On a cold March Wednesday night last week, our class met for the last time as a group before we all flew south for winter. Instead of Professor Medini Singh, the class was led by our TA and a program director from the Chazen Institute. Chazen calls these sessions “Pre-Departure Meetings”. They take place shortly before a group departs for their in-country visit. Not only do they provide a crucial information download about logistics and day-to-day realities of life on the ground, but they also require that students come together to author a social contract among themselves. I helped lead one of these sessions when I organized a Chazen study tour to Indonesia this past January, so I am newly and deeply admiring of the people who led our Brazil GIP session.
To kick off the social contract process, our TA challenged us to define what kind of expectations we have of each other. How can we co-create an experience that is pleasant for all of us? What are our individual and group goals for the trip? We came up with the following three principles:
- Understanding the local culture: by being participative and asking good questions to everyone we meet
- Understanding the political and economic context: by engaging with company visits before, during, and after the visit itself
- Always being inclusive: demonstrating an open-minded, welcoming attitude, as well as looking out for each other
Professor Medini Singh said it best when he reminded us later in the session that “what we get out of this experience is in our hands.” I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: study tours with the Chazen Institute at Columbia Business School are incredibly powerful components of a global education. Our GIP class and CBS in general are both internationally very diverse. To dig into the trajectory and complexities of a country that we’ve been studying and discussing for weeks together is a beautifully unique and valuable opportunity to learn about the world.
And there is no better place than Columbia Business School for this. In our professor’s words: “…given our different perspectives, even our background, in the same meeting we see different things. What is our reflection of what has happened? I’m always interested. And that’s where most of my learning comes from.” I could not be more excited to spend a week unraveling the web of a country so beautiful and complicated as Brazil with Professor Singh and my diverse cohort of thoughtful and respectful classmates.
Até a próxima!