Not often a word that sparks fond thoughts or thrilling memories. Although, it does for Emily Greear, a senior from Abingdon, Virginia, who attended a month-long educational exchange program in Italy over the summer.

Living in a small Italian village and attending classes with students from Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and other countries around the world, Greear exchanged many colloquialisms with locals and other international students during her stay. “Yikes” was of particular interest to one Italian classmate who later asked for more “cool American slang words,” and it now remains a vivid example of unique cultural transactions for Greear.

Greear was one of two Virginia Tech Agricultural and Applied Economics students to travel over 4,000 miles from Blacksburg to attend an International Business School program on International Management and Leadership at the CUOA Business School in Alta villa Vicentina, Italy.

“The whole experience heightened our global curiosity in wanting to understand cross-cultural leadership and business skills,” said Matt Rowe, a senior from Roanoke, Virginia, who also attended the program.

Greear and Rowe were the only U.S. students in a cohort of 100.

“I was shocked by how welcoming everyone was and how much they wanted to get to know you and build a network,” said Greear.

But with 98 other classmates including young adults and experienced professionals, excursions to the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, plus extra travel time, Greear and Rowe gained much more than a network. In the classroom, Greear and Rowe gained knowledge, learning frameworks for understanding global management and leadership and connecting principles they had previously learned in Ambassador Richard Crowder’s negotiation class. But outside the classroom – living independently, traveling solo, and learning how to connect with diverse populations – they gained confidence, knowledge, and global leadership competence.

“It gave us a strong background on ways to be respectful, ways to interact, and ways to approach things in a successful business sense,” said Greear, who hopes to pursue a career in international trade.

Classes focused on leadership theories and included projects, simulations, and industry visits to drive home key points including ways to learn your leadership style and how to draw out leadership traits in others – things Rowe and Greear see themselves doing in future careers.

Rowe plans to use his newfound leadership traits and his learned knowledge on cultivating leaders working with students in a Higher Education role after he graduates next spring, while Greear has plans to pursue a Master’s degree upon graduation.

But whether these two young leaders end up two feet or 10,000 miles from the doors of Hutcheson Hall, they are confident that the skills, knowledge, and memories gained in Italy will stick with them far into the future.



Jillian Broadwell