Business Lessons from London

Guest Post By: Jason Aochi, a Junior studying Accounting and Information Systems. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and he studied abroad through Business London during Spring Break 2024.

During the past three months, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Business London study abroad program. This career-focused program had two parts: a career course during Winter Quarter and an international trip to visit employers during Spring Break. The Business London cohort contained 19 Foster students from all majors and all class standings. It was so much fun going abroad with this group!

This program is a highlight of my collegiate career for two main reasons. First, it built career knowledge and directly applied it to real-world examples. Not only was the career class informative about building an international career, but the trip allowed me to see firsthand professionals putting that information into practice. Second, this program was my first trip outside the United States and Canada (and the Canada trip was only half a day). This was my first major trip to another country and experiencing another country’s culture with my own eyes.

An International Career Course

During Winter Quarter, Andy Rabitoy and Lucas Ruiz of Foster Career Services led a career class covering job research, resumes, networking, and everything in between. While I had experience going through the job application and recruiting process, this course had useful tips to keep my career skills sharp. And as a part of a study abroad program, this career course emphasized international business and careers. A major focus was put on researching international businesses, business cultures, and international jobs.

One of my favorite parts about this course was the guest speakers the class hosted. Each guest shared with us their unique background and perspective on international careers. Some of the guests included government officials like Robin Twyman from the UK Government Office and UW alumni like Lydia Kobluk. Getting a chance to ask questions and hear them tell stories from their international experiences was extremely valuable.

After nine weekly classes, it quickly became time to hop across the pond to London.

Business Across the Pond

After catching a red eye from Seattle to London, I landed at Heathrow airport, the current busiest airport in Europe. I then took an Uber from the airport to central London, following the A4 road and passing several landmarks. It was amazing just to walk around the city. While this study abroad trip was for business (specifically visiting businesses), I had plenty of time to experience cultural institutions and landmarks including the Palace of Westminster, Tower Bridge, and more. And as a group, the Business London cohort made time to visit Windsor Castle and Emirates Stadium. To get everywhere within the city, we took advantage of the London Underground (the Tube) and Bus systems (the famous double-decker buses).

This experience’s defining feature was the company visits. As a part of the program, I was able to visit six employers in London and meet with their professionals in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. During our time in London, the cohort visited six companies: Protiviti, Google, Amazon, EY, SoftBank, and Starbucks. In addition, the Business London program hosted an alumni mixer where we met with professionals from even more companies. All of the professionals our cohort met were happy to talk about their career journeys and interests with us. While every professional had a unique perspective on being in international business or having an international career, there are also some common themes that emerged throughout the week. The three themes that stood out to me were:

  1. No two career paths are the same. I know this is a very common point to make, but it came up quite a bit during the trip. Some professionals we met built careers at just one company. Others switched entire industries to end up where they are today. Many of them landed somewhere in the middle.
  2. International professionals are self-advocates. At all the firms we visited, the professionals who wanted to work abroad set a clear goal of working internationally early on, then worked towards that goal. They talked to mentors and managers about their goal and advocated for themselves when an international career opportunity appeared.
  3. Cross-cultural understanding is critical to success. Employees from all over the world come to London to work on international projects. Learning to navigate work culture differences was an important part of learning to collaborate. Professionals also shared how having a diverse team can help introduce new perspectives and ideas.

I am very glad I applied to the Business London study abroad program. The Winter Quarter career course and the Spring Break trip fit perfectly in my academic schedule. The chance to see more of the world was amazing, plus I got to meet so many wonderful people. As I continue along my own career journey, I will carry the lessons I learned from both the career course and the trip with me.