Category Archives: Study Abroad

MBA students consulting consulting in Shanghai

Erin’s Travel Tips for Shanghai



Shanghai is a financial hub in Asia and widely considered to be China’s most European city, with its distinctive, futuristic architecture, historical French Concession neighborhood, and myriad of high-end fashion houses with elaborate, glittering window displays beckoning well-heeled tourists and locals alike.

If you plan on travelling to China, make sure to obtain a tourist visa, as this is required for stays that extend past 48 hours.

Shanghai holds an important place in the international financial market, and is home to the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) in the Pudong District.  Rising to a height of 492 meters, the SWFC is the world’s tallest mixed-use urban development center.

View from the observation deck on the 97th floor of the SWFC

View from the observation deck on the 97th floor of the SWFC

 Business Etiquette

1)   When meeting business partners, acknowledge seniority for introductions, seating arrangements and general interactions.

2)   When exchanging business cards, present your card so that it is facing your recipient.  When accepting a business card, take the card with both hands and take a few moments to read the card carefully.  Do not fold or write on business cards.

3)   Respect the concept of “saving face” – avoid insulting, criticizing, or drawing negative attention to someone in front of others

Don’t Miss:

1)   The Bund: stroll along the river and enjoy the sight of barge “rush hour”.  Across the river, gaze at the massive high-rises in the Pudong District.  Right off The Bund on East Nanjing Road, you’ll find the Fairmont Peace Hotel.  This is a historic landmark that was constructed between 1926 and 1929, and now contains an updated art-deco lobby, jazz club, upscale café and tea room.

View of along the Bund, looking towards the Pudong District across the river.

View across the Bund, looking towards the Pudong District across the river.

2)   Old Town: to feel as if you have transported back in time, visit Shanghai’s Old Town (known as Nánshi) where you’ll find traditional architecture, a bazaar with numerous shopping stalls and the Yù Yuán Gardens, which was the former residence of Ming-dynasty officials and is now available to tour.

3)   French Concession: two distinct shopping areas are contained within the Shanghainese neighborhood known as the French Concession – Xintiandi and Tianzifang.  Xintiandi houses dozens of upscale shops and boutiques, restaurants and nightspots, and is partitioned into two sections.  The south block holds an indoor mall with fine-dining and shopping options, while the north block has more of an outdoor market feel, with boutiques and numerous restaurants offering a wide assortment of cuisines.

Another shopping district, Tianzifang, has less of a 5th Avenue in NYC feel and more of an artsy, old-Shanghai feel.  There are dozens of trendy boutiques, tourist shops, cafes and local fashion houses to explore along the traditional alleyways.  I recommend stopping here to find your souvenirs and fun gifts for friends and family at home.

4)   Temples: two interesting temples to visit are the Jing’an Temple and the Jade Buddha Temple, both located in the Jing’an district.  The Jade Buddha Temple is an active place of worship for Buddhists, and has a number of gold, jade and marble Buddha statues, with colorful flags, lanterns and candles adorning them.

Inside the Jade Buddha Temple

Inside the Jade Buddha Temple

Foods to Try:

1)   Noodles: with a multitude of small noodle shops throughout the city, you are sure to find something to appeal to your palate.  I found the udon at Kung Fu Noodles to be the perfect lunch on a cold winter day!

Udon noodles from Kung Fu Noodles, located in the French Concession

Udon noodles from Kung Fu Noodles, located in the French Concession

2) Dumplings: they come filled with many different ingeredients, but a Shanghainese specialty is the “little steamer buns” and the “scallion -and sesame-seed-coated dumplings”.

3) Hotpot:  commonly served in the winter, hotpot offers sizzling broth to dip vegetables and meat into, finishing them with a variety of sauces.

Shanghainese Cuisine: for Westerners unaccustomed to generous amounts of oils and spices in their food, it is advised to ask for an English menu and sample the various dishes in small quantities, to learn which dishes appeal most to your taste buds and dietary preferences

Shanghainese Cuisine: for Westerners unaccustomed to generous amounts of oils and spices in their food, it is advised to ask for an English menu and sample the various dishes in small quantities, to learn which dishes appeal most to your taste buds and dietary preferences

What about you? What are your go to food items when traveling through China? Share your tips below.

~Erin Kellaway, External Programs Manager

Visit to pwc

Exploring International Accounting Issues Firsthand in London, Paris & Rome

Written by Masters in Accounting (MACC) Student, Cameron Coutermarsh

The Opportunity to Study Abroad

Prior to learning about the MACC London, Paris, and Rome opportunity, I had never considered studying abroad given my time and financial constraints. Between the curriculum of the accounting major and working part time, I assumed I didn’t have the time to fit a semester abroad into my four years at USD but the MACC study abroad program made it possible. As an accounting student with an internship scheduled for the summer of 2014, the London, Paris and Rome abroad opportunity was structured to fit the general schedule of an accounting student wrapping up their spring semester in either an undergraduate or graduate accounting program. The one week course paired with the two weeks abroad fit perfectly between the end of the semester and the beginning of the summer internships with many of the Big Four accounting firms. Also, having the majority of the classwork finished before embarking on the trip made the transition to a foreign environment much easier and more enjoyable.

Dr. Pattison and Dr. Judd with Masters of Accounting Students in London Eye

Dr. Pattison and Dr. Judd with Masters of Accounting Students in London Eye

Long-Term Benefits

The abroad experience helped me with my future career in accounting, beyond just the academic level. On this trip, the students were exposed to the cultural differences between the Big Four accounting firms many of us had built strong relationships with in the previous year. It was shocking to see how many differences existed between the same company in two very different locations and likewise the similarities that were not affected by the vast distance. Many of the companies we visited had United States expatriates as speakers who were able to give the group an insightful view on opportunities for working abroad in the new future. Many students in the group, myself included, found themselves vastly more interested in taking on an expatriate assignment for a brief (or extended, for some) period of time. Even if an expatriate opportunity does not arise, I have found myself inspired to travel again and continue to explore new places and people.

Accounting students visit Bloomberg in London.

Accounting students visit Bloomberg in London.

Beyond the idea of professional development, I managed to enhance my worldview. Although the term ‘worldview’ is casually tossed around when the concept of traveling abroad is in question, one cannot truly understand its meaning until they experience it themselves. Before traveling abroad, my perspective on Londoners, Parisians, and Italians were heavily influenced by hearsay and biases. This isn’t to say that I was intolerant of other cultures, but rather that I never actually understood them and their ways of life. Even though our group only spent a short few days in each city, I felt that the nonstop immersion in each culture allowed us to grasp many of the cultural differences. Since a vast majority of the academic coursework took place before traveling abroad, we had more opportunities to learn about the culture of each city we visited.

Exploring art at the museum of Louvre, in Paris.

Enhancing my “worldview” at the museum of Louvre, in Paris.

How USD made this trip possible

This specific abroad program exemplifies USD’s reputation for study abroad programs. In addition to the vast list of study abroad opportunities, the MACC London, Paris and Rome program is precisely built to fit the needs and concerns of students. The academic portion of the program is flexible and the units earned can be applied to students in either the undergraduate or graduate level. The traveling portion is carefully and expertly planned to give students a healthy combination of diverse company visits and ample free time to explore the cities. Furthermore, the professors teaching the class do a fantastic job of preparing students for the abroad portion by explaining cultural differences we may be exposed to while traveling overseas as well as covering relevant topics in the coursework. The advice from professors made the transition to foreign countries simple and allowed us to not become ‘ugly Americans’ while traveling. The advice ranged from learning restaurant Italian to respectfully staying silent on London’s underground trains (Londoners tend to frown on loud noises during their commutes).

As I mentioned before, the abroad portion of the program gave students plenty of free time to explore each city but there were always optional events coordinated to help us on our journeys. Between bus tours in London and Rome and an evening bike tour/river cruise in Paris, each city was thoroughly covered. However, none of these events were required, allowing students to explore at their own pace which gave my roommate and myself the opportunity to walk over ten miles across Rome. Although my feet were burning by the end of the day, my roommate and I were able to fully immerse ourselves in the culture of the atmosphere and the people around us.

Enhancing my "worldwide" view at the Coliseum

Exploring the Coliseum in Rome with my roomate.

~Cameron Coutermarsh, MACC student

What about you? Have you spent some time studying abroad? Share your experiences with us below!


Lantau Island

Road Less Traveled in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is complete eye candy.  Everywhere you turn there are vibrant colors, exotic smells and a hum of activity.  Besides being a shopping mecca and home to the world’s most inexpensive Michelin starred restaurant (Tim Ho Wan), Hong Kong also boasts a lively night life, exceptionally efficient public transportation system, and plenty of stunning parks to keep even the greenest of thumbs well entertained.

Personally, I am a gardenoholic.  In a city of 7.2 million people, nearly all of which are living vertically in high rises, the quite repose and sound of running water emanating from many of Hong Kong’s public parks offers a reticent opportunity to reflect and observe.  Most often I’m reflecting on what local taste treat sensation I will dine on next, but who’s counting?…

Hands down my two favorite green spaces in Hong Kong are Kowloon Walled City Park and the Nan Lian Gardens at Chi Lin Nunnery.  Both are free to enter and if you make a point to visit Kowloon Walled City Park early enough, you will catch groups of locals practicing Tai Chi by the waterfalls.  Close to the Chinese New Year celebrations, flag throwing groups also use Kowloon Walled City Park as their rehearsal grounds for the festive parades in which they perform.  Nan Lian Gardens houses a pagoda, waterfalls, koi pond, and more manicured trees than a Dr. Seuss book.  It also pipes in soft music throughout the 3.5 hectares to optimize your relaxation and is home to a vegetarian restaurant with unique dishes focusing on local ingredients.

Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong

Kowloon Walled City Park in Hong Kong

Visitors to Hong Kong often like to spend some time exploring at least one of the 234 outlying islands which also constitute part of special administrative region of Hong Kong.  Generally, western tourists flock to Lantau Island to see the giant seated Buddha and catch the marvelous views from the cable car ride up to the top of the mountain.  But if I have free time to go island hopping, my go to is Cheung Chau.  Just an hour ferry ride from Hong Kong island, Cheung Chau is where the locals go for some of the best seafood around and fantastic people watching.  The whole island can be explored on foot but its also fun to rent bicycles to venture out past the main drag.  Hiking trails on the island also offer spectacular seaside views without having to climb too much elevation.

YouTube Preview Image

Looking to take some pretty spectacular photos in Hong Kong?  You can’t beat the view from Victoria Peak or the colors offered at the Flower Market.  The Yuen Po Street Bird Market is also pretty unique where you can see sacks of live grasshoppers on sale alongside ornate birdcages of all makes and models.  The added bonus of being serenaded by hundreds of birds while floating through this market make it a place I return to on each visit to Hong Kong.  Of course it also helps that the Bird Market is literally situated on top of the Flower Market so its easy to visit both on the same day.

The Flower Market in Hong Kong

The Flower Market in Hong Kong

One of my favorite past times in Hong Kong is heading to the horse track.  Situated in central Hong Kong Island, the race track at Happy Valley turns into Hong Kong’s largest bar every Wednesday evening during the winter months.  Overpriced beer and chain smokers aside, the races at Happy Valley are truly stunning as the Hong Kong city skyline serves as the backdrop for the race track and the convivial atmosphere of locals and expats cheering together rarely disappoints.

Happy Valley Races

Happy Valley Races

Those participating in our MSRE or GSBA courses in Hong Kong will be happy to know that visits to the Nan Lian Gardens and Victoria Peak are part of the city tour itinerary which is included in your program fee.  Additionally, I coordinate a night at the races for each student group where dinner at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and entrance into the Happy Valley Racetrack are both part of the fun included in your program fee.

USD business students at Victoria Peak

USD business students at Victoria Peak

Have you been to Hong Kong? Share your tips below!

~ Allison Howitt, Academic Programs Manager



Go to Asia!

Student Recommendations in Asia: What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Would Have Known Before Traveling on This International Program Abroad?

Every year, in our post-program surveys, we ask our students for feedback on things they wish they had known about a specific location prior to going there to study. In this blog post we compiled answers to this question from our graduate students who experienced life in Asia as part of one of our programs. We hope that this information will help other students in the future!

Shanghai, China:

Shanghai, China. Picture by

Shanghai, China. Picture by

“Bring vitamins. Learn even more of the language. Reach out to friends or people you may know that are going. Pack light.”

“Smog can be bad. Be open to wearing a mask”

“Having a good understanding of PowerPoint and solid presentation skills can be very handy if you are doing a practicum.”

“Chinese rarely ever have napkins at restaurants…or you pay separately.”

“I didn’t really know what to expect going to China, but I had a great time. I would advise future students to really take advantage of sightseeing the first couple of days (or coming earlier to staying later) because once the project starts we were very busy!”

Hong Kong, China:

Hong Kong, China. Picture by

Hong Kong, China. Picture by

“I knew that Hong Kong is a good tourist destination but my knowledge about it having such a huge impact on every business around the globe was limited. Now I know that Hong Kong is one of the main links between the eastern and western parts of the world.”

“In order to buy an Octopus card at the airport, you need to have Hong Kong Dollars. I should have gone to an ATM before purchasing a train ticket from the airport so that I could have bought an Octopus card at the airport.”

“Do some research to figure out good places to eat before going. Also figure out where to exchange money and where not to exchange money.”

“Research: general tips on adjusting to a new time zone/avoiding jet lag. Research places to eat before going out. Most of us weren’t using smartphones while there and weren’t able to look up places to eat on the fly; also we couldn’t understand Chinese names of places when walking by. After a few days of learning the lay of the land this got a lot easier, but at first it was a little tough to find places to eat nearby that weren’t really overpriced tourist restaurants.”

“Learn some basic useful words/phrases in Cantonese. They are easy to look up, and I bought a Cantonese dictionary; but it would be helpful for everyone to have a basic cheat sheet.”

“The importance of having medicine to keep from getting sick!”

What about you? Have you studied abroad? Do you have any other suggestions for people who are going abroad this Intersession? Post your comments below.

Danielle in Paris

Surviving as a Vegetarian While Traveling Internationally

In California, we are spoiled with freshly picked produce year-round, an abundance of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, and an ability to read menus in our native language. However, it’s a completely different story when going abroad! In many other cultures, meat plays a larger role in the diet than it does in the US, and the word “vegetarian” doesn’t always translate very well.  As a long-time vegetarian, I would like to offer some tips that I’ve found useful through my international travels and also share some of my favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurants throughout the world!


  • If you are traveling on an Ahlers Center study abroad program, please remember to indicate your dietary restrictions on your application. We typically have several group dinners throughout our programs, and work very hard to accommodate whatever dietary restrictions we have.
  • Pack protein bars or protein powder along with plenty of vitamins! It’s oftentimes a bit more difficult to find quality sources of protein while abroad so I always keep extra protein bars/powder on hand. Also, days can get very long with city tours, company visits and classroom sessions so even non-vegetarians may want to pack some protein bars to keep your body and brain fueled. Along those same lines, your immune system can be compromised while traveling, and you may not always have access to as many fruits and vegetables as you are used to, so bring vitamins while you’re at it too!
  • If you do not speak the native language, translate and carry a card that says  “I am a vegetarian. I do not eat any meat, chicken or fish”. It is important to outline exactly what you do not eat since vegetarianism can mean different things in other parts of the globe.
  • Research vegetarian-friendly restaurants prior to departure. A quick search on, Tripadvisor or Yelp should give you plenty of restaurants to explore throughout your journey! You may even want to add the restaurants you find to a Google map to keep organized and make sure you hit up all the best spots!
  • If you rent an apartment or have a kitchenette in your hotel room, be sure to visit the local farmers’ market and cook for yourself! Some of the best produce I’ve ever had came from local markets while traveling abroad, like these asparagus from Aix-en-Provence, which were bigger than my hand!
Cooking up asparagus with olive oil, garlic and herbes de provence….so simple yet so tasty!

Cooking up asparagus with olive oil, garlic and herbes de provence….so simple yet so tasty!

Favorite Restaurants:

While it’s usually easy enough to find cheese pizzas and sandwiches, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be craving more creative plant-based dishes in no time. Here are my favorite vegetarian (or vegetarian-friendly) restaurants in various parts of the world.

  • Istanbul-Istanbul has excellent food, with many vegetarian-friendly options. I stumbled upon Karakoy Lokantasi while exploring the city and knew I had to check it out since it was packed with locals and very cute inside. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will find something to eat on the menu, but my suggestion is to simply make your meal out of a bunch of their mezes, or appetizers!  Everything I ordered was fresh and delicious. Be sure to try their muhammara!
  • Paris (Yes, you can survive as a vegetarian even in Paris!) – Le Potager du Marais is a cute and cozy vegan restaurant in a great part of town. They replicate several classic French dishes like soupe a l’oignon and boeuf bourguignon using plant-based substitutes. Great people watching too if you sit on the patio!
Enjoying people watching and plant-based cuisine on the streets of Paris!

Enjoying people watching and plant-based cuisine on the streets of Paris

  • Rome – If ever in Rome, be sure to sample the city’s famous pasta dish, cacio and pepe, a pasta with a cheese and pepper sauce. Anthony Bourdain and I both highly recommend trying it at Roma Sparita in particular, as they serve their pasta dish in a crispy parmesan cheese bowl and it is delicious! Make a reservation or get there early as this place fills up fast!
  • Rio – It seems as though Rio has a juice bar on every corner, so it’s possible to get almost any type of fruit juice and an acai bowl at any hour! However, I’ve found it a bit more difficult to find fresh vegetables in restaurants, as meat is a huge part of the Brazilian culture. Never fear though! There are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in Rio including two of my favorites: Universo Organico in Leblon and Biocarioca in Copacabana.
  • Madrid – Spaniards love their pork and patatas bravas. If you would like something a bit healthier, go no further than Yerba Buena. I recommend stopping by for their three course lunch special…but be warned, you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day…they serve insanely large dishes and all for a great price!
Course number two at Yerba Buena. You’ll definitely leave there stuffed!

Course number two at Yerba Buena. You’ll definitely leave there stuffed!

Overall, with a little forethought and a bit of research, it is absolutely possible to travel abroad while sticking to your normal dietary choices. Now, tell us about your favorite restaurants below. If you have dietary restrictions, what do you do differently while traveling?

Bon voyage et bon appétit!

- Danielle

Study Abroad Buenos Aires

Student Recommendations in Latin America: What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Would Have Known Before Traveling on This International Program Abroad?

Every year, in our post-program surveys, we ask our students for feedback on things they wish they had known about a specific location prior to going there to study. On this blog post we compiled answers to this question from our graduate students who experienced life in Latin America as part of one of our programs. We hope that this information will help other students in the future!

Bogota, Colombia:

Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

“The altitude might be an issue, which can be mitigated by arriving one day early with no need to take medication. Colombians are very humble, friendly and very helpful, so don’t worry too much about safety. Public transport, in particular the transmilenio, is fast and safe, even faster than taxis due to constant traffic in Bogota. You can have a real local experience using the transmilenio.”

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by

“Internet access can be poor in many parts of the city (i.e. at coffee shops and the hotel).”

“When entering the DR one must pay a $10 fee. This fee is ONLY payable in U.S. dollar, not pesos. One must also be very careful with safety. It seems that in a country that is visited by so many tourists, one must be aware that you have to bargain for prices all the time. This may become tiring.”

 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Research the subway transportation system prior to departure. Also, I felt quite safe while there.”

“How hot it would be so bring very light clothing. Also, sun tan lotion is extremely expensive in Brazil”

“The Portuguese language was very difficult. I would tell the students about the ‘onibus’ (bus) that runs to/from airport. It was a great value compared to the taxis.”

“The need to learn Portuguese. Socializing with locals is very hard otherwise.”

“English-speakers are uncommon in Rio”

“Research the social enterprises/organizations we visited beforehand to make the most of the experience.” (Social Change Class)

“International calling plans can be expensive but international data plans not so much so consider buying that before going abroad. WhatsApp is likely the only thing you’ll need to communicate with others during the practicum  (E.g. Verizon data plan gives you 100MB for $25). Especially if you’re going to a country where you can’t just buy a cheap SIM card off the street.”

“I wish I would have known there was very little free time during the day time.  I would have liked to do some more sightseeing.” (International Consulting Project Abroad in Rio)

“If possible, contact the client prior to traveling abroad. Some communication with the client could have helped develop a very loose framework and do some more targeted research prior to arriving.” (International Consulting Project Abroad in Rio)

“Do some team building prior to going abroad. Also, COPPEAD students were a BLAST as were the local business leaders.” (International Consulting Project Abroad in Rio)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, Argentina

“Have decent grasp of Spanish.  I knew very little and the language barrier was one of the most difficult of any non-English speaking”

“I wish I would have done more research into activities in the area prior to our trip.”

“Bring lots of US dollars to exchange, rather than withdraw from an ATM.  You get much better exchange rate that way.”

“It would have been nice to know the huge disparity in exchange rates on the blue dollar.  Many people brought cash and benefited greatly.”

“That laundry was not only available, but extremely convenient and affordably priced (I would not have packed half as much as I did).”

“I found two apps for my phone that were invaluable.  One was a free English/Spanish translator for Android that did not require wifi.  The other was a currency converter. Whatsapp was also instrumental.”

“You will be working a ton on your practicum, which doesn’t leave too much time to explore the city. Arrive early or stay late if you wish to do this!” (International Consulting Abroad)

“I wish I had learned more Spanish, had brought a detailed city street map, and had studied the area for restaurants and sites to see.”

“Buenos Aires is not as dangerous as people made it sound.”

“Read the material in advance! I wish I had been aware of how intense the course was going to be.” (Advanced International Negotiations Class with Professor Barkacs)

“The service at businesses and restaurants can be pretty bad.”

“I would have arrived a few days earlier and left a few days later in order to experience more of the culture and sights during the day when we didn’t have classes.”

What about you? Have you studied abroad? Do you have any other suggestions for people who are going abroad this Intersession? Post your comments below.




Rio Course

Rio Reflections told by an MBA Student: High Quality Opportunity for Learning Beyond the Classroom

By MBA Student Scott M. LaRocco; Edited by Renata Berto & Danielle Levanetz

The beauty of taking a class abroad is that besides being exposed to high quality lectures by USD’s most renown faculty members, one gains awareness of how people in a certain culture live their lives, and how they do business.   In this article, an MBA student shares what lessons he learned while exploring Rio on his free time, outside of the classroom.

I believe that in order to truly experience the most out of a visit to another country, one must be willing to forego many comforts that we are accustomed to, adapt to the culture by attempting to communicate with local residents in their vernacular language, and, most importantly, be willing to take risks. By utilizing my already natural high level of energy and enthusiasm, I believe that I was greatly successful in experiencing the most out of Brazil’s fascinating culture while spending almost a month in Rio de Janeiro taking two MBA classes.

In order to accomplish this, I generally gave up my standard routine of seven hours of sleep per night and three square meals per day. Despite the minor discomfort that these sacrifices may have caused, I can unequivocally say that I was able to experience Rio in a way that many of my fellow classmates did not. Below are a few of those adventures, which have forever changed my life.

Fabiano, Moises, and the Beach Chair Family

Getting a group together for something as simple as going to the beach in Brazil became the equivalent of a four hour root canal procedure. It seemed like every time I was ready to go several people were asking me to wait for them. Frustrated by my inability to have the group ready to go on my schedule, I developed a different strategy to go to the beach: I gave simple instructions as to where exactly I would be sitting on the beach so that anyone could join me.

The advantage to always being in the same beach location, oftentimes alone for several hours, was that I was able to become amicably acquainted with a local family, whose business was to rent out beach chairs, umbrellas and refreshments to beachgoers. The family consisted of three sons, whose ages ranged between 21 and 25 years, and their father who seemed to merely supervise the operation as he played dominoes under a canopy.

The three boys worked extremely hard, running back and forth from their canopy where they stored their chairs for the beach patrons, who need not move from their chairs in order to get a nice cold coconut water. Appreciative of this hard work, I made a concerted effort to not only tip these gentlemen whenever practical, but to do my best to show my appreciation of their service through trying to talk with them, shake their hands, and laugh with them when I could.  This appreciation did not go unnoticed, as they would smile and wave as they saw me approach every time I went to the beach. In addition to merely doing a great service for me and the other beach patrons, these kids also would do me personal favors like watch my bag while I went in the water, if I were alone, or run to their canopy to get me a specific refreshments that they did not carry in their coolers. On one occasion, Moises sat down next to me, looking exhausted, and simply asked to “bump fists”, a universal sign of respect across the globe.

On the last day of my trip I decided I wanted to leave these kids with a gift before I departed back to the United States, so on my last outing to the beach I brought with me a Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan jersey that I had taken with me from the States. Knowing that such jerseys are probably extremely difficult to find in Rio, I thought this would be a great “thank you” gift. Unbeknownst to me, the family had also planned to give me a small gift, so as I walked to Ipanema beach to say goodbye, I pulled out the jersey. At the same time, they had the jersey of their favorite local soccer team, Vasco da Gama, to give to me. I certainly appreciate the irony of how conscientious people, despite cultural differences, can think in the exact same manner. It is my sincere hope that next time I happen to be in Rio de Janeiro, I will walk up and find the same family in the same spot, wearing my Vasco jersey, as one of them wears my Chicago Bulls one.

The Siren’s Song of the Vidigal Favela

Undoubtedly the image from Rio de Janeiro that is forever scorched in my retinas is that of the Dois Irmaos peaks that jaggedly spring up from the west of Ipanema Beach. I had seen these mountains for years on postcards and in films, but was completely unprepared for the scope and natural beauty in them.

Vidigal favela seen from the beach. Picture by

Dois Irmãos peaks and Vidigal favela seen from the beach. Picture by

When I was able to get my first, in person, view of the peaks, I noticed what appeared to be a shantytown running up the side. “How could this be?” I thought to myself. This looked like some of the most prime real estate in all Rio de Janeiro, yet it had a favela (slum) occupying it. Desperate for more information on this perceived anomaly, I began researching the area and learned that it was indeed a favela called Vidigal. So, on my last day in Rio, I recognized it as my last opportunity to make the possible dangerous trip into the Vidigal favela. After convincing a classmate to go with me, we saw what appeared to be a small restaurant at the base of Vidigal. We decided this would be a good place to find out, once and for all, if it would be safe for us to head into the favela.

At the restaurant, which I viewed more like the base camp at Mount Everest, we were able to speak to a television reporter, who spoke perfect English, about our prospects of making it in and out of Vidigal safely. She assured us that we had nothing to worry about, and that the favela had been pacified, and there would be heavy police presence everywhere we went.  This was enough to convince us that we should take the risk and head in.

Rather, we occasionally saw a police car drive by as we winded our way up the main road, heading for the very top in search of a picturesque view of the City. Despite this, I believe that we had gone too far now to turn back, and so we forged ahead. Along the main street in Vidigal, I never felt threatened. Locals seemed to be going about their everyday business and paid us little attention at all.  As we approached the summit, I was saddened that, from the main street, there were buildings blocking what was certain to be an amazing view of Rio de Janeiro.

Unsatisfied, I pondered heading up one of the many small, winding concrete staircases that disappeared into the morass of corrugated steel shanty houses that packed the neighborhood. As I took my first initial steps up the staircase, and my classmate waited at the base, unwilling to head into what looked like an abyss, reality had a way of finding me again. A local woman shouted out her window and waved her finger to me. She had a look on her face not of someone who simply didn’t want me trespassing, but rather, that if I were to continue I might find myself in real danger. This was enough for me to turn back, and suggest to Tina that maybe we begin the long, winding trek down back to the base.

After deciding to turn back and start walking down, we were happy to find out that the walk down actually did give us periodic windows where we were able to marvel at the scenery. The blue ocean, sandy beaches, white buildings, and emerald peaks that Rio is known for looked as amazing as ever. Additionally, the look, smell, and overall feel of being in a favela is so unique, that I had to fight off the urge to whip out my camera and take pictures (the locals tell tourists that this can be seen as very disrespectful).

About half way down the main road, my classmate and I stopped for a drink at a local bar/restaurant. The owner, a kind old lady, not only was willing to take our pictures, as well as a picture of us with her, but also brought out rice and beans (traditional Brazilian fare) that we hadn’t asked for. Upon our departure, she wished us well and gave us both big hugs as we walked down the road.

I am certainly thrilled that I was able to at last explore the Vidigal favela, and experience both in beauty and charm as we meandered through its winding roads. Had I not taken this opportunity to do so, it would have undoubtedly been my biggest, and possibly only, regret of what was, in totality, and amazing trip.

MBA Students Exploring Rio's Most Iconic Symbol

MBA Students Exploring Rio’s Most Iconic Symbol


MBA and MSGL Students In Valencia

Study Abroad in Spain and Morocco – Student Testimonial


Post by MBA student Andres Deza; Pictures by MBA students Emily Lapp, Fangdanyang Huang, Luis Vidaurri Zuniga, Sunita Redfern and Qiaoling Cai.

The study abroad program to Spain and Morocco was an extremely positive and enlightening opportunity that I was lucky to be a part of. The program helped promote education, networking, and cultural awareness through constructive classroom activities, noteworthy company tours, cultural expeditions, and memorable group dinners. Additionally, it provided an ideal atmosphere in which to meet other students, enhance networking skills, learn from professors, and interact with business professionals in an international setting.

At Esca Management School Exploring Africa's Economic Potential

At ESCA Management School Exploring Africa’s Economic Potential

From an academic perspective, I really enjoyed interacting and learning from a variety of scholars such as: MBA students from other cohorts at USD, individuals from the MSGL program at USD, and international students from both Spain and Morocco. The diverse array of people provided a unique and constructive classroom environment, which allowed me to maximize my international educational experience. The program also gave me the chance to learn from both international instructors and USD professors about the intricacies of global business. Having such high caliber professionals teach in this type of program was essential for providing a well-rounded education in a global context. Finally, the guest speakers recruited for the program, which ranged from entrepreneurs to working businessmen/women, also enhanced the overall quality of the program. It was inspirational to hear some of the speaker’s first hand experiences in global business and their views on some of the major challenges they encountered during their careers.

Visit to IBM Innovation Center in Casablanca, Morocco

Visit to IBM Innovation Center in Casablanca, Morocco

There was also a major cultural component that was constantly emphasized throughout the trip. The activities organized by program liasons had cultural depth and exposed the students to some of the cultural differences between the United States and countries such as Spain and Morocco. Major activities included guided walking expeditions, organized bus tours, and planned dinners at some iconic local restaurants. All the activities enhanced the cultural elements of each destination and gave all the students a better understanding about the flow of life in other societies.

Exploring Morocco

Learning About Moroccan Tapestry from the Experts

Overall this opportunity has really help broaden my global perspective, particularly from a business standpoint. It was interesting to see firsthand the pivotal role cultural differences can play when conducting or developing a business in another country. There are many variables to think about especially when constructing the proper business strategy and dealing with local legal and political constraints. International business is a complex and dynamic environment that requires individuals to have innovative and critical minds such as the ones USD targets to develop.

Innovating in Class: Special Topics in International Management with Dr. Zimmermann

Innovating in Class: Special Topics in International Management with Dr. Zimmermann

I was most impressed by the different societies and cultures at each of the destinations we visited on our journey. For example, I was amazed to learn about some of real economic hardships facing the Spanish working population in the current day. It was even more astonishing to feel the people’s resilience, determination, and unity when they spoke about overcoming the difficult economic situation they face. Also, I was shocked to learn how harmonious and connected the people are with one another in an area such as Morocco. In spite of having three very distinct and conflicting religions practiced throughout the country, there is little violence and negativity regarding this topic. These interactions make me feel extremely lucky to participate in a study abroad program such as the recent one to Spain and Morocco. I look forward to sharing my adventures with many others in the future and hope to participate in another study abroad program soon enough.

Cultural Exposure in Morocco

Cultural Exposure in Morocco

Solidarity Group Visit in Guatemala

Microfinance and Wealth Creation Course in Guatemala

“As a result of my visit to Antigua, I’ve become a more educated, culturally aware citizen who has seen one major tool in action that’s had a big impact on bringing millions of people around the world out of poverty—micro-credit. I look forward to seeing micro-credit’s expansion to other parts of Guatemala and the world, and believe that it truly makes a difference in people’s lives.” Allison Czapracki, MBA student

In late June 2014, sixteen students, one professor, and one Ahlers Center administrator from the University of San Diego set out on a journey to discover the intricacies of micro-loans and micro-credit in Antigua Guatemala, where about half a million of around 15 million Guatemalans receive micro-loans every year. These loans range from less than a hundred to a few thousand US dollars, repaid over the course of six months to up to three years. Although the loans are offered at a higher interest rate (for example, one lender we visited charged 25% APR) than what a typical first-world citizen might pay, the interest rates are nearly always much lower than those of the local moneylender, who might charge over 100% APR, keeping borrowers in a cycle of dependency upon them. (We learned that these “high” interest rates must be charged to keep these banks and NGOs sustainable, and because of transaction costs associated with each loan.) Guatemalans might use their micro-loans to buy supplies in bulk, purchase livestock or equipment, improve their homes (for example, add a tin roof in place of a thatched roof) or receive education or training to further their skill-sets.

Visit Weaving Guatemalan

Visit Weaving Guatemalan

According to microfinance information exchange website Mix-Market, 24 banks and NGOs provide the loans to poor, mostly rural Guatemalans. Several of the clients our group visited said these loans help improve the quality of life of Guatemalan citizens by helping them rise from poverty. This is in a country where, according to Elaine, our site coordinator in Antigua, the average Guatemalan has only three and a half years of education—wow! One lender said his organization was doing its job if it increased the number of meals a family could afford to eat from one to two per day, and if their loans enabled them to prosper enough to be able to afford education for their children. Furthermore, we learned from one of the largest microfinance lenders in Guatemala that nearly half of their clients have NO education. That was mind boggling to me, as it must be very difficult to explain the concepts of credit and that stashing your hard-earned cash under a mattress is not okay to someone who’s never been to school and can’t even read or sign their own name on their loan documents.

Students learn to appreciate Guatemalan culture

Students experience the lifestyle of Guatemalan ladies who are part of the solidarity group

Throughout the course of our studies in the U.S. and in Antigua, we learned that group loans via “solidarity groups” are quite common. The basic concept is that individuals in a group of about 10-15 people each take out a loan, but the group guarantees the sum of everyone’s loans. Periodically (bi-weekly or monthly) the group gets together and discusses a range of topics, from brainstorming ideas on improving their businesses to overcoming business and fiscal challenges. These groups are usually composed of women—as representatives of the banks we visited unanimously said, they are the “responsible ones” and are more likely to repay their loans. We learned that loans can be repaid monthly, weekly, or even daily. Wow! (In one organization, an “iron man” donning armor and a lock box comes daily to collect the payments, so that the loans are repaid first before other obligations—an important concept in a society without one unified credit-check system, one where people tend to overborrow and can be financially devastated by just one small earthquake, bad harvest, or minor illness.) The solidarity groups help borrowers keep each other accountable, and if one person defaults the group’s credit worthiness is on the line—so each person has extra motivation to repay his or her loans.

Solidarity Group Visit in Guatemala

Solidarity Group Visit in Guatemala

In and around Antigua, we met with several such solidarity groups, each woman dressed in traditional Guatemalan garb. Although the women we met with didn’t have much and lived at varying stages of poverty, we detected palpable joy from their warm welcomes and eagerness to show us their home and plot of land, where they grew fruits and vegetables, made tapestries, and weaved sweaters, aprons, and other garments.  It was an incredible experience to witness people live so humbly and yet have so much enthusiasm and passion for their their businesses, families, and tight-knit communities. We also met with a baker, a brick maker, and women who ran a tortilerilla—folks who were at varying stages of becoming financially stable or gradually increasing their socioeconomic status, who had perhaps been through many micro-loan cycles, each one helping them incrementally expand their businesses and quality of life.

Visit to a local tortilleria business, which started thanks to micro-loans

Visit to a local tortilleria business, which started thanks to micro-loans

Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was meeting with farmers and an executive from De La Gente (“For the People”), a coffee co-operative in the Antigua area. DLG works with independent farmers to pay them a living wage—around 50% more than what they would be paid if they worked for a large coffee plantation (which is where many, if not all, of them acquired their experience in the coffee world). The coffee beans are later exported to a site in the Midwestern U.S., from where they are roasted, distributed, and sold to independent coffee shops and American coffee connoisseurs. We learned about DLG’s business model and sustainability plan, had the opportunity to test our hand at grinding coffee beans via bicycle and stone hand-grinder, and then got to taste the fruits of our labor. Because of DLG, independent farmers have a built-in support network and are also receiving education to help them become autonomous, sustainable farmers and eradicate roya, a common, rapidly spreading fungus in Central America that could destroy a farmer’s entire coffee crop.

Grinding coffee beans via bicycle at De La Gente, a local co-operative

Grinding coffee beans via bicycle at De La Gente, a local co-operative

As a result of my visit to Antigua, I’ve become a more educated, culturally aware citizen who has seen one major tool in action that’s had a big impact on bringing millions of people around the world out of poverty—microcredit. I look forward to seeing microcredit’s expansion to other parts of Guatemala and the world, and believe that it truly makes a difference in people’s lives.

Post written by MBA student Allison Czapracki

Study Abroad -Brazil

Find Out What Students are Saying About Studying Abroad!

“The opportunity to travel abroad is one of the aspects of USD’s graduate program that I value the most. Learning abroad is much more than showing up to class in another country. Although the courses and professors that these programs offer are fantastic, it is traveling in itself that offers the greatest learning opportunity. Learning and interacting in foreign countries has added immeasurably to my MBA experience and has enriched my overall time at USD. Not to mention, Rio is one of the most amazing places on Earth”

Danny Reeves - MBA/MSRE student about a class taken in Rio

Students experience Brazil while Studying Abroad

Students Explore Brazil while Studying Abroad


“I have travelled to many countries but USD’s intersession program abroad was very unique and outstanding. The effective integrated academic program combined with a local site tour provided knowledge and an experience that was better than any other business or personal travel I have ever had. Also, the number of students who attended the program was the perfect size, which helped to maximize the sharing of information among one another while minimizing any confusion.

In addition, the combination of USA students, international students and local students working together with a common goal provided a very diverse environment for productive discussion and creative insight in decision making.”

Yungchul Huh - MSRE/MBA student about her consulting project experience in Rio

Consulting Project Abroad - USD and COPPEAD Masters Students Collaborating
Consulting Project Abroad – USD and COPPEAD Masters Students Collaborating