Short Abroad Experience, Big Impact
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Some lessons just can’t be learned in a classroom. For Full Time MBA student Izaak Mendoza, it took flying nearly 6,000 miles to Argentina and Uruguay to truly understand how to see varying points of view on an issue.
“Throughout the trip, I got much better at putting on different hats and seeing things from different perspectives,” Mendoza, who is set to graduate this spring, says. “That is something that’s vastly crucial. You can do it [in a classroom] to an extent but to be able to experience it and work through it was incredible for me.”
Mendoza joined 18 classmates on a recent two-week program to the neighboring South American countries as part of the “Marketing in the Mayhem’ course, which analyzes marketing strategies, market conditions and cultural impacts on businesses. It’s offered through the Carlson Global Institute.
With a background in Latin American policy and media production and a solid grasp on the Spanish language, Mendoza was immediately drawn to Werner’s South American-focused course.
“This was a perfect opportunity for me,” says Mendoza, who is also pursuing a Masters in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “It was an awesome way to think about how other cultures view advertising, marketing, and other business topics you don’t think about every day like restrictions on trade imports.”
Mendoza and his classmates explored the differences in marketing and business practices in the two neighboring countries. For instance, inflation is a major barrier for a lot of businesses in Argentina where prices fluctuate so much they aren’t printed on food menus, whereas the currency in Uruguay is relatively stable in comparison.
While on the ground, Mendoza and others had the opportunity to visit businesses of all shapes and sizes, from 3M’s Argentina headquarters to small Airbnb rentals in the rural countryside. They saw first-hand the differences in business and consumer practices across cultures.
“Being able to put on that [different] lens and see things from that perspective is important, whether you’re selling frozen pizzas or mass-producing adhesives like 3M,” says Mendoza.
A first-generation college student, he joined the Full-Time MBA program to get these kinds of eye-opening experiences along with the strategic management skills needed to reach his ultimate career goal: being a U.S. foreign service officer or diplomat.
The program to Argentina and Uruguay allowed him to put some of his skills to the test. As one of three Spanish speakers in the class, Mendoza served as a translator and a guide at times.
“Cultural adaptability is really important,” he says. “A stressor at first for a lot of my classmates was the language barrier. But as the trip went on, I saw a lot of them openly embracing it and developing this curiosity and this ambition to try to move past that in a genuine way.”
Another challenge for the group: their schedule. In Argentina, dinner time is often 9 p.m. or later and staying out well past midnight is a regular occurrence. But, the course’s schedule was full, with each day starting at 8 a.m.
“We were on ‘Carlson time,’” says Mendoza, who has a job lined up post-graduation in global brand management.
Ultimately, Mendoza, like every student who takes part in an international experience at the Carlson School, learned valuable skills he says he’ll carry with him throughout his entire career.
“Employers want a diversity of thoughts and perspectives,” he says. “If you are well-traveled and can speak to not only the business side of profits and losses, but also things such as regulations, trade policy, and the economics of different cultures, it makes you highly marketable in a way that stands out from the rest.