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World Class

An oral history of the 2015 Global Business Study Abroad

The busy colorful streets of Bangkok were unlike anything Kim Haymond had ever seen before. Navigating the muggy city in lurching tuk tuks, she and her Global Business Study Abroad group had an itinerary dotted with bucket-list adventures like riding elephants and exploring ancient temples.

Amid this exotic backdrop, Haymond, a global supply-chain student, half expected the group’s visit to a Nike apparel factory to feel just as foreign. But she felt oddly at home.

“It surprised me because Bangkok was so different, but the business felt familiar to other businesses we had seen,” Haymond says. “It made it seem more realistic for me to actually travel and work in different places.”

Now in its second year, the Global Business Study Abroad annually takes forty BYU undergrads around the world in four weeks, stopping to tour businesses and sample culture in seven countries across three continents. Along the way, students test their aptitude for living abroad while gaining invaluable international business experience.

Follow the adventures—and mishaps—of the 2015 trip as the students and program directors share in their own words how circling the globe proved to be the ultimate crash course in business education.

Days 1-5 London

Students began their trip in a city more familiar than foreign for a good reason: “They were getting their feet under them,” says program director and business management professor Scott Webb, who led the students through London’s financial district, with stops at the London Stock Exchange and Barclays Bank. Their feet did have a bit to complain about—some students clocked their daily mileage between fourteen and twenty miles per day as they walked the historic city.

Barclays Bank

“While visiting Barclays Bank, I was really struck by the fact that many people high up in the company are foreigners willing to travel and live outside of the United States. Life doesn’t necessarily revolve around working in the home country or the city you were born in.”
—Matt Dale, Pre-Management

Baby Blitz

“The royal baby had just been born when we landed in London, so I stalked Kensington Palace waiting to see Pippa, Kate Middleton’s sister, arrive. I talked with the British people outside the palace who were as excited about Pippa coming as I was. I’m kind of obsessed.”
—Kaitlin Kelly, Exercise Science

Financial District

“We discussed how a very large and prosperous bank was considering moving out of the London area. If the bank decided to move, it could have disastrous effects on the economy. The world is constantly shifting markets, and businesses want to move where there is the most growth. This leaves countries at risk of losing the business that makes their market stable.”
—Becca Broderick, Accounting

Foot Pain

“We had a lot of sore feet and blisters. In the United States, if we want to go somewhere we jump in our car. In London you find the nearest Tube, and you walk all day long. It’s good for you.”
—Scott Webb, Program Director

Hidden Gem

“We talked to a London native and asked him where we should go eat. He told us to go to an area called Shoreditch—it was great, not a lot of tourists. It had cool spray-painting murals all over the walls.”
—McKenzi McDonald, Global Supply Chain

Word Choice

“It was really weird asking for the toilet the first several times because it seemed so blunt and not very polite.”
—Miriam Cowley, Global Supply Chain

Itinerary Highlights


Tower of London • Westminster Abbey • Barclay's Bank • Chelsea Football Stadium • London Stock Exchange

Days 6-10 Prague

While Prague is one of the few major European cities untouched by the bombs of World War II, it’s still recovering from scars of the past. “It wasn’t that long ago that they emerged from communism,” Webb says. “We visited a high-end crystal factory that really had to reestablish itself”—a process requiring the family who started the company to buy it back from the state and regrow the brand, which is now known all over the world for its beautiful handmade crystal.

Unexpected Beauty

“It was one of the most beautiful countries. When you first get to downtown Prague, there is a big river in front of Prague Castle with a city skyline and rolling green hills in the background. We got there right at sunset.”
—Jordan Egbert, Economics

Good Eats

“They have these desserts called trdelnik that I’ve craved ever since I left. They are almost like a long cinnamon roll. They wrap the dough around a rolling pin, cook it, and then dust it with sugar and line the inside with Nutella. I had a good number of those.”
—Mike Holman, Accounting

Prague College

“Prague College is based in the United Kingdom, but it has relocated to Prague because the cost of living is so much cheaper; students can get a high-quality education and live a little better.”
—Scott Webb, Program Director

Job Market

“As far as understanding the business of a country, Prague College was one of the best visits. I asked one of the students there, ‘What’s your plan? Are you going to move back to London?’ He said ‘Well, if I move back to London, my only goal is to try and get a job.’ Prague has a lot more free market. It’s not uncommon for people to start businesses, and he said that was more of a possibility if he decided to stay.”
—Mike Holman, Accounting

Rückl Crystal Factory

“After visiting the factory I realized one of its problems: it is really hard to differentiate your products in the glass business. To the untrained eye, handmade glass looks similar to cheap knockoffs. The cost differential between the high-quality and low-quality products is huge, and that is part of the reason the glass factory is struggling.”
—Eric Banks, Finance

Itinerary Highlights

River-Boat Cruise • John Lennon Wall • Prague College • RÜCKL Crystal Factory • Prague Castle

Days 11-15 Rome

Flexibility is key to travel, and the group needed it most in Rome. They arrived to find crowds clamoring for a sight of the pope, delaying their plans for hours. On the way out, a metro strike had them scrambling for a ride to the airport—where their departing terminal had burned down. The monitors in the foreign airport were unhelpful, so the group tracked down the right flight by watching incoming planes land. “You have to be ready for the curveballs that are thrown at you,” says Matt Relei, a marketing senior. “In life and in business, nothing ever is going to go exactly by plan.”

Popemobile

“We got to listen to an address on the importance of family from Pope Francis. Some of us got five feet away from him; we were able to take selfies as he drove by.”
—Matt Relei, Marketing

Power of Art

“In the Sistine Chapel there are several guards who try to maintain quiet and reverence. You’re surrounded with depictions of stories we read in the scriptures, knowing you’re sitting in front of something created by Michelangelo. It didn’t feel real.”
—Tony Bertolino, Marketing

Perugina Chocolate Factory

“The Italian people thrive off of fulfilling customers’ needs and delivering the best. I was impressed with the Perugina Chocolate Factory and the consistency of its products. It made me realize that profit is important but delivering an exceptional product is vital.”
—Matt Dale, Premanagement

Sunny Streets

“On the way to PwC we got very toasty. We were all in our business suits and had to walk in the heat through the business district of Rome. We were sweaty by the time we got to the building. We went up to one of the top levels and got a beautiful view of the whole city. Then they gave us cold water before we had a presentation from two of PwC’s consultants.”
—Tony Bertolino, Marketing

PwC Rome

“The representatives walked us through real projects they had worked on for PwC, one of which was a consulting job where they helped the city of Rome save $400 million in one year.”
—Tom Christensen, Information Systems

Gelato, Gelato, Gelato

“Nothing was more beautiful or captivating in Italy than the country’s delicious gelato. We had at least four servings a day. I regret nothing.”
—Sierra Baker, Public Relations

Itinerary Highlights

The Vatican • Sistine Chapel • Venice • Assisi • PwC Rome • St. Peter's Basilica • Pantheon • Colosseum • Perugina Chocolate Factory

Days 16-20 Athens

Sparkling Mediterranean beaches marked a nice change of pace. “We had sun and warmth and music and good food,” says Carolee Corbett, assistant program director. “Gelato morning, noon, and night. And gyros.” Students connected the dots along a global supply chain with a visit to a port in Athens and saw firsthand the signs of a struggling economy. Katelyn Strobel, an economics student, recalls chatting with a restaurant owner about the situation: “She smiled and said, ‘It is bad, but we in Greece are not bad. I just keep working.’”

Party All Night

“At night you could hear everyone on the streets because Greek people tend to stay up late; it’s common for them to be out until midnight or later, chatting or having a nice dinner. They also had mandolins playing late into the night.”
—Becca Broderick, Accounting

Ancient Architecture

“Visiting the Parthenon may have been my favorite visit of the entire trip. Learning about how architecturally advanced the building was blew my mind. It was erected two thousand years ago, and we are still trying to understand how the Greeks built it.”
—Eric Banks, Finance

Paul’s Footsteps

“I hiked up to Mars Hill and watched the sunrise while reading scriptures. It was so cool to read about Paul while sitting right where he had once been. I will remember it as one of the best mornings of my entire life.”
—Sierra Baker, Public Relations

Piraeus Port Authority

“It was fantastic to see the shipping yards and learn about the port’s role in many international supply chains. Even more amazing was seeing the incredible computer programming they implemented in order to make everything run smoothly. Good business really does need good computer systems.”
—Alec Taylor, Premanagement

Curiosity Piqued

“There is so much detail that goes into working at a port because they are in charge of products that go all over the world. This was a business that I had no interest in at first, but by the end I was dying to know more.”
—Kim Haymond, Global Supply Chain

Changing Market

“With so many businesses going under in Greece, it is the core businesses like shipping and ports, which have been around since the beginning of time, that are still around.”
—Alison Brady, Accounting

Itinerary Highlights

Parthenon • Acropolis • Mars Hill • Greek Isles Cruise on the Aegean Sea • Piraeus Port Authority

Days 21-24 Johannesburg

South Africa is emerging as a first-world economy. “Johannesburg is positioning itself as the business center of Africa,” Webb says. After an eleven-hour flight, students jumped right into a long day of business tours. “You think of China as being the big market,” adds Jordan Egbert, an economics student, “but Africa has a lot of potential. At Cummins—a billion-dollar company—they explained that most of their sales were within Africa. There’s a lot of opportunity there.”

Meeting the Locals

“The locals were singing and dancing all over the place in Soweto, and the BYU kids were not shy. They just joined in.”
—Carolee Corbett, Assistant Program Director

Jungle King

“We had to leave for the safari super early in the morning—I woke up enough so I could see the sunrise. It looked just like The Lion King. We saw a crocodile, a giraffe, and a zebra. We also saw a lion—well, it was really just a speck on the hill, and we couldn’t tell if it was a rock or a lion. It supposedly moved.”
—Becca Broderick, Accounting

Poaching Lesson

“Most of the students are dedicated now to saving the rhino; they never realized how much of an issue poaching was. After the safari we went to a village where they talked about how the rhinos are going extinct. It was really touching because the students had seen the animals in the wild that day.”
—Scott Webb, Program Director

Living Color

“Businesses in Johannesburg are required to incorporate South African culture into their business, so many have big colorful murals on the sides of the buildings. To me, this brought a lot of spunk to the city.”
—Nathan Radmall, Computer Science

Cummins South Africa

“I think what made the business visit so amazing when we toured Cummins South Africa was Skyla, our guide. Her lesson—that we can all be CEOs if we’ll work like one—was a lesson that will stick with me.”
—Tom Christensen, Information Systems

Growth Potential

“Everyone we spoke with was extremely optimistic about the economic growth. Having the opportunity to be involved in a country that has so much growth potential is very enticing.”
—Eric Banks, Finance

Itinerary Highlights

Wildlife Safari • Lesedi Cultural Village • Soweto • Nelson Mandela House • Cummins South Africa • Cullinan Diamond Mine

Days 25-29 Bangkok

In Bangkok students caught a glimpse of Asian mass-production manufacturing at a Nike factory and learned about international relations from expats at the US embassy. After close encounters with exotic jungle animals like elephants and baby tigers, students took their business skills to the streets, learning how to haggle like locals at the markets. “I tried to pay at least 60 percent less than what they asked for,” says McKenzi McDonald, a global supply-chain student. “It’s a lot of fun. We learn about negotiations in class, and we got to use those skills to get good prices.”

Elephant Walk

“My elephant didn’t acknowledge that I was on its neck until we went in the water—it would fill its trunk up and spray my face. That was kind of gross.”
—Kaitlin Kelly, Exercise Science

Sweat Express

“When we arrived in Thailand, it was so hot and humid I thought I was in a steam room. I was amazed at how people were just going about their day while I was pouring sweat. Once I accepted that I’d constantly be feeling the heat, I enjoyed walking around.”
—Miriam Cowley, Global Supply Chain

US Embassy

“An expat spoke to us at the embassy. Hearing from American businesspeople in different countries about their experiences living abroad really stood out to me. I wanted to work abroad before, but this trip reinforced my desire.”
—Jordan Egbert, Economics

Tropical Views

“We took a train ride through some farmland, and everywhere you looked there would be mountains in the distance. They looked so mysterious and majestic. The ones farther away seemed to fade into the clouds. The green fields and tropical trees seemed to stretch out forever.”
—China Lau, Premanagement

Nike Apparel Factory

“When we were there the factory was cranking out Barcelona jerseys. When I think of mass production, I usually think of machines, but actually there were several individuals with sewing machines who were responsible for sewing one part of the jersey at a time. In the past Nike has had a rough time with its factories, but this was pristine. It pleased me as a Nike fan to see how well they’re taking care of the facility and the workers.”
—Mike Holman, Accounting

Itinerary Highlights

Elephant Rides • Wat Saket Temple • Street Markets • Nike Apparel Factory • US Embassy

Days 30-34 Beijing

On their final stop of the trip, the students dipped their toes into one of the world’s largest markets—and struggled through their steepest cultural barriers—eventually summiting the Great Wall of China. “We climbed up to the highest the wall goes, and the view was just incredible,” Jordan Egbert says. “The Great Wall is up in the mountains, and it was beautiful. Getting to the top brought a sense of accomplishment. It was a cool way to end the trip together.”

Tourist Attractions

“It seemed like we could go several days without seeing another foreigner. Every time we turned around, there would be another Chinese person asking to take a picture with us. It was fun being a complete novelty.”
—Tony Bertolino, Marketing

Rush Hour

“In Beijing there is no personal space. You get on the metro and you think no one else can get on there, and then it stops and another hundred people pack in.”
—Scott Webb, Program Director

Walk in the Park

“One morning we went to a park. There were people working out, doing tai chi, and playing a Hacky Sack–type game—it kind of looks like a birdie with feathers on it that they hit with their feet. A couple of us walked into a game, and they told us to play with them. In Europe it felt like no one wanted us around, but in Asia they loved Americans and thought it was cool we visited.”
—McKenzi McDonald, Global Supply Chain

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Plant

“The cars are put on a conveyer belt. They keep moving down the line, where workers will add one item or screw in something until it reaches the point where there is an entire car and someone has to get in and drive it off the conveyor belt.”
—Becca Broderick, Accounting

NBA China

“Basketball is huge in China. They love Yao Ming; he’s a hero. Their favorite teams are the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The NBA does two exhibition games in China for marketing purposes, and the number of viewers is equivalent to all the views in the United States for an NBA finals game.”
—Matt Relei, Marketing

Itinerary Highlights

Great Wall • Pearl Market • Acrobat Show • Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Plant • Forbidden City • NBA CHINA

_

Article written by Sara D. Smith

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