Tag Archives: global awareness

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.

In the Spotlight – Katrin Kandlbinder

Each year, the Ahlers Center welcomes international short-term scholars and researchers to the University of San Diego campus. Such visitors contribute to the Center’s vision of creating dynamic and globally robust environments in and out of the classroom. These scholars collaborate with USD faculty on various research projects and support the faculty in their academic endeavors.

We are delighted to have visiting researcher Katrin Kandlbinder with us for the current spring 2017 term. Katrin is a doctoral candidate at the International Real Estate Business School of the University of Regensburg in Germany. Working with USD’s Dr. Norm Miller, Katrin is conducting joint research on the United States housing market and how information efficiency affects real estate markets over time. She will be presenting her findings, alongside Dr. Miller, at the upcoming American Real Estate Society conference in April. We had an opportunity to sit down with Katrin to see how she has enjoyed her new home city of San Diego.

What has been your favorite experience in San Diego thus far?

I enjoy the weather, walking along the beach and especially the people. Everyone in San Diego has been so friendly and I have found it really easy to make friends. People are very willing to meet you and take the time to get to know you here. I have been very impressed with how willing people are to help strangers.

What is one thing about San Diego that you found surprising?

I think the public transportation system could be improved. I was surprised, for a city this large, that the public transportation is not more efficient. Everyone here has a car. And a dog! It seems that everyone in San Diego owns at least one dog.

What do you think you will miss most about San Diego when you return to Germany in April?

I will miss the weather, the ocean, and the open mindedness of the people.

Where are you living in San Diego?

I have an apartment in Little Italy which I love. The neighborhood is wonderful with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and activities right outside my door. I joined a yoga studio close to my apartment and every Saturday I shop at the Little Italy farmers market.

What are some of your hobbies?

I enjoy yoga, visiting friends, and swimming. I play the saxophone and I also take voice lessons. So I love music!

What is something that you tried for the first time in your life in San Diego?

Clam chowder. Wow, it’s great!

What is something you have not yet tried in San Diego but hope to do before you leave?

I would love to try to surf. I am waiting for the weather to be a bit warmer and then I plan to try to surf for the first time.

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.

People Before Profits – Judy Halter

Judy Halter traveled to Mondragón, Spain this past summer, studying the models of participatory leadership in a global context. Please enjoy reading her perspectives on business, philosophy and the importance of the cooperative model.

“Now having an increased knowledge of the many positive social outcomes for cooperative management, I ask how can we incentivize people to work for cooperatives again? An economist made a presentation for us during the week and mentioned “that it would be rare for anyone to currently creatimg_4927e a startup in the coop model.” The dynamics that were in place in the late 1950s when MCC was created were very different than today’s environment. We learned that even by the 1990s, people were joining coops for practicality reasons, not for higher purpose or perceived societal benefits. Though I personally believe and appreciate the positive societal outcomes from people coming together to work for each other instead of an individualistic approach, my beliefs are not the norm. So I ask, what is going to bring the appreciation of solidarity and democratic management back into favor?

I feel that our changing employment demands could possibly create a scenario where people will appreciate the work and be willing to sacrifice the funds for the greater good. Gallop in May 2016 reported that 13.7% of people are underemployed in the US. Underemployment is a form of cooperative tenets taking place in the sense that people want to work so much they willing to take jobs beneath their skill level in hopes of future mobility. As our economy continues to be disrupted by technological Mondragon 15advancements, our employment avenues are changing rapidly. Will there be a time of retraining workers? How long will that take? Will workers, in hopes of belonging to a community and making a contribution, consider a cooperative model? Possibly, only time will tell. I truly concur with Dr. Herrera’s belief regarding man’s need to contribute and evolve through his work. The cooperative model may be one of the more acceptable means of providing full employment when jobs are declining in availability. Allowing more people to work for less and spread the opportunity to work, might be one of the solutions to keeping people engaged, contributing and connected. I also believe that the cooperative pay scale could be one of the quickest ways to solve income disparity if applied in corporate America. That being said, capitalism is one of the founding pillars of American society, but my hope is that we can dial back our consumption in an effort to put people before profits, which is the foundation of the MCC.

Mondragon 6I am so thankful for the enlightening week in Mondragón. The cooperative tenets align with me philosophically, and I believe corporate America has an opportunity to integrate some of the best tenets of the cooperative model: equity, democratization, participatory leadership, and education. Some of our best companies in the US (ie. Google, Wegmann, Boston Consulting Group) maintain some of the cooperative tenets. They receive high marks from their employees on “best places to work.” Utilizing a system similar to the cooperative model, these American companies have created a strong, unified culture where people take pride in their work and collaborate. I believe this engaged dynamic occurs because the companies strive to put their employees before their profits similar to the cooperative principles of people before profits. In America, we have leadership that implements similar philosophies; we just need other leaders to be inspired as well.”

To check out more student experiences, 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.

10 Must-Do’s in Madrid

During May and June of 2016, USD afforded students from the MBA and MSGL programs the opportunity to study abroad in Lisboa, Portugal and Madrid, España. Both cities were absolutely breathtaking and are highly recommended destinations. In Madrid, there are 10 Must-Do’s that left a lasting impression on me and will enhance your culture experience:

  1. Watch a soccer (fútbol) game with the locals. Soccer, or fútbol, is like a religion in Europe. If one really wants to get immersed in the culture, find a local pub, and enjoy the festivities. Some of the best soccer in the world is played in Spain, as Spain won the World Cup in 2010, and Real Madrid won the Champions League Championships in 2016. Puerto del sol has great restaurants to enjoy the games!
    2. Plaza de Cibeles
  2. After the match. Spaniards are very passionate people. When something good happens, everybody gets together in the streets and celebrates. If there’s a concert, soccer game, or national holiday, Plaza de Cibeles is a great location where everybody conglomerates to rejoice in the moment. It’s an amazing cultural experience, and the atmosphere cannot be replicated.
  3. Flamenco. The performance originates from Spain. The presentation involves singing, guitar, dance, and more. It is a classy experience, and one really gains an appreciation for the talent, fitness, and rehearsal that these performers undergo in preparing themselves for the performance. A great venue for this is Corral de la Moreria.
    4. Plaza del Callao
  4. Reach out! Had one asked me at the time if I knew anybody in Madrid, I would have said no. However after passing the word along, my friend’s, friend’s, brother, from Zamora was in Madrid at the time. Reach out to your friends, find some local connections, and hang out in a few of the local spots. There are great local spots around Plaza del Callao.
    5. Viejo Madrid
  5. Tapas. Tapas are a wide variety of snacks, or appetizers, of Spanish cuisine. These are edibles that are synonymous with Spanish culture. There is lots of finger food that can be served both hot and cold. A great restaurant for tapas is Viejo Madrid – highly recommended.
    6. La Paella Real
  6. Paella. Paella is a type of food that’s unique to Spain. It’s a rice dish that originates from Valencia. There are many different types of paella which one could have to include vegetarian, seafood, mixed, and more – and goes great with tapas. La Paella Real is a great location with well-recommended Paella should one have a hankering for some good Spanish ham.
    7. Restaurante Alabaster
  7. Iberico Ham. This tapa is so good that it gets its own caption. Cured from the black Iberian pig, found only in Portugal and Spain, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Restaurante Alabaster had the best!
    8. La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo, Las Ventas
  8. Bullfighting. This bloodsport is strongly tied to Spanish culture and masculinity…not for the fainthearted. The roots can be traced back to Mesopotamia where bulls were worshipped, and sacrificed, as entailed in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Eventually this killing ritual became sacred.  A venue to view this ritual is La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo, or more simply, Las Ventas.9. Hotel Urban Madrid
  9. Rooftop restaurants. These are great locations to come after supper and reflect on the day. It provides one with a great vantage point to take in the beautiful city and digest the cultural experiences with friends. One such rooftop location that’s recommended is Hotel Urban Madrid.10. Jardines del Buen Retiro
  10. Row boats. Though the Spanish are known for being arguably the most influential sailors in the world, Madrid is unfortunately landlocked. However, one is able to enjoy the great outdoors on the water by renting a rowboat at Jadines del Buen Retiro. This is a popular place for the locals to come and enjoy their time off work.

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.”

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Unraveling the Complexities of Global Real Estate

Written by Mark Ambrose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahlers Fellow Matt Oney: The Dangers of Growing Too Big, Too Fast

“Navera, a start-up in San Francisco, recently tasked me with determining the viability of expanding their product internationally. The team wanted to find out whether potential revenues would outweigh the costs of adapting their product to fit a few select markets. To give you a bit of background, Navera works in the healthcare space, creating fun, user-friendly cartoons designed to help consumers better understand available healthcare options. It’s a really cool product, and they’ve seen great success within the US. In the everlasting pursuit of increased revenues, they’re looking to offer additional language support to target native Spanish-speakers.

I began by determining the potential market size that would be opened up by offering Spanish support. After Mandarin, Spanish is the second-most widely spoken language in the world, so there’s huge potential here, right? With over 400 million speakers and official language status in 21 different countries, Spanish could offer Navera the opportunity to tap into markets all across Europe, Africa, and South, Central, and North America.

I split the potential expansion into two different categories: (1) international expansion into Spanish-speaking countries in EMEA (Europe and the Middle East), and (2) Mexico and LATAM (Latin America). Everything looked great for EMEA. There are about 38 million native Spanish-speakers there, with only three varying dialects, all primarily located in Spain. Mexico and LATAM weren’t so bad, either. There are about 221 million Spanish speakers in the emerging economies within this region. And the rapidly rising population and income in these areas will only lead to greater demand for healthcare. The product fits, and the market is huge. Awesome!

However, the issue is there are so many variables to take into account before jumping into these markets. For one, the way healthcare works in the US is incredibly different from these countries. There are tons of government regulations and compliance codes, which we need to be familiar with before launching the product. Not to mention a severe lack of brand awareness, local Sales and Business Development teams, and cultural differences to take into account. Quite simply, launching internationally would be a huge task, on top of Navera’s current work domestically.

Scaling back, I decided to look just at the Hispanic population in the US. Sifting through the US Census data from 2015, I found that the market here, too, is huge. 62% of all Hispanics in the US predominantly speak Spanish at home. A huge number of these people simply can’t speak English fluently, and there really is a need for Spanish support here. Cutting the data down, I found that 5,500,000 of these Hispanics are over 18 (check), not fluent in English (check), and earn a salary (check), making them eligible for health care coverage through their employer.

I started to believe we should start expansion domestically. Navera had previously stated that they wouldn’t consider international expansion unless they were guaranteed at least $25M in revenue, which was starting to look bleak, given the major differences in healthcare internationally, compliance factors, operating costs, and cultural factors. Starting small, adapting the product by offering standard Spanish support, and targeting these 5,500,000 native Hispanics will give us a good benchmark of how successful this project could be.

The biggest thing I learned, through this research, was that you can never get ahead of yourself, especially when looking internationally. The market for selling to these overseas markets is undeniably huge, and very profitable. But the costs (mostly in terms of time and complexity) far outweigh the benefits, in the short-term. In this case, it’s smarter to start small, test the product within our current US market, and take it from there.

There I had it. I organized my findings and recommendations, presented them to the Head of Marketing, and helped to reinforce their decision to focus on the US market first. The biggest thing I learned, through this research, was that you can never get ahead of yourself, especially when looking internationally. The market for selling to these overseas markets is undeniably huge, and very profitable. But the costs (mostly in terms of time and complexity) far outweigh the benefits, in the short-term. In this case, it’s smarter to start small, test the product on Spanish speakers within our current US market, and take it from there.

Throughout my time working on this project, the team was incredibly supportive of me, offered me an abundance of internal data and information to use, and truly seemed to appreciate the findings that I provided them. Their international expansion hasn’t been terminated by any means – we’ve just taken a more cautious, measurable approach toward growth.”

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