Tara Nobles stands on a balcony overlooking the city of Segovia, Spain.
UF MBA Online student Tara Nobles in Segovia, Spain.

Global Immersion Experience inspires a new path for Online MBA student

Tara Nobles, who lost two jobs due to COVID-19, shares that she didn’t just find new friends on a trip to Spain’s capital, but a renewed confidence in what lies ahead on her career journey.

I’ve always been very driven in my career; however, I am most fulfilled when serving others. After 10+ years working for a nonprofit dear to my heart and multiple promotions throughout that timeframe, I reached a professional plateau.

It was a rather difficult decision, but the time came for me to “spread my wings” (as my CEO at the time said), and I returned to the hospitality industry to accept a newly created position at the Savannah Convention Center just before the groundbreaking of an enormous expansion project that would double the size of the facility.

Just six months into my exciting new role and growth opportunity, COVID-19 spread to the United States, shutting down our facility and much of the hospitality industry as a whole. After a several-month layoff that we all hoped was temporary, approximately 60-70% of our staff was formally terminated. 

I was very fortunate that, upon posting an update about the change in my career status to Facebook and LinkedIn, I was immediately contacted by a local boutique PR and marketing firm in Savannah and hired as their Creative Director.

While we were quite busy for a little over a year, the effects of COVID hit some of our clients a little later, forcing them to cut their budgets and in turn discontinue our services. At the very end of 2021 and just before the holidays, I was informed that due to significant loss of business, the firm could no longer financially support my position, and I was let go. 

COVID-19 resulted in the loss of my job… twice. Which was especially disheartening after being employed by the same organization for over a decade and then leaving my comfort zone in search of more. 

During my several-month layoff from the Savannah Convention Center, I took advantage of a certification opportunity that was being offered online free to hospitality employees, and I was hooked! I had talked about applying for grad school for several years, but I had never done more than just talk about it.

This small taste of online learning had me feeling challenged, incredibly excited, and really empowered. COVID-19 put a speed bump in my professional plans but earning my MBA would allow me to continue improving and in turn position myself for career growth.

One of the parts of the UF MBA Online program that ‘sealed the deal’, as they say, for me was the opportunity to go on a Global Immersion Experience (GIE) and learn more about international business. For myself and my fellow students, that meant traveling to Madrid, Spain for a week of presentations by various business leaders and cultural experiences.

While I initially thought this trip would be a nice way to learn while seeing a new country, at the end of my two-year program, my expectations changed.

Beyond my excitement to learn more about various industries, I was delighted by the opportunity to use all of the knowledge acquired throughout my MBA program to help an actual company in Spain for the business challenge. I even found myself daydreaming about how this international trip could be the first of many more depending on my next career move or a future one.

After returning from a week in Spain’s capital city, I can say that I got so much more out of this experience than I could have imagined. Every moment of this trip was a beneficial learning experience.

Our week started with a professor from the IE School of Global and Public Affairs who is also a Senior Analyst at Elcano Royal Institute, and that was the perfect way to begin. The data he presented was eye-opening, and he was a speaker I could have listened to all day – it really set the tone for the week.

Working in radio for almost a decade and being a musician myself, I personally loved the presentation and tour we received from the female founder of Trivium Stage at the Wizink Center. I really enjoyed learning about the events industry in Spain but hearing about her career journey as a woman was so moving. 

I love sports but don’t follow soccer as closely as some of my classmates and colleagues; however, I still found our visit to La Liga, the men’s top professional soccer division of the Spanish league system, to be so enjoyable and enlightening. The first presentation really opened my eyes to just how much soccer (fútbol) is valued and prioritized in Spain. Learning about how the most recent CEO turned the league around financially was a great business lesson. Our second presentation at La Liga was from the league’s Head of Commercial. He spoke about rethinking sponsorships as partnerships which was useful information for someone like me who has years of experience in both advertising and fundraising.

However, the overall most significant takeaway for me was the importance of truly understanding cultural differences. To be successful in a global business environment, there is lot more to take into consideration than just the exchange rate. I loved hearing from our final speaker, professor and business analyst Juliet Angel, about cultural sensitivity. As humans, we’ve come a long way in this regard, but we still have room for improvement when it comes to understanding, respecting and celebrating diversity. 

I think it takes a certain kind of person to travel halfway across the world to spend a week with 30 people you’ve never met before in a country where English is not the native language. Being surrounded by so many successful, driven, smart (and yet absolutely fun and down-to-earth) individuals was incredibly inspiring. I made invaluable professional contacts on this trip but also amazing new friends. I returned so motivated to apply for potential positions perhaps a little out of my normal comfort zone with confidence and excitement about what lies ahead. (And hopefully it’s a position that includes occasional international travel!) 

We spend so much of our lives working that I truly believe it’s important to do something with your career that feeds your soul. For me, that’s helping others and traveling. That’s never been clearer to me than it is at this very moment. 

This Global Immersion Experience to Spain was not just a trip. It was an opportunity to learn by doing, seeing, and immersing ourselves in a beautiful culture with 30 of my new best friends and professional contacts from across the United States. This trip was everything I hoped it would be and a lot more. I’ve loved my two-year MBA program with the University of Florida, but this was by far my most favorite part. It was an experience I will never forget and will always remember with joy in my heart!