Today’s class marked a very important milestone of the semester; we would be giving our last presentation of the year. After counting up the numerous presentations we have done over the past weeks, I realized this was going to be our seventh presentation. Seventh. Not many MBA or graduate programs can say they have given seven presentations in one 15-week class, let alone an undergraduate program. Since we have practically spent this entire semester in front of our peers presenting and the last presentation we gave was our 20-minute final group export project, this 5-minute one seemed like child’s play.
We had approximately 3-5 minutes to present on the individual interest topic we chose about Brazil. The presentation would then be followed by everyone’s favorite pastime: 2-minute hot-seat Q & A interrogating the presenter about his or her topic. Everyone got these topics cleared at the beginning of the year and have been slowly gathering information for this presentation all semester. The purpose of these individual short presentations was to educate the class on a variety of topics that will be essential to know when we step off the plane in Manaus. Some of the topics included were: the history of the rubber industry, the Brazilian business culture, the Manaus Free Trade Zone, special holidays in Brazil, the stock index, Japanese culture in Brazil, Prime Equipment, the Brazilians’ view on Americans, Afro- Brazilian culture and the presidential election. We had no restrictions when choosing our topic; it only had to be relevant to our travels to Manaus.
The vibe in the class was more laid back than normal and this is probably attributed to the fact that this was our seventh presentation and we were well equipped with what kinds of questions could be thrown at us. Also, we got to choose our own topics so we were 100% confident and comfortable with the topic. Even though we did not get through everyone’s presentations this week and some people will have to go next week, this class seemed like the pretty bow that seals the nicely wrapped package. Following the end of each presentation, Mr. Sword asked the presenter questions, but they were more opinion- based and not as technical as in the week’s past. After one was finished presenting, they received feedback not just about that specific presentation, but comments about how they performed throughout the entire semester. The students appreciated being recognized for the hard work they had put into preparing for their many presentations: the countless hours spent in the Mason study rooms researching and preparing with their group, gathering knowledge about their individual interest topic on their own time and managing the intentional vagueness with instructions, which at times could be challenging.
After everything is said and done, the presentations are complete, our nine- day trip to Manaus is over and we start a new and fresh semester, I know for a fact that the students of the EMGL will take everything they have learned from this class and apply it to their future endeavors. They will be able to successfully handle bosses that say, “Make a presentation about the potential market in “insert country here”. You present on Monday!” They will not just “successfully handle” the situation, but surpass the expectations of their superiors and be one more step ahead of their peers; the students can thank The Ohio State University and The Fisher College of Business, but especially the Emerging Market Global Lab to Brazil for that.
When the presenter starts with the disclaimer, “This information is not intended to scare you!” you know you are in for quite an interesting presentation. This is exactly what happened to the students of the EMGL to Manaus, Brazil yesterday evening. Dru Simmons, the International Risk Manager for The Ohio State University, came to our class to debrief us on all of the different scenarios we could encounter in Brazil; from the rare disease of chickengunya, a mosquito- born illness that is becoming more prevalent in South America, to alcohol and drug safety in Brazil. One would think this information would be dry and hard to sit through, but Simmons included a multitude of anecdotes that broke up the information and made it more extremely interesting. We learned about what the responsibilities of the Department of States Program are and what they are required to do in case there is an emergency in country. Simmons also advised us to dress down and not wear jewelry in public. To supplement this advice, Simmons illustrated how imperative it is when he told the short story of a woman who was being interviewed on the street of Rio about the street crime that was rampant there, and while she was in mid-sentence, someone came up and ripped the necklace right off of her neck!
Simmons also encouraged us to invest in a money belt, so the money we carry on us is not visible to the public eye. Furthermore, he noted that there are a good number of credit card scams in Brazil, so we need to make sure we are monitoring our account while in- country to watch out for fraudulent activity. One of Simmons’ closing suggestions was to never ever under any circumstances leave a person behind. Even if they are being a drag or are not interested in what the group is doing, they should never be left alone. One point was made very clear in that the group sticks together.
As Simmons was wrapping up his spiel, Zach Grammel, the Program Coordinator for The Office of Global Business at OSU, jumped up to start his presentation about more specifics of our Brazil trip. He split the class into guy and girl groups as people exchanged curious looks thinking they were back at elementary school recess about to be selected for dodge ball teams- boys versus girls. It turns out that our task was to create a packing list in 3 minutes of exactly what we are going to take to Brazil. The girls came up with more items, but the boys ultimately won the challenge because they quantified what they are bringing i.e. two pairs of dress pants, three leisure shirts etc. Grammel expressed how small our flight would be by displaying a photo of the inside of the airplane and you could hear whispers throughout the room. Mr. Sword took this opportunity to urge the class not to be selfish and only bring one light suitcase, so no one would hold the class behind when we arrive in-country.
At the end of class, we went over some of the planned events that we will be doing in Brazil and after hearing about chickengunya diseases and high street crime rates for the last hour, one could visibly notice the morale of the students pick up. Everyone is very excited about the trip and some overly enthusiastic students even started a countdown on their phone. In case anyone was wondering, the Emerging Market Global Lab class to Brazil will be on a plane to the Amazon in 29 days 17 hours 1 minute and 10 seconds from this very moment!
On Tuesday night, as the majority of the student population at Ohio State is gearing up for Mirror Lake jump or is already snuggled up by the fire at their house for Thanksgiving break, the students of the Emerging Market Global Lab class to Brazil are preparing for their last round of presentations. They welcome a surprise guest who was a past food export intern for Mr. Sword at the Ohio Development Service Agency. His name is Eric Krohngold and he now works for Oracle in Houston, Texas doing a myriad of tasks that involve information technology and software. He offered invaluable advice to the students about life after college and how to keep persevering until you land that first job. Krohngold also emphasized how important LinkedIn is for your professional life. “I thought LinkedIn was just for people who wore their cell phones on their belt buckle during high school, but I was wrong!” He told the class chuckling.
Students also took this opportunity to ask him questions about the interview process or what it was like transitioning from college life to “real-world life.” When asked why he chose to work for Oracle in Houston, Texas, he said, “Honestly, because it was the one job I thought I could not do. If you are not constantly learning and pushing yourself to do more, then you need to find a new job.” He commented on the interview process and mentioned that he glances at a candidate’s resume, but also focuses on who the person is as a human being. “Could I get along with them at the office? Do they have hobbies outside of work? These are key factors when choosing to hire someone.”
With our heads now full of wisdom from someone who has not only walked the walk, but has talked the talk, the final two groups prepare for their last presentation. The first group up was the 3-D printing group and they impressed the class with their silent video playing in the background showing the 3-D printer in action. Some comments they received at the conclusion of their presentation were that they were more nervous than in their previous presentations. They defended this remark by saying they cared so much about the project and had worked so hard at it that they wanted to perform well, which is very understandable. Mr. Sword also commented that some information seemed to be missing that was in previous presentations and they reasoned that they did not put this information in because they had said it in a previous presentation.
The last group to go was the baby formula group. They started off with a skit in a grocery store with a baby doll trying to find the best baby formula. The feedback they got about this is that it is OK in a classroom setting, but would not bode well in an executive boardroom. They were also questioned about the competitor’s for their baby formula in Brazil. Were they American brands? Were they Brazilian Brands? The group struggled to give a clear answer and might have clouded the audience’s understanding even more. Some overall advice that was given to all of the groups was to have additional slides that you do not present, so when someone asks a specific question you can pull this slide up and show that you had thought about that very same topic. Also, another tip was to present the answer and then give the justification. If you keep justifying your reasoning throughout the whole presentation, then the answer is pretty anti-climatic.
At the conclusion of class when everyone was packing up to leave class and drive or fly home to visions of grandma’s homemade pecan pie and delectable green bean casserole, I know I speak for the whole class when I say, I am thankful for the experiences gained in the EMGL; dealing with ambiguous directions and learning not only how to absorb constructive criticism, but how to apply it and improve yourself in the future. The class can sleep easy in the coming days of break knowing that they can face critiques and move forward and for that I am eternally grateful.
The last Portuguese Language Lab was held tonight and it went over a useful topic: numbers. I began the class like any other and went over a scenario in which student would be shopping in Manaus and would need to greet the shop owner to ask him/her how much something costs.
I thought is would be a bit dry to teach students the numbers 0 to 100 by just writing them on the board, so I incorporated two Youtube videos which had a native speaker slowly enunciates each number while students repeated after her. In the first video for example, the speaker went over 0-20 which is usually the most challenging for learners because you need this base in order to say bigger numbers.
In order to encourage retention, I had my peers turn around from the board while they randomly tell me Portuguese numbers. Most of the time they found it easy to recite the numbers due to the similarities with Spanish (most students took Spanish in high school), but at times the pronunciation did confuse them. For example, the numbers três, quatro, cinco, and seis (three, four, five and six) have basically the same pronunciation as Spanish since they are both Romance languages, but there are some differences such as with sete, oito, nove and dez (seven, eight, nine, and ten).
The second video went over how to count from 20-100. It was simple because students only have to know the tens (20, 30, 40, 50, etc.) and the base numbers from 1 to 9 in order to form numbers. We practiced this by counting around the table from 0 to 100 as each person said one number. A number like 43 would be translated as “40 and three” or “quarenta e três“. After each video students were then able to go back to the conversation and practice saying something costing seventeen reals or “dezesete reais”.
All in all, my experience as a Language Tutor was very beneficial. Not only was I helping to plan lessons and teach students what I knew, but I was able to review some concepts for myself. Those who were able to attend even one class were able to learn something that they would have otherwise never learned if they had not taken this Emerging Markets Lab course to Brazil.
Dun dun… dunn dunn… dunnn dunnn. This was the sound that was going through every EMGL students’ head at 5:27pm yesterday evening. The music to the Jaws movie was fitting because it was D-Day, the day of our final group export projects. The quick 5- minute presentations we have been giving every week for the past month of class pale in comparison to this mammoth final presentation. This presentation is required to be 15- 20 minutes or four times the length of our usual presentations.
Everyone could sense a different energy walking into the classroom in Bolz Hall. This change was due to a combination of everyone being in “business professional,” the lack of sleep due to preparing for the presentation, the amount of other exams that just happened to fall on this Tuesday, and the frigid cold temperatures outside. Professor Sword could sense the anxiety in the room and acted quickly to reverse the energy. Less than a minute later, everyone in Bolz Hall could hear the beautiful musical intonations of the one and only Taylor Swift as she sang us the best advice to just “shake it off.” After the students took Swift’s advice, the parade of presentations began. First up was the air conditioning group. Throughout their presentations over the past month, they had been urged to increase their enthusiasm when presenting. All the students who have sat through their weekly presentations could sense a positive notable difference in their enthusiasm. At the end of their presentation, they were questioned on why they passed a template of an invoice around rather than just displaying it on the screen and were also probed about the break down of their numbers. Overall, they got solid feedback and set the bar high for the rest of the presentations.
Up next was the latex glove group. In past classes, the audience had expressed concern over where they were going to sell their gloves and exactly what kind of glove they would sell. They did a nice job of clarifying the concerns by being very specific on what kinds of gloves they were going to export etc. They even added a talking point about culture considerations when doing business with another country, in particular Brazil. Some things that we learned were that it is rude to use the “aye okay” symbol and that women should dress more feminine in the workplace than they do in the United States. They also received positive feedback, but some suggestions that were made included more eye contact with audience, stand closer to the audience and get rid of notes because they are an unnecessary clutch.
After the latex glove group, the Luna Burger group was up to bat. They had a very visually appealing PowerPoint and reached out to a variety of different business people to enhance their presentation. When it came time for feedback, the comments were not all peaches and cream. Some criticisms were that it was four mini presentations in one that were not coherent with each other. As the saying goes, “it is not personal, it’s just business.” This feedback was not to insult the group, but to encourage them to improve. We cannot be “fired” from this class, but we can learn from our mistakes and improve so that we do not make the same errors when we are giving “real” presentations in the “real world.”
A major improvement can definitely be seen among students in the fourth Portuguese class. I began the class like any other night with a conversation, but instead of moving on to a new topic, I reviewed the previous half of the hypothetical restaurant conversation so we could practice the entire dialogue thoroughly.
Though attendance was lower than usual, it allowed for more individual attention among students. In fact, all students were at one point able to come up to the front of the class and pronounce all the phrases written on the board while I interrupted once in a while to correct errors.
I spiced things up with a game in which two teams formed to put together words on pieces of paper to form the phrases we have been learning the past month. I would switch up between English and Portuguese so that students would have to try thinking in each language. For example, if I said “Where is the bathroom?”, they would have to find the words “Onde“, “Fica“, “O”, and “Banheiro” and then raise their hands before the other team.
Teams became quite competitive and it made language learning fun because if one person was not sure of the answer, they would work together to form the sentence structure. The game ended in a tie and afterwards I felt that combining words already available to people may be more effective than asking for rote memorization. Perhaps students would have an idea about what phrases “looked familiar”, but not necessarily remember them from memory. I believe just that familiarization is important for beginning language learners.
So last week was the third class, making my official halfway mark as a Student Tutor for my peers. The topic of the day was ordering food at a restaurant and talking about allergies. I believe that this was a useful yet tough topic to teach as there were many new vocabulary words that I was trying to get across.
But with the limited time of only 45 minutes per class, I found it challenging in this session particularly to express all definitions and meanings so that students could understand them and apply them in the future. I had to continuously repeat words and answer any questions on pronunciation for any students.
One thing I found interesting was that depending on the student and their background, there would be difficulties that they experienced more. For example, two students originally from China had some trouble with words that involved “R” sounds and would instead make an “L” sound in a word like frango (chicken). Each student has their strengths and weaknesses, so it is to my benefit to identify what those are and work to improve them through the short time I have.
Class ended with students turning around from the board to be tested on the vocabulary and phrases we have been learning for the past three weeks. I called students to say “No, I don’t have allergies” for example, and they would then have to state the phrase “Não, não tenho”. After receiving feedback after the class, a better approach moving forward would be to ease up on straight repetition and ensure that everyone actually knows the material.
Portuguese Language Lab continued ahead this past week with a focus on being courteous with strangers while building on the introductions learned the first day of class. For any new students coming to the class, I made sure to review the conversation learned last week along with any unfamiliar vocabulary words.
I found from feedback from students that allowing for thorough understanding and continued repetition was more helpful, so I tried to structure the second class with as much verbal practice as possible. Having a hypothetical conversation between multiple people for example, is an excellent way for my peers to hear how language may be used between Brazilians in Manaus.
Although a concern I have is incorporating different activities into the classes, the short timespan available and need for repetition have resulted in the visible improvement from a pre-constructed conversation. For the next three classes, students can expect our time to be focused on pronunciation and communicating as clearly as possible.
I ended the class around 8pm and brought out snacks that would perhaps lighten the mood and give all an idea of everyday tastes experience in Brazil. A trip to a local Brazilian market the day before allowed the class to be briefly immersed in an aspect of Brazil’s culture. Even as I passed out food, I received shouts of thanks or as Brazilians would say “obrigado”, which demonstrated the effectiveness of our practice sessions.
My goal for each class if for students to walk away each Wednesday being able to remember at least one aspect of the class. So far, the class has improved from the very first to the second in the flow, so hopefully the trend continues for the benefit of the students.
Since I was eighteen I have been studying Spanish seriously, but last year while I was studying for a semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina I gained a great interest in Brazilian culture. Everyday that I was abroad, I was asked if I was Brazilian due to the lack of an Afro-population in the country and I was finally given the opportunity to take a Portuguese in the local university. I immediately fell in love with the language and have since taken it upon myself to become fluent in the next few years.
So when I got the opportunity to do an Emerging Markets Global Lab specifically to Brazil, it was a chance that could potentially combine my language abilities along with international business and trade. In preparation for the trip to Manaus, Brazil which occupies the Zona Franca or Free Trade Zone, I was given the opportunity to teach my peers survival Portuguese.
Of course I accepted and on October 22nd, I was teaching my first Portuguese language class to business students with no knowledge of the language. It ended up being a great first experience and I was even lucky enough to invite four natives of Brazil to observe while also assisting in pronunciation.
Topics covered included: overview of the Portuguese alphabet where students viewed videos from Youtube and practiced spelling their names individually. I was then able to create a simple conversation that went over basic greetings for students to practice in front of the class like the phrase “Qual é o seu nome?” which means “What is your name?”.
I will admit that my expectations were set extremely high as I felt that students would aspire to deeply understand the language, but as I remember my first time learning a new language, it took much time, so I was able to learn that slowing down and allowing students to catch up would allow for a greater experience.
For future classes, I just hope to improve little by little in teaching students the importance of language and perhaps diffusing preconceived notions held by other countries of Americans being unknowledgeable about other cultures. The skills learned in Emerging Markets will be invaluable.
The way one views a situation is like looking into a fish bowl; the perception and attitudes change as one moves to a different side of the bowl. From the left side, one might see deadly piranhas and a cluster of algae-sucking snails, while from the right side one might see a golden treasure chest and schools of rainbow fish. David Wilson, a lawyer at Kegler Brown, made this analogy between fish bowls and people’s viewpoint on a situation. He cautioned the students of the EMGL to take a global perspective on the world and try to understand where the other countries are coming from. It is easy to look at countries using protectionist measures to guard their producers from foreign competition and excessive imports and think this is wrong without realizing that many countries implement these practices, even countries that one would not think of.
This advice proved very beneficial to our Emerging Market class because we were giving 5- minute presentations on the legal considerations an exporter must consider when exporting a good to Brazil. The considerations from group to group varied due to the diversity of products being exported. Groups exporting food products had to focus on labeling, ingredient and health requirements, while air conditioning units and 3D printer groups had to focus on obtaining multiple technological licenses to export their goods. After hearing all five groups present, the class realized that the requirements and procedures when exporting a product, especially to Brazil could be a long and arduous process with many obstacles and roadblocks along the way. Even with 20 undergraduate student brains’ researching legal considerations all week and contacting experts in this field, many essential steps were left out of all of the groups’ presentations. This just shows the in-depth knowledge one needs to acquire before exporting and even though it seems daunting, once the process is completely understood companies can benefit greatly from expanding their brand internationally.
After each group gave their 5-minute spiel, two lawyers from Kegler Brown, David Wilson and Marcella Gurgel, were there to provide us with insight and advice about what we should do moving forward. Ms. Gurgel is a Brazilian native and offered valuable knowledge about the Brazilian legal system. She touched upon how the Brazilian legal system differs from the US and that is more formal. Due to the Civil Law system, Brazil has a plethora of laws and they can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on who is reading them because words have diverse meanings to different people. This has major implications for businesses because they need to strictly comply with the laws. Laws are subject to change, so it is essential that a business always review the new laws. Mr. Wilson offered very beneficial information as well; he encouraged us to find the best way to export our goods through trade treaties between certain countries to capitalize on the tax reductions included in these treaties. He also mentioned that a US export has to be cleared by the Department of State, Treasury and Commerce and the exporter should plan ahead to compensate for delays in registration. Mr. Wilson commented on the different ways to get the product to the buyer from securing a distributor to having people on exporting side deliver the goods. If a company uses a distributor, they have to give up some control of their brand and if the company decides to pivot in another direction in later years, it might pose a problem with the distributor if the licenses are in the distributor’s name. If this happens, the exporting company has to start the license registration process again.
The advice from both Ms. Gurgel and Mr. Wilson greatly helped the class learn about the legal considerations one must consider when exporting to Brazil. Everyone enjoyed hearing the insights of both lawyers from the US and from Brazil because it gave us unique perspectives from two different sides of the fish bowl.