Now back home in NYC it is surreal to think back about the last two weeks in Brazil. Running into my GIP classmates in the halls of Columbia Business School, we yearn to relive the most exciting and hilarious events from our trip, for we share a journey that will never fade from our memories. On the first day of the Global Immersion class this semester I surprisingly only knew five of the thirty students who were traveling with me to Brazil. I now feel so lucky to have such a unique connection to every one of them. Below is a recount of some of the moments that helped build this bond:
Cultural Lessons Learned
Before the trip began we spent part of our last class discussing safety tips for Brazil, especially since one of the stops on our itinerary was a visit to a Brazilian favela (slum). Our Professor and TA’s strongly emphasized a page-worth of precautionary advice such as not walking around with your phone out, not waiving taxi’s down on the street, staying in groups, and not speaking loudly in English when walking around. Though most places in Brazil did feel very safe, we all became very watchful of each other which led to a tight knit and extremely inclusive group during the trip.
DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH? HABLAS ESPANOL?? PORTUGUESE???
One of the most shocking discoveries of our trip was just how little English or Spanish the Brazilian community spoke, especially in Rio de Janeiro. In class we had talked extensively about how self-reliant the Brazilian economy was, but one could have never imagined how difficult it would be to find locals, cab drivers, waiters, shop keepers, anybody who spoke anything other than Portuguese. That said, we all quickly learned the basic terms such as obrigado/a = thank you, frango = chicken, conta = bill, bom dia = good day, mais = more, agua sem gas = mineral water, caipirinha = caipirinha, and when all else failed we spent an enormous amount of time practicing our charades skills.
Business In Brazil
One of the best parts of the Global Immersion portion of our trip to Brazil was the amazing variety of industries that we had the opportunity to speak with. The trip was split up for us to meet with four organizations in Sao Paulo (Strategy&, Suzano Pulp and Paper, InBev, Banco Itau) and another four in Rio de Janeiro (BNDES, Petrobras, TV Globo, NGO Favela Tour). Of high interest to our group was the political and socio-economic climate in Brazil, dealing from corruption in business and government, to lack of infrastructure and educational gaps, all issues which we discussed extensively with CEO’s, economists, educators and managers on our company visits.
One of our favorite meetings was with the CEO of Suzano where we discussed the great un-equality between private and public school education and how tough it is for Brazil to retain well-educated workers as top talent are enticed by opportunities abroad.
Perhaps the most fun was visiting TV Globo studios, where we rode around in golf carts from set to set. It was exciting to see first hand how this telenovela factory produces 2,700 hours of in-house original content and over 3,000 hours of news content per year.
One of the most eye opening experiences of the trip was visiting a favela (slum). We spent our last afternoon in Rio de Janeiro with two volunteers from a local NGO that provides educational services to the community. It was remarkable to learn about how the favela that we visited was once run by drug dealers just years ago, but recently overtaken by Brazilian police and military in a large pacification effort. Interestingly, many of the favela’s residents actually preferred life before the police took over arguing that many officers are corrupt and how the government provides less safety and infrastructural support than the drug lords.
A Trip We’ll Never Forget
Going to Brazil with this group truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity and will go down as one of my top memories at CBS. I really enjoyed the class time that we took to learn about the Brazilian history, economy, and culture. Having that background about the country made exploring Sao Paulo and Rio a much richer and more rewarding experience than I could have ever imagined. I think from now on I should only visit new places after first doing extensive research and selecting 30 amazing people to travel with 🙂
To explore our trip check out #GIPBrazil #CBSChazenTravel #ChazenBreadBasket on social media.
Andrew Zalk ’15