Tag Archives: Spain

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.

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.

Tips for Traveling to Lisbon and Madrid

Shreyas Sreekanth visited two locations, Madrid and Lisbon, and gave us some tips for what to do and see in both locations. Read on to find out more!

Since this was the first time I was visiting Europe, my excitement before leaving was overwhelming. We had a large group of people from different programs joining us in these wonderful locations, which made it even better to meet new people and hang out together. The pre-departure session that my classmates and I had with the Ahler’s Center was very helpful to prepare ourselves for the locations we would be traveling to, as we had speakers present who are from Lisbon as well as a person from the US currently studying in Madrid. They were kind of enough to give us a broad picture of what the locations are like, safety tips, appropriate traveling means, as well as suggestions of different restaurants and places to visit.

Lisbon is a great city in terms of the people, locations, food, and places to visit. The opening dinner on the first day was a great opportunity to meet everyone in the program. The authentic Portuguese cuisine was to die for, as I had the best sea food and wine. Our class was held in Catolica School of Business and Economics, which was a 10-minute cab ride from our hotel. The professors and students from the school were very receptive and catered to our needs in the best way they could, which made us feel more comfortable in our new environment. The class schedule was perfectly balanced between attending class and completing school work before we went out to explore the city.

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The city tour that the Ahler’s Center planned was what opened my eyes to what Portugal has to offer, as well as its prominent history. We had a certified guide who took us to the oldest part of the city, gave us information about how the city had been destroyed by an earthquake, and described what had to be done to build it back up to what it is today. It involved quite a walk, so it is highly recommended to be in comfortable attire and shoes (which will be stressed by Allison the day before). Everyone was quite tired after the session, but the highlight was going to an amazing pastry place, Pastéis de Belém, where we were served the best chocolate tarts I have ever had until now. This is a must try in Lisbon, as I ended up having a few every day after the tour.

The other must visit place is Sintra, where beautiful castles are located, as well as a breathtaking view from the western most part of Europe. The hike is through some wonderful small waterfalls and various ancieimg_20160604_013729nt castles. Again, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and attire, as it is almost a 4-hour hike to see all of the sites. The city also a lot of small little restaurants and boutiques that are interesting to peruse in, the restaurants are perfect to go with friends after a long day’s trek in the evening. A peculiar trend that I observed in Lisbon is that dinner time is usually around 10 PM, and hence, the places are open quite late. The language is not really a problem, as all the restaurants have English menus, and the minimal English that the cab drivers know is sufficient to get around the city without much difficulties. However, it is recommended to learn a few basic words in both languages, but if not, it is very important to carry a business card of the hotel with you at all times in case of an emergency.

After a week in Lisbon, we headed towards the city of Madrid in Spain. The most prominent experience I had in Madrid is the Tapas tour. Tapas is img_20160530_174244a must try in Madrid, as there so many variations to the small dishes and tapas is available in a lot of different places. The Dean also joined for us the event, making it that much better. We were lucky enough to be in Madrid during the UEFA finals between two of the most prominent clubs in Spain, Real Madrid and Atlético. The craze about soccer in Spain is real, as it is widespread throughout the city, and it seemed like the city came to a halt for those entirety of the game.

We were also fortunate enough to have guest speakers at both the locations who were from Europe to give presentations on their respective regions. The opportunity to learn about the history of both countries, the EU, and the Eurozone in general was fascinating. The industrial visits to We Do Technologies in Lisbon and the Google campus in Madrid was very useful to understand how business functions in Eimg_20160603_202749urope, and the experiences described by the founders of We Do technologies was very informative. They explained the challenges they faced in their industry, as well as how different it is to run a business in Europe in comparison to the US. The industrial visits are a core part of the program and it is mandatory to attend both of them. On a final note, the logistics and program itself were carried out very efficiently, with many thanks to Allison from the Ahler’s Center, as she coordinated with the local schools and kept us informed regularly through Whatsapp. Both of the cities were wonderful places to visit, to experience the European culture as well as to gain new knowledge, and a few credits, at the same time!

Lisbon & Madrid: Food, fútbol, and friends/family

Surabhi Mohta participated in the study abroad program to Lisbon, Portugal and Madrid, Spain where she observed many cultural similarities between the two countries and reflected on her experiences in both places.

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A wise man once said, ‘the world is a book; and those who do not travel read only one page.’ I realized how true these words are after my experiences abroad. For two weeks in May 2016, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Spain and Portugal. I knew coming to the University of San Diego, which is a pioneer in study abroad programs for its graduate school, that I wanted to study abroad at some point as a student here and I have been lucky enough to experience two study abroad trips so far. I didn’t know just how life-changing studying abroad would be and how much I would learn while I was traveling. I took a class which taught me about how different economic and political conditions can shape the way of life in a country and how some of the most innovative ideas can come out of the toughest constraints. I also learned so many things outside of class that helped me to appreciate my experience that much more.

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I learned so much about another culture: what other people value, what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what makes them stay up so late. I learned what it’s like to live as a traveler and not a tourist, and how to explore a country with strangers who can become close friends. I learned how to read a city with my feet, walking through streets so narrow that the sidewalks, where they existed, were no wider than a foot. Living in a foreign city is supposed to push you outside your comfort zone, interact with people you have never met before, immerse yourself in a culture very different from your own, as well as understand how local businesses work, and why they are structured the way they are. The culture shocks I experienced came in the daily routines, the little details, such as with the type of foods. All the fruits and vegetables were so fresh, since the Spanish and Portuguese aren’t dependent on preservatives. The food in Portugal and Spain was very traditional and local. The people are proud of where they come from; they are born, they live and die here. I found that the food they eat reflects their municipal pride.

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Another thing that was interesting to note is the Portuguese and Spanish culture of extraversion. Yes, there’s a huge economic crisis: the youth unemployment rate, especially in Spain, exceeds 60 percent. Yet, people are still going out. They aren’t afraid to have a good time, and I experienced this through feeling the intensity of the fútbol games, which you knew the entire city was watching by the perfectly synchronized cheers erupting from the apartments and streets around me. They would rather live with less than sacrifice going out with their friends and family. This reflects the importance the Spanish and Portuguese people place on relationships, which I also observed in the way business was done in these countries.

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What makes study abroad so amazing is how much you learn about life in such a condensed period of time, away from everything familiar. As Henry Miller said, ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ That’s exactly what a study abroad experience does to you.”

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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.”

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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.”

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

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

Mondragon Cooperatives Can Teach American Firms How to Conduct Business

Betty Trinh went to Mondragon, Spain for a short study abroad program that gave her insight into how cooperatives work together and share resources, in order to conduct business competently.

image005The study abroad program in Mondragon gave me the ability to see firsthand how a cooperative model works. Going overseas to Spain and learning from the locals in the Mondragon cooperatives was the best way to see how a business with a purpose can succeed globally. It was eye-opening to see the strides that Mondragon has made with its employee-centered initiatives. It was even better to learn that they have become successful enough to expand globally and now                                                                                have operations located all over the world.

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The Mondragon model is an interesting one, because it is embedded into the fabric of the entire community. Mondragon is not just one company, but an entire network of cooperatives working together to achieve the same goal. The overarching mission of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation is to create and retain jobs. All of their strategies and developments center around this one mission. They achieve this by forming a strong network of cooperatives that support one another. It is both the interlocking of dependency and cooperation that gives Mondragon cooperatives their resiliency. If one cooperative is struggling, there are resources available from the others that can keep it afloat. If one factory closes, workers can be relocated to other cooperatives.

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The concept of pooling and sharing resources should be the main takeaway for American businesses. Not only is it a great way to weather downturns, but it can be a powerful tool for sharing best practices and creating benefits for the entire community.

image010 It helps an organization to become more resilient and also, has the potential to extend the reach of an organization. Each organization’s impact is limited to its individual capacity. However, when organizations team up, the collective impact will always be bigger than each individual member’s impact alone. The power of pooling is an amazing phenomenon that Mondragon has mastered well, and American organizations can try to borrow some of the same ideas in order to become more efficient.

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If you want to learn more about Mondragon’s cooperatives, here’s the link to an article from the Guardian that provides some more details on what is going on in Spain currently:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/07/mondragon-spains-giant-cooperative

Enjoy!

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

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

MBA International Experience in Spain: Swastik Mukherjee

Swastik Mukherjee (USD MBA student) studied for one semester at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain as part of an international exchange program…these are his reflections as his time abroad came to an end:

20151114_163713 “I am still in a sense of shock. My feeble attempt at collecting my thoughts at the Barajas airport in Madrid is leaving me with a sense of void. It is a strange feeling to have, really. I just spent four months in this country and when am leaving, I am realizing that I barely scratched the surface. That I probably explored an iota of what was on offer. My own sense of adventure came up short against the grandiosity of this majestic country of Spain. I had finally met my match and the country’s victory loomed large over me. It was a challenge that Spain had thrown at me 20151127_024240when I first arrived because it’s sense of history had taken me inand I had told myself to explore as much as I could. Looking back, I realize that to know this culture inside out is a mammoth task, one that I was too small to accomplish. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a time to reflect on failure. It was a time to celebrate the opportunity of a lifetime—to study in Spain.

For an international student like me, one could say that studying abroad may not be have been as beneficial as compared to someone who is a native of the United States. I have been 20151114_163614fortunate to have studied in three different countries and have experienced different cultures throughout my life. But as Henry Miller famously quoted, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Gaining international experience is a never-ending sojourn, one that only adds another level to your existing knowledge. It takes you out of your element and places you in a place where you are less comfortable. Out of this lack of comfort arises the need to be flexible and adaptable, enabling you to learn in a new and more practical way. Experiencing other cultures around the world broadens your knowledge base and teaches you to think and live differently. It is extremely important, today, to have a solid understanding of different cultures, and getting an international MBA experience at a world-renowned university such as IE is definitely a glorious prospect to emphasize the international nature of my MBA as well as personal experiences.

20151010_212538Mere plaudits will not even come close to Spain’s intoxicating effect on global tourists. Wine and tapas in full and cheap flow, the inherent friendliness of the Spanish natives, the romanticism of Madrid with its fresco dining options, worldclass museums, vast open spaces, makes Spain an amazing experience, waiting to be experienced. The chances to visit mountains one day and a beautiful beach the next, the ability to walk around and admire the architecture, both in the day as well as the night, gives Spain an identity aped by none. Spain is one of my favorite countries and my experience in Madrid has made me fall more in love with this country.

Studying at IE, a top global business school, renowned for its quality in teaching and learning, taught me so much. My classes were full of interesting fellow students and the professors all came from tremendous backgrounds.

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IE has always had an extremely strong base in finance and investments which was my area of interest. With its innovative vision and focus on academic rigor, IE is committed to educating professionals and experts who will make a difference in society. I am confident that with the education at both IE as well as USD, I will come out of the MBA program with a far more rounded approach to corporate life as well have inculcated skill sets that would make me an asset in any organization.

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

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

 

The Mondragon Experience Told by a Student

By Emily Lapp, MBA Student

I signed up for the Mondragon Experience (GSBA 594 Models of Particpatory Leadership) because I wanted to study abroad and receive 3 units of credit during the summer semester. I briefly glanced at the syllabus and read things like “cooperative” and “employee ownership” and thought to myself, “Well, this ought to be interesting.”

Allison Czapracki, Tracy Zetts, Emily Lapp and Betty Trinh on the pre-trip excursion to San Sebastian

Allison Czapracki, Tracy Zetts, Emily Lapp and Betty Trinh on the pre-trip excursion to San Sebastian

As someone who currently serves in the military, I was apprehensive about the “workers cooperative” part, imagining a 1960s commune. Well, it turned out that the “workers cooperative” bit was the major part, but I was pleasantly surprised that the workers cooperative I found at Mondragon in no way resembled the workers cooperative of my imagination. I found Mondragon to be far more professional and global than I had envisioned and far more focused on technical and real-world education.

USD students visit Mondragon University's Innovation and Knowledge Center

USD students visit Mondragon University’s Innovation and Knowledge Center

After this trip, I would no longer immediately discard the suggestion of a cooperative. I do not believe everyone in America should immediately abandon their capital companies for cooperatives, but I am convinced that, in certain communities and in certain industries, cooperatives make a lot of sense. I was intrigued during one our final presentations when Mr. Michael Peck, the Mondragon North American Delegate, mentioned cooperatives might be the answer for the financially devastated coal mining communities in West Virginia. The sense of community already present there would be a fertile ground for the next step towards the solidarity offered by a cooperative.

MBA students Stephanie McQuade, Emily Lapp and Allison Czapracki at the top of Mt. Udalaitz, overlooking the town of Mondragon

MBA students Stephanie McQuade, Emily Lapp and Allison Czapracki at the top of Mt. Udalaitz, overlooking the town of Mondragon

I was most surprised by how many similarities existed between Mondragon and the Navy. The Navy, being an entity not driven by profit, is far more cooperative in nature than I realized. From the common values of a clear mission, trust and participation, I found the two organizational cultures had more in common than I would have ever expected. Yet Mondragon’s emphasis on transparency and worker participation at all levels really stood out to me and are values that I hope to implement in my naval career and personal life.

Otalora

Enjoying the beautiful view from Mondragon’s Otalora Training Center

Lastly, the opportunity to visit the Basque Country in Spain was truly a once in a lifetime experience. While technically part of Spain, the culture and landscape is so different. Spending time with the friendly and hard-working people was such a pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed my Mondragon Experience and would highly recommend the class for anyone interested in learning more about organizational models and Basque culture.

To read more about the Basque Country click here.

What about you? Have you been to Mondragón? What did you think of it?