Undergraduate Sees Business and Cultural Differences While Spending a Semester Abroad
Riona Sheik ’24
Finance, Political Science and International Relations
- Undergraduate Dual
This was a very rewarding internship because I was able to gain firsthand experience with social welfare and insight into how different European social rights are from the United States. A lot of this included ethical questions, such as working hours, minimum wage and workplace rights.
Despite her limited French speaking abilities, Riona Sheik ’24 (WHIT/MAX) did not let that stop her from participating in Syracuse University Study Abroad in Strasbourg, France, during the Spring 2023 semester. Majoring in Finance at the Whitman School and political science and international relations at the Maxwell School Citizenship and Public Affairs, Sheik hopes to use her degree to help her pursue international law in the future. She found the Strasbourg program aligned well with her career goals due to the internship opportunities and the classes offered.
During her semester abroad, she interned at the Council of Europe in the Human Rights and Law Directorate General. “I worked at the social rights department where I followed closely with the European Social Charter,” she says, “This was a very rewarding internship because I was able to gain firsthand experience with social welfare and insight into how different European social rights are from the United States. A lot of this included ethical questions, such as working hours, minimum wage and workplace rights.”
In addition to her internship, Sheik found her international business course to be the most applicable, as she learned about the differences between the United States and Europe from a financial perspective and was able to see how businesses in France and Europe are culturally and socially different from the United States.
Sheik also took courses relating to her political science major, along with introductory French. Her favorite class was IRP 300: War, Diplomacy, and Humanitarian Action. She says, “We were able to practice real-world applications of humanitarian and international law through various simulations in class. The class was very hands-on, and I learned a lot.”
Sheik also took the opportunity to experience the French culture during her time abroad. One of her favorite everyday spots was Café Atlantico, located on a boat in the city center. She would spend hours there chatting with friends, doing homework and eating French pastries. On the weekends, Sheik participated in school-sponsored trips that were included in the program fees, including traveling to Freiburg, Germany, the Alsace Mountains, Dijon, France, and Paris.
“These trips were extremely fun, and the staff incorporated so many activities, so you could really get a sense of the culture of each place,” Sheik says, “When we went to Dijon, we took a mustard-making class and did a wine-tasting since the region is well known for both.”
Living in France for the semester gave her a new perspective on the overall pace of life. She says, “It was nice to slow down and reflect on things that are important in life.” Sheik enjoyed every Sunday when the French celebrated “Dimanche de Famille,” where everything closed with a focus on spending time with your loved ones.
Sheik believes her opportunity to live and learn in another country was an important part of her Whitman education. “I would try everything!” she suggests other interested students. “It is extremely important to keep an open mind and learn as much as you can while studying abroad.”
By Anna Rooney ’24