By Jessica Hirsch

Darden student Christine Thach (Class of 2016) always knew that she wanted to travel abroad and have an international career.

“Thinking about where business is going, it’s just becoming more and more global,” Thach said. “To be a successful global leader, I believe people need to embrace challenges outside of their comfort zone and see how business is done outside of the United States. These experiences create incredible insights you can bring into a job to add value.”

Thach’s desire to study abroad began during her undergraduate education, also at U.Va., when she spent a summer studying at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Her first global program through Darden was a Global Consulting Project (GCP) Thach completed this past fall, working remotely in a small-team format for a client based in Uganda.

“The combination of the organization and location led me to this GCP,” Thach said. “I’d been to Africa before, and I knew I wanted to go back, so that was a primary driver.”

Thach explained that the onsite visit portion of the GCP greatly enhanced her understanding of the obstacles facing organizations in Uganda, such as high youth unemployment, but also the immense opportunities for entrepreneurship and sustainability.

Thach and her GCP teammates during their onsite visit to Uganda.
Thach and her GCP teammates during their onsite visit to Uganda.

“The onsite experience really helped me understand the barriers in the Uganda market and empathize with the challenges the organization faces moving forward,” Thach said. “It’s easy to diagnose from afar but with the GCP, you don’t really understand until you experience the challenges face-to-face. It’s so important to listen and ask questions before giving recommendations or advice.”

Thach’s experience with the GCP inspired her to study abroad further to gain insights into how culture affects the business environment. She spent a quarter this spring on an exchange at CEIBS in Shanghai, China, where she also began learning Mandarin.

“China is a very large and growing economy,” Thach said. “Therefore, I knew I wanted exposure to the Chinese market. Studying at CEIBS was a great opportunity to learn new ways of approaching business problems and to challenge my existing perspectives. The Asian education system is more lecture-based than the Darden model, and there’s an emphasis on different skills from the Western education environment in terms of expectations and conduct.”

Thach also enjoyed the opportunity to build influential networks abroad that will be helpful in future endeavors.

Thach met up with Darden alumnus Victor Xiao at UPS.

“I attended an event where I networked with current Darden students, prospective students, and alumni,” Thach said. “It was incredible to see how strong the U.Va. and Darden presence is in such a major international city. I will be working at UPS after graduation and was able to connect with Darden alumnus Victor Xiao, China District Marketing Director at UPS, who was able to speak with me about working for a U.S. based company in a foreign market and how this can affect management and communication among teams.”

Outside of the classroom, Thach was able to enjoy a wealth of experiences that she thinks would have been impossible to have if she had spent all of her time at Darden in Charlottesville.

“I got the chance to travel to South Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, and so many amazing places,” Thach said. “I tobogganed down the Great Wall, I’ve been seeing the world, and it’s been an opportunity to keep challenging myself and learning the extent of my capabilities.”

To students who may be wary of going abroad, Thach advises that they won’t miss out on anything by embracing this experience.

“The opportunity to go abroad offers new personal development gains that truly broaden your perspective and enhance your appreciation of global diversity,” Thach said. “Darden definitely instills the values needed to go into an ambiguous situation and excel. If there is ever a time to take a risk for a new experience, why not go now? With two years to shape and mold ourselves, why not see how far you can go and what you can accomplish?”