Every year, Foster MBA students get to travel the world as part of long-term MBA exchange programs or on short-term study tours/projects, led by the Global Business Center. This is Peter Kazarian’s account of the March ’15 study tour in Japan. Super jealous.
To be honest, one of the main reasons I chose to apply to the Foster MBA program was for its excellent exchange programs with 16 partner schools in 14 countries around the world, which include Japan. I had always wanted to do an exchange program in Japan.
As I recall my study abroad experience and think about how to fit an extraordinary 4-month experience in one short blog, all my senses are awakened once again as if I’m seeing the beautiful red autumn leaves, eating a plate of fresh sushi and meditating in a quiet temple.
To me, Japan is a land of inspiration. Beauty lies in everything, from the Japanese language to the sophisticated art forms, but this beauty is not obvious on the surface. One must carefully observe and learn about Japan to fully appreciate it. In Osaka (a major city in Japan), people call a potato “o-imo-san,” where only “imo” means potato. “o” is a term which is used to show respect, “san” is a suffix used after a person’s name to show affection. In brief, people from Osaka call a potato something like “Dear Mr. Potato.” The Japanese rock garden is an art form in itself, composed by an arrangement of rocks, trees and sand which create different forms and images. The largest rock garden in Japan, which I’ve seen and really liked, depicts the image of a pair of dragons emerging from a sea of clouds.These are just two among tons of examples showing the uniqueness, creativity and inspiration the Japanese culture carries.
As exchange students in Japan, we got a chance to grasp the creativity of Japan in an MBA elective at Waseda Business school called Creative Thinking and Ethics in Business. Nobody would expect to have such a class in an MBA program where you learn abstract painting, talk about meditation and the different functions of the left and right brain. It was one of my favorite classes at Waseda. In a nutshell, the class taught us how to practice creativity through understanding which side of the brain we use more often, through abstract painting to express feelings and how important creativity is to various fields of life, including business. We also learned about intriguing research on the difference between a native Japanese speaker’s brain and the brain of those with other native languages, which explains why the Japanese love the sounds of insects and their counterparts don’t. This class, to me, provides excellent evidence of the fact that creativity is an integral part of the Japanese way of doing things.
Inspiration came from not only the language, the art, and the classes, but also from the people I met. A young Japanese couple who has two little boys hosted me in Kyoto for several days. Since they have kids they could not travel, even though they both love travelling and learning about new cultures. Instead, they host visitors from around the world who come to Japan to exchange culture and ideas. Spending a wonderful time eating, talking with them and their friends, and playing with the boys made me think about my future family. It would be a great idea to host international guests once I have my own family. I’d love to bring in people from around the world who come visit my country, to share stories and experiences with them.
In a few words, this is how I remember Japan: beautiful natural scenery, mesmerizing old streets and houses, unique and exciting culture, and delicious food. And yes, the slogan of its tourism industry is absolutely correct: Endless discovery. Yet, all these features seem static. Thinking about them will bring me back to some points in time in the past. There is one thing I took from Japan that I know will go with me for a very long time: Inspiration.
MBA Candidate, Class of 2015
In December, a group of MBA students took part in the Global Study Tour to China. Accompanied by staff and faculty, they visited Shanghai and Beijing and visited 12 companies while exploring the cultural and economic landscape of China. Below is a recap written by current student Ryan Osher (MBA ’16).
Growth. Scale. Partnership.
These were common themes noticed by 8 Foster MBA’s as they traveled across China last December. Their visit included 12 companies and 3 days worth of free time to enjoy all the best Beijing and Shanghai had to offer. Students were eager to dive in to China’s culture and present themselves on behalf of Foster. What they didn’t expect, however, was just how meaningful the company visits would be and the lasting friendships that were made.
The two week trip included visits to Microsoft, Amazon, and Nike, to name a few. Students learned Boeing’s strategy to maintain growth in China, directly from the President of Boeing China. They met with the CFO of Starbucks China to better understand how the world’s largest coffee company was able to successfully enter and thrive in a tea drinking country. In addition, Directors at Apple explained their strategy to navigate around counterfeit products and maintain their growth rate. Students also met with foreign service agents from the United States Embassy to better understand trade relations and diplomatic efforts between the US and China.
The two week trip provided rich experiences and a lifetime of insight. More than anything, the company visits left each traveler with a greater understanding and appreciation for China as the country continues to drive the world’s economic growth. It is incredible that Foster provides students with the opportunity to experience culture and business first-hand as they develop into the global business leaders of the future.
This has been one of my favorite summers so far. I managed to get an internship at my dream company, Google, and in one of my favorite countries, Singapore. My role at Google is MBA Marketing Intern with the South East Asia, Small and Medium Business Marketing team.
The internship experience has greatly surpassed my expectations. First of all, I feel lucky that I’ve been given a real hands-on project for the summer. The amount of trust that has been placed in me and the resources I’ve been given make me feel that I am not just an intern. Instead, I am doing work that really matters for the users and the company. I’m involved in and actually lead certain key components of a regional marketing project and work closely with Googlers cross-functionally and cross-geographically. Moreover, my final delivery is a real program which will make an impact on both the end users and the company.
Secondly, I was a bit nervous on my first day. However, the moment I stepped into the Google office, I could see and feel the fun and open culture everywhere: the office design & decoration, interns’ high level of access to information, and of course the people I’ve met. Everyone, no matter how senior, is very approachable and open to talking with me. I have never been turned down or even responded to with hesitation when I reach out to ask job-related questions or request career advice. I am so lucky that my manager is a Foster MBA alumnus. He is always willing to share his personal experience and career advice with me. Every one-on-one session with him is more like a career coaching session.
Now that I’m one year into my MBA program and two months into my internship, I see how I’ve changed substantially, especially in terms of strategic thinking and communication skills. There are so many moments during my work here that remind me of knowledge I acquired from group discussions at Foster. Moreover, the frameworks I learned from the classes are really helpful in solving the problems I encounter here.
There are only three weeks left of my internship. While I’m enjoying this great experience with Google, I’m going to be fully recharged for fall quarter!
~ Guest post by Hui Li, Class of 2015 MBA Candidate
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
This winter break about 20 students had the opportunity to do something different with their free time by going to India for the Global Consulting Project. The GCP is a school program that is designed to give students immersion in business in another culture (specifically India), but also to use their knowledge and experience to help less fortunate individuals. I’ve always wanted to visit India and the project seemed amazing so I knew right away I’d want to take part.
Our trip included ten days in India working with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, followed by 4 days of travel. My project (team of four) was with the waste pickers team, Gitanjali. Gitanjali is a business that helps female waste pickers earn fairer wages than previously made available to them through middlemen. It then also provides jobs for former waste pickers and daughters of waste pickers through the manufacture of recycled paper products.
In our ten days in Ahmedabad, my team got to visit the dump, interview waste pickers, visit a slum and the home of a waste picker, visit a sorting facility, meet with suppliers and retailers, go over financials, and actually take part in the assembly line. It was eye opening to really be exposed to the way business gets done in India because it is considerably different than America. After ten days of immersion, we had a final presentation about our experiences and learnings, and presented a scope document and letter of engagement outlining all things we will be covering over the next three months (winter quarter).
Then the group was off for sightseeing and fun! First stop was Jaipur, where we ate meat and drank our first alcohol (Ahmedabad is dry and vegetarian!). The Kingfisher was pretty good! Jaipur was beautiful and we saw palaces, temples, and the world’s largest sundial. We even rode elephants (I’m not sure I liked that part…).
After a few days in Jaipur, we went to Agra. At 6am we were up to visit the Taj Mahal at dawn. What can I saw about the Taj Mahal other than breathtaking? Wow. Definitely a highlight!
After the Taj, we were off to New Delhi to eat our final meal and see some sites. We did some shopping and then said our goodbyes as we parted ways. Some people were home in time for Christmas while some of us stayed on for further traveling. I extended my time in India by a week and went north to the foothills of the Himalayas for some yoga and relaxation.
India was amazing and I am so glad to have been able to do the things I did. I am looking forward to working further on the Gitanjali project this quarter and creating a business plan that will help create more jobs for underprivileged women.
~Guest Blogger Amanda Soloway, Full-time Class of 2013
Foster is committed to providing students with the knowledge and skills to compete in a global marketplace. Learn about one student’s unique experience pursuing dual MBA degrees in the U.S. and China.
By Robert Gardner, UW Foster Full-time MBA Class of 2013 / PKU Guanghua International MBA Class of 2013. After graduating from Texas A&M University, Robert worked in New York in Architecture, later moving to China to work work in a NASDAQ-listed education corporation before starting his unique MBA experience at Peking University. He is looking to get into international business.
Taking the GMAT, sending in applications, gathering transcripts and getting those verified, paying tuition and finding housing are all a part of the process to getting into an MBA program, but this was the second time, as I was applying for the double-MBA program’s second year at the University of Washington (“UW”). I’m already an MBA student at the prestigious Peking University (“PKU”) in Beijing, China, but I had decided I wanted to pursue the double-MBA opportunity when I first applied to PKU the year before.
Most people have no idea that these programs exist, and when I tell them I’m going to Seattle for my second year, they think it’s just another exchange program. When I explain that it is a dual-degree or double-degree, they ask what the second degree is. It usually takes a little effort to explain it is an MBA from each university.
Why would anyone pursue a program like this? It’s fairly simple, but much more complex at the same time. By obtaining PKU credentials, you get “China Expert” forever written on your resume, while UW credentials show that you have enough stuff to complete a degree in the USA. In China, the PKU credentials are extremely venerated; it is no wonder the PKU Guanghua School of Management has been called the “Harvard Business School of China”.
The program still lasts two years, you spend the first in Beijing, and the second in Seattle; and the result however, is double. PKU has multiple partners set up in this arrangement; there is the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and the new partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School that grants an M.S. degree in Management in lieu of an MBA. Other options are in Canada, South Korea, Singapore, France and Germany. These programs are really allowing students to expand their education beyond just the one at Peking University, and allowing a China perspective combined with another perspective, creating a truly international MBA experience, and hopefully, allowing me to become an MBA graduate better suited for international business opportunities between the USA and China.
There have definitely been challenges on the way, but it is those experiences that are impossible to convey by words alone that prepare me for doing business cross-culturally. I cannot deny that I am sad my time with my classmates at PKU seems cut short, the truth is many of us will be taking the second year at other schools around the world, either as full-year double-degree students, or one-semester exchange students. In the meantime, I look forward to meeting my new classmates at UW and look forward to the friendships and challenges that will arise in another location.
I arrived in Koblenz in late August and have done and experienced so much that sometimes it feels like I have been here for much longer than only two months.
I decided to do a semester abroad not just because I am looking into focusing on an international career after Business School, but also because this may just be the last opportunity that I will have to experience a semester immersed in a different culture before re-entering the real world. I chose Germany because, although born in Brazil, my family came from here and I thought that it would be interesting to spend some time in the country my grandparents are from.
I wound up in a very small town called Vallendar, right outside Koblenz and not too far away from Frankfurt. Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and perfectly organized everything is here (go figure!). WHU (the Otto Besheim School of Business) had put together a full schedule of activities to help us Tauschies (short for “Austauschstudenten” or exchange students) learn more about their school, the German Culture and to help us better integrate with the Vallendar community. We had regional tours down the Rhyne river wineries, International dinners and a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest.
School life here is very different from that in the U.S. We have really intense weeks followed by not so intense ones. Classes, in general, are much longer in duration. Usually we spend entire school days studying the same subject (9 straight hours) for four or five days in a row. Then we have a final test a week or two later. I have been very impressed with the caliber of our Professors here too. In one of my classes, Change Management, the Professor was Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley. He is the current CEO of Merck and former CFO of Lufthansa. It was fascinating to listen to his experiences and insights on business and how change can be driven smoothly when well executed. In another class we will work on a case about Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile communication company, and will present our findings and solutions for it to a board of managers in Düsseldorf (main office of Vodafone in Germany.)
Between classes there is plenty of time for relaxing and traveling, which I have been doing a lot since I got here. Whenever I can get away, I make sure I do. I’ve already spent some time in Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, London and other cities in Germany. I am really enjoying being able take a short train ride and end up in a completely different country.
Even with all these fun trips I have to admit that Germany is still my favorite place in Europe! Germany is a country where beer is cheaper than mineral water. Germans typically drink carbonated water because they find regular water to be just too boring to drink without the bubbles (words of a German). People are also extremely nice and helpful, even if they don’t sound that way up front. They just have a blunt manner of speaking.
Overall, this experience has been “Super” as they would say here. I’m sure the second half of my term will fly by even faster than the first and that in the end I will be a little sad to be leaving all of this behind. However, the thought of playing a foosball match in the MBA lounge at PACCAR hall and having having Pagliacci Pizza for lunch (multiple days in a row) makes me happy that I will be re-joining my friends back at Foster soon.
Foster MBA 2012
I just had one of the most amazing two weeks of my life. From sand boarding down giant dunes to paragliding over the Lima coast to late nights out clubbing, I experienced adventures that I can only hope to put words to when trying to share with those who weren’t there.
At our company visits and around the cities we visited, I got to see firsthand how different and how similar life in Peru can be. The things I learned listening to Peruvian economists, government officials, and business leaders speak to us as well as those learned exploring the cities where we stayed will be carried with me through my life.
I find myself with a new appreciation for those working hard to improve not only their own situation, but the situation of an entire nation. I also have found an appreciation for the choice between English and Spanish on the ATM machine. I understand that the business decisions we make every day in the US can ripple through the global economy to a single farmer of giant corn in the Sacred Valley, making the difference between whether he can sustain his way of life or not.
I also got to know a great group of people. Whether it was dancing our hearts out at a local traditional Peruvian dance and music show, killing time while the bus driver looked for the pieces that fell off the bus after an impromptu creek crossing in the Sacred Valley, climbing to the top of Wayna Picchu to look down upon the amazing construction of the Incan civilization, or sitting down to enjoy a few Cuzcanias, I became closer to some already good friends and got to know some new good friends. I realized that despite the many different choices of things to do on our trip, the ones that were the best were the ones we did together. I only hope that I can continue to build upon these great friendships no that our trip is over.
As such, coming home was bittersweet; I will miss the excitement, adventure, and fun of my trip. I was also looking forward to hugs and kisses from my wife and pooches. The trip home for many of us was challenging with all the flight complications caused by fuel system fires in Miami or computer system problems for Alaska Airlines. These challenges seem somewhat trivial compared to the challenges we were exposed to on our trip. I myself was stuck in Chicago for a night, but even that was not as bad as it sounds because I got to see my mother for a night. It’s not often that you get to come home twice on the same trip.
I would like to thank Alonso and Maria for planning such a fantastic trip. Thanks also to the group the came with because without each one of you, my experience would not have been as rich as it was. Lastly, thanks to my wife, Emily, for supporting my adventure and taking care of our home while I was away. Because of all of you, not only was I able to have the time of my life, but I get to take away memories and experiences that are now part of who I am, a slightly different person than I was when I started the trip.
– Guest Blogger, Mike Lumen, Evening MBA
After nearly a year of preparing and planning for the Peru Study Tour, things are finally starting to come together. As I look back it seems that this trip has come together better than even I could have imagined.
When Alonso, my study tour leader partner, asked me to help him plan this trip I really had no idea what the process would entail. We began by submitting a 25 page tour proposal that was evaluated by the Global Business Center (GBC) last May. We knew we were up against some other great teams and that the GBC would only select a handful of us to lead tours. After the GBC review process, we were invited to interview with the GBC. We diligently prepared for this step of the process by meeting with past tour leaders and reviewing anticipated interview questions. Within just a few short weeks we discovered our tour had been selected and we were on our way to Peru!
However, as with most things in life, there were a few hurdles we still had to cross. First, we had to do some marketing in order to ensure students knew about our tour. We attended several events including TGs, formal GBC events, and informal MBAA events to get the word out. But, when the deadline for student enrollment rolled around we were still short students and needed to sign up more students or risk cancelling the tour. We decided to focus our efforts on 1st Year Full-Time MBA students and reached them by visiting classes and meeting with them one-on-one. Within a couple of weeks we had enough students to continue on with our trip.
Another obstacle we still had to overcome was delivering on the great tour we had sold to the GBC and the students. It was much easier to write down great ideas than implement them. Between different time zones, languages and cultures we had our hands full. But, we were persistent and diligent with our efforts to reach companies we wanted to visit. We also worked with a travel agency to help us plan historical, educational, and recreational tours. They also helped us plan the logistics including transportation and hotels. Most importantly, Alonso and I worked together to balance the workload and stay positive when the outcome was uncertain.
As I look back over the last nine months I think of all we have accomplished…and, what is still to come. We leave for Peru on March 12th and I know that this leaves us little time to solidify plans. With mid-terms, spring registration, work, family, and finals all happening between now and then I must admit the task seems insurmountable. Then I think about the Peruvian beaches we will visit near Ica, the tour of the historical district in Lima, going out to dinner on the colorful streets of Barranco, and visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu with old friends and new friends….and I realize that it will all be worth it and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
– Guest Blogger, Maria Olagunju, EMBA 2012