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.”

Team Voldemort & Team Dumbledore

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.

Leading the vocabulary review

Leading the vocabulary review

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.

IMG_4119 IMG_4116

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.

"Team Voldemort" looks for their complete phrase during a round of the game.

“Team Voldemort” looks for their complete phrase during a round of the game.

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.

"Team Dumbledore" in discussion

“Team Dumbledore” in discussion

Continuing Adventures in Ireland

Since my last post about my stay here at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland I have had so many new experiences worth talking about it’s hard to pick just one. In my last post, Irish students had just moved in, school activities were just starting, and classes were getting underway. My courses are not so different from my experience in the states; I have lectures and tutorials (smaller group recitations) each week for classes. The biggest difference is in the actual work for each course. In many of them the workload is focused into a few heavily weighted assignments, which is unlike my experience in the states where I have many more assignments that help alleviate weight on the final. Most of the time the only grade is a final exam (all of which are taken in May) and possibly a smaller assignment in the first term. Students only staying for the fall term have a substitute assignment, usually an essay, due just before term break. I should be starting my essays soon.

Somewhere between my classes I found some time to do some traveling in Ireland and do something special that I don’t think many people get to experience. First off, one of the reasons I chose Ireland to study was because my family is predominantly Irish. I knew my family history back to my maternal great grandmother who was the first to come to the US from Ireland in the early 1900’s. When my grandfather heard where I was going he jumped at the opportunity to visit me on the condition that we try and meet our relatives. We did some research and found his cousin living in the south of Dublin outside of county Cork in a small town called Rosscarbery. She said she would be happy for us to visit and said she would let the family know we were coming. So when my parents and grandparents got to Ireland we traveled south not knowing exactly what to expect when we got there.

Arriving in Rosscarbery we got a picturesque view of the town across the bay. We met my grandfathers cousin and she led us to O’Driscoll’s, a pub my family still owns and runs. There we were greeted with an unexpectedly large number of family members, some of which were meeting each other for the first time as well. One of the first people we met was my grandfather’s 94-year-old step uncle. It was really incredible seeing these two men (pictured below, my grandfather is on the right) meet for the first time and talk like they had been friends for years. I had never seen my grandfather so excited. While there we discussed our family history and when all the heads were put together we were able to fill in the family tree as well as extended it an additional four generations back from my grandfather.

On a cultural note, I said before that we were in O’Driscoll’s, my family’s pub. Today, a pub is synonymous with a rustic bar, but the word is actually short for public house, which is more than a place to get a pint. They were used as community centers for rural towns where people of all ages were welcome. O’Driscoll’s is reminiscent of this original style of pub. We were there on a Saturday and in the evening local families started to wander in. Mothers sat around and chatted, children played games in the corner, and fathers and older sons played darts and rings with surprising talent. I tried my hand at both and found the matches were uneven considering our opponents were the local champs. This was truly a pub in the original sense; it was a social center for the largely rural community. The place felt more like a home then a bar. The community feel reminded me of my own town where families would meet on porches on the weekend to socialize. Being able to go there with my grandfather and experience my own personal history was incredible and be in an original pub was one of the highlights of my trip so far and something I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to do. IMG_4518  IMG_0657_copy (1)

Restaurants and Repetition

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.

Me showing the class the next conversation and later having to cut it in half to allow for the words to set in.

Me showing the class the next conversation and later having to cut it in half to allow for the words to set in.

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.

Some students actually take notes! It makes for conducive learning outside of class.

Some students actually take notes! It makes for effective learning outside of class.

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.

Students turned around to be tested on class material.

Students turned around to be tested on class material.

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.

Such excitement in their faces.

Such excitement in their faces.

What even is it? : EMGL Blog November 4, 2014

“What actually is an emerging market?” One would think that undergraduate students at The Ohio State University would be able to spew out this definition in their sleep, but this simple question proved to be deceptively challenging to answer. When I tried to find a concrete definition of how an emerging market is actually defined, it was more difficult than I anticipated. All of the sources had varying answers that were pretty ambiguous. Some definitions included “an emerging market is in a transitional phase toward a developed-market (i.e., industrialized) status and in the process of building liquid equity, debt and foreign-exchange markets” to “an undeveloped country with high-growth potential, in tandem with high risks and significant market volatility” to “having economic activity stronger than a least developed country but generally weaker than a developed country.”

While the definitions range from vague to “vaguer”, so did the students’ answers to hot seat questions in the EMGL class. Students grappled with how to concretely define what an emerging market is and where one draws the line and says the country is no longer “emerging.” Students protested that the term “emerging market” is too general for a country and should be applied to “emerging” regions in a country instead of the country as a whole. For example, China is still considered an emerging market even though it has very developed cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.

Students in the hot seat

Students in the hot seat

For the past month, our EMGL classes have been dominated by student groups giving presentations to the class about specific considerations when exporting a product to Brazil and guest speakers who are experts in a particular industry such as lawyers from Kegler Brown or Mr. Locker from The Ohio Department of Transportation. While the past few weeks have taught the students invaluable skills from how to give an effective presentation to how to acquire solid information and network with superiors, this week was a change in pace that was definitely needed.

This weeks’ class was named “town hall” where 3 students would go up to the front of the room and sit in the “hot seat” while Mr. Sword asked questions from the back of the room. This exercise was completely opposite to what we have been doing so far. Every other week, people knew what they were going to say and how they were going to say it. With the hot seat questions, preparation was not allowed much to the students’ chagrin. After the students in the hot seat gave their perspective, other students in the audience were allowed to weigh in on the specific question. This made the discussion more cohesive and collaborative where all students participated and were permitted to give their uncensored, but still professional opinion. Topics that were discussed ranged from how a company would market organic makeup in Brazil to how a domestic company in the United States would go about exporting potato chips to an interested international buyer.

It was fascinating to hear everyone’s perspectives on each of the various topics because all of the students are coming from very diverse backgrounds such as China, Kansas, New Jersey and Ohio. There are students ranging from sophomores to fifth- year seniors and with that comes differences in base knowledge about the various subjects discussed. Some might see this as a disadvantage or a tough learning curve, but it has been extremely valuable to be at different stages in our education because each person is taking different classes from Intro into International Business to the highest-level finance course. Sometimes the most beneficial learning does not occur when reading an 800- page textbook or taking a 100 question multiple-choice scantron exam, but by dissecting what one has learned and applying it to real life scenarios even if it is organic makeup or potato chips.


Exploring Italy

One of the greatest parts about a semester abroad is the opportunity to see the world. Fortunately, the exchange student network (ESN) at Bocconi makes it easy to do so.

The first weekend of the school year we took a day trip from Milan to Lake Como. I had not even heard of Lake Como prior to this, but was immediately blown away by the beauty of it all. From walking through the quaint streets surrounding the lake to riding a “funicolare” up the mountain for amazing views, it was all very well organized and included in the trip.


This past weekend, we took a trip to the Tuscany region. Four cities (Siena, Florence, San Gimignano, and Pisa) over 3 days, and it was a cultural and historical dream. Tuscany is known for the finest wine in the world, as well as the birthplace of the Renaissance. It was amazing to get a guided tour through each city from ESN members from that area, and walking through the neighborhood Michelangelo lived and worked in was a great experience. I know that it would have been very challenging to fit so much into a weekend without the benefits of ESN, and am glad that these types of trips are made available exclusively for exchange students. More travels to come.



Gaining Momentum and Continuing Forward

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.

Students listen and repeat phrases and words  in Portuguese

Students listen and repeat phrases and words in Portuguese.

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.

A written conversation for students to practice in front of the class.

A written conversation for students to practice in front of the class.

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.

New arrivals to the Language Lab practice asking how to get around in an unfamiliar place.

New arrivals to the Language Lab practice asking how to get around in an unfamiliar place.

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.

Students enjoy Brazilian treats at the end of class while conversing.

Students enjoy Brazilian treats at the end of class while conversing.

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.

Goiaba (guava) juice with Guaraná (Brazilian pop) and light wafers filled with strawberries, coconut, dulce de leche and peanut butter.

Goiaba (guava) juice with Guaraná (Brazilian pop named after a local fruit) and light wafers filled with strawberries, coconut, dulce de leche and peanut butter.


Infrastructure Needs to Talk: EMGL Blog October 28th, 2014

This week for our Emerging Market Global Lab class to Brazil, we had the honor and privilege of presenting to Mark Locker, who works for The Ohio Department of Transportation. Each group focused on the transportation and logistical concerns when exporting a product to Brazil; the feasibility of using dry ice to preserve perishable and time-sensitive frozen vegan burgers as well as the advantages and disadvantages to flying the goods by airfreight in comparison to shipping by boat.

Mr. Locker offered invaluable information that was specifically relevant to the product of a particular group. He spoke at length about the future capabilities of 3D printers and how some companies are making them competitively priced with regular printers. He also touched upon how baby formula is a key product to export especially to emerging markets like Brazil because the native population has increasing concerns about the health and wellness of their babies. Mr. Locker talked about the insurance required to export a product to Brazil along with which Incoterms the exporting company chooses as a brand new company exporting to a foreign country.

Incoterms stands for International Commercial Terms and they are a series of pre-defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) that are widely used in International commercial transactions or procurement processes. Incoterms state what costs the exporter will cover as well as what the importer will cover. As a new exporter, it is wise to take on most of the responsibility and pay for majority of the exportation costs if possible. This is because the exporting company needs to establish a strong relationship with the importers before they negotiate new Incoterms.

3D Printing Group

3D Printing Group

Only three of the five groups gave their presentations because after each group presented, we got a myriad of suggestions regarding our logistics and transportation plan. This proved to be very helpful because every week for the last 4 weeks, the groups have been giving micro “check- in” presentations about one certain topic regarding the exportation process, such as legal considerations, transportation concerns, or a market overview. Even though doing a new presentation on a completely different subject every week is a lot of work, the groups have enjoyed the fast-paced atmosphere because it is very realistic to what a real-life job could be like in the corporate world.

Luna Burger Group

Luna Burger Group

We spent the last portion of the class with Mr. Locker talking about why transportation and infrastructure are imperative to grow the United State’s economy as well as other countries’ economies. The students were shocked to find out that over 60% of CEO’s in the U.S. had never been to a port where his or her goods were being exported; they did not even know the process of getting their own goods to another country. This is why what we are learning is so essential to our future careers; we will be able to offer assistance with the complicated export process and provide reputable references where the company can find more information regarding exportation. Even some very successful companies do not have a solid handle on the help services available when exporting a good.

In the last few minutes of class, Mr. Locker handed out some fun baseball “transportation” cards with essential facts about the presence and future of transportation and freight in Ohio specifically. One would never guess that Ohio is the 7th largest exporting state in the country or that they are 4th in the country for the value of the goods shipped. Ohio has robust rail lines and is ninth in the nation for how many rail tons are moved in one year. In regards to air transportation, it is projected that 1.3 million tons will be flown out of Ohio by 2030.

It is clear that knowledge about transportation and logistics is a major stepping-stone for a company wanting to expand internationally, and if they do not take the time to learn about these essential topics, the transportation stepping-stone will turn into a tumbling roadblock. Mark left us with these powerful words of advise, “The infrastructure is here, it just needs to talk.”

Mark Locker talking to groups about transportation and logistic concerns when exporting a product to Brazil.

Mark Locker talking to groups about transportation and logistic concerns when exporting a product to Brazil.

First Time Teacher

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.

Students gathered at the first Portuguese Language class

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.

Three students from Emerging Markets class (to the right)  practicing conversation with an international student from Brazil (to the left).

Three students from Emerging Markets class (to the right) practicing conversation with an international student from Brazil (to the left).

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?”.

Two students practicing an introductory conversation for their field study to Manaus.

Two students practicing an introductory conversation for their field study to Manaus.

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.

Individualized attention and feedback

Individualized attention and feedback.

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.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish: EMGL Blog October 21, 2014

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.

Students watching other groups' presentations

Students watching other groups’ presentations

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.

David Wilson explaining steps to export a product to Brazil.

David Wilson explaining steps to export a product to Brazil.