Rachael Boakye header image

Whether learning to be comfortable with ‘sticking out’ in foreign countries, experiencing refreshing new perspectives on race and nationality abroad, or simply finding her path forward in business, Rachel Boakye’s global experiences have shaped her personal and professional development.

The fourth-year marketing student reflects on the perspectives she has gained through the international business education opportunities available at Fisher.

Have you always had the desire to travel? Did you have any fears or anxieties, and if so, how did you overcome them?

My parents are both from Ghana, so I’m a first-gen American. When your parents are foreign, the desire to travel —specifically to your ‘home country’ — feels almost hereditary. I mean it’s literally in your blood.

My first time traveling internationally was when I was six, which I’m pretty grateful for considering a significant amount of people have never even been on a plane. I spent an entire summer in Kumasi, Ghana. Even though I was only six, I could definitely tell that there was something that set me apart from the natives and even my parents.

Personally, I think the most common anxious thoughts that pervade people’s minds when they’re traveling internationally center on the thought that you’ll ‘stick out.’

The truth is that you probably will ‘stick out,’ and I’ve come to realize that sticking out is only natural. It’s something that you can adjust to, if not something that can make the whole experience a lot more fruitful. In my experience, being the “American” in another country is pretty exciting. It’s like being the shiny new intern or the new kid in class. Much like us, the natives of the country your visiting may have questions about American politics, culture, slang, etc. — you name it!

This is what makes the whole experience so rewarding! Being able to cross pollinate and trade thoughts and insights with the natives of your host country is almost comforting. Once you know more about the people, the country and the culture you’re in, those anxieties of the unknown will start to ease themselves.

What surprised you the most about your global experience?

In America, we often segment and classify ourselves based off race and religion. Sometimes it can feel almost oppressively divisive, and even alienating. However, in Germany there was more of an emphasis on nationality. I wasn’t an African American or a first-gen Ghanaian American — I was simply just an American. This was really refreshing.

How did your global experience change you personally? Academically? As a global citizen?

The Freshman Global Lab played a huge part in adjusting how I saw my experience at Fisher, Ohio State and basically any learning institutions that I had been a part of or planned to take part in. 

Photo of European shipping containers
Logistics in action from Rachel's global experience in Europe.

Before the trip, I was a finance major. I had my four-year plan pretty set in stone: grind hard on grades, join lots of clubs, attain as many executive board positions as possible even if I wasn’t that interested. It’s a mentality that I think a lot of Fisher students have when they first start their college career. My advice: this is not the way; it’s actually pretty destructive. Learning is supposed to be a holistic experience, not a fast forward tunnel toward success.

Taking Introduction to Logistics in Hamburg, Germany, spanned more than exams. In fact, while I was on the trip, exams were basically on my mental back burner. Hamburg is a hotspot for logistics, so I literally saw freight boats coasting along the water while I took class. I got to meet, converse and take classes from some extremely successful logistics and sustainability professionals who, by the way, were all extremely passionate about their purpose, extremely relatable and totally down to Earth.

We went on extensive tours that educated us about not only logistics, but the culture, history and people of the country we were in. I saw my professor — Michael Knemeyer — in such a different light. He was quite literally in his element. I can confidently say that it was really an environment that was conducive to learning, understanding and growth for everyone.

My thoughts on topics pertaining to logistics — sustainability, lean manufacturing methodology, etc. — were far more informed and developed than when I thought about class beyond the paper assignments and exams. I realized that I had to think of my time at Ohio State and Fisher in the same way.

What was your favorite memory from the experience?

Like most of my traveling experiences, my favorite memories normally are related to dining experiences. Much to my surprise Germany had such a large variety of dining experiences. I ate everything from authentic pho and hand-made pasta to currywurst and schnitzel. Culturally, Hamburg seemed to be really diverse, and as a Black student I found that to be so comforting.

Class was also one of my favorite memories. The Kuehne Logistics University was pretty magical. I had a waterfront view during lecture. Although much smaller than Ohio State, it was a beautiful campus set on an even more eye-catching location. A lot of our discussion was case-based and centered around what we could literally see around us.

What did you learn about yourself through traveling and being abroad?

The Freshman Global Lab was my first time traveling internationally without my family. I’m not gonna lie, 30-minute layovers are pretty frightening — especially when you’re 18 and you can’t read or speak German too well. What I found was that I was far more equipped to travel and learn by myself than I thought. In fact, it pushed me to be a lot more independent. After Germany, I ended up traveling to Manchester and London on my own.

Any specific takeaways directly related to the global experience that you have used/plan to use as a student and young professional?

Look for growth experiences outside the traditional classroom or even the environment that you’re comfortable in. You can miss out on so many opportunities if you’re not careful. If you can synthesize what you’ve learned at Fisher with the resources outside of it, your time at Ohio State will be so much more valuable.

As a creative, I chose to use the knowledge I’ve acquired as a business marketing major and blend it with my digital and creative instincts to create my own opportunities. Today I run a pretty successful Instagram page called OSUGRLS and I’ve landed a role at a fashion and retail company — Levi Strauss & Co.

The Freshman Global Lab definitely had a hand in inspiring this because it expanded my understanding of learning outside the classroom.

What would you say to other students considering participating in a global experience?

If you’re financially able, it’s something I highly recommend considering. And if you don’t think you’re financially able, Fisher, as well as the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach (ODISSCCO) have significant resources to support your endeavors.

The Global Lab is not only a learning experience, but it’s also a really good social one. I’m still friends with the girls I stayed with in a hostel. And to top it off you’re getting class credits as well.

What I found was that I was far more equipped to travel and learn by myself than I thought. In fact, it pushed me to be a lot more independent.

Rachel BoakyeMarketing student