Every summer, the Hybrid MBA program travels to international locations offering first-hand exposure to global business practices, legal, political, historical, and economic issues. This optional international study tour (IST) explores destinations carefully selected by Foster faculty and administration with a focus on relevant business trends and current events.
The IST is an opportunity for students, alongside their Foster faculty host, to exchange ideas and hold in-depth discussions with leaders of industry, financial institutions and government organizations, while experiencing business and culture first-hand through personal meetings, company visits, and cultural excursions. Students embrace the value of regional economic, political, and cultural contexts of business in international locations around the world.
The summer of 2023 introduced Argentina to an engaged group of Hybrid MBA students – a country with a turbulent economy and inflation of 170%. The IST students heard first-hand from the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina on how they attract foreign companies within a rapidly changing economic environment, Argentina Chamber of Mining regarding sustainable and ethical practices, the National Bank, and a variety of entrepreneurs facing the challenge of a constantly evolving marketplace.
Creating a vibrant introduction to Argentina, cultural experiences were imbedded in the programing – including visits to the historical market Mercado de San Telmo, tango lessons and performances, eating incredible local fare, wine tasting and tours of local vineyards, a symphony evening at the Opera House, and excursions to Uruguay and Tigre and the Parana Rivers. Hybrid MBA students were immersed in so much of what defines Argentina.
Keeping true to the Foster mission, fostering leaders who better humanity through action, our students also donated a day to the local foodbank in their commitment to give back to the very community that embraced them.
First-hand insights and perspectives from economist Alexis León
Foster faculty host and Associate Teaching Professor of Finance and Business Economics
HMBA students also benefited from having a fluent Spanish-speaker in faculty host, Alexis León. He was able to lend a deeper layer of cultural and linguistic understanding to this particular trip, ensuring an enriched experience for our students.
The International Study Tour provides students with unique and valuable benefits. A week-long IST exposes students to different business environments, market conditions, and cultures, and helps broaden their understanding of global business operations and challenges. Students also get firsthand experience with local customs and business etiquette, which can be crucial when doing business internationally. Additionally, Hybrid MBA students engage in the teamwork, camaraderie and deeper understanding of classmates that traveling together and facing unfamiliar situations can foster. This is especially valuable for a program that is 95% remote.As an economics instructor, I have to emphasize the real-world learning aspect of an IST. It’s one thing to study the challenges of conducting monetary policy during a currency crisis and the importance of an independent central bank in the classroom. That pales in comparison to having the opportunity to hear from economists, high-ranking central bank officials, and especially businesspeople on the ground in Argentina about how the plunging peso, capital controls and myriad exchange rates are affecting their operations and their daily lives. It is an invaluable experience.”
Reflections of the IST in Argentina from Hybrid MBA student, Elizabeth Tomon
“A Hybrid MBA alum encouraged me to travel on the IST saying “you will build relationships with people from your cohort you might have never been able to otherwise”, and I cannot agree more. While the business visits, cultural experiences, and food were incredible… my favorite part of the IST trip was building lasting connections with my cohort.
Buenos Aires, Argentina is certainly one of the most incredible, fascinating, and underrated places in the world. Our faculty host, Alexis León, the Hybrid Program’s Micro and Macro economics professor and famous Labor Economist, has a contagious passion for economics and shared his enthusiasm with my fellow students. It was clearly “catching”, and I now consider myself a wannabe economist.
Bragging with my newfound knowledge, I’ll tell you about the Argentinean economy: it’s turbulent. For perspective, inflation in the U.S. is 5%, and the Argentina inflation was close to 170%. They have no printed barcodes, every price in a store is either handwritten or price-free and calculated monthly, sometimes daily, because of the unpredictable value of the Argentinean peso. There are two different exchange rates in Argentina – the global exchange rate (ex. $1 USD = 340 pesos) and the blue rate (ex. $1 USD = 720 pesos). The blue rate is the unofficial rate that you can exchange a USD for at the hotel desk, the Western Union, or on the street. While walking through Buenos Aires, we regularly heard people saying “cambio”, which is where you can exchange USD for the blue rate. It’s hard to fathom the impact of their economy and elections unless you experience it first-hand (and thankful to have a labor economist travelling with us).
We heard first-hand from the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina on how they attract foreign companies within this kind of economic environment, the National Bank on their journey towards stability, and the Argentinean Chamber of Mining and their efforts to sustainably mine Argentina’s deposits of Lithium, Copper, Gold, and Silver. My personal highlight of the business visits was hearing from local entrepreneurs and the challenges they face when dealing with unpredictable inflation.
Our visit was full of so many vibrant cultural experiences, including visiting a local winery and hearing about their batching and winemaking processes (and it also included the best meal –and wine – of my life). We ate our way through the meat capital of the world (and even the vegans and vegetarians in our group found great food). And, we couldn’t leave without learning how to Tango and sampling a few clubs. Choosing to give back to the city that welcomed us, our group also chose to volunteer at a local foodbank.
I learned so much in this short time: how businesses make decisions on which foreign markets they should enter, the importance of understanding cultural norms, the different decisions and strategies big and small businesses take when faced with economic uncertainty. However, the biggest take-away I had was really to how I can better manage myself and others through change and uncertainty.”
Hybrid MBA staff perspective, Hoai Nguyen
Traveling with the intellectually curious Hybrid student group and the dedicated faculty Alexis León was a true privilege. I gained valuable insights from Alexis’ perspective as an economist, comparing the stark contrast between the US’ 4-5% inflation and Argentina’s staggering 170% inflation during our visit. Witnessing the Peso’s rapid decline was both intriguing and heartrending for the Argentinians. Among the various companies we visited during our time in Argentina, the highlight of my IST experience was visiting CAEM, the Argentine Chamber of Mining Entrepreneurs, which plays a pivotal role in representing the mining industry nationally. This agency is led by two exceptional women with expertise in environmental and mining management, international business, silver, and gold mining. Their presentation provided us with profound insights into Argentina’s enduring and critical mining sector, shedding light on CAEM’s innovative approach shaping its future.
With thanks to Alexis Leon, Hoai Nguyen, Kent Kanenaka, Liz Tomon, Julie Lee, Ben Naemura for their contributions and photos.