Rick Perry

In Their Own Words...

Rick Perry

Bachelor of Arts ‘85

German, Ma​rketing, Political Science

Today: Managing Member & Founder, Elektrosign


As a student, how did you decide to study abroad?

Studying abroad in high school made me look hard at universities that offered study abroad opportunities.  While at CMU, my professors encouraged me to study abroad.  In 1982 I was accepted to study for one year at the University of Augsburg in Germany.  Being a part of the Federation of German American Clubs, which provided a study abroad scholarship, gave me close contact with mentors. I still keep in contact with my mentor, the former President of the Augsburg Club.


Upon my return to CMU, I learned about the Rotary Ambassadorial Fellowship and was sponsored by The Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club for my studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Once again, I had classes and made friends with students from all over the world.  Our common language was German.  


What did you learn that you have applied in your life and career?

My study abroad had a profound impact on my educational and career choices, including my decision to earn a Master's degree in Political Science. While working as a Legislative Assistant in the Michigan House of Representatives, I was Michigan’s first participant in the State Employee Exchange with the Leadership Academy of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.  I subsequently arranged three education tours to Germany for legislators, educators and business people to study the German education system.  In 1996 I started and directed the US office of the Cross-Cultural Leadership Forum, a non-profit foundation based out of Heidelberg, Germany. In 1999, I was appointed me the Representative for Economic Development for the US and Canada for the State of Brandenburg. In 2005, I launched my digital hospitality services company, Elektrosign. Since our business is national and international, I continue to use the skills developed during study abroad. Our Czech distributor speaks German, so that is how we communicate today.


What advice would you give to current CMU students considering or participating in study abroad?

Studying abroad is one of the most eye opening and enriching personal experiences.  My advice to prospective students is:

       Go in with enthusiasm, an open mind, and a willingness to learn a new culture.

       Be friendly and make friends

       Be curious and ready to learn.

       Do your homework before you get to your new country: know the basics about the political structure, leading personalities, geography, history and culture.

       Learn at least one foreign language. One really only understands a culture when one understands the language.

       Reach out to others and be an ambassador to bridge cultures.


Imagine how we could minimize cultural misunderstandings in our world, if our executives and employees understood the background, history and nuances of people all over the world!  You will certainly set yourself apart from others and make yourself a valued member of your company and our society, in addition to being a better person.