In the last four years, Denisha Brekke, a senior majoring in business administration, has visited four continents and six different countries, all through programs run by the Marshall School of Business.
All of the trips — ranging from Santiago, Chile her freshman year to Stockholm, Sweden just a month ago — have been unique and eye-opening experiences for Brekke, but there is one thing that set some of the trips apart: being shown around by a local host.
These hosts are known as Triptrotters, students from universities abroad who are interested in showing their cities to visiting travelers.
“What happens on these trips, especially in big groups of people, is you get there and for going out [at night] you’re on your own and a lot of people are clueless,” Brekke said. “And if you have a host, they can advise you and tell you about the best places to go.”
In addition to being in the know about good clubs and restaurants, cafes and hangout spots, being paired up with a local Triptrotter adds a new dimension to global networking and helps to build cultural understanding, according to Brekke.
Jamie Kwak, a 2010 graduate who majored in accounting and travelled to Budapest, Hungary through the Experiential Corporate Environment Learning Program run by Marshall, echoed Brekke’s sentiment that finding a local guide, as opposed to going on a formal tour, is invaluable.
“One place we went [in Budapest] there were a bunch of local students sitting around the fire drinking tea and eating these weird fish cracker things,” Kwak said. “And you just don’t see that when you go on tours with the big companies.”
There are efforts within the university to help facilitate these individual connections that can add depth to a study abroad experience.
This type of exchange and the expansion of the Trojan family is one of Marshall’s main goals in planning their international programs, according to Sean O’Connell, the director of International Programs at Marshall.
“Almost all of the visits and internship placements are made either with companies in which Trojans are employed, or Trojans own or connections through Trojans abroad,” O’Connell said. “In these programs the true vastness of the Trojan network really becomes something tangible for students and faculty.”
O’Connell said Marshall’s study abroad office believes it is important to support students while they’re abroad, but sometimes the best form of support is letting them experience the culture.
“At Marshall we recognize that with study abroad, quite a bit of the learning takes place outside of the classroom, and so we want the students to have access to these individuals, and the lessons they can teach, while they are away from campus,” O’Connell said. “It’s also great to see a friendly face when you are halfway around the world.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that “Students say local guides improve abroad experience.” They are known as Local Triptrotters, not local guides.