Wharton EMBA Students Reflect on International Trips

Wharton EMBA students just returned from their international trips to Russia (East Coast class) and China (West Coast class). All told, the trips were eye-opening business education mixed with a lot of fun.

During their visits to Russian corporations, Sonali Chakravorti, WG’09, was impressed with Igor Yurgens, first vice president of Renaissance Capital, saying, “I was captured by his presentation of the current Russian political climate. As a close advisor to President Medvedev, I was surprised by his candor in discussing his thoughts on NATO, the current U.S. administration, and the conflict with Georgia. After his presentation, I left feeling like I had a better understanding of the political dynamics.”

“The insights gained from all of the speakers were tremendous. I don’t think we could have gained such a perspective on Russian businesses any other way,” says Chakravorti.

“Also, I definitely became closer with many of my classmates on the trip — it was a bonding experience to see how to get 20 people into a restaurant or club. It was great spending time together outside of the classroom.”

Fellow second year EMBA student Clement Pappas agrees that bonding with his fellow students was a highlight of the trip to Russia.

“We had a lot of fun together doing everything from visiting museums and tourist attractions and shopping to going out to dinners, clubs and casinos,” says Pappas. “I wound up spending time with a lot of people that I didn’t normally hang out with and made new friends in the class, which was great.”

While East Coast students went to Russia, Wharton West students visited Beijing and Shanghai. Second-year student Keith Shea shares an anecdote about bartering in the street markets, a story that became thematic for the class.

“It was my experience participating in the local markets that earned me the ‘You crazy!’ compliment. As I got a handle on negotiating for different ’genuine’ goods, I realized that I was starting to get somewhere with my bid when the sales person would dramatically exclaim, ‘You crazy!’  From there, we would run a modified Dutch auction between competing vendors to ensure ourselves the best possible price.  As a result, I am now the proud owner of a ‘genuine’ Rolex.

“As you might imagine, our class adopted the ’You crazy!’ mantra as we continued our exploration of this exciting country. Among the many things that might earn a ‘You crazy!’ during our trip was eating snake, paying $2 for a 25-minute cab ride, having a custom tailored suit made in under 24 hours for less than $100, being stung by a sea urchin, taking a ski-lift up to the Great Wall of China, hearing a U.S.-educated McKinsey partner tell us that the U.S. economy is in a nose dive and will be quickly eclipsed by China, and having drinks on the 87th floor of the Jin Mao tower.”

Fellow Wharton West student Jan VandenHengel talked about aspects of the trip he found hilarious and profound.

“For me, the profound involved meetings with some of the most influential and powerful people in China. Some quite literally reported to the prime minister in roles equivalent to or higher than U.S. senators,” says VandenHengel. “Waiting to meet the chairman of the China Investment Corporation, we listened to ‘Hotel California’ over the meeting room’s PA system, which was both hilarious and profound.

And Jonathan Alcabes remarks on the intensity of Shanghai.  “One company visit which really struck me was our visit to Nike China.  Meeting with their VP of Marketing for the region, we were enlightened by the new attitudes and trends toward individualism in Chinese youth today.  Chinese kids are playing more sports, listening to more edgy music, and are creating art and expressing themselves like never before.  They are seen walking the streets with their headphones on, playing ball in the playground, and celebrating iconic figures such as sports and music stars – none of this would have been seen even ten years ago.

“We closed our trip to Shanghai with a trip to the Bund, the central waterfront area of the city lined with restaurants, clubs, and bars.  My classmates and I celebrated the first stop on our trip by toasting our drinks from an attractive roof bar overlooking the brilliant Shanghai skyline.”

It sounds like everyone enjoyed great trips. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

To learn more about the international seminar, go to: http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/mbaexecutive/academics/curriculum/international.cfm