“It was just a fantastic way to end my college career,” Nicole Dalton says of her study abroad experience. (Photos courtesy of Nicole Dalton)

When Travel Restrictions Lifted, Nicole Dalton Seized Opportunity to Study Abroad

By Becky Kramer

Studying abroad was high on Nicole Dalton’s list of priorities when she transferred to WSU after attending community college.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially hampered her plans. But Dalton (’21 Intl. Busi., Spanish) bided her time during the travel restrictions imposed early in the pandemic, and she finished her undergraduate studies with a semester at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland last fall.

“It was just a fantastic way to end my college career,” says Dalton, who graduated in December. “I learned so much about myself, and I gained a greater understanding of the European Union’s politics and history and the complexities of doing business in another country.”

The Carson College of Business continues to monitor international travel in light of health and safety issues related to the pandemic and is currently offering limited study abroad opportunities.

Helping students cultivate a global perspective is part of the college’s mission. Experiencing another culture is a powerful way to achieve that, says Sung Ahn, associate dean for the college’s international programs.

“Providing a twenty-first century business education requires preparing our students to work in a rapidly expanding world,” Ahn says. “By understanding different cultures and having foreign language capabilities, they’ll be more effective leaders in today’s global economy.”

Dalton studied in Switzerland’s German-speaking region.

Choosing Switzerland

Dalton chose a public research university in Switzerland’s German-speaking region for her study abroad, even though she’s fluent in Spanish and had previously spent nine months volunteering in Latin America.

“My grandpa said, ‘You speak Spanish; why are you going to Switzerland?’ I wanted to challenge myself,” Dalton says. “I had visited Switzerland briefly in the past. I thought it was a beautiful country, and I really wanted to put myself out there.”

At University of St. Gallen, Dalton lived in a dorm for international students. She struggled with German grammar in her language classes but mastered enough of the language to order in restaurants and read public transit signs. Her other classes were in English.

She also immersed herself in learning about Swiss government and the European Union.

“Switzerland has a long history of being a neutral country, but in a way, they have to be with three different regions—German-, French-, and Italian-speaking,” Dalton says. “Many government decisions are made at a very local level, except for decisions that are critical for national policy.”

A European law class gave her a better understanding of the EU’s political history, and an international management class highlighted some of the challenges of overseas business expansion.

“Many companies that expand abroad and don’t succeed are failing in countries they think are similar to theirs,” Dalton says. “They don’t do as much research, and they aren’t as prepared for the cultural differences that affect business operations.”

A Time for Personal Growth

Dalton says she’s grateful for WSU scholarships that helped make her study abroad in Switzerland possible, including a Carson College scholarship. In addition to her academic studies, it was a time for personal growth.

“I’m more independent and decisive,” Dalton says. “Since my family and friends were in a different time zone, I couldn’t immediately call them for advice. I had to process the information and make the best decision I could.”

Living in another country during a pandemic also helped Dalton develop a flexible mindset. “I’m more comfortable with uncertainty and change, and I’m better at coping with the unknown,” she says.

Dalton is working at an insurance agency in Bellevue while she applies for internships in Europe.

“I’m definitely interested in experiencing more of Europe, and I want to find a job that combines international business with an opportunity to use my Spanish,” she says.