Tag Archives: travel tips

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.

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina (because I’ll be back soon) – Cat Nilsson

“My trip to Buenos Aires will be difficult to summarize in one blog post, as it was two weeks of exploring, learning, and adapting to a place full of life and fun people. First, I’ll start off by saying that Argentina, or even Latin America, usually isn’t at the top of a traveler’s list, but after experiencing all that the country has to offer, I would have to say: think again. Buenos Aires, Argentina is a bustling metropolis that is made up of a blend of traditions and cultures, namely French and Italian influences. It is known as the “Paris of Latin America”, and for good reason – the architecture is reminiscent of many of the buildings that you would find in Europe and the options are endless for whatever type of food you could want. Argentina has a lot of character, and there are many different places to explore in order to find your niche, whether it be in the trendy Palermo barrio where there are charming cafes, such as Cafe Oui Oui and Artemisia, trendy boutiques and fabulous upscale restaurants, such as Don Julio and Las Cabras, and upbeat nightlife (safe to say that Rosebar was a frequented establishment), to Recoleta, known for its famed Cemetery housing the remains of Eva Perón, a women’s rights and labor activist in the late 1940s to early ’50s, also known as the “spiritual leader” of the country, and contains two of the best Italian restaurants in the city, Cumana (the gnocchi is the most amazing thing ever) and El Cuartito (famous for its ‘fugazetta’ aka cheese and onion pizza), or to La Boca, a neighborhood smack dab in the center of Buenos Aires’ slums, but is the most colorful and inviting area in the city.

As a group of undergraduates, MBA, and MSGL students, we all began our trip by being taken on a city tour just mere hours after stepping off the plane (in order to help us adjust to the time difference) that showed us a lot of the main highlights mentioned previously, besides Palermo. We were able to slightly get our bearings and see what the city has to offer, as well as the places we would want to go back to. Upon the completion of the tour, many of us decided to go out for an early dinner in the neighborhood of our hotel, Retiro, a quiet yet classy area that includes Calle Florida, a street filled with bustling students from the nearby university and many shops and restaurants.

The first few days included our initial class meetings, a tango night, a wine tasting lecture, and sleepless nights (due to countless naps taken throughout the day). I took the Negotiations in a Global Business Environment taught by the relentlessly entertaining couple duo, the Barkae. The course as a whole was excellent and I would highly recommend anyone to take a class or a seminar in how to negotiate, as it is a life skill that is so important, especially for women in our society. Women are at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to negotiating, as we are perceived as being subordinate, docile, and forgiving. My main takeaway from the course was that in order to combat this issue, it is imperative for both men and women to know that this is prevalent and women are just as capable to lead, if not better, as we actively listen, value others opinions, and try to build consensus more often than men. The simulations also were very pertinent to what happens in real life and were vital to the learning process throughout the course of the class. The tango night was probably one of the best nights that was a part of the program set up by USD, as the performances were impeccable and visually amazing. It truly felt like you were a part of the tradition and the emotion emitted from the dancers was undeniable. We also were treated to a wine tasting lecture that was highly enjoyable and we were taught all that we would need to know about how to correctly try wine, as well as were able to taste two white and two red, plus a champagne, that are indigenous to the Latin American region.

After giving a brief overview of what the program & trip entailed, I want to go back to my favorite place in the whole city, Palermo. We decided to go on a graffiti walking tour of the neighborhood, where our tour guide transported us back in time to when Argentina battled into becoming a democracy, which is what “street art” was born out of. The most intricate of all the graffiti, in my opinion, was a mural of Frida Kahlo, painted outside of a club called “Fridha” with an ‘h’. It included real gems as her jewelry and she was depicted as the epitome of a hipster. There was another interesting piece of graffiti that looked completely different at first glance, since it had a lot going on, but actually made up an image of a tiger peering down at you. After going on the tour, my classmates and I had a much greater appreciation for the history of the struggle many of the citizens have had to go through and for the art that they use to demonstrate their passionate feelings.

A few other adventures worth highlighting that my classmates and I embarked on were visiting the San Telmo market, the MALBA (the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires), and El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The San Telmo Market was an eclectic assortment of artisan made goods, paintings, jewelry, leather bags and wallets, soap dispensers, and trinkets galore. The market goes on for miles and miles and is hugely popular to attend on Sundays, attracting an insane amount of tourists. We happened upon a cafe called Coffee Town in the center of the market located inside a converted warehouse that served up a mean cup of coffee and delicious brunch, that I am always craving. Throughout the mess of vendors and visitors, there are street performers either singing or dancing the tango. The MALBA was a modern art museum that showcased Frida Kahlo and Picasso, amongst other famous Latin American artists. Many of the art installations had a deeper meaning (or so we thought they must, since some of them were pretty strange) and it is a must see if you are either an art enthusiast or like to interpret wacky paintings and sculptures. Furthermore, El Ateneo was originally an opera theater transformed into a large bookstore containing Latin American classics and a cafe. The bookstore is beautiful and grandiose. The picture that I am providing really doesn’t do it justice, as it is so much more awe inspiring in person. It was perfect to visit the bookstore as a slight study break, as well as set up shop at a table in the cafe to study, all whilst listening to opera music in the background (which could get loud at times, but we tried to embrace it).


All in all, the trip exceeded all of my expectations in the way that I was able to be surrounded by a vibrant and rich culture with a great group of peers that I am lucky enough to now call friends, as well as could learn more about myself inside and outside of the classroom, through both the negotiations and exploring one of my new favorite cities, Buenos Aires. I hope to return sometime in the future, but for now, I’m grateful for the lasting memories that I have made and will continue to have for a lifetime.”

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.

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.

Explore Santo Domingo!

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

Dr. Steve Conroy with MBA consultants in the Dominican Republic

Dr. Steve Conroy with MBA consultants in the Dominican Republic

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

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

Restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sightseeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beaches

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

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

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

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

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

Nightlife

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

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

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

Students exploring the coast

Students exploring the DR coast

Explore Argentina – The Land of the Steak and Malbec

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

Consulting for Wal Mart Argentina

Students visiting Wal Mart Argentina

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

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

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

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

Argentine Asado paired with a Malbec - original picture by PRNewswire

Argentine Asado paired with a Malbec – original picture by PRNewswire

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

2- Tango

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

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

4- La Boca

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

5 – Feria de San Telmo

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

Music on the streets of San Telmo

Music on the streets of San Telmo

6- Nightlife

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

7 – Bosques de Palermo

Rosedal at Bosques de Palermo

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

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

8 – Recoleta

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

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

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

10 – Plaza de Mayo

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

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

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

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

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

~ Renata Berto, International Programs Associate

Surviving as a Vegetarian While Traveling Internationally

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

Tips:

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

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

Favorite Restaurants:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon voyage et bon appétit!

– Danielle

Madrid and Valencia Must Sees

This summer the Ahlers Center for International Business took 26 students from the MBA and the Masters in Science of Global Leadership programs to Madrid, Valencia (Spain) and Casablanca (Morocco). Students attended lectures with some of USD’s top business faculty members abroad while traveling and being exposed to the cultural aspects of these beautiful cities. As we have recently opened a new USD location in Madrid, and because we take students to Spain every year, we decided to compile a list of must sees and dos in this astonishing part of the world.

 MADRID

Madrid has been the capital of Spain since 1562. With a population of over 3 million people, Madrid is not only a cosmopolitan city, it is also a business center, the headquarters for the Spanish parliament and the Royal family, as well as an intensively culturally active city.

MUST SEES

When exploring Madrid, make sure you don’t miss these spots:

1. Prado Museum

The Museo Nacional del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum. It features one of the world’s nicest collections of European art from the 12th until the 19th century. El prado is also one of the most visited sites in the world! If you plan on seeing everything this museum has to offer consider spending the entire day here, otherwise the museum is free of charge for a couple of hours (from 6pm – 8 pm) from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and on Sundays from 5 – 8 pm.

Museo el Prado - Picture by The Australian

Museo el Prado – Picture by The Australian

2. Retiro Park

The Retiro park is a beautiful park in Madrid’s city center that was originally created as a royal park; it belonged to the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace and is now public for anyone to enjoy. Some of the places to see on this park are the Rosaleda rose garden, the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the Crystal Palace and the Statue Walk.

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid - photo by www.spain.info

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid – photo by www.spain.info

3. Eat tapas on Cava Baja Street

Cava Baja street is a great place to explore Spanish cuisine. Here, people go from bar to bar trying different tapas (Spanish style bite size appetizers). For recommendations on the top 10 places to eat on Cava Baja street click here.

Students exploring Spanish tapas at Baja Street in Madrid

Students exploring Spanish tapas at Cava Baja Street in Madrid. Photo by MBA student Andrea Ruiz.

4. Visit Mercado de San Miguel for yet some more tapas

The San Miguel Market was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 2000 (a category of the Spanish heritage register). The Mercado San Miguel is one of Madrid’s oldest markets and considered a ‘culinary culture center’ or the ‘Mecca of Spanish Cuisine’. Here you can order wonderful tapas and even more substantial plates from a variety of different vendors.

VALENCIA

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, and home to the Spanish Paella. Although the city is on the Mediterranean sea most residents say that “Valencia has lived with its back to the sea” due to the spirit and core of the city which is not necessarily integrated with its beach. Valencia was founded by the Romans and was held by the Moors from the 8th until the 13th century. Below are some must dos when exploring this wonderful city.

1- City of Arts and Sciences

The city of arts and sciences was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, a native of Valencia who is now one of the top world’s architects. The City of Arts and Sciences has 6 main buildings: Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, which is an opera house and performing arts center; L’Hemisfèric, which is an Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium; L’Umbracle — Walkway/Garden; El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, which is a science museum; Oceanografic — Open-air aquarium or oceanographic park; and Ágora — A versatile space for events.

City of Arts and Sciences - photo by MBA student D.J.

City of Arts and Sciences – photo by MBA student D.J.

2- Eat a paella at the beach

Paella is a specialty of Valencian gastronomy and you must try it while exploring the beach in Valencia! Paella consists of steamed rice and a variety of seafood, meat and veggies.  We indulged in this tasty dish at a place called L’Estimat.

3- The X Door

The X door is a fun team building activity to do in Valencia (and rated #1 attraction in the city by Trip Advisor). In this game you will do activities like trying to get out of a locked room by using the given clues as the clock on the wall tickles away your 60 minutes. Click here to read more on The X Door. Are you up for the challenge?

X-Door - Valencia activity

X-Door – Valencia activity

4- Plaza del Mercado

This public market in Valencia is one of the oldest markets in all Europe. Stop here to enjoy the beautiful Andaluz architecture, buy delicious traditional Spanish food items, shop for souvenirs or simply people watch.  The Plaza del Mercado is closed on Sundays.

We hope you enjoy your time in Spain! For a list of MBA and MSGL classes offered in Madrid/Valencia click here.

 

Basque Country Must Sees

Every year Dr. Herrera takes a group of graduate students to the Basque Country, in north of Spain to explore a successful truly democratic model of organization. Through participation in this course, students open their minds to the co-operative model of leadership, a model that was built (and remains functioning ) on principles of cooperation, participatory management, payment solidarity, and social transformation. The Mondragón cooperative is today one of the leading Spanish business groups, integrated by autonomous and independent employee owned cooperatives with production subsidiaries and corporate offices in 41 countries and sales in more than 150.

Since we understand that the course itself is only part of the experience, we have compiled a list of MUST SEES in the region to maximize your time and enhance your cultural exposure while abroad.

Pre-Program: BILBAO MUST SEES

Guggenheim Museum- Frank Gehry’s architectural masterpiece, said to be one of the most important structures of its time.  In addition to its artistic accomplishments, this museum is attributed with revitalizing and transforming the city.  The building and its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art are must-sees.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Casco Viejo – The old town and medieval neighborhood of Bilbao. Beautiful architecture, full of little bars, shops and restaurants.

Plaza Miguel de Unamuno – Visit this bright, open plaza named in honor of Bilbao’s greatest intellectual.

Parque de Doña Casilda de Iturrizar – A whimsical, peaceful park with an English-style garden.  Relax in the open, green area and enjoy the fountains and large duck pond.

 SAN SEBASTIAN:

La Concha Beach – A crescent shaped beach with clean, blue waters framed by a mountain and the old city.  Enjoy the coastal promenade walkway and check out the nearby restaurants and bars.

Dr. Herrera with students in San Sebastian

Dr. Herrera with students in San Sebastian

Parte Vieja – The old city is located between the harbor and the Urumea river.  Wander through the streets to see the characteristic shops and pintxo bars.

Monte Urgull – This mountain, located across the gulf, offers a variety of nature trails with views of the surrounding bay and city.  Take a 20 minute walk to the peak and enjoy a sweeping view of San Sebastian and La Concha beach.

MONDRAGÓN: Opening eyes to co-ops

Interesting facts:

  • Cooperative initially started in 1941 by Catholic priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta
  • 147 companies
  • 80,000 workers
  • Salary Range: the highest paid worker can never make more than 6.5 times the lowest paid worker.
Students gather around Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta's statue - founder of the Mondragón corporation

Students gather around Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta’s statue – founder of the Mondragón corporation

PAMPLONA: La Fiesta de San Fermín!

Famous 8 am daily event in Pamplona - running with the bulls !

Famous 8 am daily event in Pamplona – running with the bulls !

About an hour south of Mondragón is Pamplona, a city that welcomes hundreds of tourists each year for the famous San Fermín celebration. San Fermin is internationally known for the event of the running of the bulls, where the bulls are let loose through some of the streets of the old part of the city. The runnings of the bulls take place from the July 7th to July 14th at 8.00 am in the morning.

If you are going to be in North of Spain during the San Fermín celebration and would like more information about the event click here.

 Food in the Basque Country:

It has been said that San Sebastian has the best food you will ever eat. In fact, with its nearly 40 Michelin starred restaurants, the Basque Country is one of the best fine dining destinations in the world. From traditional to experimental dishes, it’s all here.

Here is a small list of the MUST EATS:

Pintxos – Basque tapas

Txikiteo is the Basque word for pub crawl. It is a ritual rooted in the values of cooperativism (and solidarity) itself since locals prefer to eat only a few pintxos in one bar and move on to the next one (and another one after that, and another one) in order to give business to their entire community.

Pintxos

(Picture from http://blog.aboutbc.info/2012/06/05/turismo-con-curso-de-pintxos-en-bilbao-y-muchas-mas-opciones-y-ausencias-en-el-pais-vasco/  )

 

Seafood – balacao (cod); marmitako (fish stew)

bacalao

(Picture from http://sweetandsour-vir.blogspot.com/2012/09/marmitako-de-bonito-del-norte.html )

Wines – Txakoli (dry, sparkling wine w/ high acidity)

wines in the Basque country

(Picture from http://catadores.com.mx/catadores/2013/03/nuevas-bodegas-apuestanpor-un-txacoli-recargado/ )

For more information on the Basque cuisine check the links below:

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/basque-country-cooking

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g187453-Basque_Country.html

http://www.euskoguide.com/food-drink-basque-country/michelin-star-restaurants.html

 

We look forward to seeing you all in Bilbao next week!