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Innovation and Exploration

KeKe Sirjord standing on top of a mountain
February 23, 2018

LSBE student KeKe Sirjord fulfilled one of her business degree requirements . . . in Ireland! 

In May 2017, KeKe Sirjord had the opportunity to go to Ireland with a small group of UMD students and marketing Associate Professor Linda Rochford. “I did one of the short-term programs through LSBE called Innovation in Ireland,” she explains. “What’s nice about the short-term programs is that they are through UMD and they count as a class themselves.” 

But How To Decide? 

UMD has many options for studying abroad, so KeKe had to decide which program she was going to choose. She recalls, “I started thinking about it during my sophomore year. I always wanted to do some kind of study abroad program, but I didn’t want to commit a whole semester or school-year. Then, I heard about these short-term programs.”

She did some digging. “I looked on the Study Abroad website, and I found that LSBE offers four or five different types of short-term programs. After thinking about what I wanted to get out of my experience and meeting with Dr. Rochford, it was clear that the Innovation in Ireland program was the perfect fit for me.”

Fjord in Ireland

KeKe took this picture from the boat while going through the only fjord in Ireland.

Because this short-term study abroad program qualified as a UMD course, there were some class sessions held at UMD before the group left. KeKe describes them: “We had a couple of books that we read about Ireland’s history, and we went through the different aspects of innovation and entrepreneurial orientation. It helped us all understand what we were getting into.”

Besides the preparation for the class, KeKe had to do some personal preparations, too. She says, “Dr. Rochford went over what we should wear, what we should pack, and how we should act in Ireland.”

Even though she was prepared for her travels abroad, KeKe had a mix of emotions before she left for the program. “I was scared about what I didn’t know going over there and about not being used to a different culture.” She goes on, “The unknown was very frightening, but it was also very exciting. I did not know what to expect, so there was a thrill with that. I went into the program with an open mind and took it all in.”

Into the Unknown

After studying innovation and Ireland’s history at UMD, KeKe and her fellow students were ready to explore Ireland – its businesses, culture, and countryside. “We did a lot of company visits as a group,” KeKe explains. “What is nice about the Innovation in Ireland program is that you have a lot of flexibility once you get over there because you meet for class before leaving the States."

“I learned that Ireland is actually a central hub for a lot of businesses. Being between Europe and the United States, Ireland is a great place for a lot of headquarters,” KeKe states. “We got to see how they incorporated innovation into their businesses, like creating the newest medical technology or maintaining a work atmosphere where the employees can feel like they’re at home with a game-room and a garden.”

Local street in Ireland

Besides seeing examples of pioneering businesses in Ireland, KeKe and her peers individually focused on a unique business in Ireland. “I always thought that one day I would own my own business, so I picked this small, ‘Ma and Pa’ company called Ó’Máille in Galway.”

KeKe remembers, “What they do is make sweaters and scarves and they actually still hand-knit them, which most places don’t do. I got to hear how they run their business, and I was able to see the differences between my company and the other students'. That was a really fun aspect of the program.”

Along with touring several businesses, KeKe says, “I don’t think there was one single thing that I wanted to do that we didn’t do. We got to see so much of Ireland.” She and the other students went to Dublin, Cork, Galway, and went on many excursions along the way.

“We got to climb to the top of Diamond Hill and we went through the only fjord in Ireland. We also got to explore different shops and get into the culture,” KeKe reminisces. “We had the option to go and see the Cliffs of Moher, so I went and saw those. We got to go out to the Aran Islands, where there are no vehicles, and we went biking around the whole island.”

Cliffs of Moher

KeKe experienced the Cliffs of Moher on a stunningly clear day.

Finally, it was time for KeKe to come home. “I fell in love in Ireland, so it was hard to come home, even though I was excited to see my family.” She plans to travel again, however.

“It is an eye-opening experience knowing that there is so much more beyond the United States. It instilled in me the drive to travel more. Now I know that there is so much more out there and so much that I want to see that I haven’t seen.”

Moving Forward

KeKe is in her junior year at UMD and is dedicated to growing as a woman in business. She is working toward her undergraduate degrees in both Organizational Management and Mathematics while being the president of UMD’s Women in Business Club, earning her Kirby Leadership Institute Certificate, and serving on the Dean Advisory Council for LSBE.

Before deciding to study abroad, KeKe recalls hearing this advice: “You may not have the money now, but later, you may not have the time.” She continues, “Now is the perfect opportunity to do something like this, because when else are you going to have the time to fit that in your life?”

“Definitely go now if you have the opportunity. If you can make it work, make it work. It’s so worth it.”

Be sure to check out UMD Study Abroad to see what programs they have for you!

Visit the Organizational Management website
Visit the Mathematics website

UMD group with Irish Crosses of St Brigid

KeKe and her peers posing after learning about and making St. Brigid's Crosses.