Lerner Students Host Sorbonne Peers in Study Abroad Exchange Program

Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics student Annmarie Pepeta chose the University of Delaware because of its study abroad program, the oldest in the country, which is celebrating 100 years beginning this spring. She had good reason: the initiative has grown to more than 100 programs in 40 countries. 

Last year she found a niche study abroad program through Lerner when she participated in the inaugural Trade Negotiation Simulation and Cultural Exchange between Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris and UD’s Lerner College. Now her teacher, Ryan Sanders, an adjunct professor of leadership development in the department of business administration, selected her to be a teaching assistant this year and help plan the UD visit for Parisian students. She will also go back to Paris in January with other UD business students.

“When I was looking at the different study abroad programs I noticed that this one was almost like an exchange program with Sorbonne students, so that was a little different for me versus just going and taking a class,” said Pepeta, a senior marketing and management major with a minor in international business. “I went really knowing no one and left with a bunch of different best friends. Some of them were from Paris and now I get to go back and see all of them.”

The program brings together 40 students from a study abroad program at the Sorbonne’s International Project Management graduate program and UD Lerner’s Global Programs and Service program that Sanders runs. It was created with the intention of both programs hosting events to learn about different regulations, engaging in intercultural exchange, visiting French and American businesses, learning about new markets and meeting potential trade-related agents or buyers and to network with them. This also supports Lerner’s mission of fostering an intellectually curious and globally-minded lifelong learners with a leadership mindset.

First Sorbonne students traveled to New York and Philadelphia before coming to UD to participate in the trade simulation in late October. They visited the United Nations in New York and met with business leaders there. UD students joined the tour in Philadelphia, where they toured the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall before touring local businesses and meeting with members of the French American Chamber of Commerce. Sanders also conducted a business leadership workshop with students. Lastly, BDP International, a Philadelphia-headquartered freight forwarder company that works in global logistics and has offices around the world including Paris, hosted students for a reception. Students connected with members from the company’s HR department.

UD sophomore and management and communication double major, Serafina Carollo, is also participating in the exchange program. Carollo, who has an interest in broadcasting and does reports for the student news network, documented the trip to Philadelphia and the mock trade agreement. She will also create a video when UD students visit Paris. 

International students were greeted by their Delaware peers with gift bags of UD swag. On Friday the students had breakfast, met and interacted with several student groups from UD and had lunch before participating in the first part of the trade simulation negotiation. Lerner Assistant Professor of Management Eva Alfodi also gave a presentation on culture. She used The Culture Map by author Erin Myer to encourage students to see their culture and those of others in their full depth. For their negotiations students from both sides had to pick interests in global trade such as the environment, agriculture or energy. Students picked the area of interests and broke into subcommittees for research, before finally gathering together and practicing their first trade simulation.

“So we wanted to have the discussion of intercultural communication from a business perspective. The biggest piece for me with my students is practical application,” Sanders said. “We go to the classrooms and learn theories and concepts, but with this we’re trying to apply it in reality, in a mock way, so that they are interacting with French peers, but also professionals.”

Sanders said that students will need these skills in the real world. UD students will travel to Paris in January as part of a winter session study abroad program to be hosted and complete the negotiations.

Grace Fritz is a senior operations management and marketing major with an entrepreneurship minor at Lerner. Although she secured a finance marketing job post-graduation at T. Rowe Price, she wanted to participate in the program because it fascinated her and would allow her to execute what she’d learned from school. Fritz likes wine, so she chose a role as a wine buyer for the trade negotiation.

“I’m going to analyze the operations, the exporting, the negotiation between a buyer in a different country and a manufacturer and maker in another country,” she said. “Having that opportunity to use what I’m doing in classes and then be able to take that to a different country and have that experience, I thought that would be really cool,” Fritz said.

Fritz also picked wine because she is taking a class at UD to be a level I certified sommelier, an interest that she plans to continue post-UD. She and Pepeta both said that they loved the idea of meeting new international students.

Vasilica Păun and Mélanie Chevallay were a pair of Sorbonne students who enjoyed the program.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to meet American students, because we don’t really have the opportunity to do so, and also because we study international exchange,” said Pāun, who is in her final year at the Sorbonne. “It really allows us to learn about different topics and to deep dive into international problems and see how we can manage to solve them.”

Chevallay was one of four Sorbonne students who helped plan the program, including the itinerary of the UD students’ Paris visit.

“This program was amazing, it was super fun to organize,” Chevallay said. “One thing I wanted to get from this program was networking. I think it would be good to have various contacts in the U.S., because it’s my first time here, and I think for most of the class it’s the first time, so it’s very important to have some people to know in Delaware and in New York that may be useful in the future.”

When Lerner students visit Paris in early January, they will tour the city and meet with Sorbonne Nouvelle students and advisors from the American Chamber of Commerce and possibly former French or American government officials. The formal trade negotiation will happen in Paris as well as networking, tourism and more cultural activities.

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