I always wanted to visit South America and get a taste of the culture. When the opportunity to go to Argentina for a study tour presented itself, I couldn’t help but sign-up for it. I had a fantastic experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and I’m sure the ten other students and two faculty members that I traveled with are nodding their head yes in agreement.
Foster tried a different model this time for study tours. Instead of being student-led like in the past, they were school-led. While this restricted student leadership opportunities, it was very well organized and we got a chance to learn and soak-in everything around us. Before leaving Seattle, each student owned researching of 1-2 companies and presented a background of the company to set the stage for visits when we reached Argentina. In Argentina, we met with executives from various companies that spanned across various industries. Big firms like KPMG, Microsoft and US Commercial Services to start-ups like Remolino (a graphic design and creative studio), Natural Deli (a proponent of natural and organic products) and GoodPeople (a global platform that connects all aspects of the sports community). Other companies of interest included Bimbo (a baking company), Zanella (motorcycle manufacturer), Medix (medical devices), LAC-CORE (renewable energy) and Nieto Senetiner (A wine pioneer in Argentina). We even visited the well-known Football club River Plate. Upon our return we presented our insights from the trip and how we thought we could use this knowledge in our own businesses in the future.
All throughout our trip and company visits it was evident that Argentine culture is rich – the people, language, food, mate (tea), wine, art, tango, architecture, et. al. personify it. This is also reflected in their style of doing business.
Argentinians take pride in their traditions and the wealth of the past. They still haven’t forgotten their roots. Despite the fact that the economy is not doing so good, inflation is through the roof, currency is extremely volatile, the government vetoes every decision, and corruption is prominent; they have faith that the country will prevail and become a prominent global player.
Everyone we met was really hospitable and just really nice. They were honest and poured their heart out, whether it was about their companies, work styles, government, inflation issues, or even their personal lives. Relationships really meant a lot to them, and it was evident in their interaction and communication. In most cases, relationships formed the pillars of their businesses. It also meant that if you wanted to start a company in Argentina, you’d have to have a connection/ contact in Argentina.
The people were super warm and generous. We were fed really well by everyone, be it at the steakhouses or at the companies we visited. Every meeting started with a spread of yummy treats, pastries filled with Dulce de leche, tea, coffee, wine, etc. Argentinians take pride in sharing their Yerba Mate (tea) and was a way for them to bond. It was the same homely feeling I got, every place we visited.
Tango is a dance that originated in Argentina – passionate, complex and authentic. Football (Soccer) is another thing that Argentinians are very passionate about. (We were fortunate enough to witness both these live J) I soon realized that this passion was an integral part of their personality. We met young entrepreneurs that had established respectable positions in the industry because of this zeal. We also met leaders of big firms who were determined enough to maintain their stand while navigating the red oceans of the competitive market. They were smart, intelligent, and ready to take on the world.
It was such a wonderful trip, will go back in a heartbeat to the country and to the beautiful people we met. “Una mas, por favor!”
~ Guest blog post by Saloni Sonpol – Evening Class of 2014