Cooper Greenfield spent a semester studying at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland. 

First-Gen Student Seizes Opportunity to Study Abroad

By Becky Kramer

When Cooper Greenfield was a student fundraiser for Call-A-Coug!, he often asked the alumni he was contacting for donations if they had any advice for undergraduates.

Their recommendations were nearly unanimous: Make sure you do a study abroad.

“People who had studied abroad talked about what an amazing, life-changing experience it was,” Greenfield says. “People who hadn’t studied abroad said they regretted not doing it. It was the one thing they would do differently if they could go back to college.”

With the help of scholarships, Greenfield spent a semester last fall in Brig, Switzerland.

“It’s easy to pass up this opportunity if you don’t plan it,” says Greenfield, a senior majoring in human resources management at WSU’s Carson College of Business. “But it’s so worthwhile to make it happen.”

Adapting to a new environment

Greenfield, 21, studied at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland, which has longstanding ties with the Carson College of Business. The first-generation college student, who grew up in Long Beach, California, says it’s hard to describe how much studying abroad influenced his outlook. He feels more confident about taking risks, and he can picture himself at a company with global connections after graduation—and seeking out opportunities to live and work overseas.

During a study abroad, “you’re going somewhere where you don’t know anyone and having to immediately be adaptable to a new environment,” Greenfield says. “I didn’t know if I would be able to connect with people as quickly as I did.”

During his four-month stay in Switzerland, Greenfield met and formed friendships with students from Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. He had opportunities to practice his beginning German language skills. Studying at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland also helped him acclimate to wearing professional attire.

The college is famous for its world-renowned hospitality program, and students must follow a strict dress code on campus. School officials told Greenfield that the dress code helps promote inclusivity among the college’s international student body.

“For men, the uniform is dark suits with light shirts,” Greenfield says. “Your socks have to be black, and your shoes have to be professional-looking.” Male students also are required to wear a tie and a belt, along with a name tag and a university lapel pin.

“The dress code got me into the habit of dressing up, and now I enjoy it and appreciate the look,” Greenfield says.

Scholarships made study abroad possible

Greenfield says he’s grateful for the scholarships that made his study abroad experience possible. Financial support came from the Carson International Scholarship and the Richard W. McKinney Study Abroad Scholarship, which is awarded by the Honors College.

Helping students develop a global business perspective is among the goals of The Next Carson Coug, the college’s undergraduate curriculum. While studying abroad is a valuable experience, many students need financial help to make it happen, says Sung Ahn, associate dean of the college’s international programs.

Studying abroad costs more, and students can’t work while they are studying overseas, which affects those who rely on part-time jobs to help pay for tuition or living expenses, Ahn says.

“Because studying abroad is such a valuable experience, we don’t want finances to limit who can go,” he says. “Providing scholarships helps level the playing field.”

Greenfield is on track to graduate in May. He’s applying for jobs in human resources and says that studying abroad has opened him up to new possibilities.

“I have a sense of comfort for what’s coming post-graduation, even though I don’t know where I’ll end up,” Greenfield says. “A new job might take me to places I’ve never lived before, where I don’t know anyone. Instead of being scary, it seems exciting.”