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Executive MBA students learn international business firsthand

The students studied abroad in China this summer and met with corporate partners there.

EMBA students in China

This summer, USF Executive MBA students learned the realities of how international business operates -- from seeing the smog and rapid development in Beijing to hearing stories of international entrepreneurship.

The trip was designed to increase the students' understanding of how the global economy affects their industries and jobs. They visited Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai, touring local branches of international companies such as KPMG, Nielsen, Jabil, FE Sourcing, MedEq, and Qualcomm, and seeing the local sights.

"It was kind of affirming to go to these places," said Stephen Durst, an executive MBA student who works for the U.S. Navy. "They have the same concerns that U.S. companies have: working with government regulations and trying to make your products better than anyone else."

Although Durst is no stranger to worldwide travel due to his time in the military, he said he also enjoyed taking in the local culture, from seeing the vertical skylines of the cities to walking the Great Wall.

"The Great Wall is a wonder of the world, and you hear about it, you read about it, and to actually go and take pictures on it is a great experience," he said.

MBA Program Director Irene Hurst said the immersion in the cultural experiences combined with the business learning are the reasons the international trip is such an integral part of the executive MBA program.

"Even though students are exposed to great diversity in the MBA programs at USF, traveling to another country specifically to see how international companies do business is eye-opening for everyone," Hurst said. "Learning international business and relations from reading, discussions and lectures become alive and rich when they can experience firsthand how they actually are done."

Marta Rodriguez, another student on the trip, said her takeaway was similar to Durst's: international business is less about differences between countries and more about commonalities.

"I have to admit, it just made the world so much smaller for me," she said. "We're all very similar in many different ways, especially when it comes to doing business."

Rodriguez, who owns an insurance company, said she enjoyed hearing stories from international businesspeople about their entrepreneurship and the decisions they had made throughout their careers. It made her feel that if the founder of contract manufacturing company FE Sourcing could start an international company from the ground up, she could find investors for her insurance company. She said the trip made her realize that she was holding herself back with doubt.

"I think the one thing I will probably keep forever is I can look at every choice and approach a little bit more at ease," she said. "You always have doubt, and everybody has that doubt. The thing is to just do it."

For more photos of the trip, visit the USF College of Business Facebook page.