Study Abroad in South America

Monday, June 20, 2016

One of my favorite experiences in business school has been the study aboard component. I chose to take a class that focused on South American and was called “Marketing in the Mayhem: Why Chile Thrives and How Argentina Tries.” I was excited to learn more about why two countries that are so close geographical are so different economically. In our class leading up to the trip we learned that many of these differences were driven by their global trade policies. While this all sounded interesting on paper, I was excited to see how these economic choices would manifest on the streets on Buenos Aires and Santiago.


I had been previously to Chile for a couple of days, but I had never been to Argentina. In Buenos Aires I had visions of European architecture and fashion forward Argentines strutting down the street. Argentina, particularly Buenos Aires, had always been portrayed as stylish and modern, one of the largest cities of South America. This, however, was not exactly true. It was clear that its closed trade economy had made it difficult for the country to develop and prosper. Chile on the other hand was nicer than I expected, and truly blew me away in terms of its beauty and modern conveniences. It was not until this class that my perceptions changed, particularly driven my deeper understanding of the political and economic histories of each country. 

River views

Of the 20+ companies we visited, our visit to 3M Argentina was the most eye opening in terms of the challenges of doing business in Argentina (particularly as a multinational company). Our visit was led by the country business leader for 3M’s industrial products in Argentina. He expressed the daily struggles he faces doing business in a country with a consistently devaluing and unstable currency.  He told stories of not being able to meet his US goals due to large currency devaluation. On a positive note, he talked about the many efficiencies and innovation opportunities he has by being a regional arm of such a large company. He also shared that 3M had broader, strategic reasons to do business in South America beyond profit, such as having access to powerhouse countries such as Brazil. These and other reasons really helped us to understand the very real complexities of doing business abroad, but also how important it is to look outside your own backyard for ideas and innovation.

I can honestly say I have a much deeper understanding of how much a country’s trade policy impacts its people, businesses and profitability after this class and trip. I also realized how much more interconnected and reliant businesses are on their governments. Governments can do great things to help an economy grow (as seen by Chile) but they can also make decisions that make doing business very difficult. 

Not only will I take away these important business lessons, but more importantly I will take the memories with my friends and classmates as we got to know and explore new cultures, cuisines and people.

Group Picture