Each fall for the past 20 years, a growing cohort of St. Thomas business undergraduates have escaped the confines of their American classrooms and traveled to the U.K. to spend a semester studying in London as part of the London Business Semester (LBS). Since it began in 1995, more than 1,000 students have taken part in the program, immersing themselves for a short but intense time living with a host family, attending classes and exploring the culture, customs, politics and business of this global capital.

Across the United States, participation in study abroad programs grew five percent in 2013-14 and shows promise of continued growth, according to NAFSA, the Association for International Educators. In the last year for which data is available, more than 300,000 U.S. college students traveled abroad… 9,000 of them from Minnesota and more than 10 percent of those from St. Thomas! It’s no wonder St. Thomas consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally for the percent of undergraduates studying abroad.

According to NAFSA’s research, study abroad gives students more than just a chance to be tourists. It has real, tangible impact on:

  • Completion, retention and transfer rates
  • GPAs
  • Language learning
  • Employability and career skills

To commemorate its 20th anniversary, LBS surveyed past participants to discover how the program has impacted their lives. We learned that 96 percent believed the program had a positive influence on their career and that 87 percent still keep in contact with their fellow LBS students.

In advance of the LBS celebration party on April 8, which will reunite 100 alumni, faculty directors and special guests from London, we wanted to share some of the responses we received from participants when they were asked to recall their best memories or describe what the program meant to them.

Students

Patrick and Anna Schaber, 1995
“The LBS had a big impact on our personal lives – we met on the program, married and now have a 13 and a 10 year old! The appreciation and curiosity for international cultures we gained during our time in London also has led to a career in which I’ve traveled extensively around the world on business. We’ve also continued to vacation internationally including recently taking our kids to London!”

Stephanie Francis-Jones, 1998
“I would have never guessed when I left Minneapolis in early August 1998 with my dad to explore England and Scotland before meeting my LBS friends that I would end up marrying a Brit, become a UK citizen and have two dual national children. The LBS had an immeasurable impact on my personal and professional life. London will forever be my heart’s home; I may not have grown up there, but it’s where I became a professional, adult, wife and mother.”

LaChelle Seleski, 1998
“Since we were able to live in London for 3 months, we were not rushed to take in everything in a couple days like a typical trip. We were able to really enjoy all that London has to offer… LBS taught me a great deal about other cultures as we were able to travel to other countries on the weekends. I grew as a person because we were on our own and we had to be responsible when things did not go as planned. We dealt with the problems as they came up and the consequences and moved on, learning from the experience  – which is what we do in business as well.”

Stephanie Besiada, 2010
Another thing I’ve found as I left college is that meeting groups of new people is not that easy anymore – and I cherish the friendships and memories that came from meeting and getting to know all of these people.”

Shannon Graunke, 2010
“Studying abroad opened my eyes to making sure you really listen to person’s wants and needs, especially when working with people from different cultures.”

Sarah Hendricks, 2011
“London is a melting pot of different cultures. Throughout my time there, I grew to understand the importance of cultural diversity within communities. This is something I keep top of mind when creating localized apparel assortment strategies for Target stores across the U.S. My time as part of LBS really taught me to look at business through a global perspective and truly helped me prepare for life outside of college and in the professional world.

I met some of my best friends during my semester in London who, to this day, are still part of my life. There is a group of five us who get together once a month for breakfast. We call ourselves the Breakfast Club and we have not missed a month since getting back from London in December of 2011. This is one of my favorite traditions! In addition, I view my time in London as the most transformative three-and-a-half months of my life. It is the time that I really grew up and gained an independent spirit. I fell in love with traveling the world.”

Leigh Borgeson, 2014
“Not only is it easy to start small talk about all of the wonderful activities in which I had participated in abroad, I was also able to apply the knowledge I had gained from being in a new culture. Being adaptable, responsible and independent are truly invaluable skills and I don’t think I would have landed my internships without them!”

Kilee Pertl, 2014
“After returning from studying abroad, I was more aware of different cultures and the impact this can have on groups or organizations. This awareness translates into my career, because diversity is an important focus for many companies. I was able to travel from country to country and see the cultural differences that define the people. How they said hello and goodbye, what the eating customs were like or listening to the vastly different languages all were eye-opening experiences that allowed me to have a chance to see a part of the world that I had only read about in books.”

Faculty Directors

Mary Daugherty
“LBS, especially the first time, really opened my eyes to how students could benefit from looking at how companies operate (not just financially but operationally) throughout the world. I have found the students I bring back from London are more well-rounded, accepting and excited about the world than the students that I took to London. Many of my alumni have worked in multinational firms, either here or abroad. I even have had a few move back to London for a time.”

Richard Rexeisen
“Without exception, each time I talk with my former students they comment on the positive impact that their study abroad experience has had on their lives.

Phil Anderson
“[The students] see the interconnectedness their work has with world events and how to use that knowledge to improve results in their daily work. Their study abroad experience enriched their personal lives, infusing them with a desire to continue to travel and explore the world around them. The fact that several of the students found their spouses in their study abroad cohort is another testament to the role study abroad has played in their lives.”

For look back at LBS, and London, over the past 20 years, check out this video created by Megan Herdering. LBS peer advisor:

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