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Ivey MBAs experience personal growth during study trip in South America

Jan 21, 2014

MBAs in South America

Ivey MBA students in South America

Surfing on the coast of Chile or taking in the countryside by motorcycle may not be the typical activities of an Ivey MBA, but the takeaways are just as important.

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“There is a broader experience than just the classroom,” said Rich Hilsden, one of 29 Ivey MBA students who participated in a recent study trip to South America. “The personal growth element is important to me. This got me out of my comfort zone.”

The two-week international study trip – an elective course in the MBA program – brought students to Lima, Peru; Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Santiago, Chile from November 30 to December 14. In addition to experiencing the culture, they toured a dozen companies ranging from a family-owned winery to a multinational energy company.

Ivey MBA student Karin Koopmans was particularly impressed by the visit to Metro Santiago in Chile, which is South America’s most extensive subway system. In addition to being in awe of the behind-the-scenes control system, she said the mini-malls at stations added to the customer experience. 

“They did a good job of taking an essential service and making it a business,” she said.

Hilsden noted that the competitive business environment forces South American companies to be innovative.

“We can learn a lot from how businesses in developing countries manage things,” he said. “If Metro Santiago wasn’t profitable, it wouldn’t exist. In Canada, we sometimes take things for granted and aren’t as competitive as we could be.”

Innovation was also the theme of artwork in Sao Paulo, Brazil where artists turned scrap metal into figures, furniture and other artwork or adorned houses with trinkets, such as teacups.

“I was impressed with the creativity and how the artists were able to see different purposes for objects,” said Koopmans.

Other highlights of the trip for her were the high-quality food in Peru and the chance to surf the coast of Chile. She even arrived in Peru a few days early and remained in Chile a few days longer than the group so she would have an opportunity to explore on her own and get a more in-depth cultural experience.

Hilsden, too, arrived early and left late so he would have some personal time in South America. An experienced motorcyclist, he rented a motorcycle so that he could explore the countryside in Santiago. Another highlight for him was when a local resident of Lima took him and another student to a restaurant that was free of tourists so they could really experience how the local residents live.