Week 1 – Discovering Mexico City and IPADE

A week has passed since I arrived in Mexico City and I can say that it has been a fantastic start.

I spent the first two days moving in to my amazing apartment in Roma Norte and walking around in the Condesa and Roma area. I was surprised to see so many restaurants, cafés and bars and parks in the area.

So far I have had 3 touristic adventures that include a tour of the Castillo de Chapultepec and the parks in the area, a boat tour in the canals of Xochimilco and a guided walking tour of downtown Mexico City.

I visited the “Castillo de Chapultepec” which is a beautiful castle on top of the hill in the huge Chapultepec park at the heart of the city. The castle has been turned into the national museum of history. My favorite parts were a beautiful garden on the top floor of the castle and the mural paintings displaying the Mexican American War.

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Castillo de Chapultepec

 

I also went with 2 American exchange classmates on a tour of the “Floating Gardens” in one of the Trajinera boats at Xochimilco (45 min drive from Roma) and enjoyed a 2h tour of the canals. The mariachis and the other musicians passing by in boats nearby definitely made it an enjoyable Mexican experience.

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The Mariachis in a Trachinera

I joined some of my classmates on Saturday for a guided walking tour of the downtown area of Mexico City. The 2h tour started at the zocalo facing the beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral and included different parks, museums, buildings and sculptures. I really enjoyed the tour and it gave me a quick look into the history and the culture of this society.

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Metropolitan Cathedral

 

This week was also my first week at IPADE Business School and included the first day of orientation and some classes. On the day of the orientation I was introduced to the other 23 exchange students that will be studying in the Mexico City campus. Our day started with a nice lunch with 10 local students and some of the faculty members and was followed by an orientation session and a campus tour.

The international student’s office staff at IPADE were very friendly and helpful and planned our first lunch with some second year local students and staff members in order to facilitate our integration in the program and the class. It was obvious that the international student office team had been working really hard to host us in the school and had prepared all the packages needed including bags, name tags welcome forms and the content we would need for all the classes during the first week.

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IPADE Swag

An old hacienda had been transformed into this beautiful campus that included multiple old and renovated buildings and gardens. What really struck my attention during the campus tour was the number of cafeterias in each building. In fact, every classroom has a small cafeteria next to it where some food and drinks are served and a building entirely dedicated to hosting dinners and lunches with business people from Mexico City. I then learned that meals were an integral component of the business activities in the Mexican culture and that a big number of business deals are structured and negotiated during meals.

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Breakfast Cafeteria

 

IPADE has a totally different academic system than any of us had experienced. Only exchange students were allowed to take specific electives while local students were automatically enrolled in all classes. These classes span from Monday to Friday from 8AM to 4PM. IPADE creates this very intimate world for the students where they are provided breakfast in the morning then are require to join a group meeting to discuss the cases assigned for the day before starting all the classes. A very affordable lunch is also provided at the cafeteria which also provides better bonding experience between the students. All students are assigned to teams of 10 students including 7 local students and 3 exchange students and breakout rooms are provided to each team. I met my team members on Friday during the morning group meeting and I have to admit, I have an awesome team! The team members were extremely friendly and directly included me in the conversations and in the team activities. All the classes are based on the case methodology and are very knowledgeable, charismatic and well prepared.

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My First Team Meeting Started with a Birthday Cake

 

So far I have had an amazing time here and I am looking forward to learning more and discovering this beautiful country and culture.

One thing I should point out is that I am having a hard time communicating with people here as the majority strictly speaks Spanish and my “Hola” can only get me that far in a conversation. Our Spanish professor says we should be able to hold a simple conversation in spanish at the end of the second month so we will see how that goes!

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Mandatory Selfie with IPADE’s Crest

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MBA Journey 2.0 – Mexico

As an international student, moving to Washington DC for my MBA was a big and exciting new experience. I remember all the mixed emotions that I was feeling before starting this new phase in my life.

Will I like this new country and this new city?

Will I feel like an outsider?

Will I have trouble fitting in?

Will I make new friends easily?

What should I know about the culture?

Now, a year and a half later, I am going through the same scenario. Only this time, I know that it’s all going to work out somehow and I will have the adventure of a lifetime.

Prior to joining the GW MBA program, I had researched study abroad opportunities with partner universities. I’ve always had the curiosity to discover Latin American countries and GW’s partnership with IPADE school of business in Mexico City immediately caught my attention. Over the past year, I attended a couple of information sessions held by the Global & Experiential Education Office (G&EE) at GWSB regarding the study abroad opportunities and I prepared my plan accordingly. I planned to spend my last semester abroad, but also wanted to be back in DC and spend the last month before graduation seeing friends and attending GW events. Luckily, IPADE works on a trimester basis and accepts exchange students in the winter term (Jan-March) which works perfectly for me.

The school also offers very interesting elective classes so I will be taking 4 business classes and a Spanish class. The 2 classes I am most excited about and that are not taught at GWSB are Sales Force Management and Business Simulation. Over the course of the past semester I had the opportunity to chat with 2 students at GW that are on an exchange program from IPADE. They were very helpful and friendly and provided me with a lot of information to help me better plan my trip.

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Grace and Woongbi from IPADE in GWSB

I booked a cool apartment on AirBnb in the Roma Norte area for all 3 months. I plan to arrive in Mexico City on January 2nd, just 2 days before orientation as I traveled to France for my brother’s graduation and also spent the holidays with my family back home in Beirut. I have been communicating with both the G&EE office at GW and the International Students Office at IPADE to plan my exchange program. IPADE’s international student office has put me in contact with the other exchange students and I now see 33 members on our Facebook group from many different schools and countries.

I am very excited to be starting this new year in a new country and a new school. I feel like I am starting my MBA program all over again and I couldn’t be happier.

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Life Goes On

The weather is getting nice here in DC and I’m remembering how amazing the Spring is here. I’m a long way from the grey days and tons of snow in Switzerland. It’s weird how this happens but as with the last time I came home from living abroad my experience feels like it’s years ago and thousands of miles away. I have the tendency to live much more in the now.

I’ve been keeping in touch semi regularly with my friends from St. Gallen and everyone seems to still be traveling or in transit home. It’s nice to hear about their continued experiences and it always makes me want to travel more. Although I’ll always have that bug it’s nice to be back in my apartment in DC.

I’ve only been back to campus once since my return. I guess it’s only been a couple of weeks but I just got back in town after being gone for another two weeks. So typical, feeling like I’m in transit myself. I go back to California next week for a few days and then I’ll settle in and do work on the job search. I actively put that on the back burner during my experience in Switzerland and am thankful to have my days to dedicate to finding something I will enjoy.

As is customary with the ISP program it takes some time to receive our grades. I asked the Programs Office if they would rush mine because I graduate mid May and need to make sure all of my academics are in line to graduate. I’ve got more than enough credits so I am not worried about that, I just want to make sure everything is in order. It was odd to me that it normally takes almost two months to get our grades from the ISP, but it is what it is.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a GWSB student who also attended the ISP before me. She was a huge help in my decision to go to St. Gallen and was incredibly helpful throughout my time in Switzerland. I was able to connect her with some students who hope to attend HSG this coming Fall. I met with them a couple of weeks ago and they are really excited about the potential opportunity. I hope they get accepted and have a chance to experience life in St. Gallen. It will be the perfect time of year as well and I know they will enjoy it.

For me, life simply goes on. I really miss being abroad but I’ve been on the move since I got back and still haven’t had a ton of time to decompress. I hope to do that this week before I head back out West next week. Just thinking about Switzerland brings a smile to my face and continues to motivate me to search for new experiences. I look forward to hearing about the GWSB students that hope to attend this Fall. I can live vicariously through them for a few months!

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Welcome Back

It’s nice to be back Stateside. My return was anticlimactic. All of my friends are still doing the same things at the same places. Upon arrival I found that boring however that’s the comfort of home: consistency. I find comfort in the fact that things are predictable. I couldn’t say the same for when I was abroad. Constantly packing and repacking a bag at a different hotel or hostel every weekend can get old pretty quickly. I’m not complaining at all just stating the obvious.

I had multiple text conversations with the people from ISP while abroad and those have since died down. I assume some will never come back to life but others will be active now and again. This is also a side effect of traveling so much: you meet plenty of people, some of the relationships stick and few you keep in touch with over a long period of time. All of us in the ISP program were sort of thrown together into this group and asked to swim. The people in the program made it easy. We were all in the same position and needed to develop relationships out of necessity. The great thing is that many of the those relationships will develop into genuine friendships.

I ate at my favorite restaurant in DC hours after I stepped off of the plane. I didn’t sleep at all on the flight. I was pretty excited to get back home. I don’t get jet lagged often but I was jet lagged for days after coming back from Europe. I feel fine now but that surprised me. I rested for a couple of days and am back to normal.

My apartment was the exact same way that I left it and that was refreshing. Not that I expected it to be different but it had been almost four months. The neighborhood is the same, no new bars or restaurants.

It’s really amazing to think about, for the last few months my life has been moving 100mph. I felt like I had just gotten to St. Gallen and it was already time to leave. My new friends were there and then gone like a blur, but the friendships will remain. I just moved into my apartment on Rorschacherstrasse with my roommates and it was time to leave. So cliche, but time DOES fly.

I made it back to campus and into Duques Hall yesterday. It was nice to be back. I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with two first year students. They were very excited to talk about my experience at HSG in the ISP Program. They applied to go in the Fall. I’m looking forward to hearing about their adventures.

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Final Week Abroad

Today marks the final week of my time abroad. I’m having mixed feelings. In one respect I am excited to get back to the States, see family and friends, and sleep in my own bed. On the flip side I’ve met some really amazing people while at HSG, some people that I will stay in touch with in the future.

I’ve really enjoyed this experience. When I heard the presentation from the Global and Experiential Education Office during orientation at GWSB I knew that this was an experience I HAD to have. I’ve never been in Europe for an extended period of time. I’ve traveled a lot throughout my life and been to Europe many times, but never long enough to begin to understand a culture and live a normal day-to-day life. Switzerland is an amazing place with a unique and different culture from what I am used to. Something that I learned years ago was to be flexible no matter the circumstances. This helped me tremendously here as Switzerland is naturally very strict and regimented. I speak neither German nor Swiss German but I know enough to get by. Being an American here hasn’t always been easy but I have enough experience abroad that I could adapt. Being here kept me on my toes. I did new and different things on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. I will miss that  a lot.

As far as the coursework is concerned, I will absolutely miss the class discussions. We had some inspiring and bright professors matched with equally as inspiring and bright students. These people were confident and accomplished and will surely make a difference in the world in one way or another. As I mentioned, I look forward to watching their progress and staying in touch in the future. There is also a different bond formed between people going through a challenging experience. We all bonded pretty much immediately and have spent the last couple of months really getting to know one another. As I return to my comfy life in DC I need to keep in mind to continue to meet new people, challenge myself daily and have new experiences. Sadly, this is something that I forget when I get back into the swing of things at home.

Much of the coursework I have done previously but some had a different and a decidedly European spin, which I really enjoyed. Most of all I’ve benefitted from the diversity of the students in the ISP program and the slight differences in problem solving methodologies employed by different MBA programs. I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way as well from my classmates that will help me in the future. Good people here, all around.

I’ve loved the fact that I shared the same thoughts regarding travel as my classmates. Everyone here wanted to see it all and do it all, which is EXACTLY how I felt heading across the pond. There was always someone to go do something new with and I honestly can’t say the same for a majority of my friends at home. This was an action packed program. I traveled pretty much every weekend and got to see and do things that I’ve never done but wanted to do for some time. The best part: that I always had people to do these things with who were equally as adventurous as I was. I will absolutely miss this aspect however exhausting it is. I think I’ve done everything that I wanted to do. Yes it ended up being expensive, but definitely worth it.

In short, I would highly recommend studying abroad generally, but studying in St. Gallen at HSG specifically. I value international experience as a way to learn about the world and mix with different cultures. Studying abroad immediately places you in a situation to meet new people from the States and elsewhereand helps to broaden your horizons and potentially give you new and different opportunities. If I had more time at GWSB I’d do this again and I would continue to recommend that my fellow classmates do it too.

Some of the guys from ISP enjoying a sunny day in Munich

Some of the guys from ISP enjoying a sunny day in Munich

A great presentation by Bill McAndrews, Vice President of Communications Strategy, Corporate Communications for the BMW Group in Munich

A great presentation by Bill McAndrews, Vice President of Communications Strategy, Corporate Communications for the BMW Group in Munich

Having a few beers at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich

Having a few beers at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich

Had an awesome time at the Starkbierfest in Munich

Had an awesome time at the Starkbierfest in Munich

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Whirlwind Week

Wow. What a week and a half. I just got back to Switzerland this evening. From sunshine and 70 degrees to grey and 30 degrees. While I wasn’t looking forward to returning to the weather I am happy to get back to work.

Built into the ISP Program is a week off of class for all students involved, which they refer to as Travel Week. All ISP students get a chance, if they haven’t been doing so for the last couple of months, to explore Switzerland or take more time and go a bit further. Everyone took advantage of a full week off, but most of the students ended up in Portugal and Spain, as did I. I traveled with a friend of mine from the program. Being that we spend all of our time here in large groups it was a welcomed reprieve to spend time keeping it simple and hanging out.

Prior to my departure I had a pretty lax week of class. The day before I left we had two interesting site visits to Jura, a company that makes very expensive high end coffee machines (can literally make ANY coffee drink you could ever want) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). At Jura I learned that coffee machines can be a status symbol among other things. At the WEF we met with the Director of the Global Leadership Fellows, we met the current group of Fellows, and we had an interesting presentation regarding some of WEF’s work in Africa. Every topic discussed was eye-opening for me as I had little knowledge of the WEF prior to our visit. The work that the Fellows do is truly amazing and sounded interesting. The WEF holds an annual event in Davos, Switzerland (went skiing there) that essentially attracts the most influential people on Earth. It was great to hear about this past year’s WEF and some of the outcomes. I also have to mention that I am extremely interested in the Global Leadership Fellowship and will be having some follow-up conversations on that end as well.

In the week before I left I finished my Leadership in European Companies class. This was one of my favorites. I have never had more lively and insightful discussion in any classroom before. People were always opinionated and really brought their past professional experiences to bear. I now only have one class session left for International Entrepreneurship (before the exam that is) and Strategic Management. Our last class session for Strategic Management is a live strategy case with a Swiss non-profit. We will present our findings and recommendations to the client before we graduate ISP. This will surely be an enriching learning experience.

Tomorrow I begin my final elective, Global Managerial Communication. I have been looking forward to this class since arriving in Switzerland and am excited to get it underway. I hear good things about the material and the professor. The only downside is that just as quickly as we’ll begin the class we’ll be finishing in roughly 2 1/2 weeks.

It’s scary to think that I leave here so soon. I feel like it was a week or two ago that I stepped off of the train in St. Gallen. Time truly does fly when you’re having fun and I’m having plenty of that. I am going to Dublin this weekend. I’ve never been and am looking forward to going. Next week we have a site visit to BMW and then a large group of students will remain in Munich for the weekend. I LOVE Munich and have been a few times. I’ve actually visited BMW before but never had the opportunity to speak with anyone regarding the business side of the company. We dug into a BMW case in our Strategic Management class and I’m interested in exploring more about their strategy.

It’s sad to say but after Munich I am nearly homeward bound. I’ve really met some incredible students (soon to be graduates) and professors here that I am sure I will stay in touch with. It’s always good to expand your network but even better when you can call more people friends. Anyway, I’ll close with some pictures from the last couple of weeks in my travels. If it’s cold wherever you’re reading this hopefully this sunshine will warm you up!

Looking sharp in front of the WEF. Awesome day and incredible facilities overlooking Lake Geneva

Looking sharp in front of the WEF. Awesome day and incredible facilities overlooking Lake Geneva

Belem Tower in Lisbon, Portugal. First stop on Travel Week and I enjoyed a long walk on the water to get to this site.

Belem Tower in Lisbon, Portugal. First stop on Travel Week and I enjoyed a long walk on the water to get to this site.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon. Same day as Belem. Beautiful architecture

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon. Same day as Belem. Beautiful architecture

Dona Ana Beach in Lagos, Portugal. One of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been to.

Dona Ana Beach in Lagos, Portugal. One of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to.

Day to trip to Granada while I was in Sevilla. Spent a few hours touring the Alhambra

Day to trip to Granada while I was in Sevilla. Spent a few hours touring the Alhambra

Sunset over the Puerto de Malaga in southern Spain. Perfect way to end a perfect week.

Sunset over the Puerto de Malaga in southern Spain. Perfect way to end a perfect week.

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Week 5 – Approaching Travel Week/Halfway Point

I’ve had a slow couple of weeks. While my entire course load is in full swing my classes are spread out. This is because many of the professors are also working, some in other countries. Additionally, the undergrads are currently on a two week break after exams and the MBA program finished yesterday. All in all a quiet time in St. Gallen.

It’s been difficult to get into a rhythm with classes because they are so few and far between. I have roughly a month in between class session for some courses. The work load isn’t incredibly demanding but it’s an exercise in itself to reprogram your mind for a specific subject having no interaction with the material for a month.

We’ve started all of our group work and I enjoy getting to know people in a more intimate work environment. The ISP program is very diverse so there is a great mix of cultures in the teams. The teams also differ from class to class so I have the opportunity to work closely with many of my classmates. There are some language barriers, which I’ve experienced both professionally and at GWSB so it’s nothing difficult to overcome. What I’ve learned is that many of the B Schools represented here have similar ways of attacking challenges, meaning frameworks and methodologies. This makes the group work flow well. The only things you have to manage are the different personalities and work styles of your teammates, which can be a task. We have presentations in every class and some are more detailed than others but the exercise is much the same. We started our Corporate Governance class last week and it will definitely be one that I enjoy. I have yet to start my final elective, Global Managerial Communication. I hear great things about this class and am looking forward to getting started.

As per usual I’ve been traveling a lot. I spent this past weekend back in Austria at St. Anton. It’s an absolutely massive group of resorts. A group of us hired a guide on Saturday to take us off piste for the day. It was the best snow I’ve ever skied but also kind of terrifying. The terrain out here, as I’ve mentioned before, is extreme. We had a blast getting to know our guide and exploring the mountains. Definitely recommend this for anyone traveling to the Swiss Alps in general. It’s worth cruising around with someone who knows the mountain well then trying to figure it out it on your own. Unfortunately, avalanches have been a huge concern over the last few weeks because it’s been relatively warm and snowing a ton.

We are approaching the halfway point of the program. Well, I guess this week is technically the halfway point but we begin our Travel Week next week. We have roughly a week off of school. Everyone in the program is going to explore somewhere. I was thinking about going skiing but I decided to go for warmer temperatures and am heading to Portugal and Spain for about two weeks. I’ve been to Spain a couple of times before but never Portugal. I am traveling with one of my friends from the ISP program. I’m excited to check out a new country, culture and people. I don’t think seeing the sun every day will hurt either, it’s overcast and grey here A LOT.

I’ll wrap up with some pics of last week. Enjoy!

The Austrian Alps. View from Stuben

The Austrian Alps. View from Stuben

Following our guide, Fresh Tracks Toni, into the great abyss

Following our guide, Fresh Tracks Toni, into the great abyss

Attended the largest ski race in the world, The Hahnenkamm, in Kitzbuhel, Austria a couple of weekends ago. Wild time...

Attended the largest ski race in the world, The Hahnenkamm, in Kitzbuhel, Austria a couple of weekends ago. Wild time…

stopped in Innsbruck for the night after leaving Kitzbuhel

stopped in Innsbruck for the night after leaving Kitzbuhel

Believe it or not we do have class sometimes. Completing some group work in Strategic Management

Believe it or not we do have class sometimes. Completing some group work in Strategic Management

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