Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Off the Beaten Path

Business scholar fulfills dream to study abroad—and expand her education.

Long before enrolling at the University of Cincinnati, Samantha Gaier, BBA ’15, dreamt of traveling the globe to learn about new cultures.

“I've been interested in travelling the world and experiencing all kinds of cultures since I was little,” Gaier says.  “College, for me, seems like the perfect time to do it.”

With the help of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, this Ohio native’s dream quickly came true.

Gaier, a Marvin P. Kolodzik Business Scholar (KBS) and sophomore accounting major, has not only expanded her résumé through UC’s cooperative education program, but has also added to her passport through the Lindner College of Business International Programs. In just her freshman year, she traveled to The Republic of Haiti and Montreal, Canada.

Her week-long stay in Haiti was through the UC McNair Scholars program, which, in collaboration with international programs, provides rich opportunities for students to work on service projects in the northwest region of the country. During the program, she and fellow students stayed at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in the city of St. Louis du Nord in the country’s northwest region.

“We were immersed in the country,” Gaier says. This immersion allowed her to experience both the beauty and unfortunate reality of Haiti.

Geographically, the land was stunning but still damaged from a 7.0 earthquake that devastated the country on January 12, 2010, Gaier says. The earthquake hit just west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, and affected as many as 3 million people total, claiming 316,000 lives. “We could still see the destruction when we flew in to the capital,” she says.

The environmental impact was the first of many bittersweet experiences for Gaier. The goal of the study-abroad program was to raise hope for the country. While there, Gaier and fellow students held conferences to demonstrate proper health care basics, such as correct tooth brushing, hand washing and other hygiene, to Haitian young girls and women.

Gaier was amazed at their reaction.

“Seeing the women walk away from the conference with their heads held high and singing together was so powerful,” Gaier says. 

Along with the other scholars, she also visited orphanages to donate medical supplies and other necessities. Visits were made to St. Louis de Nord, a place for infants and children with disabilities, and Saline Mayette, a branch mission that serves children ages 4 and up.

Through these visits, Gaier came face-to-face with the heartbreaking emotional roller coaster that orphaned Haiti children endure every day.

“The babies love to be held,” Gaier says. “When we would walk into their room, those who could walk would run to us and cling to our legs until they got picked up. The children would battle with one another to be the first to be held, so our visits would prompt lots of tears if there weren’t enough adults for every child.  At first it was enjoyable just spending lots of time with them, but then I realized that this probably happened every week. We became attached to some of the children, but at the end of the program, we had to go home.”

Gaier’s time in Haiti was a sobering reminder of how infrastructure, culture and economic realities differ outside of the U.S. Her experience reaffirmed her belief that exploring and understanding other cultures is vital for her future as a business professional.

So she continued her travels.

Next, the freshman headed north to Canada with fellow KBS students through a Lindner College of Business international study abroad program. In Montreal, the KBS group visited the international headquarters of Cirque du Soleil to learn about the company’s green initiatives, such as water management, air quality and climate change. They also visited famous landmarks such as Olympic Park, site of the 1976 winter games, and the Biodome, where tourists experience walk-through replicas of the four ecosystems found in the Americas.  Gaier also had the chance to intereact closely with Canadian business students, a culturally enriching stop at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM).

Today, Gaier continues to make international connections right here on UC’s campus. Through the International Programs office at the Lindner College of Business, she helps run a “buddy” program that pairs UC students with visiting exchange students to help them form friendships.

“I think that one of the hardest things about coming to UC is it’s such a large school and if you are just going to class every day, it can be hard to meet people,” says Gaier, whose passion for the program prompted her to become involved.  “Last quarter I had a buddy from France who taught me how to make crepes while I taught her how to make cupcakes!”

Her exceptional work in making cultural connections between students on campus has not gone unnoticed. Lee Armstrong, associate director of international programs, says Gaier has been a great resource for incoming international students.

 “She helps them get settled on campus, find things to do in their free time, and introduces them to other American students,” Armstrong says. 

The buddy program and her study abroad experiences have influenced Gaier’s future plans: she is now looking into an international business minor to complement her major in public accounting.  Meanwhile, she plans travel as much as possible during college. A trip to France is in the works for summer 2012, as part of a Lindner College of Business study abroad program. 

Through travel, she’s also had time to reflect.

“I’ve learned this past year that [study abroad] is more than just travel.” Gaier says. “[It] has taught me a lot about other cultures and their way of life.”