Foster Abroad: Study Tour Highlights with Megan Stevenson

I participated in the 2019 study tour to Colombia and Panama. The trip has been one of my top experiences at Foster thus far. On the trip, we visited three amazing cities: Bogotá, Medellín and Panama City. I made many amazing friends across the various MBA classes during the study tour and was able to experience new cultures along the way. I also learned about various businesses through company visits and networking with businesspeople in these countries.

Group Photo 1

During my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to spend time studying abroad in Europe. This time spent abroad holds some of my favorite memories from my undergrad. I was thrilled to discover that Foster offered MBA study tours when I was applying to the program. My first year of the evening program, I was ecstatic to learn one of the study tour trips was being offered to Colombia and Panama (two places I had never visited before) and the focus was around startups and operations / logistics.

Group Photo 2 (Aguila)

Bogotá | The trip started out one jet-lagged morning in Bogotá, Columbia. A number of us went on a biking tour throughout the city where we visited historical sites, explored the central market and played the traditional throwing sport of Tejo (this game involves throwing metal pucks at targets filled with gunpowder…a must do for anyone visiting Colombia). The Colombian portion of the trip was focused around culturally significant company tours and  startup businesses. We visited the national distillery of Colombia (the traditional Colombian liquor being Aguardiente), Colcafé (the first coffee roaster in Latin America to roast for Starbucks) and startups like SuperFüds (a health food distributor that hopes to break into the American marketplace soon).

Group Photo 4_Boat

Medellín | The Colombia portion of the trip came to an end with a wonderful walking tour of Comuna 13 in Medellín. This is an area that has been able to transform itself after years of violence related to paramilitary and gang activity. The neighborhood came together to expel the unrest from its streets, and it has emerged as a safe space for creative and political expression through the use of graffiti on the surfaces throughout the neighborhood.

Graffiti Art 2

Panama City | The trip ended in Panama City where we focused more heavily on operations and logistics due to the importance of the Panama Canal to the region.  This study tour also afforded an amazing opportunity for the study group to travel through the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal Authorities taught us about the history of the Canal, the recent expansion of the canal (allowing larger cargo ships to pass through), and some of the logistical challenges of being the most direct path to connect Asia to North America. Upon returning from the trip, I have a newfound appreciation for our Port of Seattle and the cargo handling that occurs there.

Group photo port

There were so many wonderful experiences from my trip. I greatly enjoyed the easy-going atmosphere while traveling around Colombia.  We spent the days learning about amazing businesses and interacting with employees that were so excited to share their knowledge with us. We would unwind at night with group dinners and fun outings to a salsa club or a rooftop bar. In Panama, with its geographical location putting it at the crossroads of history and culture, there was much to see and do. The opportunity to learn about the various businesses who strongly depend on the continued success of the Canal is something I will forever remember. Additionally, there were  endless fun experiences with my fellow MBAs – spotting sloths while on a hike, renting a catamaran during a free afternoon, and going out for lively dinners in the city.  

Sloth Fruits

The study tour programs are a wonderful opportunity for Foster MBAs to study international business practices firsthand, while expanding their worldview and taking away lifelong lessons. With all the prep work that the Global Business Center and faculty members put into planning and executing these trips, it is assured to be an extraordinary experience for all who participate. I highly encourage all Foster MBAs to consider participating in a study tour. The learnings and experiences from the tour will be something you look back fondly on for years to come…I know I have!

City view