University of Lynchburg student D’Andria Alston-Thomas ’19 decided to pursue a new adventure for her senior year. During the fall semester, she is studying at Fachhochschule Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences in Austria. It’s one of Lynchburg’s several partner universities around the world.
Alston-Thomas is studying abroad to complete her bachelor’s degree in business administration and international relations. “I came to Austria to learn about the major aspects of business, but from a perspective that was not American,” Alston-Thomas said. “The United States is economically the most powerful country in the world and I assumed that our ideas about business were not universal because of our unique position.”
She is currently enrolled in classes in brand management, implementing strategic plans, and European business and law. These classes are made up of both Austrian students and international exchange students. “Because the groups are so diverse, I get to learn the perspective of students from four or five countries in every lesson. Group work always leads to new information and great debates,” she said. “Three to four languages are constantly spoken around me.”
A Westover Honors student, Alston-Thomas has been enjoying her experience in Austria so far. “I am comfortable getting around the city that I live in by myself, and I am learning how to live a completely different lifestyle,” she said. “The best thing about Austria is definitely the diversity of people that I am around, and my surroundings are absolutely beautiful.”
This is not Alston-Thomas’s first trip abroad. She studied abroad in Central and Eastern Europe the summer before her sophomore year of college. And a semester in Austria has been on her mind for several years, thanks to professors who nurtured her interest in international business.
“The first year I got to Lynchburg, I mentioned my interest in international business, and the exchange program in Austria was mentioned to me by multiple professors,” she said. “Somehow my senior year schedule happened to line up very well with the exchange schedule, and I am now lucky enough to be studying in Austria for the first semester of my senior year.”
The University of Lynchburg has held a partnership with the FH-Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences in Austria since 2004. This connection allows students from the University of Lynchburg to attend FH-Vorarlberg on exchange. Each semester, FH-Vorarlberg offers a variety of courses in english. This program has provided many student with an international education.
Lynchburg alumnus Tyler Cookson ’10 attended FH-Vorarlberg through this program during his senior year, too. Cookson has now traveled back to Austria and to attend FH-Vorarlberg for a Master of Arts in Business and Leadership.
During his first trip to Austria, Cookson was impressed with the people and the culture in Austria. “European cities and villages have a unique feeling to them that is unlike anything I’ve experienced in the states,” he said. “I like how in-touch people are with the land that surrounds them.”
His most fond memories are those surrounding the two part-time jobs he held while studying abroad, where he worked at the local bar and at a Sawmill. “The connections that I made with people here have led to so many opportunities and experiences that I could never have dreamed of,” said Cookson.
“I had made countless long-lasting friendships during my first short six month stay and have returned several times over the years to visit,” he said. On one of these trips, Cookson heard about the business and leadership program he is currently enrolled in.
FH-Vorarlberg and the surrounding region fit in well with Cookson’s interests in industrial machinery and technical jobs. He he had been looking for a way to combine his interests in heavy industry with his technology and communication skills, and FH-Vorarlberg’s International Management and Leadership course fit the bill.
Cookson feels he has always had a calling to return to Austria, and FH-Vorarlberg was the answer. “This was meant to be. I didn’t really choose Austria – Austria choose me,” he said.
FH-Vorarlberg offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s classes in International Business, Social Work, InterMedia, Computer Science Software and Information Engineering, Mechatronics, and Energy Technology and Economics.