MBA Smith Students Reflect on 2019 Winter-Term Global Business Courses

This past January of 2019, students from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business had the opportunity to travel to various countries across the world through the MBA Global Business Courses. Students gained first-hand knowledge of business processes and immersed themselves in the local culture of the countries they visited. Groups of Smith School MBA Students participated in this short-term study abroad program, traveling to the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Japan & Singapore, China, or Brazil. Students spent much of their time in business hubs of each of these countries, participating in consulting projects with local clients and meeting with the leaders of prominent companies in the area. Each group had unique business and cultural experiences, depending on the country visited, but all groups came home knowing more about global business following this immersive opportunity.

 

The UAE group traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two major emirates within the UAE. In Dubai, they met with Nakheel, the company that developed the renowned, man-made Palm Islands, which they saw up close during a boat cruise; Dell EMC; and the Dubai 2020 headquarters. In Abu Dhabi, they rode in self-driving cars at Khalifa University, visited the oil company McDermott Middle East, toured a large trading hub called JAFZA, and also toured the new Abu Dhabi airport that is currently under construction. One student said, “the experience in the UAE changed many of our perceptions about the country’s role in global business and opened our eyes to what it takes to run a business in the UAE. It also offered us many networking opportunities and connections for those looking to become expats.” 

 

After months of working on their consulting projects with local companies, students also journeyed to the largest country in South America, Brazil, to learn about growth opportunities in this emerging market. These visits, in combination with the cultural visits and consulting projects, allowed students to learn about the economic, social, cultural, and political climate in Brazil; their implications to the business environment, both domestic and international; the growth opportunities in this emerging market; and the major differences between Brazil and the U.S.

 

Participants in the South Africa Global Business Course visited both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Students learned about the economic and political landscape of South Africa, including an in-depth discussion about the education system and policies.  Throughout the 10 days, students experienced the influence of South Africa’s emerging market first-hand while exploring the country.  In Johannesburg, students had the opportunity to visit the South Western Township which was once home to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gain insight about the 1976 Student Uprising by visiting the Hector Pieterson Museum, as well as visit local businesses.

The Japanese and Singaporean visits gave global students lots to explore.  Visits to the headquarters of GSK, KPMG, and GE gave students a view into the landscape and insight on business opportunities they may encounter in the future.  Students learned about the cultural challenges of working abroad and had a chance to hear about from foreigners working in and adapting to these new emerging and established industries.

Smith students also visited Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, all cities in the Pearl River Delta region in southern China. The focus of the program in China was the service sector, a timely topic given the changing nature of the Chinese economy, which is moving away from exportation and mass manufacturing toward domestic consumption and high technology. Visits to companies such as Huawei, Walmart and Ogilvy provided insights into the ongoing transition.

Upon returning to the United States, students in each program completed projects that allowed them to reflect on their experiences and share their insights with classmates. 

For more information about MBA Global Business Courses, visit the Center for Global Business website: http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/global.

Authors:

Kirstin Herman, Part-time MBA Class of 2019, Brazil Program
Aim
ée King, Online MBA Class of 2020, Japan and Singapore Program
Michelle Leibowitz, Online MBA Class of 2019, United Arab Emirates Program
Mary Kathryn Maher, Part-time MBA Class of 2019, South Africa Program
Varun Saxena, Part-time MBA Class of 2019, China Program

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