Gelila is a junior in Industrial Systems Engineering with a minor in Business Leadership. She’s lived with her family in Toronto, Canada and Northern Virginia. Although she frequently visits family in Ethiopia, this was her first time to the Middle East and India:

I found the flyer for “Business, Culture and Leadership in India, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi” in a bathroom stall in Hancock Hall. I guess it proves your international journey can start from anywhere. The program is worth 3 credits towards my minor in business leadership. I decided to minor in business leadership because I see myself in high level management or running a company someday. I want to graduate Virginia Tech with the knowledge to take my career in any direction. During the wintermester program, 10 VT students spent 4 days in the UAE and 10 days in India. One-third of our group were also engineering students. Our accompanying professor, Redd Kennedy, tied the trip together by helping us make connections and comparisons through discussions and company visits.

young woman in sari with palms together

I felt most at home in India. We visited the cities of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Hyderabad. I found that Indian culture has many similarities to my native Ethiopian culture, such as warmth and a candid way of communicating. While abroad, I strived to learn as much about the culture as possible through self-immersion and exchanging experiences with my peers and elders. My way of respecting the culture is to try and be active in it. My favorite moment was conversing with a store owner in broken Hindi. After showing my efforts to learn the language, the store owner opened up about his life. He had learned many languages in order to communicate with tourists and improve his business. This encounter inspired me to be more open even after returning to the US.

While researching the business practices of the UAE and India before traveling, I was surprised at how different their internal business structures are. The UAE correlates more closely with the US, while India aligns more with China. I was also inspired by the UAE’s efforts to move away from the perception of “only oil” and supplement it with technology and architecture investments. While in the UAE, I was most impacted by a lecture give at Khalifa University. The speaker shared his vision for the future of sustainable energy and challenged our class to write down what we hope to accomplish in our lifetimes. I realized my desire to be connected globally to people and start my own non-profit or philanthropy to aid developing countries.

I would definitely recommend this trip to a friend. If they were new to Eastern cultures, I would advise them to be open-minded. Don’t get frustrated, enjoy the new experience. To those who have traveled before, I would recommend entering the experience with the intention of gaining something, whether it be culturally or professionally.

During our trip we stayed in hotels. I would love to go back to India and participate in a homestay where I could further immerse myself in everyday life. I would also spend more time exploring the streets and meeting locals rather than visiting tourist attractions.

After this trip, I see myself running a philanthropy where I can intertwine my engineering, business, and people skills to help those in need. I was inspired to take on a semester exchange in Curitiba, Brazil in the fall of 2019 at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná. Two weeks in India and the UAE was just too short. I plan to continue challenging myself to learn about new cultures and people all over the world.