Masters of Business Administration
Summer II 2016, 2 Weeks
Business and Culture in South America: Chile (faculty-led program)
This was an opportunity of a lifetime for me, and I hope this trip is still available when my two boys are old enough so that they can enjoy the same experience. I can’t lie, at first I was not planning on attending because of family, work, and my expected major however after talking to some people they posed the question “Why not go?”. This really got me thinking because during this last year and a half I have tried to focus on change and saying yes to this trip was a significant part of this next step. I have not only sold a business I had for 17 years but also decided to come back and get my masters after graduating from WMU quite a few years ago, and I mean quite a few. This trip opened me up to even more experiences that will not only help me in my life but future roles that I decide to take in my professional career. I really enjoyed a culturally unique experience that not only allowed me to identify differences, in culture, during the college directed portion but also during the three extra days that I traveled before all of the students arrived.
While in the airport, I was able to rent a car with two other individuals to take our “road trip” five hours north of where we would be staying with our classmates. This drive opened up even more avenues of culture that we would not have seen with the class. On our journey, we learned how to ask for gas or fill up our tank, since you were unable to pump the gas yourself. During our drive north, we had to make a stop in this town called Nogales to get gas, rest stop, and try to find a place to eat. There were no public bathrooms but did find a tiny store that allowed us behind the counter to use their private facility. We then asked where a good place to eat would be, little did we know that everything was closed and they do not normally eat lunch at 11 a.m. they usually eat between 1-4 p.m. This man, calling us “gringos” led us to these closed doors, he in turn opened and behind them was a small restaurant. We had a four-course meal for all three of us for approximately eleven US dollars (9,000 Chilean Pesos). This wonderful elderly woman made us feel at home, told us stories and showed us photos about her and her husband, as well as her family. In turn when driving the 5 hours back we made sure to stop there to say goodbye because we knew we would not see her again on our trip. She was asking if we would stay with her but we had to get back to Santiago to begin our journey with our classmates that were due in the next morning. Because of her hospitality, we gave her approximately thirty US dollars (20,000 Chilean Pesos), which brought her to tears because this is a lot of money for her in these poverty-stricken areas. I believe that she was a big factor in seeing the true culture of “family” within this country.
I know a very small amount of Spanish so it was a challenge to try to order the right food in the city however, many Spanish words are similar to English and I am not a picky eater so I, luckily, never had a bad experience with getting something I liked. There were times that I would end up just pointing at something on the menu, only knowing a particular side dish that came with it, and everything turned our spectacular. It did amaze me though how many of the individuals knew English, or if they did not they would grab a friend that did. If feel that the US, though a world leader in many areas, still falls short in realizing the importance of expanding beyond our borders.
I was thankful every day during our directed business visits because each day seemed to get better and better. The businesses we visited invited us to areas that, if traveling alone, I ever be able to get into. I appreciate all of the effort that it took to plan this trip. These businesses took our class and in some cases showed us private information related to their business, in order to gather more insight or even to help explain more about their business. Where else would you be able to learn about the differences in business but in a fun, exciting, and transformational way?