We all know of (or you have likely seen on one of those highly Instagram-able quote images) the Michael Palin quote about travel: “Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” I certainly feel where the comedian is coming from, so when I realized there would be an opportunity to travel to South America with some of my MBA classmates, I could not let it pass me by. I have been blessed to have had the chance to explore and experience a lot of the many corners of this world, but South America was one of the continents I had yet to land on. Before traveling to Brazil and Peru for this course, I felt I had a relatively in-depth concept and handle on experiencing other cultures, visiting other countries and immersing myself in other customs – having traveled through or lived in a large portion of North America, Europe and South-East Asia. Of all the places I’ve been too, though, the focus was never on business and the way corporations operate in other countries and with respect to other countries. Though the culture immersion part of it all was similar, seeing things from the business lens was very different.
A few concepts were important to understand before heading to Brazil and Peru, that relate to how they operate as countries and therefore how business is conducted within them. In the week before we boarded our flight to Rio de Janeiro, we had five intensive class sessions where we learned about the “universalist” culture in Brazil and Peru, the “communitarianism” philosophy approach, the history of their economies and politics and the daily challenges and opportunities faced by many businesses in each country. Both Brazil and Peru have withstood many peaks and valleys over the last 30 years that have had major implications on the local corporations as well as the global corporations that operate there. While we were in Brazil and Peru we visited a mix of local and global companies that allowed us to take concepts and philosophies we had learned about and see them in their truest form. We met with KPMG, TV Globo Brasil, Hotel Urbano, PwC, Insitum, Liquid and MIQ Logistics. Each corporate visit consisted of a medley of presentations by executives, office tours, Q&As, tasty treats, branded goody bags, new connections and even a behind-the-scenes studio tour of Brazil’s top telenovela sets.
My favorite thing, place or experience on the trip? The people. And by the people, I mean the group that I was lucky enough to travel with. No matter where we were, what we were doing or what we were experiencing, this particular group of humans was what mattered. Everyone played an important role on the trip and together we meshed perfectly. Whether it was the guy scouting out the best restaurants/bars to try in each new city, the girl discovering where the nearest Starbucks was (for those who were feening) or the people looking out for each other and ensuring everyone was privy to certain customs or do’s and don’ts upon arrival in a new city.
I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to embark on this journey with Chapman, to have been exposed to so many new and exciting things and to have experienced just a fraction of life and business in South America. We are all but tiny pixels on this great blue and green globe and traveling and immersing oneself in other cultures both brings that idea home and allows you to further appreciate what you do have in your ‘home’ surroundings. My advice to anyone who is considering traveling with school or working abroad would be to go for it. Let go of the bowlines and set sail. Sleep in trains, boats, vans, buses, airports and on strangers’ shoulders. You’ll be amazed at what changes in your heart of hearts and what you change in the hearts of others.
Whenever I go away, I go away so that I can come back. So that I can see what I call home with a different light, new colors and fresh perspectives; coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. I, personally, hope I have the opportunity to work abroad post-graduation and further my learnings and understanding of corporations in other cultures and I know that an experience like I just had with Chapman will be one of the reasons I do so.
2019 MBA Candidate
President, Chapman Women in Business Association
International Student; Proud Canadian