UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It may be one of the most popular study tours offered by Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Business Administration.
In less than 72 hours after it was offered, the Study Tour to London was filled, with 16 students signing up to take a “Business Trip” to London during Spring Break in early March 2018. The group included 10 MBA students and six undergraduate business students.
While it was fun for the students to travel to London and see sights like Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and the London Theatre District, this was a real business trip, which offered a weeklong look at international business.
“It really was a business trip in the truest sense of the term,” said David Buehler, assistant professor of economics, who accompanied the students, along with Patrick Cusatis, associate professor of finance. “Students wore business attire, attended formal business meetings, and were able to see business and banking from a historical perspective with all of the British business traditions,” added Cusatis.
For Jordan Laird, an MBA student, one of the most impressive aspects of the trip was attending Lloyd’s of London and learning about the insurance market. Jarek Balkovic, an undergrad finance major, was impressed with attending a course at Oxford University.
“I decided to go on this trip to gain some more exposure to the international financial markets. I was interested in learning more about the financial system in London as well as the differing views on the global economy and workplace culture compared to America,” said Laird.
As Buehler notes, having the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at places like Lloyd’s of London, a tour and business lecture at Oxford University, and viewing the open-outcry trading ring at the London Metal Exchange allowed students to feel immersed in the London business world, even though the trip was just a little more than a week.
The London trip has been offered since 2004, and in the 14 years since it was started, the School of Business Administration has fine-tuned the trip to provide a well-organized and intense itinerary. From early in the morning to evening, students experienced the rigors of a real business trip, with meetings, discussions, lectures and tours.
“The objective of this course is to provide finance students with exposure to the international capital markets, particularly in the U.K.,” says Cusatis, noting that modern financial markets are complex and global, and due to their rapid integration, it is essential for finance students to have exposure to them.
While in London, the students had the opportunity to become familiar with the U.K. banking system and financial and derivatives markets.
The week began with a walking tour of the financial district and a corporate visit to the famous Lloyd’s of London. The next day, the students visited the prestigious Oxford University for a guided tour and business lecture. They learned about the international currency market and the expected effects of Brexit. The rest of the week included visits to the London Metal Exchange, Barclay’s, The Carlyle Group, Deloitte, and the Intercontinental Exchange. Brexit was a topic that was brought up in many of the meetings.
“I think that was one of the most interesting aspects of discussion,” says Buehler, noting that Great Britain is sorting out how the June 2016 vote for withdrawal of the United Kingdom (U.K.) from the European Union (EU) will eventually pan out. “We will have to see how this 50/50 vote impacts the financial markets in the U.K. and Europe. This is uncharted territory.”
The London business trip was not all business, however. The trip offered free time for students to experience London and surrounding areas. They were able to plan brief excursions to see sites like Stonehenge and the British Museum. Some students attended a British soccer game, while others took to the theatre district, where shows like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” first premiered.
“One of the nice surprises was that the American dollar was up in value over the British pound at the time, so our money went further in the U.K.,” says Cusatis, who influenced creation of the course.
The London business trip was the culmination of a 15-week, three-credit course, and scholarship opportunities are available for qualifying students to assist in financing travel expenses.
“The trip afforded great networking opportunities with companies and provided insight into their respective businesses as well,” noted Laird.