SFA students in Costa Rica standing in front of Frutería Kristal in Guápiles

For Stephen F. Austin State University’s “Discovering Business” course Aug. 8-14, nine students visited Costa Rican businesses and sites, including Frutería Kristal in Guápiles. Designed to introduce incoming first-year students and non-business majors to business concepts and principles, the course was sponsored by the Rusche College of Business.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A new Stephen F. Austin State University study abroad course sponsored by the Rusche College of Business is introducing incoming first-year students and non-business majors to business concepts and principles as well as other cultures over the summer.

“No matter a student’s major, that student will most likely either work for someone else’s business, start their own or both,” said Drew Thornley, SFA associate professor of legal studies and a co-instructor for the course. “We want to better equip these students for their professional lives, regardless of their future paths.”

Unlike SFA’s other business study abroad trips, the “Discovering Business” course requires no previous knowledge of business, said Dr. Ryan Phelps, SFA associate professor of economics and a co-instructor for the course. As part of the class, students also conduct interviews with the founding entrepreneurs of several local businesses. 

“Business intersects with all of our lives. Understanding the ways that interacting with businesses improves our lives and potentially stalls our progress is vital in today’s technology-driven world,” Phelps said. “This course is designed to help students see the world from the perspective of a business and to enable them to be more sophisticated consumers and more strategic entrepreneurs.”

Four of the nine students on the Aug. 8-14 trip started their first year of college at the end of August. Thornley, who studied abroad before his first year of college, wanted to help create the same opportunity for SFA’s incoming first-year students.

“As was true for me, studying abroad before starting college can ease one’s transition from high school to college,” he said. “It allows students to meet faculty and other students with whom they can form a bond prior to stepping foot on campus in the fall. We wholeheartedly believe that, if our program grows, it can be an invaluable tool for student recruitment and retention.”

During the trip, the students traveled to Costa Rican sites, including Frutería Kristal in Guápiles, Palmitour in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, a pineapple tour in Pital, a chocolate factory tour in La Fortuna, the Tirimbina Biological Reserve and Rainforest Lodge in Sarapiquí, the community of Juanilama, and the capital city of San Jose.

“These transformational study abroad experiences accelerate the learning process and are at the heart of SFA’s vision,” Phelps said. “The world is a big place and being able to experience more of it instills a sense of freedom, a sense of possibility. This growth-oriented mindset is an indispensable asset for personal development.”

Nykia Benit of Dallas, who was an incoming first-year student during the trip, plans to major in hospitality administration with a focus on culinary arts.

“There were endless opportunities for me to learn about different cuisine, management, homemaking and hospitality skills,” Benit said. “I can truly say this trip impacted my future career choices. I look forward to studying abroad again.” 

Cahlia Hordge of Forney, another incoming first-year student during the trip, discovered the tenacity business owners need to be successful. 

“I learned that businesses are formed through the determination of the founders,” Hordge said. “Each business owner started from the bottom and found creative ways to build their business.” 

These types of reflections by students in the course have ensured it will be offered annually at a new destination each year right before the fall semester begins.

“Studying abroad creates opportunities for students to respond to challenges in positive ways and to become more adaptable,” Thornley said. “It increases their self-confidence and, hopefully, gives them new friends for life.”

For more information on this study abroad opportunity, email Thornley at thornleyam@sfasu.edu or visit instagram.com/discoveringbusinesssfa.

Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 36 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at sfasu.edu