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


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!

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

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