Destinations and Journeys

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

This is the iconic Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that I’ve always admired. It makes me think of long road trips down winding roads, but also lets me ruminate about the future, the definition of success, the spark of passion. It’s simple but meaningful. It’s cliché – probably overused countless times to depict study abroad – but also wonderfully refreshing.

When I used to hear the words “study abroad”, I would think of flying to a place faraway to continue my education. It was Point A to Point B – the journey was the flight, the destination was the school. It was as if with the snap of a finger I would go from studying in one library to another thousands of miles away. Once I learned more what study abroad can offer, I began to understand that it is much more than a change in scenery. As I get ready to leave in seven days to begin my semester abroad, I feel like I am embarking on the beginning of a journey, or maybe one of the roads along the journey.

My friends are getting ready to move in again – everyone is excited to get back to campus. The end of sophomore year felt like a mini graduation, with 2-year academic programs that helped me meet most of my closest friends coming to a close, with us moving out of the residence hall where we all met two years prior. This summer we were all spread out around the world for internships. For a few weeks now with the start of the school year approaching, I’ve felt nostalgic knowing that I won’t be with them this semester. I realized this is something every study abroad student feels, and that it’s a good feeling because it shows how important these people are to me. Study abroad is a taste of the world after graduation. I am grateful to have the opportunity to begin this adventure, and I am excited to continue my education inside and outside of the classroom in Vallendar.

I have been looking forward to studying abroad in Vallendar, Germany for a long time now. What first drew me to the program was my desire to gain experience living and studying in the country that I was born in, where my extended family and culture live and come from. I moved to the States when I was four, and although I revisit Germany in the summers, I haven’t ever consciously lived there for a long period of time. I knew I wanted to study abroad – my older sister’s experience totally sold me – so freshman year I went to Smith’s study abroad page and searched for programs in Germany. That’s how I found WHU Otto Beisheim in Vallendar. After visiting my family last summer, I drove to the Vallendar campus and walked down its streets. I got lunch with a marketing professor at Vallendar and explored some of the academic buildings. The Center for Global Business also connected me with a UMD student who had studied abroad in Vallendar a few semesters back, so I got to hear about her experience before deciding to apply in early Spring 2019.

What do I expect about my semester in Vallendar? It’s a really tough question to answer. I am starting to think about what I should pack in my luggage, but I think one of the best things to pack is an open mind. I do know that academically I hope to learn more about the business world in Germany. As a German native, I can picture myself moving back one day and working at an international company in the US or Germany. Through my internship experience this summer in Munich at a US-German company, I got a glimpse into German corporate culture, and I know WHU Otto Beisheim is a leading school in Germany that will continue to expose me to business culture. I can’t wait to get to know the exchange students from around the world, as well as the local German students. It will be an amazing opportunity to share passions and learn about new cultures.

Thanks for reading my thoughts about this upcoming journey. I look forward to sharing my experiences on the roads along the way.











Alexander Leipold

Alexander Leipold is a junior majoring in Marketing and Operations Management & Business Analytics. He is excited to be studying at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany for the Fall 2019 semester. A German native, he moved to the States at age 4 and has grown up speaking German at home. Alexander loves to travel and has had the opportunity to participate in short-term study abroad programs to Cape Town, South Africa and most recently Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan. In his free time, Alexander enjoys playing the guitar and writing music.

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