Category Archives: Study Abroad

Munich:Athens SU15, Cummings

Summer Sojourn to Europe: An Academic Fortnight in Munich & Athens

Written by MSGL student Steven Cummings, a participant in the Summer 2015 Munich & Athens program abroad.

Lessons for International Travel:

Lesson #1: Never freak out – go with the flow – there’s almost always a solution.

May 21st: I begin my adventure abroad with the incidental necessity of hitchhiking to LAX. On a shoestringer student budget, I elected to take an “indirect” flight path to arrive in Munich, our program’s first location, and already it was off to a rocky start. The surfliner train bound to deliver me to downtown LA, where I would catch a bus to the airport, gave notice of its cancellation within two minutes of its scheduled arrival. As luck would have it, I’d barely stuck out my thumb when a kindly yogi hailing from Encinitas saw fit to pick me up and deliver me within easy reach of my port of departure.

My connections in London and Zurich brought me eventually to reach Bavaria in time for our first program rendezvous, a bike tour of Munich. We gathered what culture we could from the Australians leading the tour, who had great insights as to the local biergartens, and began our more serious undertakings the next day at the FOM – a private university of fine reputation.  Our week’s study in Munich brought us into contact with German students and professors, as well as some local industry of typical German fastidiousness – notably the BMW factory. Our dialogues and discussions brought to bear the present status of the nation in terms of economics, business and entrepreneurial atmosphere, and its presence in the EU. Many students noted the emphasis on cleanliness, efficiency, and productive mentality of Munich and its citizens, and contemplated how this might give contrast to expectations we had for our impending trip to Athens.

Steven Cummings, Dr. Dimon, and Dr. Zocco at BMW tour in Munich.

Steven Cummings, Dr. Dimon, and Dr. Zocco at BMW museum in Munich.

Our suspicions were correct, for upon arriving to Greece’s capital we could immediately feel the change in environment from Germany’s conservative epicenter. But in addition to the relative disorder of Athenian business and daily life came the Mediterranean openness of its people, and engagement with locals proved a constant stream in comparison to the rather reserved stance we had experienced the previous week. Our daily classes in the Athenian Laboratory of Business Administration began with a terrific series of lectures by the dean and another professor, delving deeply into the roots, status, and future of the Greek Crisis. This topic had been a primary point of focus for our class, with preludes in America and Germany, so the week’s address of the crisis proved quite interesting. Having “boots on ground” in Athens also helped put things in perspective and will greatly aid the course of our class’s final presentation on the subject.

Munich:Athens SU14, Cummings 2

In front of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens

 

Lesson #2: Always participate! Interact, engage, and breach the comfort zone.

What assisted me further in this regard were the conversations I found when interacting with the Greeks themselves, both in Athens and in the subsequent places I visited in Greece after the conclusion of our program. These interactions shaped my understanding of the business environment equally as much as the lectures given in Munich and Athens. Therein lies the value of the study abroad pursuits; the itinerary of the program does not hold the edification, but the framework itself. Visiting the environment first hand, discussing it with the people who give its substance, evaluating current issues in and among the people to whom they directly apply. As a USD student, born and raised in America, now experiencing academic, economic, and quotidian cultural lenses of another sphere of civil society, the inherent duties accompanying said opportunity are to raise levels of awareness, absorb distinctions and similarities, and return home with the intention to share the collected extractions to those in America who would find benefit from a more globally minded view of the world.

Company visit to Apivita, a natural cosmetics company in Athens.

Apivita, Mun:Ath SU15, Cummings

 

Lesson #3: Maximize the experience.

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MBA and MSGL students mingling in Athens – Acropolis in the background.

Time and money. Usually the international traveler has one or the other but rarely both. Fortunately as the “globe-trotting global citizen” gains proficiency it becomes easier to adopt a “more for less” attitude with either or both of the given dimensions. Studying abroad can be expensive, but it’s certainly an achievable and worthwhile aim. To further ameliorate costs of this venture, I utilized resources like couch-surfing and hostels to reduce accommodation costs as well as public transportation vs. taxis or other convenience conveyances whenever possible. In fact, some of my most developmental experiences came through interactions with my local couch-surfing hosts who were living the lives we viewed through scholastic observance. I’m very grateful for the Ahlers Scholarship that helped launch me on this voyage, and hope the Toreros and the nation receives benefit from the more globally conscious students programs of this nature are designed to produce.

June 6th: The university program has ended, but all work and no play is not one of the lessons! Onward to Ikaria, an “off the beaten path” island where Ikarus fell from the sky, to camp and mingle and attempt the famous nine-step Ikarian spiral dance of the Panigiri!

 

Check back soon for more student experiences abroad!  

For more information on Ahlers Center opportunities, visit our study abroad webpage.

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Closing the Gap: An American Experience with Argentine Economics

In January 2015, graduate student Elizabeth Tanner participated in the intersession course (Global Entrepreneurship for Social Change) program in Buenos Aires, Argentina and got a first-hand look at Argentine economics, including a growing wealth gap, which has been affected by both domestic political and financial instability starting in the 20th Century.

One of the ten wealthiest states during the 19th Century — a result of prosperous trading with European countries, flowing immigration and rich natural resources — Argentina began going through political and financial stability, as did much of the world, during the two World Wars. Add in political instability, degenerating fiscal policies and a domestic currency crisis in 2001, and socioeconomic inequality rose immensely.

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The closing dinner for the students in Buenos Aires; Elizabeth Tanner is second from the right.

Fast forward to 2015, Elizabeth Tanner was able to see and experience how Argentinian businesses are working to decrease that gap. “The role of business and entrepreneurs [is] in finding solutions to the wealth gap, creating and providing sustainable jobs, and improving the social climate in Argentina… Many business and entrepreneurs are taking an active role in driving social change through business initiatives. We witnessed this first hand through site visits during our course in Buenos Aires,” said Tanner.

Outside of the classroom, the participants went on numerous site visits to companies and organizations who are directly modeling their company goals and practices towards helping decrease poverty and grow the middle class. Tanner commented, “I was most impressed by Fundación Avina. We visited their Argentine headquarters in Buenos Aires… At Fundación Avina, they are addressing social challenges by creating sustainable profitable ventures. We learned about their efforts in Argentina. In the slums of Buenos Aires (and every metropolitan area globally), there are a subset of people who create income by picking through garbage and reclaiming the valuable and reusable waste… Waste pickers are an important part of our society [as they] are preventing landfill and assisting in achieving environmental sustainability and reclaiming commodities.” However, because they are working informally, their rights and leverage concerning wages. Fundación Avina, in response, has created cooperatives that unite the workers and enable them to get higher wages. On the legal end, the philanthropic group has worked on pushing public policy to formally recognize these workers.

View of Buenos Aires at sunset from the hotel.

View of Buenos Aires at sunset from the hotel.

Overall, Tanner’s experience has shown her how many businesses around the world are concerned just as much, if not more, about the ethics surrounding their practices and goals as they are with their bottom line. “The Golden Rule is moving to the forefront of many entrepreneurial efforts globally and businesses are prioritizing social responsibility. In addition, individuals and businesses are recognizing that sound business models and sustainable revenue flows can benefit social initiatives in creating long standing change,” Tanner said.

Strangers in a Strange Land: Finding Love Abroad

In the fall of 2009, two young strangers, an Italian man named Nicolo and a Spanish woman named Anna, decided to embark on study abroad programs to the United States from their respective universities of Bocconi in Italy and EADA in Spain. Little did either know how much of a journey their time during their exchange programs would be.

Nicolo and Anna first met at their exchange student orientation hosted by the Ahlers Center, and soon developed a friendship while both living in Mission Beach and sharing a class and the same friend group. Two months later, the two multinational friends developed strong feelings for each other, and on their first trip to New York City during Thanksgiving, they officially became a couple. Fast forward five years, and the European couple are now happily married and living in Andorra.

Niccolo (center) and Anna (second from the right) in San Diego.

Niccolo (center) and Anna (second from the right) in San Diego in 2009.

Anna commented on her unexpected fairytale, “When I first met Nico at USD, I couldn’t have imagined that after almost 5 years I would be married to him… We have spent much of our relationship traveling and working together in countries such as Italy, Switzerland and Spain, and now we are living in the small but breathtaking Principality of Andorra. We are both so thankful to the University of San Diego for the study abroad opportunity that brought us to each other!”

Niccolo and Anna at their 2014 wedding.

Niccolo and Anna at their 2014 wedding.

International experiences bring so much more to the participants than what’s learned in a classroom or in tourist trap destinations; unexpected positive outcomes, such as the romance between Anna and Nicolo, can be hiding around every corner, waiting to be discovered. Although it may make you slightly nervous and take some courage, temporarily leaving your country on your path of higher education during international programs will expand your horizons and forever change your world in one way or another.

Do you have a similar story to share? Please comment below!

MBA Students in Buenos Aires with Prof. Meyskens

Buenos Aires: The Phoenix of Latin America – Glimpses of Checkered Past Through Irresistible Present

 

Written by 1st year International Track MBA Student, Swastik Mukherjee

Long called the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is exactly that, and yet so, so much more besides. Granted, this is a city of wide boulevards and French-styled palaces, but it is one too of wildly exciting innovations and new styles. From the state-of-the-art museums like the MALBA, to the thrilling renaissance of the tango, Buenos Aires now buzzes with a contagious, creative energy and a brash new self-confidence. Sexy, alive and supremely confident, this beautiful city gets under your skin. Like Europe with a melancholic twist, Buenos Aires is unforgettable.

Buenos Aires

Avenida 9 de julio, one of the major wide boulevards in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The above snippet is what I took with me to Buenos Aires, on my first study abroad session with The University of San Diego in January 2015. Upon my arrival, I realized how big of a challenge the language barrier would be. I did not know a word of Spanish and the prospect of spending 3 weeks in a country without being able to communicate was scary rather than daunting.

But little did I know that this city does indeed have an intoxicating effect on its visitors. The language barriers were overcome with gestures and smiles, the inability to read street signs or knowing the difference between “caballeros” and “damas” were balanced by the infectious love and hospitality of the locals of Buenos Aires. Who could tell that one of my best days in the city would be one when I would meet six people from Brazil who did not know a word of Spanish or English. This is why we travel, this is why we do an international MBA. To know that what we perceive as differences aren’t differences at all; they are opportunities. Opportunities for us to grow and learn and cherish and admire.

Getting the opportunity to take the Social Entrepreneurship class in Buenos Aires was an eye-opener. Learning about the different bureaucratic styles of government and the ways to do business and the ways to tackle the severe headwinds that entrepreneurs face made me realize how much we take our lives in the United States for granted. Visiting the recovered factories where people work on meager stipends and seeing the efforts they make to keep the people happy and engaged was also a humbling moment. At one point, you stop asking questions of standards of safety and quality and realize that those questions are irrelevant to their aspect of life. These people are working to make ends meet, not to have global levels of quality or safety. Life as we know it, is not how they live it.

Visit to Sume Materiales

Global Entrepreneurship for Social Change Class Visit to Sume Materiales

For the practicum, I had an excellent team that combined four unique individuals with different industry experience and backgrounds. We were working with Wal-Mart Argentina and the project that we were assigned to was complex and challenging. But the team rose to the challenge and figured out very quickly what was expected of us as deliverables. The team fed off each other’s strengths and ensured that the final product was over and above what the client had expected and thus ensured the client’s satisfaction and possible further interaction in the near future.

USD Students gaining some international consulting experience at Walmart Argentina

USD Students gaining some international consulting experience at Walmart Argentina

Being on a trip such as this, I was joined by a wonderful group of people, friends from my cohort and some new faces from the evening and second year MBA. Suffice to say, we bonded pretty well. We bonded over steaks and Malbecs, empanadas and cervezas, financial models and feasibility analysis and the collective goal of making the best of our time in Buenos Aires. With a group of high-thinking and highly ambitious students and individuals, the recipe was ideal for ultimate success or disaster. I am glad to say that it was the former. There were differences that crept in but none that we could not resolve amicably. Our local administrator helped make sure we were regularly informed of things that are happening in and around town along with info on study sessions, group meetings, currency exchange and local hotspots to check out for dinners and drinks.

Typical Argentine dinner: steak, wine and good company

Typical Argentine dinner: steak, wine and good company

My experience in Argentina can be summed up in three words: enlightening and privileged. It taught me a lot, both academically as well as personally. It was a privilege to be in Argentina, doing the class and the project with a great bunch of people that I would love to work with again.

Swastik

Swastik Mukherjee on the right and Joe Bird – MBA students at Suma Materiales company visit

Practicum Experience

Company: Wal-Mart Argentina

Project Scope: The project entrusted to us was complex yet intellectually stimulating. The main points were:

1) Analyze current accounts payable process and suggest improvements.

2) Use the suggested electronic invoicing process and make it leaner.

3) Come up with a financial and economic feasibility model for the electronic invoicing go-live

Solution presented: Compared the old process to the new and eliminated 5 days of non-value added work in order to implement the new process. Also analyzed cost savings and revenue to come up with a NPV analysis with an IRR that exceeded expectations of Wal-Mart finance personnel. In short, we presented the worst case, management case and best case scenarios and we decided that the project is a go with huge windfalls.

Students Final Presentation at Walmart Argentina

And the room was full of executives… Student’s Final Presentation at Walmart Argentina

What about you? Have you also been to Buenos Aires? What would you recommend for students who will be studying there next year?

Beautiful view in Toulouse

“Chassez le sommeil!”

The University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration offers graduate business students the opportunity to attend courses at universities in several countries and earn graduate credits toward USD’s MBA program. One of our current MBA students, Andrea Ruiz, writes about her experience in Bordeaux, France as an exchange student at KEDGE Business School.

KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux

KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux

“Chassez le sommeil!” As Advent begins, Frère Sebastian—a Dominican brother at Saint Paul Monastery in Bordeaux—reminds us to “chase away our sleep!” It’s a powerful phrase that defines my experience here in Bordeaux. For me, Bordeaux has been my time of preparation.

Away from my family, friends and the comforts of Southern California, Bordeaux has offered me a moment to refocus, especially on my career and on how—come next summer—I will make noise in the market with the experience that I have gained at USD. I’ve discovered new insights far beyond the classroom. The most memorable insights have come from two special people I’ve met here in France: Roland and Sofia.

  • Roland is from Hungary. He’s one of the rare Hungarians that learned a foreign language. He speaks fluent English, and he was quick to approach me when he knew I was from California. To him, the U.S. is a dream, a place where his hard, honest work would be valued. Roland helped me look back at my home with brand new awe, and I’m excited to be a part of an American company that creates the value that puts a twinkle in peoples’ eyes—just like Roland.
  • Sofia, a Colombian transfer student in Bordeaux, lives day by day. She came to France on a scholarship that she received miraculously, and she’s here with limited financial resources. Regardless, Sofia invited me to her small room for dinner when she knew we shared our Latin American culture. She took an internship at UNESCO in Paris recently, and although she didn’t know how she was going to pay for rent or any of her expenses while in Paris, her drive to make a difference in the world motivated her to go. Sofia reminded me that if we are motivated to do good in the market or in the world, everything else will fall into place.
MBA student Andrea Ruiz with other exchange students in Bordeaux, France

MBA student Andrea Ruiz with other exchange students in Bordeaux, France

One of my professors at KEDGE, Dr. Gerald Lang, put it beautifully on the last day of class: “It was very nice to have the whole world here.” Indeed, it was a pleasure to interact with students from around the world and to represent both the U.S. and Mexico myself. I’ve gained new confidence in leading teams of people with absolutely no cultural connections, and I’m learning to create bridges where I once would have thought impossible. Learning French has been an exercise in learning a new corporate culture—a company’s own language—the key is in finding details that will make the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Bordeaux will always be the place where I woke up. I’m excited to see what the new day will bring!

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The Man, the Country, the Brand: Juan Valdez Café

According to Mr. Méndez Juan Valdez Café’s value proposition is to “create well-being, emotions, and satisfaction around the best coffee in the world”. The brand’s vision is “to be the premium Colombian coffee brand preferred globally by its quality and the well-being that generates around it.”

Hernán Méndez (below), CEO of Procafecol S.A., agreed to fly to San Diego from Colombia on September 23, 2014 exclusively to present to the USD community on the story of how Juan Valdez Café centered its branding strategy on quality and its ethics on the small Colombian coffee growers producing it. This presentation is part of the Ahlers Center 20th Anniversary International Speakers Series, which is highlighting the positive impact of businesses on society.

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Mr. Méndez began his presentation by speaking of the grassroots organization of the Colombian coffee-making machine: the coffee growers. Because of Colombia’s diverse Andean terrain, the country is able to grow mild-washed, Arabica coffee year-round. Coffee production has become a “socially-stable income source” throughout the entire country, with over 500,000 small Colombian families growing coffee. Mr. Mendez, then, broke down the evolution of the Juan Valdez brand into four sections: the creation of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia in 1927; the differentiation strategy of the 1960´s of creating the Juan Valdez character for marketing and advertising in the United States; the 1982 ingredient brand strategy and logo creation; and the 2002 inclusive business and international projection.

In 1927, Colombia’s coffee producers founded the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC), which is a non-profit organization that actively represents the interests of the small coffee producers of Colombia. Its tasks include: guaranteeing open-market floor prices based on international markets and the dollar-peso exchange rate, scientific research and strategies to adapt to climate change, technical assistance to growers, quality control checks for all exported coffee, and promotional and advertising efforts.

The late 1950’s saw the international price inflation of Colombian coffee, low country-of-origin knowledge by customers, and other factors impeding the growth and success of Colombian coffee sales abroad. To combat this, the FNC, and Colombian growers in general, created a differentiation strategy to show how Colombian coffee is a better quality of product than other mass-producing countries, such as Brazil, who had an advantage of lower costs of production due to various geographical differences. The brainchild of this strategy was the creation of the Juan Valdez character in 1960 to put a face to the quality-first, hard-working and family-oriented brand Colombian coffee growers were portraying their product to be. The United States, where a large portion of Colombian coffee has always been sold, saw a strong influx of modern marketing and advertising campaigns with this character through all media outlets to promote “100% Colombian coffee” brands and the notion that “only with hard work makes the best coffee.”

Denise Dimon, Director of Ahlers Center for International Business with Mr. Hernán Mendez

Denise Dimon, Director of Ahlers Center for International Business with Mr. Hernán Mendez

In the 1980’s, the trend in customer preferences became geared towards the ingredients of their purchased products, and so the FNC and Colombian coffee growers shifted the focus of their marketing from the Juan Valdez character to how the quality of Colombian coffee warranted a higher cost than competing brands. This culminated in a successful “push-pull” strategy and the creation of a universal “Café de Colombia” logo (featuring the face of Juan Valdez). This also including a monstrous advertising campaign costing upwards of $600 million.

The new millennium brought both new challenges and new successes for Colombian coffee. With international popular culture suddenly so focused on expanding the facets of coffee-drinking, such as the emergence of multinational chain coffee shops and single-serve coffee brands, Colombian coffee growers had to once again evolve their strategies. In 2001, the FNC recommended Procafecolto to move their coffee in the value chain by taking advantage of the available brand equity and opening coffee shops around the world. This would, in turn, create profits that would be distributed by the FNC to improve the standard of living for its growers. Thus, the overall goals were: share profits (with growers), increase international demand with a better price and increase the visibility of Colombian coffee as a brand.

Juan Valdez Café came about because, in order to increase brand visibility, the FNC had to forgo the Café de Colombia logo in favor of a unitarily-structured single brand. This resulted in a licensing agreement between the FNC and Procafecol with the National Coffee Fund and Juan Valdez Café. Thus, the Juan Valdez Café is the product of a joint collaboration of public and private management, with most of the legal ownership going to the FNC, but with good portion going to the International Finance Corporation (a World Bank group), and over 18,600 shareholders being actual Colombian coffee growers.

Hernán Méndez said that Juan Valdez Café’s value proposition is to “create well-being, emotions, and satisfaction around the best coffee in the world” and that the brand’s vision is “to be the premium Colombian coffee brand preferred globally by its quality and the well-being that generates around it.”

The new frontier for Juan Valdez Café is their ever-expanding number of worldwide coffee stores, currently culminating in over 200 within Colombia and over 99 in 14 other countries. This expansion has been a process of trial-and-error, with some stores in the United States having to close due to being large flagship stores in areas with expensive retail spaces. However, with a Juan Valdez Café on almost every continent, the “authentic premium coffee experience” the brand offers has found success through a myriad of different concept stores that cater to the vast demands of its customers.

If you missed his presentation or would like to watch it again click here.

IMBA students with Mr. Hernan Mendez

IMBA students with Mr. Hernan Mendez

USD consultants traveled to investigate the possibility of installing solar panels on the roofs of small Christian schools.

Explore Santo Domingo!

The International Practicum course offered in Santo Domingo allows students to work in multicultural teams while providing real solutions to a Dominican Republic company. Each consulting project requires students to use their creativity and apply all of the analytical tools they have learned in multiple classes on campus to create solutions for a company in a completely different cultural, and economic environment. Dr. Stephen Conroy serves as mentor to the teams, helping them with their consulting challenges, and advising them on how to effectively communicate results to local clients.

Dr. Steve Conroy with MBA consultants in the Dominican Republic

Dr. Steve Conroy with MBA consultants in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic practicum participant, and Evening MBA student, Mario Orozco, commented: “It is important that people come to business school with different goals. This kind of project and our exposure to it was an important reminder that we, as future business leaders, have a responsibility to society. It’s not all about making money for the company or organization. We need to make sure we’re using our resources to train and educate these small businesses that are trying to make a difference. If you can make a difference here, you’ll make a difference out there.”

Students also get an opportunity to immerse themselves in the country’s wonderful culture, customs and cuisine. Below are some recommended things to eat, and places to see in the beautiful city of Santo Domingo (or “La Capital” as it’s typically called):

Restaurants

Dominican Republic cuisine - original photo by http://www.mydestination.com/dominicanrepublic/travel-articles/72851/dominican-republic-cuisine

Dominican Republic cuisine – original photo by http://www.mydestination.com/dominicanrepublic/travel-articles/72851/dominican-republic-cuisine

Mitre Restaurant & Wine Bar- Enjoy international dishes served with a beautiful view on the terrace . The bar is located on the second floor and music is played for dining pleasure.

Pate’s Palo- This unique place is said to have been the first tavern in the New World. It offers its own “Rum Experience Menu” that pairs fine rums with fine foods.

Pura Tasca- Located in the Colonial City in Plaza España. It overlooks the Columbus Alcazar and is known for its variety of dishes and Spanish cuisine.

Meson D’Bari- This lovely restaurant located in the center of Plaza Barolome de las Casas, occupies a charming colonial home with bright paintings of local artists. The restaurant serves delicious traditional Dominican and international cuisine, and has a small outdoor bar with live music on some weekend nights.

Sightseeing

The city of Santo Domingo offers a wide variety of entertainment and attractions that allow visitors to experience the culture, tradition and history of the people living in the Dominican Republic. Considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo provides easy access to nearby beaches, elegant restaurants and unforgettable nightlife performances and shows.

Below are some of the places you will not want to miss – all located approximately 15 minutes away from the hotel.

1- Palace of Alcazar de Colon: built as a tribute to nations and explorers who helped settle the New World such as Ponce de Leon and Diego Columbus.

Original photo by: http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Caribbean_and_Central_America/Dominican _Republic/Distrito_Nacional/Santo_Domingo-1654465

2 – Catedral Primada de America: Completed in 1540, this building is considered to be the oldest cathedral in the Americas. It was dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation.

Original photo by: http://viajar.elperiodico.com/var/viajar/storage/images/media/imagenes-y-videos/fachada-de-la-catedral-primada-de-america/670629

3- Park of Three Eyes (Los Tres Ojos): The turquoise waters are completely transparent in the cave complex consisting of underground lagoons. Upon descending the stone steps, explorers take a small boat with a guide to discover the mysteries of the cave.

Original photo by: http://www.godominicanrepublic.com/rd/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=250&Itemid=12&lang=en

4- Fortaleza Ozama:  The oldest fort in South America. Constructed between the years 1502-08, it was used to protect the city from conquistadors and pirates.

Original photo by: http://www.minube.com/fotos/rincon/108471/501950

Beaches

Surrounded by nearly 250 miles of coastline on the north, east and south, the Dominican Republic’s beaches are known worldwide for pristine white sand beaches that are lapped by the warm blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Punta Cana Beach- Punta Cana has 10 different beaches, most of them very wide and all ranked among the most beautiful in the world. To find out exactly where to go read this report. Activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are available.

Beaches of Cayo Levantado- Located on the island of Samana, these beautiful beaches are surrounded by tropical forest.

Playa Rincon- This beautiful remote beach offers a relaxing environment with beachfront restaurants nearby. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.

Named one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world by international travelers.
Original photo by: http://www.bahiadelosdioses.com/galeria/photos/PlayaRincon/

Nightlife

Santo Domingo is the biggest city in the Caribbean and also one of the best cities in Latin America to party. The best (and biggest) nights for live music are on the weekends. If you are looking for live concerts head to La Hispaniola Hotel, which also gives you the opportunity to roll the dice at one of their casinos.

For more information on where to go at night in Santo Domingo read this 10 BEST report.

What about you? Have you been to Santo Domingo? What other suggestions do you have?

Students exploring the coast

Students exploring the DR coast

tango in B. Aires

Explore Argentina – The Land of the Steak and Malbec

“The practicum is an opportunity to really find out who you are in the international business world, at a graduate level.  I went to Buenos Aires after 2 1/2 years in the Evening MBA and I can say that this short international consulting opportunity challenged me far more than my 10+ years of experience in executive management and business ownership.  I started the Evening MBA program because, while my businesses had been successful, I knew I could be a more effective, stronger manager, of both people and processes, and this experience made me confident that the time and money I have spent on my USD MBA were well worth it!  I had a fantastic team that brought together 4 completely unique people with different ages, levels of experience, and educational backgrounds, and in a short period of time we figured out how to assess the client’s needs, and meet them using each person’s strengths, benefiting not only the client, but each other, as we bound together to achieve success!” Jenniffer Knotowicz, MBA student

Consulting for Wal Mart Argentina

Students visiting Wal Mart Argentina

Many of our students will be heading to South America this intersession for an opportunity to earn up to 5 units as they enhance their global mindset by taking courses and/or working with organizations that face completely different challenges than the ones they are accustomed to back home. Just considering the economic environment in Argentina there are differences in formal vs informal market participation, unreliability of power for companies, price fixing, and exchange rate restrictions.  Click here for an article that describes how the exchange rate restrictions have created a gap between the official exchange rate and the “blue-market” exchange rate.  Yet many of the companies that operate there are world-class and we can learn from them how to overcome challenges, differentiate, and innovate for global competitiveness.

Despite some of their business challenges, the city of Buenos Aires is well known for its rich European heritage and beautiful architecture and is often referred to as  the “Paris of South America”. It is a fascinating city that looks a bit like Europe but with an edgy Latin American twist. Amazing Malbecs, delicious parrilas (steakhouses), sensual tango in every street corner…Buenos Aires has a lot to offer!

In order to maximize your stay in this fascinating city and really immerse yourself in the Argentine culture, below are some must dos to make the most out of your experience abroad:

1- Enjoy some good Malbec and asado (Argentine steak) pairing

Argentine Asado paired with a Malbec - original picture by PRNewswire

Argentine Asado paired with a Malbec – original picture by PRNewswire

Argentina is known for its high quality, yet affordable, (especially due to the current exchange rate) beef and Malbec. Make sure you take advantage of this gastronomic opportunity to explore the best of Argentine cuisine. Some recommended places are La Cabrera (voted best steakhouse) located in the great neighborhood of Palermo, Cabana Las Lilas (fine dining steakhouse) located in Puerto Madero or Steak by Luis for an authentic asado experience. As for wine, Luigi Bosca, Taplitz, Norton are some recommended wineries.

2- Tango

Tango is likely to be everywhere you look. It is common to see tango music being played and professionals dancing on some of the busiest streets in Buenos Aires: La Calle Florida, Calle Defensa in San Telmo, in the streets of La Boca neighborhood, etc. But, if you would like to experience tango at its best – by learning how to dance it, by watching a real performance, or by simply listening to live tango music – read this article to know the best places to go.

3- Palermo Neighborhood – Palermo is the hipster, fun neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Here you will find the craziest Argentine fashion – in Palermo Soho – and the most trendy bars and clubs – in Palermo Hollywood. I highly recommend exploring this neighborhood, which was my favorite area in Buenos Aires when I lived there. Click here for more.

4- La Boca

La Boca is the famous colorful neighborhood that has 2 main attractions: La Bombonera (Boca’s soccer stadium) and the famous colorful artists’ street. You will also find some touristy restaurants with small tango performances. Food here is not the best though, but I would recommend sitting in one of the restaurants to have a glass of wine, watch some tango and do some people watching during the day. The neighborhood can get  a bit sketchy after dark. Make sure you take a taxi to and from this neighborhood to be on the safe side.

5 – Feria de San Telmo

Live music, arts and crafts – in order to enjoy San Telmo you really need to go there on a Sunday. Best place for a stroll is Calle Defensa between Avenida San Juan and Independecia. For a live tango show go to Plaza Dorrego.

Music on the streets of San Telmo

Music on the streets of San Telmo

6- Nightlife

Buenos Aires nightlife options are endless. From the classic tango bars, to trendy street bars, to Las Vegas style nightclubs that are open until 7 in the morning.  For tips on where to go read  “A gringo in Buenos Aires”.

7 – Bosques de Palermo

Rosedal at Bosques de Palermo

Rosedal at Bosques de Palermo – picture by Tucu’s Webblog

Bosques de palermo is the most beautfiul park in Buenos Aires, and totally worth exploring. This is where the locals go running, cycling, roller blading, and where they enjoy Mate on the weekends. Don’t miss the beautiful “rosedal” (rose garden). On the weekends there is always live music to enjoy in the park as well.

8 – Recoleta

A fashionable, upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Here you will find Plaza Francia - the best park for arts and crafts in Buenos Aires. You will be able to walk around on a sunny day and watch live circus performers, live musicians and purchase Argentine handmade crafts from hundreds of vendors on the weekends. This is also where the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta is located. If you are into architecture and art you will want to visit the cementary, here countless ‘streets’ are lined with impressive statues and marble sarcophagi.

9 – MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires)

If you like museums this one is a must! It is comparable to the MOMA in New York City in elegance and design, with the difference that it focuses on highlighting the top painters/artists from Latin America. Here you will find an extensive collection from 19th and 20th artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Antonio Berni.

10 – Plaza de Mayo

One of the city’s main squares, and a place of historical significance to the Argentine nation. This is where the revolution for independence from Spain started in 1810, the famous Eva Perón spoke to the crowds, and where the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” still gather to protest the disappearance of their loved ones during the military regime EVERY Thursday.

Students in front of La Casa Rosada - Government House in Buenos Aires

Students in front of La Casa Rosada – Government House in Buenos Aires

“The USD MBA practicums provide real international business experience in real international settings. The economic and cultural influences of working abroad, combined with rapid and dynamic team building and leadership skills, make the international practicum a invaluable experience to any MBA student.”  Brandon Britton, MBA student.

What about you, have you been to Buenos Aires?  What do you recommend?

~ Renata Berto, International Programs Associate

Rio de Janeiro

Explore The Best of Brazil

Brazil is not only one of the most colorful, happy, and spirited countries in the planet, it is also the place I am blessed to call my home (just as much as the United States). As a native Brazilian who left Brazil shortly after graduating from high school, and has never forgotten about the amazing food, the warm people, the wonderful music, and the beautiful landscape that this country has to offer, I am enthusiastic to share with you some tips to help you make the most out of your experience in Brazil.

First and foremost, if you are going to Brazil during intersession, you are in it for a trip of a lifetime! January is possibly THE BEST time to be in Brazil. It is summer time, most people are on vacation, many are relaxing at the beach, and sipping on a ‘caipirinha’ while listening to the numerous street players who walk around the beach playing samba from right to left. In fact, if you are going to Brazil this coming intersession I would GREATLY suggest that you arrive in Brazil before New Year’s Eve, and that you spend the last day of 2014 in Copacabana Beach with thousands (if not millions) of people who will be there, eager to celebrate.

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest and most popular events, along with Carnival, in Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro, the event gets even better. Here you will find millions of people (last year there were 2 million people at the beach on New Year’s Eve) wearing white clothes for good luck and for world peace in the coming year. Some in the crowd may wear a splash of color – red is for romance, yellow for success, green for health, etc. Whether you are wearing white or not, whether you believe in the color superstitions that Brazilian people believe in or not, you are in it for a celebration you will never forget. Fireworks at the beach, champagne, live music, ocean breeze, good energy from the crowd… it is bound to be a party you will remember for years to come.

New Year's Eve in Brazil - the beach was just starting to fill up

New Year’s Eve in Brazil – the beach was just starting to fill up.

So, what do you do when you wake up in Rio the next day? Well… here are some important things you will NOT want to miss:

  1. Beaches: Brazilians LOVE to hang out at the beach! In fact, most Brazilians like to go to the beach in the early morning and stay until the sun sets. You can buy food, drinks, accessories, and even clothes at the beach in Brazil. It is also a great place for people watching! Here, people gather to play beach volleyball, footvolley, surf, play music, dance… in Brazil, everything happens at the beach. This is where you are going to want to go while in Rio:
Copacabana Beach in Rio

Copacabana Beach in Rio, picture by Sure Mithas Travel

  1. Ipanema Beach: Where most locals hangout
  2. Copacabana Beach: More crowded and touristy but a lot of fun
  3. Barra da Tijuca: This is where you go if you want to surf (or watch people surfing ;) )
  4. Buzios: Elected one of the 10 most beautiful areas in the world, Buzios is just about 2 hours from Rio by bus/car. Take a weekend to go there!

2. Sightseeing: even though these are the most “touristy” places in Rio, they are still well worth exploring.

Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

  1. Cristo (aka Corcovado): voted one of the seven wonders of the world, this site offers beautiful views of the city. Take the train to go up there.
  2. Sugar Loaf: also wonderful view of the city. Perfect place to take pictures.
  3. Arpoador: This is where you want to be for the sunset.
  4. Santa Teresa: Charming old neighborhood in Rio. Go to small bars or restaurants here and walk around the beautiful streets.

3. Nightlife: Brazilians really know how to party! If you are just looking for a bar to have a “gelada” (ice cold beer) you are going to want to go out at 8 pm, if you are looking to have dinner, probably 9 pm… now if you want to go to a nightclub, don’t arrive before 1 am.

  1. Bars at Lapa – A former run-down collection of 19th century mansions has now been rehabilitated. Here you will find many restaurants,  and cute bars with live music. Great place to go eat, dance and have a blast!
  2. Samba Practices happen from November until carnival (Feb or March) and they are extremely fun to watch!  I recommend watching the schools Beija Flor or Mangueira. Here you will find a schedule of their rehearsals.
  3. Nightclubs: parties start at 1 am and go until sunrise. There are plenty of nightlclubs to explore in Rio! Click here to know where to go.

4. The food!! Don’t come back to the States without trying:

The snack I miss the most!! Pão de queijo. Receipe here.

The snack I miss the most!! Pão de queijo. Recipe here.

  1. Açaí
  2. Pão de queijo
  3. Coxinha
  4. Pastel
  5. Rodízio de pizza
  6. Churrasco
  7. Feijoada
  8. Fresh juices

To finish off, let me just warn you that we Brazilians are extremely warm. We do not know what “personal space” is, we touch people when we are chatting with them, we hug, we greet people with multiple kisses… so be ready to hug and kiss back! Also, do not try speaking Spanish to Brazilians… they are unbelievably proud of their Portuguese!

I hope you have a wonderful time in Brazil! Please let me know what you enjoyed the most about my country by posting a comment below.

Boa viagem!!

~ Renata Berto, International Programs Associate