In Fall 2021, Robert Griffin, an International Business Graduate, certified sommelier and trained chef, packed up and moved from Chicago to Turin to attend the ESCP Master in International Food and Beverage Management. Combining his passions for food, wine, and business, he embarked on an exciting journey that included stays in Italy, France, and Germany.
After nine months of his European adventure, Robert has shared his thoughts on why it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
Why did you decide to study F&B Management in Europe, and how did you come to choose ESCP?
I was looking for a European university to help combine my backgrounds of culinary arts and international business. ESCP’s MSc in International Food and Beverage Management topped the lists, because it was exactly what I was looking for content-wise, and gives me access to Italy and France – along with the rest of Europe!
What are the benefits of choosing a cross-cultural learning experience?
You get access to a wide range of views and backgrounds. It’s been interesting to see how different people with different ways of thinking tackle the same problems. Plus, the wide variety of perspectives can lead to very interesting and creative results.
For one of our major projects, we were a group of 5, coming from Italy, The Netherlands, Malaysia, and the United States. We ended up interviewing someone from Malaysia to create a business in the US with an Italian company as its inspiration. We could never have used such a wide range of ideas if we hadn’t had people from so many different backgrounds involved.
Studying abroad gives you the chance to meet many new people. Has ESCP raised your cultural awareness? In what way?
Yes! I’ve learned how to cook proper carbonara from a Roman and a poireaux vinaigrette from a person from Dunkirk. I’ve been lucky enough to experience the coffee culture of Italy and the boulangeries of France. There is a massive difference between living the culture and just studying or reading about it.
What surprised you the most in Italy?
The green markets everywhere. On practically every corner there was some type of small grocer selling fresh produce, flowers, cured meats and lots of other things. Moreover, they were there every day (except Sunday!) and the offerings changed with the seasons. For anyone who is used to this, this sounds like a silly observation, but this is very different from what I am used to in the States.
What surprised you the most in France?
The size of my apartment! Jokes aside, I’ve been surprised at how pretty Paris is. Every street has something new and exciting to look at: some historic building, a beautiful church or a gorgeous museum. I didn’t expect to like the city as much as I have but there are always interesting things to see. Additionally, the food has been wonderful which certainly doesn’t hurt!
What are the best memories from the past year? If you had to highlight one activity that will most likely leave a lasting impression on you, what would it be?
The various trips we took! Going to the Langhe Day, the Tuscany trip, the ALMA trip, and the Champagne trips specifically were amazing. If I had to choose one though it would probably have been Langhe day. We started early and ended up visiting 4 different wineries from in and around Barolo (the city), a cheese producer, and a truffle hunter all in one day. It was also the first “field trip” as a class and so was the chance for us to get to know each other better and hangout all together outside of a classroom.
After spending almost one year on another continent, living in two different European countries and studying with classmates from so many different backgrounds, do you feel like a global citizen? How did this experience transform you?
Coming to Europe to live and study has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve learned an incredible amount about people from all over the world, but at the end of the day, people are still just people. We have different backgrounds, ways of thinking, strengths, and personalities but we all have the same fundamental needs. At the same time, paradoxically, I’ve also never felt more American or prouder of my American background. All of the differences and time away has helped me appreciate what I have in the States, and I won’t take that for granted any more.
After your graduation, would you like to work in Europe? If so, why?
Yes, I think so although I’m open to many different options as well. I’ve enjoyed my time here in Europe and one of my goals is to become fluent in a second language so staying here in Europe would work towards both. Additionally, having experience abroad is always a plus for finding a job in the States if I choose to go back in the long term.
What is next for you?
I’m going on to Berlin for a few more months. After that I’d like to stick around Europe for the start of my career before most likely eventually heading back to the States. In terms of specifics, I don’t have anything concrete at the moment. I know I’d like to start my own business at some point, and I really enjoy the restaurant business so maybe I’ll end up in that space – though I’m open to anything!
Robert’s time living and studying in Italy and France shows how ESCP Business School offers a unique opportunity to broaden your horizons. Masters students challenge themselves by going outside of their comfort zone to experience an international environment and gain intercultural management skills first-hand – the best way to learn.