Patagonia Recap Video

Since coming back from the Patagonia Global Immersion trek I’ve been asked a lot about the trip and have found it difficult to express the details of the trip with words alone. Describing natural beauty is hard. Describing life-changing experiences is perhaps harder.

To help make sharing the experience a little easier, I created this short video shot over 8 days, during moments of physical challenge, personal reflection, and joy.

Sho Fujiwara ’18

The Brazilian ‘ABC’: the best of Brazil, from ‘A’ to ‘Z’

The challenge was ambitious: grasp the fundamentals of Brazil’s culture and economy through an immersive week of meetings and tourism. Have we achieved our goals? Are we able to understand which are the challenges and opportunities Brazil will face in the next few years? As future managers, will we put at productive use our learnings by better handling business in Brazil?

The answer to these questions is not easy nor brief, thus we asked the executives of the companies we visited to provide some insights. Ana Corrêa do Lago, one of our hosts at Natura, defines the main challenge of Brazil as Political stability and reinforcement of the green agenda’, while she highlights as the country main assets ‘People’s warmth and resilience, great modernist architecture (i.e. Brasilia), and outstanding and varied green landscape. Many countries assembled in one!’.

Indeed, Brazil is a multi-faceted country in terms of population, demographic, morphology and even cuisine. To navigate it, you need to understand the ‘Brazilian ABC’: the best of Brazil from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.

 Açai – Now popular all over the world for its nutritional properties, this berry originally from Brazil is at best when eaten frozen, with few slices of banana on top.

Beleza – The cool way of saying ‘Hi’ among the youngest. The perfect start when you want to feel like a local.

Caipirinha – The national drink, made with cahaça and a zest of lemon, to be enjoyed from sunset to sunrise.

Dulche de leche – Argentinian will refuse to  admit that Brazilians have mastered the recipe of ‘dulche de leche’, but this versatile dessert gets as delicious as it sounds.

Empanada – Forget the diet: bolhino, empanada and churros are only few of the many fried snacks that you will encounter. Totally worth the calories.

Farufa – The local version of ‘couscous’ and an alternative to ‘arroz’ (rice). Often served as a side in typical restaurants.

Gente – Literally translated as ‘People’, it is a popular way of addressing the crowd.

Havaianas – The most famous Brazilian brand: the colorful flip-flops are sold and worn literarily everywhere. Just one warning: it is impossible to restrain from buying them.

Ipanema – One of the most famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro, together with Copacabana and Leme. At Ipanema you can get the best view of the ‘brothers’: two rocks characterizing Rio’s skyline.

Leblond – One of the most beautiful and popular neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

MASP – The biggest museum of São Paulo, hosting the largest collection of European arts in the Southern Hemisphere.

Não –  Just to get the basics right, ‘não’ is ‘no’. In case you are wondering, its opposite is ‘Si’.

Obrigado – The first word you will learn and probably the only one you will master by the end of the trip. Works better when accompanied with a smile.

Pão de Açúcar – One of the greatest attractions in Rio de Janeiro. These twin mountains connected by a cable car are a great spot to get a 360 views of the city.

Queijo – … Or better, ‘Pão de Queijo’, are amazing cheese puffs you will be offered from breakfast to dinner.

Rio de Janeiro – No words can explain the beauty of this city: just add it to your bucket list and go check it out!

São Paulo – Paulisti will argue with Carioca on which is the most beautiful city of Brazil. While it is always worth abstaining from such a dispute, São Paulo is for sure the widely recognized business center of the country.

Telenovela – Telenovela and soccer are the favorite forms of entertainment of each Brazilian household. Worth watching one episode to understand why.

Ucuba – A precious seed growing in the Amazon now used in many moisturizers. Not (yet) able to make miracles, but it is as close as you can get.

Villa Madalena – A neighborhood famous for street arts, it is one of the unmissable spots in São Paulo. Mark your map.

Zouk – A traditional dance. Not as popular as the Brazilian ‘Samba’, but danced everywhere from nightclubs to Carnival parties.

~Alice Signori ‘18

Looking back on it – WHY CBS!

 

tunis4Reflecting on the week we spent in Tunisia I think I speak for all of the CBS students who participated when I say how lucky we were and how amazing the experience was to help our local Tunisian students with their final pitch in the Open-Start-Up Competition finals. This was the first year CBS students got to engage in this activity and the amount we learned from working, chatting and dining with our teammates added a very personal and extremely enjoyable dimension to the trip. We left feeling we had made an impact on our local teammates and more importantly had made friends that we have continued to stay in touch with. It was so interesting to hear the next generations views on the Arab Spring and the Tunisian revolution. We left feeling both extremely optimistic about the changes that had taken place in the country as well as empathetic of the harsh reality the next generation faces. When we asked the students what their dream job would be – a question most of us were asked as kids most of them answered “work in government” and when we asked why that they responded, “that’s the best job you can get here”. While working in government is a great job we were disheartened to hear this seemed like the only option.

Throughout my conversations with locals I did not hear mention at all of the 2015 terror attacks and felt that the Country had moved past them with recent media coverage (Bloomberg) of the country being mostly positive and suggesting that Tunisia will be a top tourist destination in the coming years (https://africanmanager.com/site_eng/tunisia-features-among-bloombergs-22-flagship-tourist-destinations-in-2018/?v=947d7d61cd9a). Reading the blog post summarizing last years trip (2017) I could not help but to feel the country had significantly changed or at least we were given a very different perspective given our close interaction with younger locals.

Major themes touched on by investors and private equity firms were the challenges that continue to arise with currency fluctuations, political uncertainty, and focusing on investing in companies that hedge risk by having a higher percentage of sales as exports. We were extremely impressed when hearing the Tunisian ministry of education and US Ambassador in Tunisia speak about their extremely optimistic views on the education system and the progress Tunisia had made in recent years.

A huge thank you to Professor Jedidi and our TA Fuad Yaghnam for making this entire trip a seamless operation and making sure we were getting 110% out of every experience.

-Sarah Spear ‘18

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South Africa: Already Ready for a Reunion

The clamor for a Chazen South Africa reunion began minutes after the official trip ended. “I’m having separation anxiety already you guys,” wailed one particularly emotive person into our GroupMe chat while still boarding the flight from Johannesburg back to John F. Kennedy airport. In the last few days, even as we returned to our routines in New York, birthday parties have been co-opted into reunions, trips to South African wine bars planned, and much love and longing expressed for each other.

Personally, this was one of the best trips I went on, and I made many friends I don’t think I otherwise would have made at Columbia Business School. The magic of South Africa has surely something to do with it.

IMG_3059.jpgFor starters, many of us were compelled by South Africa’s history. The most soulful moments of the tour came when we understood more about the history of apartheid—either on Robben Island, home to so many political prisoners including Nelson Mandela, or at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. We had much to reflect—for instance, how apartheid started off as a solution to urbanization (certainly not the common way societies deal with that trend), and also how Mandela and the ANC’s resistance was mostly peaceful (certainly not the common way the oppressed resist throughout history).

Yet perhaps that sense of peace has ensured that South Africa’s economy is today nowhere near as ravaged as, say, Zimbabwe. It’s grown to become one of the BRICS emerging markets. As this blog detailed earlier this month, Chazen saw many interesting businesses and met many striving entrepreneurs. We couldn’t help but remark to each other how such economic energy has arisen from the ashes of apartheid.

Along the way, South Africa’s biodiversity brought us closer. There are some things in life we can’t share without becoming good friends with each other—and the majesty of an African elephant brushing past our jeep during a Kruger Park game drive, the cuteness overload of watching a penguin waddling on a beach by the Cape of Good Hope, or the exhaustion after having climbed the 1,000 meters up Table Mountain to arrive at the best views of Cape Town surely count among them.

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Lastly, this trip was successful because of our organizers: Thando Mtshali ’18, Divya Raj ’18 and Maria Sebastian ’18, who worked under the aegis of the Chazen Institute. The three perfectly understood when to hold our hands through Johannesburg’s bustling business district and when to let us discover the amazing nightlife of Cape Town on our own. I want to personally thank Thando, who grew up in Durban, for helping us see so many nuances of South African life I think we would have otherwise missed.

These organizers were so good at their task of bringing us together that they needn’t bother about organizing a reunion for us to relive our South Africa glories. As you can tell, that will happen spontaneously.

–Abheek Bhattacharya ’18

Patagonia 2018: Reflections from the wilderness

26 CBS students split into 3 separate groups recently made their way through the backcountry of the Patagonia wilderness over 8 days of hiking. Each group was led by two instructors from NOLS who taught us essential backpacking and navigation skills while instilling in us an appreciation for the power and beauty of the wilderness. Each day, the groups split up into hiking teams led by a Designated Leader from the team, responsible for delegating roles and leading their team to that evening’s destination. Each night at camp, the hiking teams would sit down to reflect, debrief, give feedback, and set plans for the following day.

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Resting both body and mind mid-hike

Despite these structural guidelines for the trek, there was plenty of uncertainty and ambiguity to manage. Routes planned the night before were often revealed in reality to be impossible to traverse, requiring significant backpedaling or consideration of more difficult terrain. Beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine would be blown away before our eyes, replaced with strong gusts of wind and rain which forced us to scramble to put up tarps to keep dry. Aches and pains in our backs and legs would make us question whether we had the physical strength and fortitude to put on our 60-pound bags the following day for another full day of hiking.

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We quickly learned that dry feet are a luxury in Patagonia

MBA students are natural planners, and leading teams under this adversity and ambiguity was a challenge for many. Luckily, MBA students are also adaptable and quick to learn, and by the last few days we had the technical competency to navigate through the uncertainties of the wilderness with little guidance from our instructors. Instead of fearing the remaining adversity and uncertainty that no level of skill or experience could overcome, we learned to tolerate and at times even welcome it (an ability that we all hope to bring back into our “frontcountry” lives).

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Sunny skies quickly gave way to cold rain and wind during the Alpine pass

As business school students in New York City, our minds are always one phone buzz, ping, reminder, or alarm away from being pulled into a world of coffee chats, interview preparation, and social media interactions. Removed from those distractions in Chilean Patagonia, we experienced a level of flow and focus on the present that is almost impossible to capture in our daily lives. The expedition allowed us to press pause on the constant stream of information, responsibilities, and deadlines that run through our days, offering us the opportunity to reflect on personal goals, to appreciate the privilege that allowed us to experience such beautiful landscapes, and to center ourselves before facing head-on the last semester of business school.

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Strong Patagonian winds not pictured

Sho Fujiwara ’18

São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro: Guess which is our favorite city?

In a country where only 85% of the population has access to basic sanitation, but virtually 100% has access to a TV set, a visit to Globo, the major media company in Brazil, is a mandatory stop.

While strolling into ‘telenovelas’ sets and pretending to be the characters of the Brazilian ‘Game of Thrones,’ our hosts explained the impact that telenovelas, and thus Globo with its ‘100 years of stories,’ have on the local population. Not only sentimental comedies, but often sensitive topics are discussed throughout a whole series, soliciting a real call to action from the audience: for example, when the main character of a telenovela was diagnosed with cancer (luckily only for the sake of the plot), a surge in the blood donation throughout the overall country was suddenly registered.

After such a dense and interesting week of Brazilian immersion, the question seems natural: what’s better, São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro? The class has a clear answer: 63% of the surveyed sample thinks Rio rocks it. Wondering why? The great beaches, the breathtaking views, the presence of one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ (Christ the Redeemer), and the carnival spirits (and parties) pervading the entire city have clearly captured the CBS’s crew. Still, what’s in São Paulo that makes it a though competitor? Its role as an undiscussed business center, being a capital of great food and posh clubs as well as being pervaded by an elegant atmosphere are all elements contributing in making this city a great choice especially for a long-term perspective.

Clearly not ready to face the thermal and emotional shock that going back to the cold New York city and the busy business school’s schedule requires, there is only one thing left to say: ‘Muito Obrigado Brazil’, it has really been a blast.

~Alice Signori ‘18

For more pictures, follow us on Instagramimage2 (4)

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Christ the Redeemer
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São Paulo
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Rio de Janeiro

Tunisia Open-Start-Up Grand Finale

T5Today was the much-anticipated final pitch competition for the startup pitch competition that we had been collaborating with the Tunisian students with over the last two months. From skype and facebook meetings to virtually meet each other, to building the products, and watching our Tunisian students rehearse  ten times we were all feeling extremely exciting and nervous for the finals. SIX teams total had made the finals and startup ideas ranged from room sensors that would let you know if an elderly person had fallen, relaxing and stress reliving steering wheels for drivers to prevent accidents to a device that turns fire into energy that would allow rural areas in Africa to have access to electricity. Each team was composted of four CBS students and 4-6 Tunisian students. In attendance for the finals was the Tunisian ministry of education, AfricInvest, the US ambassador in Tunisia and Columbia Business School representatives from both the business school and engineering school. The prize for winning this competition was flights and hotel paid for to New York City for the Tunisian team to pitch their business idea at the final pitch competition at CBS in April. For most of the students winning this competition would mean their first opportunity ever to be on a plane and leave Tunisia.

There was nothing more inspiring and nerve racking then watching the judges announce the winners and all of the Tunisian students sitting on the edge of there chairs. My team ended up winning the competition with the idea of turning fire into electricity with thermal engines and there was nothing more rewarding than seeing their hard work over pay off and the smiles on there faces. We asked our teammates what they wanted to do in NYC the responses we got were: go to Walmart, go to the coffee shop with “the girl” (Starbucks) and go to a basketball game – we all had a good laugh and will make sure these Tunisian NYC dreams come true! The opportunity to help the local teams and collaborate in the competition for the first year ever was an extremely rewarding experience that was the peak of the trip! I am excited to see what continues to come out of this collaboration and we can’t wait for our Tunisian friends to land in NYC in April!

-Sarah Spear ‘18

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