Marc Mitchell studied abroad 30 years ago – and he hasn’t forgotten it

Marc Mitchell studied abroad 30 years ago – and he hasn’t forgotten it


Marc Mitchell studied abroad 30 years ago – and he hasn’t forgotten it

When Marc Mitchell (‘95) decided to study abroad in Denmark for the 1994 spring semester, he didn’t expect it to be an experience that would change his life.

Mitchell heard from a fraternity brother, with Danish family heritage, who went on the same trip a year before that it was an amazing opportunity. So, he asked a few questions and reached out to the business school contact. Then he took the leap. This was well before study-abroad opportunities were offered as widely as they are today

“It ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Mitchell, who has spent a long career in government relations and politics. He now runs his consulting firm, Mitchell Public Affairs & Advocacy. “Not even a handful of students underwent this experience every semester, and its mind-blowing how many people do it now. It’s a good thing.”

One of Mitchell’s favorite experiences during that semester was joining a football team. No, not traditional European football – good ‘ol American football. Teams could only have two Americans on the roster, and the local team learned Mitchell quarterbacked his fraternity flag football team, so they asked if he could join.

Marc Mitchell enjoying a dinner with his family and reconnecting with former Danish classmates during his latest trip to Denmark.

Mitchell also recruited a friend he made in Denmark to study at the University of Northern Iowa the following fall semester.

Mitchell kept in touch with his Danish classmates over the years. Social media has made that easier. This past summer, he decided to revisit Denmark with his wife and daughter. It was like time never passed. He met eight or nine of his former classmates in Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen. “I was blown away,” he said. “It was like last week we were together, and no time seemed to have passed. Meanwhile, it had been almost three decades.”

Besides making lifelong friends and going through a perspective-changing experience, Mitchell said he learned how important it is in business to learn about other cultures and values. For example, in Denmark, it's not commonplace to ask what others do for work. Most Danes aren’t boisterous, Mitchell said.

“I clearly realized that when people are doing business with other cultures, they need to learn about the country,” Mitchell said. “They don’t have to learn it all the way, but boy there are some people that step in it because they don’t know the culture. There are a lot of subtleties.”

For those thinking of embarking on a study abroad trip, Mitchell says go for it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. He’s already planning his next trip to Denmark, for next summer, with his family.  

“Thirty years ago, I made the decision to go abroad for half the year,” Mitchell said. “The decision was uncomfortable, but at the same time, it made sense on so many levels. The business school was gracious in guiding me through this process. I learned you have one life, there are no do-overs, so make good decisions, come back a better person, and that’s what happened for me.”

Don't miss this chance to gain a global perspective and a competitive edge in the business world. Business students are encouraged to speak with their academic advisor in the Office for Professional Distinction about available study abroad opportunities and how they can align with their academic plan. Connect with your advisor today and begin planning your study abroad experience. Your future self will thank you for it.