UNK students share their tourism expertise during study abroad trip to Ireland

UNK students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Galway during a recent study abroad trip to Ireland. (Courtesy photos)
UNK students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Galway during a recent study abroad trip to Ireland. (Courtesy photos)

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Carly Fortune can describe her recent trip to Ireland with just three words.

“It was perfect.”

The University of Nebraska at Kearney senior knew she wanted to study abroad the moment she enrolled at UNK, and the “Emerald Isle” was at the top of her destination wish list.

“Ireland has always been a trip I’ve dreamed about,” said Fortune, a Dalton native who’d never traveled outside the U.S. before.

When she learned about the latest opportunity, “I just knew that I had to go,” she said.

Fortune and eight other UNK students spent 11 days in Ireland last month as part of an experiential learning course in business management and marketing.

Led by Lisa Tschauner, director of UNK’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development, the trip gave students a chance to explore a new country, develop international relationships and broaden their business knowledge.

“Most every business now is a global business. You’re not restricted by borders and geographical limitations anymore. You can do business anywhere in the world, and you can also live and work anywhere in the world,” Tschauner said. “I think it’s very important for students to see beyond the state of Nebraska and beyond the United States. It makes the whole educational experience richer and more layered.”

Tschauner’s course focused on design thinking, a problem-solving approach that prioritizes the consumer’s needs. The interdisciplinary class had students from a variety of majors, including social work, health sciences, business administration, business intelligence and industrial distribution.

Prior to the trip, her students visited Younes Hospitality, Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, Kearney Visitors Bureau, Pioneer Village and Minden Opera House to discuss local tourism strengths and strategies. In Ireland, they partnered with students and faculty at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, now part of Atlantic Technological University, to analyze tourism in that country and propose solutions to some ongoing challenges. They also worked directly with the Park Lodge Hotel, where the UNK group stayed.

“Tourism in Ireland is very different than it is in Nebraska,” said Tschauner. “Our students were able to use their experiences in both locations to introduce new ideas that could benefit this client.”

For instance, one student recommended the hotel consider a program similar to the Nebraska Passport, which promotes the state’s “hidden gems” by offering special deals and prizes for travelers who visit specific businesses and attractions.

The UNK group even saw some potential Passport destinations on the Aran Islands, where they toured a farm that produces goat cheese, a company that harvests seaweed and a business that offers luxury camping, also known as “glamping.”

They did their fair share of sightseeing, too.

The first day was spent in Dublin, where they toured the Guinness Storehouse, attended a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, looked at the Book of Kells at Trinity College and enjoyed the nightlife. They also went to the Cliffs of Moher and Killary Fjord and watched the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway.

“The scenery is definitely something to remember,” said Jairo Alvarez, a UNK senior from Lexington. “It really did feel like a whole different world.”

Like Fortune, it was his first time traveling internationally.

“It was kind of a lot to take in, but in a good way,” said Alvarez, who’s studying business administration with a marketing emphasis and international business minor. “There’s so much you can learn by studying abroad and you get to meet so many new people. It’s a great way to expand your network.”

Both UNK students were impressed by the hospitality they received.

“I feel like I talked to the entirety of Ireland because the people are so friendly and outgoing,” said Fortune, who was especially appreciative of the opportunity to interact with students from Galway.

“Those are connections I think we’ll hold throughout our lives,” she said.

Fortune is also studying business administration with a marketing emphasis and minors in international business and Spanish. She’ll cross another destination off her wish list when she travels to Costa Rica this summer through a study abroad program led by the UNK Department of Modern Languages.