University of Tennessee

Haslam Students Experience Brexit Firsthand While Studying in Germany

July 6, 2016

Nineteen Haslam College of Business undergraduate students returned from Germany on July 3 after spending a month taking upper-level courses in economics and international business.

Based in Freiburg, Germany, they visited several locations including the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, just two weeks before Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. While there students had a private audience with a German parliament member, hearing his firsthand opinion on the historic Brexit (British exit) referendum’s impact on global business, politics and society.

Other site visits included Lindt Chocolate and UBS Bank in Zurich, Switzerland, Mercedes-Benz, Ritter Sport and Bosch in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Hartmannswillerkopf World War I memorial, museum and cemetery in France.

The trip was led by associate professors Marianne Wanamaker, Scott Gilpatric and Georg Schaur. They taught “Economics of Business Strategy” and “Firms in International Markets,” both 400-level courses.

“The course material was focused on international firms and their challenges,” Wanamaker said. “We can certainly teach that on campus, but the details are more likely to make an impression in a study abroad context.”

One such impression, according to Wanamaker, was the frustration of attempting train travel during a labor strike.

“Many of these students will eventually find themselves in the position of having to think about supply chain management in Europe,” Wanamaker said. “I am certain these experiences will help them appreciate the continent’s more unique challenges.”

When the students were at their residences in Germany they participated in local immersion by spending time with local university students and being introduced to customs and culture by Schaur, who hails from the country.

Connor McNiff, a junior studying business analytics and international business, found the Germans he met to be “much more reserved in their social interactions” than Americans.

“They don’t greet you unless they know you,” McNiff said. “It’s different, but I got used to it. My favorite part of the trip was taking a hike in the German vineyards. Afterward we had an incredible home-cooked meal with Dr. Schaur and his parents at their home.”

Gilpatric said that in addition to international institutions and companies, students had opportunities to explore local issues and enterprises as a point of comparison with their experiences in Knoxville.

“One example would be a city council member’s unstated premise that city development should be planned and centrally managed, rather than left to private developers,” Gilpatric said. “Additionally, students got an inside look at firms like the investment bank UBS that are so international in character as to really have very little national identity. They also got to understand firms like Migros, whose identity is completely tied to its place in Swiss society.”