Reflections from Germany and Italy Study Abroad


By: Abhijeet Jhala, 2018 MBA Candidate

Its been a week since we came back from our immersive component of our study abroad Europe program. Every single day while we were in Europe provided an opportunity to experience and gain deeper understanding of European Culture (especially German and Italian) and objectively learn and discover something that can be a life-changing (at the least thought provoking 😊) for some of us. 

From knowledge of different cultures, to communication skills to adaptability – we were able to absorb quite a bit during our study abroad trip.  Here are the top lessons learned from our Europe Immersive Experience:

Each European County had its own unique culture

One of the greatest things about Europe that we experienced was the ability to witness first-hand how unique each country can be. From Germany to Italy was like entering a new world – everything from the scenery to the way people interact with each other, to the way businesses are organized and conducted.

German’s are obsessed with Engineering, While Italians with Style and Fashion!  

Some of the most advanced and sophisticated engineering innovations in Europe are likely to come from Germany, and it was apparent in our interactions (with businesses and locals) that German’s deeply care about precision in Engineering.    On the other hand, Milan and Italy in general is all about Style, Fashion and craftsmanship for the finer things in life – jewelry, watches, leather goods, clothes etc.  Everything in Italy looks and felt so good 😊 

German’s have a serious approach to life, while Italians are carefree, laidback and relaxed

We felt that German’s are more particular about time and punctuality than Italians.  Italians are less driven by schedules than by a casualness vis-à-vis time.  One of our tour guide summarized this difference well, she said “German trains run on time and Italians trains runs on track and occasionally on time”. 

German Education System seems to take financial burden off Students

One of the unique aspects of German education structure is its emphasis on vocational training and apprenticeship.   Most Germans are education within the state funded public system of education, which is divided into three general levels:  elementary school, secondary and higher education.  

Since most of the education is state funded, it does provide German students a smooth transition into adulthood and professional life (without student loans and debts) and that gives more freedom and liberty to individuals to experiment with their personal and professional careers.

German’s skilled workforce and economic cluster-based development approach are its strength

Germany has taken a very structured approach to developing economic clusters, with specialized industries mobilized around regional areas of expertise.  We visited Leipzig, part of Central Germany’s Mittledeutschland region, one of the most important economic regions for industrialization and learned how the entire region is mobilized around areas 3 key areas – Chemicals, Automobiles, and Life Sciences. 

The main idea behind these economic clusters is to move away from narrowly focusing on growing one particular company/industry, to focusing on common interest between companies and local economy, and to create greater value for the region overall.   Such an approach creates greater social economic value. 

And….finally, Food, Wine, and Desserts never tasted so good!

Okay – this one might be obvious to most, but it want to me.  Growing up in India and having lived in the US for a long time now, I had gotten used to savory Pasta and Pizza’s and wine in the US, but the ones that you get in Europe – especially Italy are on a different level all together.  Smith Students enjoyed everything Local – from local coffee’s to freshly made breads, pizza and gelato.  Here’s a little advice:  Do your own research or ask locals where they eat — you might just find yourself enjoying fresh Pasta prepared by your server’s mother. 


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