“In 1991, our founder, Jerome A. Chazen, MBA ’50, recognized the need for a new kind of leader: one who understands cross-cultural issues and their impact on business. That vision led to the creation of the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business, which serves as the hub of global activity at Columbia Business School.”
(cheesy nationality jokes aside)
When I step back to reflect, it’s truly remarkable how globally diverse our cohort of 30 students were, representing 14 nationalities (here we go: Netherlands, Italy, India, Israel, Lebanon, Peru, China, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, Canada, Greece, Malaysia and good ol’ USA), but also surprisingly diverse business backgrounds:
Visiting the Suzano Paper & Pulp factory – who knew that Martina Carbone CBS ’16 would pepper the speakers with R&D questions, given her chemical & bio-engineering background?
Who knew that Audrey Stewart CBS ’16 spent time in Taiwan working on nuclear weapon detection for the US Army?
Traveling abroad with a group as awesome as this is a natural catalyst for conversations about … religion, politics, family, and hey, even hair type (Beleza Natural, Operations Management 101); conversations too taboo within the confines of a classroom, yet somewhat organic and free-flowing when you’re chilling in a bus with the lush forest of Rio as your backdrop.
For me – these conversations are the ‘deep and meaningful’ that help us know each other better; the real forage for international and cross-cultural capital that makes us more informed and educated business people.
As the child of travel entrepreneurs, I’ve had the privilege to visit many countries from an early age. Yet with that comes a slight lack of awe and wonder with revisiting previous destinations. The same cannot be said for BRAZIL – a country that I’ve never set foot in, the stuff of films and popular culture and with its own set of stereotypes.
“Brazil is one of the only countries in the world where I truly feel that I am not being seen for my colour” – Professor Medini Singh, our Chazen tour lead. Indeed, what we’ve learnt in the 6 weeks of in-class discussions leading up to this trip is that Brazil is a melting pot and spectrum of ethnicities that like America, stems from a past of slavery. What differed in the development of the two countries (of similar geographical size and population) was the ethnic ratio, level of cultural integration and development since their respective industrial revolutions.
As we learnt, understanding this socio-cultural context is crucial to understanding all of Brazil’s business and political issues – from the fluctuation of the Real currency (vôo da galinha, “flight of the chicken”), the contrast of Sao Paolo and Rio’s riches with that of its poor Northeast, to Lula’s successful reign vs. Dilma’s more challenging tenure. (Status: Dilma is currently fighting back corruption charges against her, against a backdrop of political uproar and protests for democracy)
To understand a country in its entirety requires more than a week in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. But with our trusty TA and SP native Vitor Selles as well as our Chazen in-class learnings we’ll certainly have a better lens to observe the country with.
In the words of our immortal TA, “As the weekend approaches, I start to imagine people arriving in Brazil and being dazzled by Rio’s beauty and Sao Paolo’s ugliness” – Vitor Selles, MBA ’16
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.
Two nights ago we flew from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and we have been super active over the past 48 hours with amazing company visits and extracurricular activities 🙂
The most important thing to know about Rio? Always keep the Caipirinhas flowing! Whether you drink them with strawberry or lemon, vodka or cachaca, they are absolutely delicious and guaranteed to get you into a party mood.
In Rio we have been exposed to an amazing beach life culture. This is a city of impressive architecture, unmatched natural beauty, and a fun-loving lifestyle like nowhere else in the world.
Tonight will be our last time all together in Brazil. To celebrate we are off to a churrascaria for endless meat and caipirinhas. Brazil will be forever in our memories and our hearts. What an amazing trip it has been. Time to say goodbye to Rio in style!
To follow the fun, check out #GIPBrazil #CBSChazenTravel #ChazenBreadBasket on social media.
We’re halfway through our global immersion visit to Brazil and have had an AMAZING first few days in the bustling business center of Sao Paulo.
For those who have never visited Sao Paulo, here are some fun facts about the city…
Contains 19 million people.
Is the 3rd largest city in the world.
Contains the 3rd most high-rise buildings.
Ranks 6th in the world in number of Billionaires.
Is the 10th wealthiest city in the world.
Contains the largest Japanese population (1 million Japanese) outside of Japan.
EXPERIENCING GLOBAL IMMERSION: BRAZIL
On Sunday morning we kicked off our Global Immersion program with a tour of the Mercado Municipal where we sampled exotic fruits and local sandwiches. Hundreds of local restaurants visit the Mercado daily for fresh ingredients.
Followed by a visit to the Museum of Football where we learned about the legends of Brazilian soccer.
Before settling back at the hotel, a number of us joined over one million Brazilians in a country-wide protest demanding the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Monday afternoon the entire class met for a session with Strategy & PWC where we took a look back at the past 40 years of the Brazilian economy and a look ahead to Brazil’s role as a major exporter and growing economic power.
The next two days featured three more company visits including an amazing behind the scenes tour of Suzano Pulp and Paper company…
Participation in the drum banging and energizing morning sales ritual at Am Bev beer company…
And a discussion on economic trends in Brazil with one of the largest banks in the world, BNDES.
Along with the business lessons, of course a huge part of being in Brazil is experiencing the culture first hand through amazing dinners and nights out on the town.
STILL TO COME…
We look forward to continuing our immersion experience over the next three days as we take on Rio de Janeiro! To follow along the journey be sure to check out #CBSChazenTravel #GIPBrazil #ChazenBreadBasket on social media.
Ilha Grande is a quiet island, two and a half hours by car then twenty minutes by boat from the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is a place of wild dogs, no cars, but thankfully plumbing and electricity! Lying in a hammock surrounded by mountainous greenery, shade of tall trees and looking out upon an inlet of the ocean speckled with parked water taxis and sailboats I cannot believe that we are really here. We are really in Brazil!
It is about one week before the travel portion of the Global Immersion class will kick off in Sao Paulo and for the past four days a handful of us have been venturing around the state of Rio de Janeiro, exploring some of its most beautiful neighborhoods and sites.
Thus far the food has been amazing, the coconut water revitalizing, the caipirinhas epically delicious, and the views… Well, it is Rio 🙂
This semester in the classroom we’ve learned about Brazil’s codependence with China for their growing economies, Brazil’s geographic relationship to west Africa and their similarities in terrain and natural resources, and the story of Brazil’s origins as a mix of Portuguese settlers and slaves from Africa. For next week we are all really looking forward to learning more about both the cultural and business landscape of this incredibly large and diverse country. It is especially amazing how eclectic our list of company visits are that Professor Martinez has planned for us across Sao Paulo and Rio, covering a wide variety of industries including beer, entertainment, finance, energy, consulting, pulp & paper, and an NGO.
Looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the class in Sao Paulo. To follow along the journey be sure to follow #ChazenBreadBasket #GIPBrazil #CBSChazenTravel #GreyMonday #BlueDayTuesday #WhiteTeeWednesday #StraightStraightLeft on social media. Saúde!