Final Destination: Golan Heights and my Reflections on Chazen Israel

Within the narrow and long country of Israel, there is a variety in terms of landscapes, architecture, culture, and yet the people in every city as extremely warm, friendly, and humble! After being in the metropolitan city of Tel Aviv followed by natural beauty of Dead Sea, and the charm of ancient city of Jerusalem, we traveled north to see the Bahai Gardens briefly, and go further to Golan Heights, a very peaceful place given its close proximity to the Syrian border.

Bahai Gardens exist in many parts of the world but have a sense of consistency that follows each one of them. As you can see from the picture below, they are extremely well kept, symmetrical, gorgeous, and peaceful places.

Bahai Gardens

Bahai Gardens

Our next stop was Golan Heights, which was the most calm place for where it is situated. We stayed in Kibbutz, which has cottages surrounded by natural beauty of mountains and are self-sufficient. These cottages are mostly for locals, while a few are reserved for tourists who come to visit. I was keen to learn more after coming back and you can read more about it here.

Golan Heights Kibbutz

Golan Heights Kibbutz

All of us got to explore Golan Heights in a really unique manner by driving ATVs or horse riding on the mountains. The views and experience for everyone was unmatched anything we’ve done before. The tour guides explained significance and proximity to Syria, and talked about how safe everyone felt in the community. I did the horse riding and was completely blown away by the beautiful landscape, as every moment of this was stunning and serene. While horse riding, we had some hilarious moments of bonding when one of the horses refused to cooperate and started eating grass every time we would stop for a few seconds. Also, we had a dog who was leading the group of horses along with the tour guide, which was really funny to observe.

#CBSatthecenter of hiking in ATVs

#CBSatthecenter of hiking in ATVs

Horse riding very close to the Syrian boarder in Golan Heights

Horse riding very close to the Syrian boarder in Golan Heights

Our next stop was Golan Height winery, where we got a tour from this really adorable old man about how the wines are made, what process and barrel are used, and why. Many of us were thinking back to our operations and finance class cases on wines. The wines were delicious and a great end to incredibly amazing trip!

Golan Heights Winery

Golan Heights Winery

After a 3 hours bus ride, we reached Tel Aviv and met at the beach right before sunset to reflect on the best moments of the trip while toasting with our Golan Heights’ champagnes! We went around to talk about some of our best memories, which included:

BEST PEOPLE: meeting some of the best people at CBS and feeling like we had just made a really close group of amazing friends for life. Most of us did not know each other and this trip really helped us bond and get to know each other so well! I would also say that I didn’t know our trip planners, Yoav or Guy, very well before this trip and seeing the country through their eyes, asking them questions and their opinions, and getting to know them was one of my favorite things!

MOUTHWATERING FOOD: we LOVED the food, every meal was delicious, fresh, unique, and one of the most fun bonding experiences. Apart from the food, the ambiance of the places we visited, and the exclusivity and opportunity to have us take over the place made the experience memorable. My favorite was when all the chefs came out and created our very own dessert table by dancing and throwing various flavors of ice cream with toppings and fudge on a table covered with aluminum foil! It was spectacular and SO delicious!

PLACES: From the Dead Sea to holocaust memorial, the Old City of Jerusalem to Golan Heights, the Bahai gardens and air-force base, and everything in between, we were pleasantly surprised and shocked by the beauty, significance, and history of each place we visited. I was in awe each time, and every place after surpassed by expectation. I learned so much, not only through our visits and speakers, but also by learning about the places and having conversations with my peers afterwards.


Reflecting on our last day by the beach

For most of us, this trip was the first time in the Middle East and in Israel. Even for those re-visiting some of these places, they said the city never fails to be magical and teach them something new. This trip has been one of the most memorable of all my travels and inspired me to go back to Israel to explore more.

Aditi Sahani ’15, Chazen Israel


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Global Immersion Shanghai – Final Thoughts

Since coming back from the Global Immersion Program in Shanghai, I’ve had some time to reflect on the key takeaways from the trip. A theme that was emphasized in more than one company visit was the challenge that China is facing to adapt its growth model. Due to internal pressure related to labor costs and civil demands, as well as external pressure related to trade and currency frictions, China can no longer present itself as just an automatic low-cost production center. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how China shifts from a “made in China” approach to a “designed in China / made for China” approach and the movement towards the service industry.

Another theme that was highlighted was just how critical China is for many multinational companies’ global strategy. According to a recent survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 33% of CEOs surveyed cited China as a market essential for their respective companies’ growth. This is due to a wide range of factors, ranging from the rapidly growing middle class and increasing mobile phone penetration. As attractive as this market appears, there are still many hurdles to overcome. From the perspective of multinational companies, there are still significant risks to consider when approaching the Chinese market, ranging from rising costs, a lack of market maturity, and fraud. Domestic competition is also a notable threat, since Chinese companies are sometimes given significant advantages, such as free land or lower costs of capital. Overall, it appears that China is heading towards another golden decade, if it can manage to juggle investment and consumption with the various challenges it is grappling with.

I am so thankful that I had the chance to participate in the Global Immersion Program in Shanghai. It was an incredibly educational experience and I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the challenges and achievements of the Chinese economy. It was also great to explore a new city while getting to know some of my classmates better. A special thank you to Professor Wei and his TA, Angelo Wang, for planning such a fantastic adventure!

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Magical Moments in Jerusalem

From the new metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, we headed in our bus towards one of the most powerful museums I have ever visited: Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial.  It is built with the vision that people will never forget what happened by gaining a good understanding, and coming out of the museum hopeful about the future of the country rather than angry. We had two tour guides, who walked us through the museum in chronological order, sharing stories and pointing us towards the minute details of how each transition over 4.5 years is reflected in the physical ambiance, and describing the brutal murder of 6 million innocent Jews. Although most of us have read books or seen movies about the Holocaust, as we walked through each exhibit, we felt chills down our back and the expressions on our faces were unable to accept the reality of inhumane treatment in the concentrations camps. I found it extremely informative and emotionally challenging. But it was illustrated to evoke emotions and sentiments and I was glad we could visit for a few hours as it put a lot of things in perspective regarding the struggles and strengths of Israelis.

Our next stop was Jerusalem, which was one of the most anticipated parts of our trip due to the history and beauty. As we drove, we could see how all of the architecture looks the same and all exteriors are made of a particular type of stone. We stayed at the beautiful Mamila Hotel, and our afternoon began with a crash course on Israeli Economy. We got to meet with the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Eugene Kandell, and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat at the city council. I was really captivated by both of their presentations, their enthusiasm, belief in Israel’s human capital and the determination to grow, scale, and be self-sufficient by playing on the strengths. I loved when the Mayor talked about being a brand manager for the City of Jerusalem, taking initiatives that may not have been thought about before by treating the city as a product.

Nir Barkat – Mayor of Jerusalem

The next day, we began with a trip to the Dead Sea, which was so much FUN as you can see from our picture below! It was an incredible experience floating in the water, unable to swim, and being surrounded by mountains and gorgeous natural beauty. We got to rub mud that is supposed to be full of minerals and oils all over and have a mini competition on who does it best!

Dead Sea: #CBSatTheCenter of Beauty

Dead Sea: #CBSatTheCenter of Beauty. Photo Credit: Leslie Pebbles

Our incredible Israeli hosts, Yoav Rand & Guy Rejwan '15, relaxing at the Dead Sea

Our incredible Israeli hosts, Yoav Rand & Guy Rejwan ’15, relaxing at the Dead Sea

After our memorable visit at the Dead Sea, we finally headed for the tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, an ancient place that is considered holy for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Our tour guide was immensely valuable as he shared a ton of stories about each ethnic quarter, significant religious memorials, and stereotypes. It was an immersive experience watching the locals, the businesses, and the tourists all hustle through these ancient streets that I had only seen in pictures before.

Old City of Jerusalem

Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Mimi Vavilala

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, one of my favorite things about this trip was surprisingly delicious meals and really fun restaurant experiences. Our dinner at Machne Yehuda, a hip and trendy restaurant, surpassed all expectations and toped off the night. We had the place booked to ourselves, and what slowly started as dinner, turned into a dancing night with some of the popular songs of 1990’s and 2000’s. We also had a birthday celebration, where 6-7 of the chefs came out and created a dessert table with the BEST ICE CREAM SUNDAY I have ever had! It was truly an experience as none of us knew what was going on as the chefs danced to the music beats and within 2 minutes created what you see below in a long rectangular table covered with aluminum foil! Dessert was followed by more dancing and celebrations of all of us being in Jerusalem for our last night before we hit the road again the next morning!

Dessert Table Experience with Ice Cream Sunday created in front of our eyes

Dessert Table Experience with Ice Cream Sunday created in front of our eyes

Aditi Sahani ’15, Chazen Israel

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Final Reflections on China

It’s been over a week since we arrived in the U.S., exhausted and rumpled from a 15-hour flight from Hong Kong. Anyone else craving dumplings yet?

The trip was well worth the jet lag. Here are some of the highlights now that we’ve all had time to reflect:

1)      The company visits: Our organizers really went above and beyond here. Not only did we get a glimpse of what it’s like to work in what b-school students consider some of the most coveted jobs in the world, we heard the perspective of local developers, too. I actually found our visits with Swire, Hongkong Land and SOHO China the most interesting. It helped that we met with some pretty high level people there.

2)      The food! Just when I thought I had my fill, there was something even more delicious to consume.  Ok, maybe we weren’t all fans of the stinky tofu (it really does stink) or the scorpions on a stick that you could buy in a street market. But I don’t mind the idea of eating dumplings for breakfast.

3)      The sights!! Bonus points to our organizers here. We hit all the major ones on my list, plus stuff that was off my radar. The Great Wall was pretty incredible—and thankfully, we did not visit at the same time as Michelle Obama, which would have surely added to the traffic on the way there. And I for one was impressed with that Giant Buddha, even though it was erected all the way back in 1993.

Finally 4) The group. It was a pleasure getting know everyone’s backgrounds and their future plans. I was impressed by the questions that were asked during our company meetings. The students on this trip truly eat, sleep and breathe real estate.   Image

Overall, I feel lucky to have been a part of this while at Columbia. Big shout out to Karl, Maria, Scott and Bria for making it happen!

-Anjali Athavaley ‘14


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A Week in Korea in retrospect

Korea is more than the companies we visited, Korea is a small country that is making contributions far beyond its stature. Whether it is in international business, fashion trends, music, or food the whole world is listening. As part of Chazen, we got to experience these trends first hand. Whether it was me trying on my first face mask (which left my face feeling silky smooth) or all of us listening to the top hits in K-pop, it was hard to deny the coming Korean Wave. Everyday of the trip started with conversations about how this cool Korean thing needs to make its way over to the states or how Koreans are way ahead of the curve. I mean Seoul is going to house a building that will be taller than the World Trade Center! That is a statement to the whole world and we got to see it first hand.

As much as Korea is changing the world it still faces real problems which were violently highlighted in the news today. North Korea and South Korea exchange fire, that is the headline I woke up to this morning. A little over a week ago I was standing at the border making jokes about the North Korean tunnels into South Korea. But the relationship between the two countries is anything but a joke. Any second this wonderful experiment that is South Korea, that is Seoul, can be stopped by the actions of another. This trip has made me care and want to devote time to learning more about the struggle between these two countries that occupy a little peninsula together.

This trip was also a chance for me to meet 40 other amazing individuals. I got to meet second years, who this Chazen was part of their last hurrah in business school, and first years who I am excited to get to know even more. We are already planning reunions to K-town and the bottles of soju we will share. Two weeks ago these people were just faces on a trip roster and now they are individuals who I will always remember sharing a great journey with.

Chazen was more than I could have expected. It gave me a spring break to remember and friendships that will hopefully last much longer than school.

So thank you to the organizers, to the companies, to our faculty adviser, to the Chazen staff, and to the amazing alumni of Chazen South Korea 2015

~ Slava Druker Chazen South Korea 2015

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Final Thoughts on GIP Cuba

It has been a week since our class returned from Cuba. Back to the world of cell phone connectivity, credit card machines, and long lines at Starbucks. While I can’t say that I miss being disconnected from the world, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my one week of limited connectivity! It certainly gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the program, and to fully experience the Cuban culture, people, and business environment.

I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our experience there, and I have been sharing my thoughts with others who have asked about my trip. Talking about Cuba with people who have never been there has forced me to collect my thoughts, and to attempt to articulate what it is like to live, work, and conduct business in Cuba.

The short answer: it’s not easy. Although Raul Castro has committed to many, important reforms, Cuba still has an incredibly long way to go before it will be able to attract regular, meaningful foreign investment. Infrastructure, support systems, and a skilled, domestic labor force will be required to entice other countries to come to Cuba and do business. These initiatives will require cohesive, transparent efforts on the part of the government, and partners who are willing to roll up their sleeves and invest in Cuba’s future success.

Private enterprise also has a long way to go. The number of private businesses is growing, and these businesses are creating jobs, fostering innovation, and increasing consumption. But more must be done! Cubans must be incentivized – and enabled – to establish private businesses that will positively impact the society and economy.

In short, Cuba needs an infusion of public support (from the government) and private enterprise to propel it to the next level. All of the resources are there – incredibly strategic trading location, powerful domestic industries such as alcohol and sugar, and the passion and drive of a younger generation. Cuba’s task will be to set conditions for future success, and to provide the current generation with the tools to succeed in the future.

I cannot close this series of blog posts without commenting on the state of US-Cuba relations. While there are countless factors to consider, I would submit the following, general opinions:

     1. Current US-Cuba trade and political relations are (mostly) based on events that took place more than 50 and should most definitely be revisited and reconsidered.

     2. Cuba must be prepared to make concessions, if it wants to bring the US to the negotiating table. The Cuban government has much to gain from the restoration of diplomatic and trade ties; sacrifices may have to be made in the short term, to secure long term gains.

     3.  Cuba’s current status as a “State Sponsor of Terror” will continue to effect US-Cuba relations. Recent alignment with authoritarian regimes (North Korea, Russia) will continue to have negative impacts on the restoration of diplomatic and trade ties. Cuba would be wise to avoid such partnerships. 

I could go on, but will stop there. I look forward to watching Cuba’s progress over the years to come, and hope to pay another visit to Havana at some point in the future.

Katie Horgan ‘14

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All great trips come to an end

Day 6:

Our last company visit is probably to the company that represents Korea the most, Samsung. Samsung is involved in every business imaginable, electronics check, construction check, shipbuilding check, life insurance check… the list goes on. The start of our visit is to the Global Strategy Group which is the internal consulting group for Samsung’s foreign operations. Though we were visiting the GSG it seemed more like a CBS reunion. There were about 12 former CBS alums working at the GSG and they shared their experiences of working abroad across various business units. After a brief presentation and panel we headed down to lunch with the GSG group at the Samsung cafeteria. Lucky for us there was a Western section, many of us needed a break from Kimchi at every meal.

The second part of our day included what most people expect from Samsung, tech toys, tech toys everywhere. We got to see the latest in Samsung technology and I really wanted all of it. We got welcomed into their innovation center with a wall of screens with the CBS logo. During our tour we got to see a TV that with 3D type glasses can switch between two different programs, I can finally watch sports in peace 24/7. We also got to see the latest in semi-conductor technology which is near and dear to every CBSers heart. Following our visit to Samsung we had some time to sight-see which I spent on Insadong street.

Insadong is sort of a combination of old style tea houses, antiques, and amazing street food. It was cool to see some authentic Korean arts and crafts, it was interesting how close it seemed to other Asian countries but still had a unique feeling.

Fast forward a few hours and we all find ourselves in one of the hottest clubs in Seoul, Octagon. We have a set up of 3 tables and basically take over a whole section of the VIP area, because anything else would not be CBS. After a week of traveling together we feel comfortable dancing it up and cracking jokes all night long. The night goes on and we start wondering how in the world we will wake up tomorrow…one option is to just not sleep. But we all settle on relying on each other to get us to one of the coolest and most unique places on Earth…the DMZ

Day 7:

For most of us the 1 hour and 30 minute bus ride to the DMZ is passed in a haze as thick as the fog that covers Seoul in the morning. The trip to the DMZ starts feeling real when we are about to enter the zone and a dead serious ROK (Republic of Korea) Soldier enters the bus and demands to see our paperwork. Let’s just say it was a very sobering moment. We wind our way through the check point and get to the first sight on the trip, the 3rd tunnel. We take a little train down to a tunnel built by North Korean troops to try and invade South Korea below the DMZ. They painted the tunnel in coal in order to make it seem as though they were digging for coal and not creating a secret tunnel. The key learning from the tunnel is that North Koreans are like munchkins from Oz. Most of us could barely fit in the tunnel without being fully bent over and even then we hit our heads every 5 feet. We go from the tunnel area to the freedom bridge followed by getting into the UN base.

After a somewhat politically incorrect briefing regarding the size of flags we are ready to actually step into North Korea. First we get to stare the North Korean Soldiers down. Our US military escort informs us that though there is only one North Korean outside that the window next to him is taking pictures of us and that there are probably 30 more hidden in the building behind him. The South Korean soldiers look like wax figures, they don’t move and there bodies are so tense it feels like nothing can move them. We enter a meeting room that straddles the border and get to walk around. Without realizing most of us had entered into North Korea which is one half of the room. After taking more pictures than I can count in the room and with the ROK soldier it was time for us to go.

No one got kidnapped and no one ran away so I think the trip to the ROK was a success.

Getting back to the hotel allowed us all to crash from both the exploits from the night before and the intensity of the days events. The crash is short lived because we have to end this trip the right way by going to one final amazing group dinner filled with Apple Soju from Apple Cups and creative takes on traditional Korean dishes.

The dinner and the toasts were the perfect way for this amazing journey to the country of the Morning Calm to end. I cannot wait to go back to South Korea to explore it further and I feel as though I have made so many friends who are willing to hop on that trip with me

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