various unpaid internships in New York City. The program is designed to help prepare English-speaking international students for the global business environment, as quoted in the promotional pamphlet for the program.
Students take courses such as Consumer Behavior, Legal Environment of Business, Advertising Strategy, Fundamentals of Corporate Finance and Introduction to Derivatives and Risk Management, to name a few.
But academics is just part of what participants call an “enriching cultural experience”. In the two months on campus, students can become integrated with the American lifestyle, explore small towns in America and visit cities and attractions on the East Coast.
“It’s a really great opportunity to see both sides,” said Elin Kvist, a 23-year-old student from Sweden. “You get the countryside and the city all in one. You get the real America. We have had a lot of fun.”
Jeff Pollard, the coordinator of the program for the last seven years, helps the students to assimilate to the new experience.
“Essentially this is a study abroad experience,” said Pollard. “We run it twice a year and do everything from recruitment to picking them up at the airport and bringing them here.”
Once students are selected for the program, an extensive process of evaluating a sizable online application, face-to-face interviews via Skype or FaceTime and assessing their abilities in conversational English, they are issued their visa documents and invited to SUNY New Paltz, according to Pollard.
“We coordinate with the School of Business so that they can audit two business classes,” Pollard said. “After that they decide the other two courses they wish to take, the ones that will best meet their individual studies.”
Unfortunately the program does not offer any pre-arranged trips for students to visit some of the nearby attractions, but they still manage to see more than just Main Street.
“We have been able to travel and see the American sites,” said Johan Rohyo, a 24-year-old student from Sweden. “Like we have seen the college, the students that live here. We have done so much and seen so many things. I really appreciate that.”
Rohyo talked of a road trip some of the students took together. Some visited Washington D.C. while others went as far as Niagara Falls. Rohyo himself even went skydiving while staying in New Paltz.
“I wanted to try something that I have always wanted to do, and I thought, ‘what better opportunity than while I am here’,” Rohyo said. “It was amazing!”
For the students participating in the IIB program, the time they spend in New Paltz is somewhat bittersweet. Though Pollard has had students in the program live on campus before, it usually comes down to available space, he said. According to Pollard, for the last few years the students in the program have lived off campus at the local Super 8.
“We live in a hotel,” said Minerva Cornejo, a 22-year-old student from Mexico. “It’s like 50/50. When you’re on campus you get to know people more and the area more and the things of New Paltz. But in a hotel we can just relax with each other. They clean your room, it’s bigger space. That’s comfortable.”
The students have now begun their internships in the city and are beginning to experience the other side of life in New York. The students live together in an apartment there and participate in their internships full-time during the week, Pollard said.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Pollard said.
But only the students themselves can fully explain the benefits of the IIB program.
“You learn so much,” said Rohyo. “You do so many things that you wouldn’t do at home. And you do and see so many things that you wouldn’t do on a vacation. On a vacation you see all the tourist stuff and it’s kind of boring because you do it everywhere. So it doesn’t matter if you go to London or New York. It’s the same thing. So I recommend do [a study abroad program] and meet some people, work, and get a different view of things.”
Visit the students’ blog, set up as part of their public relations course, that details their academic and cultural experiences: http://newpaltziibpr.wordpress.com.