It’s a Small World: The Impact of an Unexpected Connection

Ian Manahan traveled abroad for his first time as an MBA student to study in Düsseldorf, Germany and reflects back on an amazing experience he had while in Brussels, Belgium, due to an unexpected connection he had with a resident there.

WUH Otto Beisheim School of Management

WUH Otto Beisheim School of Management

Finally! I was a thirty-year-old MBA student that had been blessed to study abroad for the first time in my life, as so many of my friends had done before. I was in the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf in Germany, taking three classes at the recently minted WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. It was January, so I was enjoying the cozy feel of winter whilst exploring the German landscape and culture. When I consolidated my plans to study abroad, I wasn’t sure what doors could open for me, since it would be my first time in Europe as well as outside of North America. I didn’t have much context for what was going to be the best use of my free time away from my studies. Little did I know how formative my time abroad, and for that matter, a side trip, could be. 

I believe I’ve underestimated the network that my family has connected me to, up to this point in my life. I was homeschooled and never really saw my stay-at-home mom as someone who would be connecting me with future business partners or friends. However, she emailed me during my stay in Germany about a friend of hers she knew in Brussels, Belgium who would like to visit with her son. Brussels turned out to only be a €14 and 3-hour bus ride from where I was living, so I jumped at the opportunity to visit another city in order to meet a friendly host. I was excited to cultivate a more meaningful relationship with my mother’s friend.

View of Mini-Europe from the Atomium in Brussels

View of Mini-Europe from the Atomium in Brussels

Damilare, my mom’s friend who turned out to be only a year older than me, luckily had a similar schedule to my own, so we made plans for me to travel to Brussels over Super Bowl weekend. I was ecstatic to see as much of the city as I could and also to engage in some of the nightlife. I arrived on a Friday and during my first afternoon there, we visited the Atomium, which was built in anticipation of the 1958 World’s Fair. The structure gives one of the best views of Brussels, as seen in a few of the pictures included within this post. We then made our way to the world record holder for most beers available for order – Delirium Café. On the way, however, we stopped by Gran Place at the city center where I had my first Belgian waffle with Nutella and wondered why I ever gave up baking. Having two more full days on the agenda, we decided to retire early.

Saturday started with some Italian style coffee, (which is now my favorite), and we were off to walk as much of the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels, as we could. We took a free tour of the city from a couple of entrepreneurs, who were working to create an online platform where people could host themed house parties and attract like minded strangers to come mingle. Their personal experiences and stories ended up being more informative than the tour itself. The tour seamlessly worked with our mid-afternoon meal and timely arrival to a tiny cheese and baguette sandwich spot right before closing. We made it in time to be served, but the caveat was that the shop had run out of bread. Damilare ran out to buy bread from a local baker, while his wife and I held our place in line. Our sandwiches were well worth the effort of the bread run, as my mind was opened to my cranberry, wild honey, goat cheese and meat sandwich. Simple, fresh, and profoundly good meals were a theme throughout my time abroad, especially in Brussels.

Gran Place, Brussles where we started our city tour

Gran Palace, Brussels

On Saturday night, Damilare showed me the incredible dance scene in Brussels. We went to ‘Groovalicious’ and hip-hop danced our butts off into the middle of the night. Leaving sometime after 2AM, there were still hundreds of people dancing to the beats. On Sunday, we slept in and took mass transit to Brussels’ giant Sunday market. Observing the military presence/patrol in the market, we ruminated over the folklore of being able to ‘buy anything’ at the market. We parted so I could go to mass and attend a speed dating function, since it was a week away from Feb 14th after all. The plan was to join back up for more dancing that night. This time, we decided to go salsa dancing at La Tentation, with a free lesson.

I arrived early for the lesson, met some people in line, and paid my €2 to get unlimited access to the bathroom for the night. I had the chance to dance with two wonderful girls during the lesson and have kept up with both of them through the recent horrific attacks on March 22nd. One is a business student nearing the end of her degree and the other had recently completed her Masters, which focuses on user responses to online advertisements in order to predict future behavior. Damilare and his wife joined me at La Tentation later in the night. We all danced until we decided to watch Peyton Manning win his last NFL football game in Super Bowl 50 till about 4:35 in the morning. All told, it was a jam-packed weekend that I look back at having gained four new friends and an appreciation for the diversity offered on one of the world stages in Brussels.

Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels with Damilare

Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels with Damilare

Damilare is originally from Nigeria. I really benefitted from hearing his views on life and learning about the unique challenges a Nigerian faces versus an American in obtaining a visa. While we may have equal amounts of fun on the dance floor, our world-views and perspectives are still strongly linked to our geographical and familial connections. Brussels food and beer are right up my alley, and I’m looking to bring some of that inspiration back to San Diego in the form of healthy eating business ventures. Even though salsa dancing is prevalent in San Diego, I didn’t find a love for it until I travelled to Brussels.

While in Germany, I learned how to adapt to a generous and efficient culture for roughly two months and gained pertinent knowledge through my course work at WHU. I’m also very grateful for the few side trips I took and the friends I made that ended up being some of the most encouraging and inspiring experiences. One of my two favorite trips was visiting Brussels and I was inspired to make this my post to honor the victims of the recent tragedy. If we all took a chance to meet a stranger we were somehow connected to, how much closer could individuals in the world become? My studies abroad have certainly brought me closer to meeting like-minded people thus far.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Je T’aime Paris: A Localized Experience in the City of Love

Erin Smith enjoyed her first time abroad in a multitude of different countries, however, this article portrays one of her favorite experiences from her program that took place in Paris.

To say that the London, Paris, Rome Program for MACC students was life changing would be an understatement. In the past two weeks, my eyes have been opened to three different cultures and business practices. Never would I have imagined one trip to a foreign country would change my perspective and worldview in such a short period of time. There are so many good things I could say about the program and the cities, but to save you from the pages I could write about my experience, I’ll focus on my experience in Paris.


Paris captured my heart from the moment I stepped onto the train platform and into the city. Luckily, my friend Henri, who lives in Paris but attends college in the States, happened to be home for the summer and was in the city at the same time as me! Along with my friend Sabrina, we spent the afternoon and night exploring the city, avoiding the main tourist locations you would first expect to visit in Paris. Henri took us to the local spots that only true Parisians would know about. We went to Sacre-Cour, which, yes, is a tourist spot, but rather than just view the Church and leave, we spent a good hour or two hanging out with the locals on the lawn.


Sabrina, Erin, and Henri on the lawn of the Sacre-Cour and Montmarte

The locals congregate after long days on the lawns of Sacre-Cour and Montmarte to socialize and relax with beautiful views of the city. Hearing about the French locals day-to-day lives was a cultural experience unlike any other. Since this trip was my first time being outside of the States, I never realized that different countries practiced different routines and placed values on different aspects of life. Talking to the locals was very eye-opening for me personally because it taught me there is more to life than work, technology, and money. Life is about the simple pleasures, the little moments that bring a smile to your face. There is so much more out there in the world if you’re open to see it, and those two hours on the lawn of Sacre-Cour gave me valuable life lessons that I will not be able to forget anytime soon.



Foie Gras (Duck liver)



After time well spent in Montmarte, Henri took us to a local café where none of the workers spoke English, so thankfully he was there to translate! We tried typical French dishes, such as Escargot and Foie Gras (duck liver). To be honest, I did not think I was going to try either of them, until I was in the moment. They were actually really tasty! My first day in Paris was one for the books, and I feel so blessed to have seen a local snapshot of life, rather than going to the tourist locations right away. I already felt connected to the city in numerous ways, and it was saddening to have to leave after only 4 days. Paris was truly an enigmatic city and a place where I was able to experience little moments that I will carry within my heart forever.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.


10 Must-See Attractions in Buenos Aires

MBA Student Xiaoyu (Grace) Pu recently participated in the Buenos Aires study abroad program. She took advantage of every opportunity to explore the city and experience the Argentinean culture, and was kind enough to share her list of the top 10 places to visit while in Buenos Aires:

1- La Recoleta Cemetery 


La Recoleta Cemetery is a cemetery located in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. It contains the graves of very notable people, including Eva Peron (the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952), and a granddaughter of the French conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte. In 2011, the BBC hailed it as one of the world’s best cemeteries, and in 2013, CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world.

2- La Boca


La Boca is a wonderfully colorful neighborhood right next to the old port of Buenos Aires. Its multi-colored houses and taverns maintains the community’s tango tradition, football passion, and Italian roots.

3- La Casa Rosada


La Casa Rosada is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina. The characteristic color of the Casa Rosada is baby pink, and is considered one of the most emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires. The building also houses a museum, which contains significant objects relating to former presidents of Argentina. If you have seen Madonna’s movie, “Evita,” you don’t want to miss the La Casa Rosada.

4- Calle Florida 


Calle Florida (Florida Street) is an elegant shopping street in Downtown Buenos Aires. It is one of the city’s leading tourist attractions. In the evening, the pace is invigorated as street performers flock to the area, including tango singers and dancers, living statues, and comedy acts. Its variety of retail stores, shopping arcades and restaurants is of great interest to foreign tourists and business travelers.

5- Palermo


Palermo is a vibrant neighborhood located in the northeast of the city. The neighborhood’s walls are covered with paintings. Containing various boutique stores and bars, it is now the hottest place for the young generations to explore.

6- Señor Tango

IMG_1259 This traditional Tango show takes place in the old community, Barracas. The performance utilizes cutting-edge technology, displaying a monumentally entertaining array of light, color and sound. Forty artists and performers will offer you the best of traditional Tango. The central theme of Opera Rock Evita will surely get to your heart.

7- Recoleta


A classy residential and commercial district complete with French-style buildings and art nouveau constructions, Recoleta is one of the most expensive and elegant neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and amongst the most popular for tourists. Its central square, Plaza Francia, is surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and other touristic landmarks like the Del Pilar Church, the Palais de Glace and the University of Buenos Aires Law Faculty; alongside the plaza stands the famous Floralis Genérica – an immense steel statue in the shape of a flower, whose petals open and close depending on the time of the day.

8- Don Julio Restaurant


Don Julio is a very famous restaurant in Palermo. Here, I had the best steak ever in my life. The building’s origin dates back to the 19th century, with the interior walls lined with empty wine bottles, converting the rustic space into a welcoming wine sanctuary. Diners from around the world leave their personal mark signing the labels of the great Argentine wines with handwritten messages. Check out our USD MBA wine bottle!

9- Makena Cantina 


Makena Cantina is a club that houses a live band. The bar is built on three levels – the ground floor for dancing, the first-floor balcony for relaxing and socializing, and the stage on a mezzanine for anything in between. Sunday night is the regular gig for the band, “Afro Mama Jams.” These guys are a soul/funk/R&B/hip-hop collective, with a core of regulars and many guests musicians. On the whole, they are fantastically talented.

10- Slums


If you didn’t visit the slums, you couldn’t say you have visited Buenos Aires. After seeing all of the fun places, it is essential to see the depressing side of the city as well. These settlements consist of small houses or shacks made of tin, wood and other scrap material. There’s no sanitation system, though there may be water pipes passing through the settlement. Electric power is sometimes illegally taken directly from the grid, which are perforce accepted by suppliers. Go see the slums, it will make you cherish more what you have.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

International Practicum: iPai in Shanghai

MBA student Emily Lapp recently traveled to Shanghai, China for an international consulting practicum. These are her reflections:

MBA students burn incense at a temple in Zhujiajiao

MBA students burn incense at a temple in Zhujiajiao

“Just prior to my final semester in the University of San Diego’s MBA program, I decided to participate in an international consulting practicum during the 2016 intercessional period. On New Year’s Eve, I boarded a plane and, 13 hours later, touched down to greet the new year in a new country: China. An often discussed but frequently misunderstood country, China is primarily known for being heavily populated (almost 1.4 billion people) and a chief export partner to the United States; many products sold here in the US are produced within China. Yet, most Americans have never been to China and lack firsthand experience of the country. While studying the history and culture of a country can improve one’s understanding, there is little that can compare to firsthand experience. Given China’s significance as a growing nation with an ever increasing role in global business, I decided a trip to China would significantly aide in my understanding of global business by exposing me to both daily life and business in China.

MBA students attended the first auction held in iPai’s new office in Shanghai.

MBA students attended the first auction held in iPai’s new office in Shanghai

The company selected for the China practicum consulting project was “iPai,” an American-owned auction company in Shanghai. Our group was divided into two teams and assigned topics. My team’s job was to identify opportunities for improvement in the company’s organizational structure and work flow processes. While our professor was on-site to oversee the project and provide valuable feedback, we were entrusted to set meetings with the client, organize our efforts and ultimately, decide what recommendations would best assist our client. The project was much more open-ended than a typical MBA assignment and the timeline much more condensed. Not only did my team have to take care to accurately assess the company’s current situation and ensure we effectively communicated with our client to understand their desired outcome, but we also had to quickly assess the strengths of each team member while making time critical decisions as to how best to tackle the workload. Being in a foreign country, far away from the normal resources of USD and working for clients whose Chinese employees spoke little English, added to the project’s complexity. In the process, I learned a great deal about cultural norms in China, particularly related to organizational structure, and took away many tips for doing business in China. In the evenings, after a long day of work, our team was able to get out and enjoy the wonder that is the city of Shanghai.

MBA students and faculty visit the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai on a city tour

MBA students and faculty visit the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai on a city tour

After an intense ten days of working on the project, it was time for our final presentation to the client. I was eager to share our team’s hard work and, after the presentation concluded, felt a great sense of satisfaction. I knew our work for iPai was not just academic in nature, but would actually be used to further develop and grow the company. I truly enjoyed putting the skills I’ve learned during the past two years of my MBA program to great use for a company. I found the entire international practicum experience to be incredible. I know for a fact that it has greatly contributed to my personal understanding of the world and further enhanced my global mindset. I highly recommend an international practicum to all MBA students. I can promise that you will not regret it!”

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Marketing Practicum: Developing Strategies to Target Brazilian consumers in Munich, Germany


Christine Franz recently traveled to Munich, Germany and completed a practicum that allowed her to experience how the company Webasto targets its Brazilian’s consumers, in regards to selling sunroof’s, by conducting market research on its consumers wants and needs.

“I had such an educational and rewarding experience doing my practicum in Munich, Germany with my team (pictured to the right). I was able to interact with local professionals and help them fulfill their needs in a very short time period. Webasto, a global company that creates sun roof’s for the automotive industry, provided me with an amazing experience and I learned soimage014 much about marketing, through the project my team and I participated in. The project involved developing localized marketing strategies, as well as conducting market research on the Brazilian car market and its consumers. Not only did I have to understand how business is currently being performed in Webasto’s Munich headquarters, I also had to understand how the Brazilian market functions and the needs of the consumer’s in the company’s target market. It was very beneficial to have a Brazilian student on the team and she proved to be such a valuable asset, as she was able to share her first hand knowledge about Brazilian’s perceptions of sunroof’s today.

image012           Although my team and I were kept busy working on the project, we were still able to enjoy the city of Munich. My favorite past time on the trip included climbing the 300+ steps to the top of St. Peter’s Church, which displayed a panorama of the whole city, including picturesque views of the snow covered Alps (view pictured above). The picture showcases the Frauenkirche on the left, with the two domed towers, as well as the Marienplatz and Rathaus located in the center. Munich is full of so much history and culture; it is revealed everywhere you go. I even had a chance to visit the beautiful Schloss Nymphenburg right before the start of the practicum – a site that is definitely worth visiting! On our group walking tour, we made a stop at the most famous of the beer gardens in the city, Hofbräuhaus.  

I am so happy to have been able to experience Munich, as well as gain more pertinent knowledge in my field of interest through the practicum.  I believe it has helped me to expand my global mindset by giving me a broad overview of what I want to pursue in my future career. I look forward to gaining more valuable experiences in next year’s practicum.”


Pictured: The whole group in the main upstairs hall in the Hofbräuhaus.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.




Unraveling the Complexities of Global Real Estate

Written by Mark Ambrose.

The MSRE 509 Capital Markets course in Hong Kong has been a valuable and unforgettable experience. The content of this class was directly aligned with my primary reasons for joining the master’s program, was delivered in a setting that helped broaden my perspective, and encouraged me to think big. I want to pursue a master’s degree in real estate because I want a better understanding of the interaction between various real estate market components. I also wish to attain an understanding of the financial aspects of real estate projects and investment decision-making. The Capital Markets course directly addressed my interests.


Prior to this course, my knowledge of investment capital structure was somewhat limited to small syndicates, smaller projects and traditional (simple) organizations of debt and equity. As the size and scope of real estate investment grows, so does the daunting complexity. The knowledge gained through this course gave me the ability to work on larger commercial real estate projects upon my return. I studied the specific characteristics and construction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (CMBS), mechanisms that are absolutely critical to the organization and financing of larger, more expensive real state projects. Learning about capital structures and sources has helped me unravel the bigger picture of how different types of investors—from life insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds, all the way down to individual investors—participate in large scale real estate investments. Now, I have the foundational knowledge and perspectives of how the pieces of large-scale investment come together and interact, allowing me to move beyond and potentially work on the large institutional investment level.


Taking this course in the Hong Kong setting was very influential. It is an incredible city that displays unique real estate market characteristics and a cultural fusion of Eastern and Western business systems. It was fascinating to explore a city that reflects the might of the Chinese economy as well as the freedom and variety of Western capitalist elements. The density and organization of the city was appealing; I came away from this Hong Kong trip believing there are many lessons that should influence urban growth in America, specifically, smart density and transportation. I lived in San Francisco for five years and it was incredible to compare San Francisco as a city to the vibrancy and efficiency of Hong Kong, which has essentially the same geographical size but more than seven times the population. It was honestly an embarrassing contrast riding the Bay Area Rapid Transit system upon my return, after enjoying the perfection of Hong Kong’s MTR system everyday for two weeks.


One of my favorite parts of the course was the guest lecture by Tony Lam of Delta International LTD. Tony, born in Hong Kong and educated in the US, is a real estate professional with a valuation background. Tony helped emphasize the global nature of real estate investment by telling us about his employer’s multi-national operations in America and elsewhere. After his lecture, I exchanged emails with Tony, striking up a relationship with him that I hope to maintain. It became clear that there is a possibility for collaboration between us in the future. This was an exciting and unexpected development from taking this class in Hong Kong.

My global mindset was greatly enhanced by the experience of taking this course in Hong Kong. Globalization will only accelerate into the future and this course helped me to think of US real estate as a global investment product. Foreign investment in American real estate is already widespread but I expect this participation to continue expanding in scope, and I am excited to have the knowledge to contribute and personally partake in this evolution.

Ambrose1Overall, it is difficult to fully quantify the benefits of this intersession experience. It was a wonderful professional and cultural immersion. It was illuminating to be in one of the world’s greatest cities and to learn about some of the more difficult aspects of real estate. One of my greatest hopes in pursuing this master’s degree is to get a handle on the most complex financial elements of real estate. This course certainly delivered in this area. I found it empowering to learn about the highly detailed landscape of real estate capital in such a unique location. I am no longer intimidated by high finance as it relates to real estate, and I found Hong Kong as a very inspiring destination because I could actually feel the economic might of growth, progress and globalization.

I am truly glad I decided to go on this trip as part of my MSRE experience. I am deeply grateful to the Ahler’s Center for organizing it. I extend my sincerest gratitude for all the help and support. Thank you.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.