Written by: Lauren Clancy
Before this Global Experience, travelling has always been somewhat of a pipe dream for me. I have a long list of places I want to see, but seldom had the resources to go. One of the best things to have happened to me was seeing the email about the opportunity to travel to Belgium for beverage marketing. Not only could I go to one of the countries I have most wanted to travel to, but I also would be able to work toward my career goals. As an advertising student, this program would give me a better understanding of where my field fit into the broader marketing mix. Once I found out about this Faculty-Lead International Program (FLIP) I thought of little else besides getting through the application process — and I am so grateful that I was eventually chosen to go.
One of the things that struck me right away was how beautiful the city of Ghent was. It was surreal to look outside the hostel and see a picturesque gothic church from your window and a castle at the end of the canal. Every day on the way to class you would notice new buildings and just be blown away by the architecture. Either with beautiful colours or intricately engraved stonework, each building was so unique and so different than anything I had ever seen before. What’s more is that amidst these old buildings was the very modern Graffitistraat, a street where graffiti is legalized. With everything being within walking distance, you really got to take in and appreciate the city.
With so much to take in, I was surprised by the great balance between course work and exploration. For beverage marketing, we were tasked with devising a marketing strategy that could launch a Danish beer from Rise Brewery into the Belgian market. We were able to tour breweries of Belgium like Gruut and Duvel Moortgat, which are micro and macro breweries respectively, as well as attend several tastings. On our weekend break many of our group travelled to the coastal city of Ostend and attended an event sponsored by Desperados. Even on our weekend without class, we were able to have an enjoyable experience that also worked to give us a better understanding of the promotional strategies used by competing brands in the market.
Not only were we engaged in so many activities, we were also learning about the Belgian market and the Belgian consumer. To truly develop a feasible marketing strategy we had to speak with locals and bartenders. This was such an amazing experience because you got learn so much more about Belgium by talking with the people who knew the country best. We were given great insight into our projects, but also references of places we should see and specific local foods we should try. Everywhere in Ghent were small cafes, confectionaries, and privately owned restaurants (which was a big departure from the franchises we see everywhere in Canada). It was really helpful to get recommendations and make the most of our two weeks in this country – I also do not think I will have such delicious waffles ever again!
In hindsight, I believe there is no better way to truly immerse yourself into a new country than to study there. While I was only in Belgium for two weeks, I feel like I got to learn so much about another culture. Working in cross-cultural teams meant I got to really understand both the similarities and differences in our daily lives. Yet, what surprised me most was that we were not just working with Belgian and Danish students. Many students, even within the Canadian group, were international students who came from different countries than the country he or she represented for this FLIP. We had such an eclectic cultural mix within the three participating schools (some students being from Poland, Bulgaria, Colombia, Brazil, India and Ireland). Not only did we come from different countries, but also we were all in somewhat different programs in school. This meant we could bring something unique to the table and learn from each other for these projects. I think this FLIP really showed me how people can come together and form friendships that transcend different backgrounds and experiences, and it was really special to be a part of that. I am so grateful that SaGE and Centennial have provided me with this opportunity to make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.
Thank you so much for this unforgettable Global Experience!