Tag Archives: business class

Political and Economic Developments in Europe – Heather Thomas

I am in my first year at the University of San Diego in the Professional MBA program. My undergraduate studies concentrated on cultural anthropology, specifically linguistics. Inspired by the desire to capture dying languages as relics of human expression, I have always been thrilled by the human experience. Taking a plunge into a new field, I see the same themes arise in the inherent social nature of business. The unavoidable road towards a global era is intertwining industries and firms on a level never before seen. Political and social happenings worldwide are changing the world we live in every day with exciting new technologies and a beautiful immersion of cultures. In my quest to discover more about the global changes taking place, and the interconnectivity of it all, I am determined to take my learning experiences abroad as often as possible.

The first, of many more, began in Lisbon and ended in Madrid.

Europe has lived through some incredibly noteworthy changes in recent years. As part of the European Union, in both Portugal and Spain I encountered a significant amount of concern, or at least a prevalent curiosity, about the future of the EU post-Brexit. Will it impact future global trends in trade relations? Will it prompt other European member nations to take action for separation from the union?

The economic union is currently the most robust integration of nations and has succeeded in making Europe a major international power. Lecturers, Francisco Torres and Mario Weitz Schneir, appeared not to fear Brexit and suggest it may be more of a loss for the UK than the remaining nation states. It does, however, bring into question the need to confront the rise of populist movements, a result of economic uncertainty and increasing concerns of globalization.

Another topic of significant impact in the last 10 years is the global financial crisis of 2008. Both Portugal and Spain have not fully recovered and also suffered a severe economic blow during the European debt crisis in 2009. Unemployment rates remain high but are on a steady inline, at just under 19% in Spain and 10% in Portugal compared to 4.3% in the US. The economic systems in both countries are seemingly in repair and investment in technology, education and energy appear promising. With so much transformation, it will be interesting see how things develop.

There are three main things I learned on this program. First, I learned to examine business in a more holistic manner, taking in cultural and historical aspects and exploring their implications. I learned that although Portugal is moving away from tourism as a major industry and into more lucrative sectors, there is no denying the appeal of the city of Lisbon. And finally, for anyone afraid of drinking up an appetite in Spain, you will never be short of Tapas.

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

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

European Accounting Experience – Karinn Uppal

Introduction

I am a first generation American. As a child of immigrants who came to this country with a strong drive to succeed, it was only natural for me to be taught the value of hard work, commitment and, above all, education at a very early age. Because of my strong desire to achieve and excel I choose to take on challenges that will better my knowledge and perspective. The most recent challenge I have taken on is to pursue my Bachelors and Masters Degree simultaneously. I believe that the Accounting Program and the Masters Program here at the University of San Diego will do just that.

Traveling and being a well-cultured individual has taught and shown me many different aspects of the world and given me a global perspective from a young age. I am a very lucky individual who has been given many opportunities to explore out of my home. From traveling alone abroad, to visiting my parent’s motherland, I have seen so many different sides of the globe. Places as diverse as an impoverished village in India, to the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, both very different settings, with different stories to witness and experiences to have. In cities such as London, Paris, and Rome, I hoped not only for an incredible travel experience, but an opportunity to expand both my professional and personal aspirations, and I received just that. This program helped me excel and take a step further towards my goals.

The International Accounting Experience

On this trip, I expected there to be many office visits, including both accounting firms and companies. In addition to these professional trips, I also expected us to partake in typical tourist activities, such as being on a tour bus in London to visiting the Vatican. In my free time I was able to explore the city in a new light, interact with different people, and find hidden places in the city I did not know about prior to the visit.

The company visits were centered on the differences between what we are accustomed to in the United States versus the international guidelines and standards found in other places. Specifically, I was able to see how this played a role during our visit to the IASB. At this particular visit, we met David Ji, an employee who presented us with a lot of information on accounting standards and what they hope the future looks like. His presentation was of value to me because it helped me understand how subsidiaries and companies have to deal with standards globally, something I will have to do once I start working.

Prior to the trip I was intrigued to see how the culture plays a part in the work environment and how the professionals act with each other versus our cultural norms. I definitely saw this culture difference in France. The hierarchy at the Amada visit was very prominent, and it was shown that those who have a higher standard job do not like to do work that is “beneath them.”

The tourist activities and exploration helped me grow personally. Through the other activities I was able to come across students I was not close to before the trip had started. I created new relationships with Austin Andrews and Andrew Taggart, two people I did not know at all prior to the trip. In addition, I went to the Colosseum with Carolyn, Cheng Cheng, Veronica, and Cecilia, four other students I had not known prior to this trip. Building relationships with these girls exposed met to a culture I had not been exposed to before. I realized how different the Chinese culture is by having conversations with them about home.

Professional Growth

With the International Accounting Program, I enjoyed meeting with our European colleagues and counterparts during the planned company visits. I exchanged ideas and had thought-provoking discussions based off the many questions I had asked. Specifically, it was very helpful to meet expatriates in the Big 4 where they would answer all of our questions. As someone who wants to enter a public accounting firm and work internationally, it was very helpful to meet someone who is currently living my future goals. At PwC I met two expatriates who were on their international rotations. I continuously asked if there was a culture shock moving and if they would want to go back to the states. It was interesting to see two different perspectives and different answers towards this question. One PwC employee said she would and will eventually move back to Southern California no matter what, where as another employee said he was there for the long-term and wants to permanently move there.

Someday, I may want to pursue career opportunities in Europe, and therefore having professional relationships with people that live and work there could be immensely rewarding. I met Claire Beng, a partner at KPMG that stepped in at the end to answer our questions. Claire and I bonded over our similar view towards a company we had both previously worked for, Accenture. After having a conversation with Claire she gave me her business card and said, “Stay in touch. I look forward to speaking with you.” After hearing that I added her on LinkedIn and she remembered exactly who I was. This connection will be beneficial and helpful to have back in the states and its very exciting to have made a connection through this trip.

Conclusion

This program was fast paced, with a full and busy schedule. It provided me with a good view and keen insight into what I could expect life to be like in the “real” world past the academic life at USD. I will constantly be busy in the public accounting field, with new clients, becoming certified, and building good work relationships; I will not have much free time in my day. I have further developed two critical skills that I need prior to entering the professional world: to be able to prioritize tasks and have excellent time management skills.

I believe that traveling abroad while in the process of obtaining my masters was an extremely enriching experience. I gained a new set of skills that will add to my professional career and personal life. This experience connected me to a whole new world of people, may it be students or professionals, many of whom I hope to have lifelong meaningful relationships.

Prior to being an Accounting Major, I was a Biology Major. But now that I have developed this passion for business and accounting; the idea of traveling and receiving credits towards my Master’s degree that once appeared as a dream has become reality. This international program advanced my persona and character in more ways than one and I am so appreciative that I was able to partake in it.

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

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

Studying Italian Culture & Economy in Florence – Emmalyn Spruce

Intersession 2017 lasted exactly 35 days. Yet, as I look back on the countless impactful experiences, unique perspectives, and new friends it has provided me, it feels as though it lasted a lifetime. The trip I participated in (USD’s Second Year Experience in Florence, Italy) began in January, but I was able to spend time traveling Europe with my roommates beforehand. We started in Amsterdam and worked our way down to Florence over the course of a week or so, spending a few nights in places such as Zürich, Switzerland and Stuttgart, Germany. Although the experience of traveling abroad without the help of a travel agent or pre-determined schedule organized by an experienced professional was a stressful, exhausting, eye opening and completely rewarding part of my time in Europe, I’ve decided to describe my academic experience abroad as a student of International Business.

My first and favorite meal in Florence

As a participant in the Second Year Experience, students are able to choose from a variety of different courses offered during the three-week long excursion to Florence. Each class is taught by a USD faculty member and students receive USD credit towards their core requirements or major/minor. In addition to attending class every day, we participated in a number of course-related trips, which included visits to local museums and monuments such as Michelangelo’s David and an interactive virtual reality art exhibit featuring the works of Gustav Klimt. We also had the opportunity to meet with the owner of Leonardo’s Leather Shop, a local store we partnered with to collect data for our final projects, which analyzed the statistical trends of the shop’s sales. Our schedule also included a number of free days on which we were permitted to explore Florence on our own or travel to other Italian cities and regions by train.

The Colosseum looks just as incredible no matter how cold it is, but I’ve provided photographic proof that we nearly froze in Rome.

On our second free day in Florence, we set out to walk from our hotel through the narrow, cobblestone streets in search of lunch. We took our usual path along the river towards the city center, but were stopped just before we arrived by a line of police cars blocking the road. Whistles were sounding and chants were being shouted in Italian. The policemen were casually standing around, smoking cigarettes and chatting by the edge of the square, keeping an eye on whatever was happening just around the corner. Upon seeing this we became less nervous about what we might find. I made my way through a thicket of parked bicycles and into the square, where an ocean of light blue and cherry red flags ebbed and flowed. I watched as the people who held them in the air wandered back and forth speaking to one another and trying to keep warm as the protesters funneled into a small side street towards the city center.

It took a moment to find someone in the crowd who spoke our language but, after a few minutes, the purpose of the protest was vaguely described to us in broken and heavily accented English. The middle-aged Italian man said that they were workers for a major textile companies. Their employers had promised them new contracts and when the time came to sign them, the companies backed out. They were advocating for workers rights and specifically for contracts with fairer wages. As we made our way towards our usual lunch spot alongside the protesters, we ran into Mateo, a graduate student whom we’d met at Florence University of the Arts. When I asked him what he knew about the demonstration he explained that employees from different textile and footwear companies across Italy had come together with the help of a number of different Italian labor unions to protest the non-renewal of contracts. He pointed out signs that different sections of the group were holding up, “For example, this group you can see is from Milan, and those over there are from Bologna. They have traveled here to protest together so their numbers are larger.” Upon rifling through some Florentine news sources, I discovered that there were a number of reasons why the protest took place in Florence. The union officials who helped to organize the event intended for the timing (it occurred on the same day as many of the Florence Fashion Week events) to encourage the consideration of the difference between those who are wearing and selling high-end Italian clothing, and those who make it.

We could see the protest continue later that day in Florence, closer to the city center.

Poverty was not something I expected to see very much of when traveling to Europe. I assumed that, because we would be spending our time primarily in tourist-heavy areas, we would not see much exposure to this particular economic issue. This was not the case. Everywhere we went individuals could be seen selling trinkets in the plazas, outside of museums, and next to monuments. Others frequented the same areas and begged for money instead. I noticed that the large majority of these individuals were not native Italians. Many of the people I spoke to were refugees from Senegal, Africa. Some of the people had lived in Italy for many years and selling these knick-knacks and souvenirs had been their only source of income, while others had just recently arrived and could barely speak Italian, much less English.

Based on articles found in domestic sources such as The Local Italy and foreign sources like The Wall Street Journal, Italian politicians are primarily concerned with both the current banking system and immigration. A series of bad loans has plagued Italian banks since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and they are still working toward recovery. In addition to a financial system that is constantly at risk, Italy has taken in a record number of refugees and asylum seekers over the past few years. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the number of unaccompanied minors fleeing their home countries and seeking asylum in Italy has doubled in the past year alone. Unstable banks, along with the recent influx of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, has caused major political upheaval in Italy and Italians debate solutions to these issues most frequently. It seems that many of the same economic, political, and humanitarian issues are prominent topics for discussion in both cultures. I was surprised to discover that economic stability and the immigrant crisis are major issues that both Italians and Americans are concerned with. Some of the other aspects of Italian culture, however, were much different from those in the U.S.

One of the most prominent differences in culture that I noticed and felt the need to adjust to was the emphasis on time. I noticed in many instances that, for Italians, time is most definitely not of the essence. I felt as though I was being rude when I asked for the check after a meal in a local restaurant, or decided not to have wine or dessert. In the U.S., we treat time as though it is an invaluable resource that must be utilized to its maximum potential. Every minute of my life is scheduled to a T, and meals in particular seem to be treated as a necessary evil that must happen as quickly as possible so as not to interrupt whatever important work needs to be done. I found that I had great difficulty adjusting to this particular aspect of Italian culture at the beginning of our trip, but by the end I was perfectly happy to spend two hours of my day enjoying a four-course lunch as we looked out across the beautiful Arno River.

We sat here for three and a half hours.

The academic aspect of studying abroad is thoroughly rewarding and I would recommend it specifically to those interested in international interaction. There are a few pieces of advice I would offer someone who is interested in studying abroad. The first is to make sure not to underestimate the importance of balance. Studying abroad isn’t exactly a vacation, but spending enough time on your academics will allow you to have a more educated understanding of your host country and its people. You will appreciate it in the long run. The second is to allow yourself room to deviate from the plan. Lose yourself in a city you don’t know, meet new people, ask for help, trust yourself and let yourself be vulnerable so that your time abroad changes you for the better.

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

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

Implementing Marketing Strategies in Munich – Daniel Barry

Working on a project for BMW Motorrad (Motorcycles) during the 2017 International MBA Practicum was an experience I will never forget. Our case focused on marketing challenges directly impacting regional operations for BMW Motorrad in the current year through 2021. My group consisted of an extremely diverse set of MBA students both at USD and the Munich University of Applied Sciences who each had unique inputs on how to approach the project. Our final presentation brought new, compelling recommendations to the Regional Manager and Product Manager that they were eager to implement. We were able to establish a network with these individuals and I have maintained contact with them regarding progress and how we could help back in San Diego. As the target demographic for BMW Motorrad, I found it hard “turn off” the project and could not stop jotting down ideas as they came to me.

When I did break away for some downtime, Munich gave me plenty of sights, sounds and tastes to take full advantage of. I enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in Olympia Park on my way to visit the famous BMW Museum and BMW World. My colleagues and I also enjoyed delicious food and of course, beer, at many of the famous beer halls around the city. A great way to take a rest day is to visit the Deutches Museum that had amazing technical exhibits and industrial inventions through history. At the end of my trip, I was able to break away for a few days to visit Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Austria for some skiing! The weather was outstanding and the mountaintop views were breathtaking – I recommend this to anyone with the slightest interest because it’s only a few hours from Munich by train. The Practicum in Munich was far beyond the highlight of my (brief) stint as a USD MBA student and I am looking forward to my next one wherever it may be!

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahlers Center Fellows of 2016-17

Many students completed an extensive application and interview process last fall, and ultimately three were selected as Fellows because of their past accomplishments as well as for their perceived ability to succeed in the field of international business. This program will be offered yearly to international business (IB) majors and minors, and will give students a chance to further their academic development through experiential opportunities in this area. Once students are accepted to the program, they commit to participate in three international business related activities as Fellows. Upon completion of these activities, they are eligible to receive a scholarship during their final semester at USD. Further, once the students graduate from USD, the Fellows also commit to mentor future IB majors and minors in their efforts to build a global mindset at USD. Now let’s meet our 2016-2017 Ahlers Fellows!

Emmalyn Spruce

Emmalyn Spruce is a second semester sophomore at the University of San Diego majoring in International Business with a minor in music. She participates in a number of extra curricular activities on campus including USD’s Choral Scholars Program, the Academic Review Council, and the USD chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, Pre-Law Fraternity International. She is a California native who loves to find adventure in every aspect of life, although her favorites include those found in literature, economic inquiry, and travel. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship Program, Emmalyn hopes to supplement her degree with valuable international experiences that will help her to grow both as a businesswoman and as an individual. She looks forward to giving back to the program post-graduation by serving as a mentor for future Ahlers Fellows.

Aman Chopra

Aman Chopra is currently a senior at the University of San Diego majoring in International Business & Marketing with minors in both Theatre Arts and Information Systems & Technology Management. He was born and raised in Mumbai, India, but has lived in several countries including Qatar, Singapore, the U.K., and the United States. Moving around the world has exposed him to the diversity of cultures and complexity of global business. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship program, Aman hopes to improve his knowledge of international business and expand his network with highly influential people in the field.

Janaye Perry

Janaye Perry is a Sociology major with an International Business and Leadership minor. Her dream is to be able to work with international students on various conflicts, working towards peace and unity across cultures through hands-on work. Janaye’s career goal is working with international non-profits to best utilize her skills of fostering positive and productive group dynamics. Through the Ahlers Center Fellowship program, she plans to use her inclusive, ethical, and process-oriented skills to manage those from various cultural backgrounds and work effectively towards promoting a more peaceful world.

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

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

An Unforgettable Adventure – Jeremy Sebastien

“Shanghai was my first trip to Asia and I approached the situation with an open mind and excitement to experience a new adventure. From the time that I got off the plane, Shanghai was complete sensory overload. The smell of food, the people, and the sounds of motorbikes honking as they drive past are omnipresent. There is an undeniable energy present in the city.

I have been fortunate enough to travel to other parts of the world. As an American, it is relatively easy to navigate most areas because of a clear western influence and common usage of English. Shanghai was different—in a good way. Not much English is spoken and the written language does not have any recognizable characters. When the journey started, I felt like a fish out of water. It didn’t take very long to feel at home in China.

Shanghai is an interesting blend of modern and ancient. The city is extremely cosmopolitan. A walk through Xintandi could make one feel like they are in New York City. Nanjing Road—with its bold neon signs and endless shopping—draws people into the spirit of the city for an evening stroll with no destination in mind. On the other hand, I would walk down that same road first thing in the morning and was amazed at how the main street looked like it was from the future, but the alleyways that branched out looked like they hadn’t been changed in centuries.

We had a job to do in Shanghai. The client that my team worked for was an up-and-coming agency that had a young staff and bold ideas. From d ay one, the company treated us as their own. They took us out to lunch and always made sure that we felt comfortable in the office. We were even invited to an after-work event and the invitation was extended to the rest of the Intersession group. We played dodgeball and laughed all night. It was one of the most memorable nights of the trip.

Our client gave us the freedom to explore ideas for the project. It was exciting to be a part of a newer firm that allowed its employees to act in an entrepreneurial way. It was also exciting to see that China is a growing and interesting place to do business. The country is expanding its reach and it was interesting to see the almost endless potential.

The study abroad program was one of the reasons that I decided to attend USD. My experience exceeded expectations. We were put into a new environment with a new culture and a new company. With that framework in place, we had the opportunity to take what we wanted from the trip. I came into the experience with the objectives of learning a new business culture and stepping out of my comfort zone. I wanted to take on an intellectual challenging project while experiencing life on the other side of the world. I left with much more than I wanted. I left with new friends, a broader global perspective, and an adventure that I’ll never forget.”

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

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

Business Environment in Spain, Portugal, and China – Angel Wu

Angel (Shengdi) Wu made the journey to Lisbon and Madrid, experiencing a contrast of Portuguese and Spanish business etiquette to that of her native country, China. Please enjoy reading her perspectives on European and Chinese cultural practices, and how to have cultural-awareness while conducting international business.

Time flies, two weeks’ intersession in Europe passed quickly in the blink of an eye. My overall impression on Europe is complicated. I was completely absorbed in the rich culture, accumulated through the long development of the civilization. We visited art centers, img_0238witnessed the perfectly reserved architectures from the last two centuries, watched various classical concerts such as Flamenco in Spain and Fado in Portugal, and tested various authentic European food and drinks such as Sangria, wines and fresh-made breads with garlic shrimps. However, on the other hand, I was a little disappointed by the current economic statues of the European union countries. Once dominated the sea and colonized many countries around the world to acquire a great deal of fortunes, Spain and Portugal today are no longer prosperous as before and struggling to get out of the economic crisis.

In terms of culture and business differences between China and Europe, the most important element that China and Europe share in common is the long historical development. Both China and Europe entered their respective first golden age at about the same time: 500 BC. However, European culture heritages, including ancient castles and old antiques, are better preserved img_0564than the Chinese counterparts, as both the civil wars and the world wars destroyed lots of historical sites in China. As a result, on the whole, the modern facilities such as elevators in buildings are more spread in China than European countries. A single writing language and a 90% Han-nationality dominated population shaped roughly homogenous cultural traditions in China, while multiple languages and varieties of populations created different culture traditions among European countries. The differences could also be traced to the concept of family. For instance, Chinese view the benefits of the whole family over individuals so that an individual has his duty for the family. Europeans focus more on an individual’s freedoms and rights. Although we could feel the socialism influence in both continents, Europeans enjoy much higher benefits from their governments while Chinese do not.

img_0433When it comes to business, Europeans focus more on the technology and quality, such as some famous luxurious brands – Gucci, Louise Vuitton, BMW cars and so on. Chinese place greater importance on cutting costs, which inevitably harms the quality. However, both Europe and China are complimentary to each other from the market angle. China has huge market potential and production capacities, while Europe has advanced technologies that could be more quickly applied in China. Europe could conquer the Chinese market more quickly by transferring new technologies to China and setting up local production.

 

Another noteworthy fact is that China is thriving thanks to the fall of communism and the rise of img_0327the capitalism. Europe is falling thanks to the rise of socialism and the fall of capitalism with no easy way out. The rigid, inefficient labor market, in most European union countries, has become probably the largest stumbling block to development of the economies within the European Union. For instance, in the United States, a company in decline could lay off its employees according to its needs without any compensation. While in Europe, the rigid labor law made it even unaffordable for a company to fire a permanent employee. In China, employees laid off by a company are compensated to some extent. As a result, in many European countries, a vicious circle happens as permanent workers in a company might look forward to being fired, and thus companies operating in Europe tend to hire more temporary workers instead. The astonishing unemployment rate at as high as 30 percent makes people question whether it is really beneficial for the economic development of a country to join the European Union.

img_9962To do business in Portugal, some business etiquettes should be kept in mind. Don’t ask about a person’s background or age or exaggerate your gestures. As for punctuality, it is common to be late. For instance, arriving 10 minutes late for a meeting is ok. You will need to make a call if you will be late by more than 20 minutes or request to reschedule the meeting after 30 minutes. Portuguese people are very friendly and sincere about what they say. As is the case with China, personal relationships are very important in business, and people prefer to do business with someone they trust. Thus, it is advisable to seek a mutual contact and build up some credibility with Portuguese businessmen before starting to negotiate with them, a practice shared by Spanish businessmen as well.

In Spain, sufficient time should be allowed to get to know your partners well before any negotiation as a sound relationship is an integral part of successful business negotiation. For instance, before the formalities of meeting, you should spend some time discussing some general informal subjects, such as the weather, family or traveling arrangements. It is really important to follow up with the completion of a business deal and reinforce personal relationships. It is acceptable to invite business partners in Spain to some informal social gatherings. In general, Spanish people value their families, personal relationship and cultural traditions. They enjoy leisure activities to the fullest. Business dress code is very important in Spain as Spanish people will perceive one’s appearance as indication of professional achievement and relative social standing. It is advisable to address with elegance, especially for a dinner. Many high-quality restaurants have a formal dress code. Unless you are a tourist over there, you should always avoid shorts or slippers. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that some rules about giving gifts during business meetings. Spanish people don’t usually give gifts to each other, while inexpensive gifts could be allowed at the end of a success negotiation. Corporate gifts or books are welcome gifts. It is important to know that Spanish people are brand and quality conscious, so high quality items are preferred.img_0440

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

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

Innovation and Cooperation in Mondragón

This past summer, Jessica Kort traveled to Mondragón, Spain to learn about the role of the environment and community in innovation and entrepreneurship. Please enjoy reading her perspectives on the philosophy of business, leadership, and life.

“It is extraordinary that this course on Models of Participatory Leadership is offered in Mondragon. Beyond being a unique yet entirely enlightening topic for students of business, it is invaluable to learn about this style of leadership that is uncommon for us in the United States. Were Mondragon 2it not for the financial aid, I would have been unable to travel and study in Mondragon. I truly treasured the experience because being immersed in the culture that generated this philosophy of business and leadership added complex layers to my understanding of it.

It was one thing to read about Mondragon cooperatives’ competitive advantages and astounding success from campus in San Diego. It was another entirely to see where it all began, speak face-to-face with beneficiaries of this way of business and of life, experience the culture that inspired it and watch its creations in action. Visiting the headquarters of the cooperative umbrella corporation, the cooperative factory floors and cooperative university brought theMondragon 9 narratives to life. We digested the forces and motives that drove visionaries to create cooperatives in the Basque region while sharing traditional Basque meals with beneficiaries of their foresight. We studied the economic theory behind cooperatives and walked the halls of a stunning university later created to teach and embody that cooperative structure. We mulled over how Catholic Social Thought laid the foundation of values that inspired the cooperatives’ founders to construct something better for their community in the 1950s, and trekked to a symbolically designed basilica erected and dedicated to the community in that same decade. We learned about another people’s perspectives on wealth, happiness, progress, independence and fairness.
Mondragon 1The course content gave me much to consider as an entrepreneur, and the trip reminded me that our environment has as great a role in our creations as we do. We cannot design or innovate in isolation. We must observe our surroundings and take stock of other people’s needs and perspectives to generate workable solutions and community change. I am currently applying what I learned to my nonprofit work. I’m drawing useful comparisons between cooperatives’ growth in their cultural environment and collaborations in the San Diego social sector. I will remember what I heard from cooperative workers as I look for ways to incorporate qualities they cherish about their professional environment. It was so inspiring to witness their commitment to and belief in the cooperative model, and I hope to emulate those feelings of dedication to work and livelihood here.”

Mondragon 8

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

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

Business Etiquette in Spain, Portugal, and India

Rajat Raizada made the journey to Lisbon and Madrid this summer, experiencing a contrast of Portuguese and Spanish business etiquette to that of his native country, India. Please enjoy reading his perspectives on European and Indian cultural practices, and how to have cultural-awareness in international business.

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“During my summer abroad trip to Spain and Portugal, I noticed many cultural differences between these countries and India. I made several points about what occurs to me as different in Spain and Portugal from India.

Hierarchy

Indian society is very hierarchically organized which isIMG_20160525_173020 apparent from the way parents raise their kids. The parents are the boss and the kids follow the instructions of the parents. Even in business environment, the companies follow a hierarchical structure. In organizations, hierarchy is the central way of managing. If you work with a software company, even a small one, you’ll find a project manager, who is managing the team leader, who is managing the programmers, even in the smallest projects. And the programmer will need his superior for anything that he does. However, in Europe (Spain and Portugal) most companies give people responsibility, freedom and measure people on their performance within those boundaries.

Openness

In India, people are very open, discussing personal, professional, and all kinds of topics with their friends and colleagues. India is a collectivist society and major focus is given on relationship building. Before conducting any business, two parties generally meet 2-3 times to develop good relations and bondIMG-20160615-WA0015s between them. While in Europe (Spain and Portugal), people are always trying to be very polite and won’t share anything negative or offending (which also makes for a very positive cultural experience). It is sometimes hard to really get the truth or the person’s vision on a subject. From a business perspective, it is valuable to learn about different cultures, as by understanding them, it becomes easier to develop a successful cooperation.

Masculinity

Though India is moving towards gender equality, India is still predominantly a male-dominating society. This is quite evident as most of the important financial decisions are made by the male member in the family. In companies, gender ratio has not yet reached 50:50 and most of the senior positions in the company are taken by males. In Europe (Spain and Portugal), there is no gender bias and men and women work together and share the same goal. Unlike in India, some key positions in Portugal and Spain are held by females in the company.

Greetings

While many Spaniards of the opposite sex will greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks, this is not as common in business relationships unless you know the other party well. While in India, handshake is most prevalent way of greeting in business community (don’t even think of kissing).

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Addressing a person

In Europe (Spain and Portugal), people use first name for addressing a person in the company. In India, though, addressing by first name is catching up but people still prefer to be addressed as Sir or Madam (especially if you are talking to senior).

Punctuality

In Portugal, punctuality is not seen as very important. Interestingly, people from the North are usually more punctual than those from the South. In fact, it is polite to arrive five minutes late. The host usually arrives “on time” but all others are usually late. When you arrive for a meeting, do not be offended if you are kept waiting for up to 20 minutes. This is the usual practice in Portugal. If you are kept waiting more than 30 minutes, then it would be quite normal to express some discontent. While in India, people are generally punctually (not as punctual as Americans) and arriving 5 minutes late in a business meeting is not considered rude.

In Portugal, during my visit to WE DO Technologies, I noticed quite a few differences from the Indian companies. First, the CEO of the company was very approachable to all the employees. Second, all the employees of the company were encouraged to suggest new ideas which can aid in companies growth. Third, the work timings of the company were from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM with weekends off. In India, the company CEO is not easily approachable to all the employees and generally top management makes all key strategic decisions about the company. Other employees just follow their superior’s orders. Also, the work timing in India is very harsh. Generally, 9-10 hours workday is common with Saturday as working day (half day in some companies).

Doing business in Europe – Spain

These are the things which I learned during my trip to Spain in regards to doing business:

Doing business in Spain requires good understanding of their culture and values. Spanish culture has influenced the world greatly in the past. At one time, Spain ruled in South America, the Caribbean and as far east as the Philippines. As a result of this large colonial influence and the growth of Spanish as a second-language, Spanish is regarded as the second most spoken language worldwide. Spain has a relational culture.IMG_20160530_174610

To do business in Spain means one has to build a network of contacts in different sectors of society. To get your client to trust you right from the start, it helps to provide him with references about yourself and your company from important people in Spain. Getting yourself introduced by a trusted relation of your new client is also a very good way to start the initial contact. Relations are built personally, not by telephone or e-mail. Out-of-the-office meetings like lunches or dinners offer the best occasions to get to know each other better. This aspect of doing business of Spain is very similar to that of India.

The Spaniards like to dress well. Formal business suits are worn by men with dark colors in winter and light in summer, and fashionable business dress is worn by women. Spain has a large shoe industry therefore shoes are an important part of their dress. The social status of a person is directly connected to the dress. Young people, however, are nowadays generally free to wear comfortable clothes.

Doing business in Europe – Portugal

Portuguese people are very friendly and social. Generally, it takes 1-2 meetings to build a relationship before starting a business with them. Some of my other key takeaways about doing business in Portugal are mentioned below:IMG-20160615-WA0016

Business dress is usually rather formal. Casual dress is still unusual in Portuguese companies, even in modern or creative industries. In some cases, however, companies allow their staff to dress down on Fridays. However, a standard business suit is still the most common form of dress among businessmen.

Portugal has a slightly higher level of corruption than other western European countries. Corruption is an important political and economic issue and still represents an enduring characteristic of Portuguese business culture. Most cases of bribery and corruption are reported from the public sector. They are related mainly to concessions, unclear approvals of contractors and specific economic lobbying or job offers to friends and family members.

In the Portuguese business environment, it is normal to give a gift to customers and partners. To reject a gift is seen as offensive. Also, as gifts are considered to be a personal gesture, it is not polite to re-distribute a gift to staff.”

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

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

International Practicum: iPai in Shanghai

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

MBA students burn incense at a temple in Zhujiajiao

MBA students burn incense at a temple in Zhujiajiao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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