A Farewell to You

The past three weeks have been a fulfilling and humbling experience. I could not have asked for more or less. It was the ups and downs of working/traveling that I was looking for. The research project we’ve been working on has come to a close. This research could help make better lives for some of the women and children I’ve met during this trip. I’m optimistic that this research project could help them. It was a great pleasure to work with my team, Akshay, Jake, Santiago, Molly, and Ryan.

I’ve come knowing only our GAP group, but I left Kenya with many friends…


An Ode to You

It’s time to say goodbye

I know I’ll be back soon
Though, I don’t know how soon
It was easier to say hello
than goodbye

Now, the bus is leaving
I have to catch the last one, out of town
Until we meet again

Kwaheri, rafikis


Trip to Downtown Nairobi

Last Monday May 18th Akshay and I went on a trip to Downtown Nairobi. The purpose of the trip was to explore the textile retail market and assess the availability of several components required to assemble the PackH2O in Kenya. We were also interested in obtaining information about industrial sewing machine retail prices.

Google Maps™ told us that it would take approximately 21 minutes to get there. Ha! The Mountain View giant had it all wrong. It took us about one and a half hours just to get to River Road, the major textile retailing zone in Downtown Nairobi. The traffic is extremely heavy, and it is advisable to plan trips adding approximately one hour or more to the standard itinerary.


What Google thinks does not matter!


George from Partners for Care drove us with his characteristic “defensive” driving style, zigzagging through thousands of cars, SUVs and most of all, “Matatus”, the Kenyan colloquial name for their public buses. Matatus are really peculiar, colorful, highly decorated and personalized vehicles. Most of them include paintings of American pop culture stars or famous local slogans and sayings.

Traffic is 98,37% matatus

Traffic is 98,37% matatus, or at least that’s what I think!

Typical traffic in Nairobi

Typical traffic in Nairobi

During the trip, I challenged myself to find at least one single running vehicle without any scratches, dents or other damage. I lost the challenge. According to the short sample I took during the duration of the trip, I can say with a 99% confidence level that the mean proportion of running vehicles in perfect shape on the streets of Nairobi at any time is 0%.

"Come on!! There's still an inch available!!"

“Come on George!! There’s still an inch available!!”

When we arrived to River Street, parking was a different story. George found a tiny spot between two cars. I thought that he was joking when he started to park there. When we realized he was serious about it, Akshay and I went out of the car to try to help by giving him distance alerts to each car’s bumper. I took us another ten minutes to get the car to a decent distance to the sidewalk.

We engaged in conversations with several textile retailers in the area. People was really friendly and helpful. At the end of the day, we were able to obtain good information for our project and Nairobi’s frantic traffic made our return to the house feel like it was quite an accomplishment!


The People We Meet

There certainly has been an abundance of many cultures in Amsterdam! Being one of the most concentrated areas for trade in the world, you run into a very diverse cultural scene here in “the Dam”.  Beginning with our home office host, Cyriel, who gave us a great perspective on what this city has to offer, we are sorry to miss some of the very “interesting” musical events he described taking place in June.  Unfortunately, GAP does cover another three weeks….

In touring the city our first weekend here, one fine server took quite the liking to Joe and continuously peppered him with questions about Ohio.  In fact, our server took so strong a liking to Joe that he gave Joe some shirt patches to take home as a souvenir!  On our way back to our house, we met a few Swedes whose interpretation of American culture was truly eye opening!

In doing our canal tour the next weekend, we had the great pleasure to be introduced to one of the finest boat captains (and Amsterdam tour guide) in the city.  Meet Frank.IMG_8898 Ahoy there Frankie!

Frankie was full of Amsterdam knowledge as he’s been a canal guide for the past six years.  If he didn’t know a question we asked, he would make something up and no one would be aware that it was a complete falsehood (self-admitted).

Last but not least, we had the great pleasure to meet one of the more refreshing gentlemen, as well as one of our WD direct reports, Ronald Dek.  The first day we met with Ron to discuss the logistical issues facing Western Digital, he entered the room and immediately told us how he conducts business.  “I am Dutch.  I am very straight-forward and do not screw around.”  This statement was actually quite nice to hear as we became much more comfortable discussing our research openly and frankly with Ron.  It helped our project and it shed light on the very direct nature with which business is conducted in the Netherlands.

Hope you all enjoyed meeting some of these great people!


Friendship, Food, and (very few) Fiascos


Friendship and food are the two main themes of our time in China. Going into this project, Sumanth and I were the only two who had worked together in previous projects. As we were in the same core group, we understood each other in regards to working together, yet we never spent much time together outside of group meetings. Traveling to China, working on a challenging analytical project, and living together for three weeks bonded our mini team into a mini family. I don’t think any of us expected to leave with such great new friends, but we are all grateful for this experience bringing us together.

We have written a few blogs about food already, but finding vegetarian food was a daily discussion that took up a significant amount of our evenings. Chengcheng was a huge help for Sumanth in regards to getting vegetarian food (except vegetarian fried rice). However, vegetarian or not, without Chengcheng, it would have been very difficult for us to get any food. In fact, Sumanth, Joe, and I ate at an Indian restaurant more than any other restaurant in China because we knew how to order food there when Chengcheng was not with us. I never would have guessed I would go to China and come back liking Indian food.

Finally, usually when travelling in a foreign country without knowing any of the language, fiascos are bound to happen. With the exception of one missed train (which ended up working out okay), we had an extremely smooth trip. We are all fortunate for this because if something bad did happen, it would have been extremely difficult to ask for help. All in all, we had a great time in China and we are traveling back to the U.S. with full stomachs and a few new friends.

A Budget Traveler’s Dream

By far the biggest perk about studying abroad in Singapore is the ease of traveling around Southeast Asia. I was able to travel to 5 different countries outside of Singapore and the most I paid for a flight was $300 to Australia. Most flights were 2-3 hours long and only around $150. Airlines such as TigerAir and Jetstar make flying on a budget a breeze.


Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

My favorite country I visited was Thailand and I loved it so much that I went twice on my four month exchange. From the white sand beaches, to feeding elephants, to 40 baht pad thai, Thailand was nothing short of Paradise.


My favorite experience out of both my trips to Thailand was visiting an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai called Elephant Nature Park. I heard horror stories about how elephants are domesticated and knew I didn’t want to go the typical route and go elephant riding. Instead, I got to spend the entire day among them, feeding them, bathing them, and observing them. It was an unforgettable experience and I recommend it to anyone traveling to Thailand.


Elephants playing in the river


Up Close & Personal


Other amazing experiences included visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, sailing Halong Bay (New 7 Wonder of Nature), diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and visiting tea plantations in Malaysia.


Halong Bay, Vietnam


Angkor Archeological Park




Ta Prohm-Tomb Raider Temple


I was fortunate enough to travel to all these amazing places and not have to break the bank. Although traveling was relatively inexpensive, the people I met along the way, the culture, the views, and the memories were all priceless. I definitely recommend traveling as much as possible while on exchange because an opportunity like this doesn’t come often.



Lucky Number Seven- EMGL Blog December 9th, 2014

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.

This is not meant to scare you!- EMGL Blog December 2nd, 2014

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!

Thankful- EMGL Blog November 25th, 2014

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.

A Numbers Game

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.

Going over the conversation and telling the class what everything means.

Going over the conversation and telling the class what everything means.

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.

Youtube video detailing Portuguese numbers.

Youtube video detailing Portuguese 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).

Students practicing numbers as we go around the room.

Students practicing numbers as we go around the room.

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”.

After watching the video, I would go back to insert a random number and have volunteers practice using it at the "market".

After watching the video, I would go back to insert a random number and have volunteers practice using it at the “market”.

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.

A final treat of buckeyes as  students commemorate the last language lab.

A final treat of buckeyes as students commemorate the last language lab.

D- Day: EMGL Blog November, 18th 2014

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.”