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International BusinessStudent Testimonials

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Sophia O'Neal

Brand & Marketing Strategist

Studied at Maynooth University, Ireland


Tell us about some of the activities that you were involved in while attending ODU—clubs, study abroad experiences.

For part of my freshman and sophomore years I was a second violinist in ODU's Symphony Orchestra and my freshman through senior years I worked at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center as a student business assistant. I walked in May 2019 and then spent July - August 2019 in Ireland on a Study Abroad Program.

Playing with ODUSO was a dream come true and is one of my favorite college experiences.

Working at the SEC gave me the opportunity to meet fellow student entrepreneurs and local business leaders, as well as helping me gain irreplaceable mentors in business and life. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met while working and being a part of the ODU and Norfolk entrepreneur community!

How did the Study Abroad program assist with your current professional and personal development?

It's more of, "how did the Study Abroad program not assist with my professional and personal development"! The International Marketing class I took at Maynooth University transformed my understanding of marketing and culture. I regularly reference the concepts Iearned, especially Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory, when creating branding for my clients or evaluating possible marketing campaign effectiveness. My ability to understand and connect marketing strategies with cultural influences is a direct result of that class. As a branding and marketing strategist, those are all key skills I can't imagine learning in a typical setting in a stateside undergraduate program. My study abroad experience gave me the benefits of a second-tier international business program at a fraction of the cost. And to top it off, I am still in contact with the professor, even though he teaches in CA!

On a more personal level, stepping outside of America gave me the perspective to be able to see my homeland in a much more objective fashion. We as Americans, and certainly as young Americans, trend towards a myopic, navel-grazing approach to the world. Living, studying, and existing in another country an ocean away showed me what other people thought of America and her standing in the world. While I considered myself a global citizen before studying abroad, the experience made me reconsider my place in the world and my responsibilities as an American citizen born into a "great experiment" of a country.

As a biracial woman, it was a refreshingly shocking experience in just how little "race" matters outside of the US. As many other black and brown Americans have said, "In Europe I felt like a true American for the first time." I've always felt like an American, but often not 100% American. In Ireland, I was 100% American, and nothing else. And it was an incredibly freeing and joyous thing to have my race mean so little to my identity and perceived worth.

Did you participate in an internship, can you share with us some of the most significant experiences or aspects of it?

I interned all three of my summers at ODU, with my favorite one being a Marketing Strategy internship at Grow, an award-winning creative technology agency in Norfolk. I was chosen as an Intern after the CEO saw me present the winning pitch deck at ODU's 2018 Lion's Liar pitch competition. While working there I assisted on projects for Google, Adidas, and Netflix. Watching and participating in the culture of Grow, which is ODU grad founded and run, solidified that I could have my dream job and eventually open a world-class startup branding agency in Hampton Roads.

Brandon Montgomery

Senior and 2021 ODU Graduate

Studied at the University of Leicester, UK

I chose to attend ODU because I wanted to go to a school in which I would be able to meet and create long term connections with people from all different walks of life. ODU's diversity is outstanding, and allows individuals to learn about experiences they may not have had in their own lives, and therefore become more diverse and well-rounded.

The Study Abroad Program assisted me greatly in both my professional and personal development. Professionally, I was able to learn how business is conducted and taught in a foreign country hands on, and was able to create connections with faculty at the University of Leicester. I immediately recognized the difference in which American and British universities teach and conduct their courses. Personally, the study abroad program allowed me to learn how to successfully meet new people and succeed in a completely unfamiliar and new environment. This experience allowed me to continue to develop people skills that I would have never been able to develop. I still continue to talk to the group of British friends I made while abroad, and they have become some of my closest friends. Becoming friends with students that attend the University of Leicester and people who have grown up their entire lives in England, allowed me to truly experience the culture of the country, as they brought me to local restaurants and attractions the typical tourist would not be made aware of.

My advice for incoming INBU students would be to really take the initiative to learn a new language while at ODU, and to create as many professional and personal relationships with faculty members within the program and your fellow students. Being able to speak in the language of a foreign business partner will be incredibly important in your professional career, and ODU provides students with exceptional resources to learn. Creating connections with fellow students and INBU faculty members will only benefit you. Getting to know your fellow classmates will allow you to be able to reach out for help when you may be struggling in a class. Creating connections with INBU faculty members will grant you access to their years of experience and knowledge in the field, which will help guide you as you embark in the world of International Business.