For Sean McCobb, the best part of the MBA trip to Brazil and Argentina was the opportunity to bond with classmates.
“We had spent many, many hours together in class and developed a rapport, but on this trip we grew closer in a more personal way. Before the trip I had acquaintances but after I had friends.”
McCobb and 17 other students in the inaugural full-time MBA class traveled to South America for the school’s first international trip aimed at exposing students to businesses abroad and making professional connections.
“From a world economic standpoint, Brazil has really exploded,” said Van Muse, director of Mihaylo College’s MBA program. “Companies are having a tough time finding qualified mid- and high-level managers within South America, so they are looking outside the region. They are very interested in recruiting people from the United States, so we saw it as a great opportunity to expose students to organizations there.”
Students visited organizations in different industries including IBM, Ernst & Young, Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão law firm, Petrobos (a major petroleum company) and Cognizant (a major accounting/finance/technology outsourcing firm).
MBA student Vanessa Lau said the trip gave her a better perspective on how competitive the job market is in South America.
“If you want to work for Petrobras, you have to compete with hundreds of different candidates at a forum, where they only chose a handful from that group. And I thought the job market was competitive in the states!” Lau said.
Professors Shaun Pichler and Gerry Grant served as faculty advisors on the trip. Pichler, professor of management, said he was surprised at the differences between the countries, sometimes dramatic, in terms of the way in which business is conducted.
“It was interesting to learn about how the two governments and their different policies related to and probably impacted industries, organizations and individual workers in various ways.”
For Rathtana Chhay, a first-year student, the trip felt a little short because of the time they spent visiting so many companies.
“I would not have minded an extra week to explore,” Chhay said. “If I had the chance to go back, I’d like to explore the local culture and wander around the cities a bit more.”
Communication was one difficulty that students felt challenged by. Many felt that learning a little Portuguese and Spanish before the trip would have helped. However, despite knowing Spanish, McCobb found communicating difficult.
“I didn’t really expect to be able to speak with anyone well in English, but I thought that people would know some Spanish. Even in Argentina, it was hard to communicate. It seemed as though they spoke a different dialect of Spanish than I am used to.”
Next year’s MBA students will also travel to Argentina and Chile though the complete 2013 itinerary has not yet been finalized.