Now, at the halfway point of our trip, it is astonishing to think that we have only been in Korea for three days, given the amount we have seen and done, thanks to our classmates who have organized this incredible experience.
Our Korean food adventured deserves its own separate write-up, so for now, we will focus on the tourist highlights and company visits.
Nanta a non-verbal performance and the longest running show in Korea, which is best described as a cooking-themed version of Broadway’s “Stomp”
Gyeongbokgung Palace Tour
Shopping in Dongdaemoon
Korea War Memorial Museum
Our visit to Yonsei University began with a presentation from Dr. Hahn, Columbia Business School PhD (‘81), about the transformation of the Korean political and economic environment during the past 60 years. Learning about the growth the country has undergone during a relatively short timeframe was astonishing. We then had an exchange with Yonsei MBA students and went on a guided campus tour where we got to “experience” the high-tech Samsung Library. We were blown away by the flat screens scattered throughout the first floor that served as large touch-screens allowing students to do everything from using an interactive campus map to reading the news from nearly 100 countries in any language imaginable. The whole group was struck by the beauty and energy of the bustling campus; based on our initial impression of Yonsei, it is easy to see the appeal of attending this prestigious and thriving university.
-Liz Millman, CBS ‘14
We were graciously received by Severance Hospital, the flagship branch of the Yonsei University Health System, Korea’s first modern medical institution founded in 1885 by American medical missionary Dr Horace Allen. The medical faculty gave us a presentation on Yonsei’s work in robotic surgery, which at a cumulative caseload of 8,000 surgeries, is one of the world’s most experienced centers of robotic surgery. Yonsei has made impressive breakthroughs in expanding use of robotic surgery beyond urology and gynecology into general surgery (GS), where it has performed by far the most procedures in the world in part due to the FDA having not yet approved robotic surgery for GS in the USA. We toured Severance, built in 2005 and designed by American architects Ellerbe Becket, which resembled more of an airport terminal than a hospital with ubiquitous kiosks resembling ATMs for patients checking in. Severance is 100% paperless with exclusive use of electronic medical records (EMR) and has over 1,200 beds. Nearly all of us were left wishing we had such an efficient, comfortable, and modern hospital back home in New York.
One of our most highly anticipated company visits, today we spent the day at Lotte Co. LTD, specifically visiting the Lotte Home Shopping Network HQ, the Lotte Confectionary factory, and one of many Lotte hypermarkets. We had the honor of being hosted by Chairman Dong-Bin Shin, Chairman of Lotte and CBS alumnus, class of 1981.
Trip student organizers with Mr. Shin
Mr. Shin joined us for tours of 2 (out of 60+) Lotte business units, which culminated with a presentation on the current state of the conglomerate from the Chairman and Q&A.
Tasting Ice Cream at the Lotte Candy Factory
Our visit made the digital front page of the news, which can be found here.
Photo Credit: Yonhap News
What an amazing opportunity. Thank you to Mr. Shin for generously hosting us this week in Korea and today at Lotte Co.
More posts about our trip to Korea can be found on the Chazen blog
I am constantly amazed by the accomplishments of my business school friends. Take my friend Tony, for example, who spent the two years before business school as a member of the Peace Corps in Guatemala. Wow. Lucky for us, he decided over Fall break in October that it was time to visit – and invited some friends to join him. It was one of the most active trips I’ve ever taken and it felt like we got to see and do everything: volcano climbing, waterfall hiking, horse riding, tortilla making, cave spelunking, river rafting, waterpool jumping, Mayan ruin exploring, plane chartering, and home cooking. Wow.
MUCHAS GRACIAS to Tony and the 3 Graces for an incredible trip and amazing hospitality!
Below is most of the pre-trip itinerary that Tony wrote for us, italics are mine.
October 16 – everyone arrives and will take shuttles from the airport to Antigua. We will be staying in a big and beautiful house right outside of the city and I will be shuttling people from the drop-off point out to the house. We can do the sunset hike of Volcan Pacaya. This is a beautiful, active volcano that you can hike up and roast marshmallows over flowing lava. A very unique, albeit terrifying, experience.
View from Pacaya Volcano
Everyone hiked up the Volcano…and I rode a horse
Volcano s’mores! Photo Credit: Ira Panova
Roasting marshmallows on the Volcano!
October 17 – we will be leaving early and heading to the rustic, beautiful village of Chilasco. This is where I lived for 2+ years while I was living down there. During the day we will be hiking to El Salto de Chilasco, Central America’s tallest waterfall. This was the main attraction of the community tourism project I was working on down there. It is a beautiful 6 km hike through sub-tropical jungle/cloud forrest. After the hike we have more cool stuff planned. As it turns out, a good friend of mine is graduating from middle school that day (he is 42 with a passion for learning and he went back to school after only getting to 5th grade as a child). We will be having a celebration with his family and my friends from the village, I have sent money for them to purchase food and we will help them prepare it. Anyone that wants will have the opportunity to learn to tortillar (make tortillas). We will sleep in the village. More fun will be had.
We thought it was going to be a light hike…
…but we were wrong…
…we were so very wrong!
School made from recycled garbage
Learning to make tortillas
October 18 – we will make the “scarily adventurous” trip up and over the mountain to Semuc Champey. For those who read the NYT article, this is the place they called “as close to Eden as you can get on earth. No electricity, no cell service, hopefully water, plenty of beauty. This is my favorite place on the planet. Here you will have the option to go spelunking by candle light, swing into the raging Cahabon river on huge rope swings, jump off tall bridges, climb mountains swim in gorgeous freshwater pools, and just soak up some nature. Get excited about this. Probability of fun: highly likely.
Pretending to be scared before the hike…little did we know!
Before the candle went out…
The pools at Semuc Champey
The entire group!
October 19 – we will be getting up early again to leave, because we have a little bit of a drive ahead of us. The plan is to head up to Tikal, an enormous Mayan Ruin site in the middle of the jungle. This place is unreal. For those of you that are nerds (Braxton, I’m talking to you) in Starwars IV: A New Hope, the filming of Yavin 4 (one of the three habitable moons orbiting Yavin where the Alliance made their base while trying to restore the republic and eventually launched an attack on the Death Star from) was done at Tikal.
Nothing like a little sacrifice!
October 20 – Lunch in Flores, really awesome town close by. Then, CBS chartered plane back to Antigua!
Our chartered flight – fancy!
October 21 – Day exploring Antigua, including the Jade Factory and shopping at Tony’s friend Siggy’s amazing store Casa de los Gigantes which sells handicrafts from Guatemala artisans – I wanted to buy everything!. That night we have some activities planned. First we will be having what I call “The Feast”. This is one of my best and favorite ideas ever andI will explain more on Thursday, but for now I need everyone to submit an idea for a unique dish that they can prepare.
Preparing for the feast
Our menu and guide for the feast!
October 22 – everyone leaves and sleeps for about a week straight.
Text Credit: Tony Brindisi; Photo Credit: Ira Panova, Tony Brindisi, me
On December 11th, 15 of us from Columbia Business School traveled (legally) to Cuba for what ended up as one of my all-time favorite trips.
Prior to starting graduate school, I had read that travel to Cuba was legal for American graduate school students provided they travel under a specific university license and jump through a number of other administrative hoops. And just like that, I decided that my pre-graduation bucket list needed to include “visit Cuba.”
Getting the license, however, was not quite that easy. My friend Hilary and I recruited an advising professor, created a course syllabus, obtained university approval, brought together a group of students, worked with the government and the school…and FINALLY, after 7.5 months of work, we obtained the final approval to proceed with our course studying the political economy of Cuba and, most importantly, spend a week 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
It was an adventure I will never forget, simultaneously like so many places I have been and unlike anyplace I have ever been.
Represented in photographs, here are the highlights:
Arriving in Havana, Cuba!
The best mojitos (Hotel Nacional)
Havana club rum
Loving the old cars, downtown Havana
Sunset on the Malecon (waterfront esplanade)
Rooftop Drinks at one of Havana’s best Paladars, Atelier
The Havana coastline and the Hotel Nacional in the forefront
Aerial shot of Havana
So many Cohibas
Cigar rolling station
This man holds the Guinness World Record for longest cigar
Liz & I stop for a photo in Revolution Square with Che Guevara in the background
The 1950s cars, like stepping out of a time warp
Exploring old town Havana
The entire group in old town Havana
One of the old town buildings under restoration
Cafe in old town Havana
Old town Havana (restored)
The group enjoying an amazing dinner at the private restaurant (paladar) La Guarida
Incredible live music at Casa de la music
Taylor & me enjoying the nightlife at Casa de la Musica
The Industriales baseball field reminded us very much of our beloved Fenway
At the Industriales baseball game
Uno! Dos! Tres! Industriales!
Day trip to Vinales, Pinar del Rio (group photo!)
Win & I are ready for our cave walk!
Stalagmites and Stalagtites
A tobacco farmer rolling Cigars
Tobacco farm in Vinales, Pinar del Rio
Happy Hanukkah from the bathroom of the Hotel Presidente
Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana
Inside Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana
Happy Hanukkah! Feliz Januka!
Letter to the Jewish community from Steven Spielberg
Visiting the Havana Club Rum museum
Cuban flag in the old town
So much Havana club rum
On the water in Havana
What is a trip to Havana without going to the Tropicana?
Bringing school supplies to a local elementary school
The most poised 3rd grader explains his art on the life of Jose Marti
Cigars rolled in front of us…$1 each!
Mariana & I visit the best/worst communist ice cream parlor in Havana
The best/worst communist ice cream I’ve ever had (wishing Chavez a speedy recovery)
Winning = convinced immigration to stamp my passport!
Writing from New York, one week after returning from Tunisia, we have had some time to reflect on our whirlwind experience of meeting some of the country’s top business and political leadership.
Tunisia is a country in transition. It is a country whose constituents were never allowed to have an opinion until January 2011 and who are now asking questions of national and individual identity: What does it mean to be Tunisian? What does it mean to be the spark that ignited the Arab Spring? How do we fit into the broader context of North Africa? Of the Arab world? Of the area south of Southern Europe? What has democracy changed? What changes must we still demand?
The world watches Tunisia, awaiting these answers with proverbial baited breath. These answers will determine how the world “does business in North Africa,” how North Africa interacts with the West, and how this next potential market will emerge.
We had an unparalleled opportunity to visit Tunisia at this moment in time and to bear witness to a country and a region as it forges its future.
“North Africa’s most relaxed and hospitable country just might turn out to be its most interesting,” describes the Lonely Planet’s Tunisia guidebook.
That depiction rings true for many of us, having pieced together a mosaic of understanding of today’s Tunisia through a host of visits with Tunisian professionals and companies the past few days .
Here are some of the highlights in my classmates’ words:
On Meeting Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki:
“Perhaps the highlight of the trip was our visit to the presidential palace. There, we had the honor of meeting the president. We were warmly greeted with water and lemonade by his staff and he candidly answered our questions about his views/ plans for the country. We were struck by how honest he was about the challenges facing his country and the difficulties they face. Afterward, we were interviewed by TV, radio and print media as we posed for pictures. Many of the Tunisian staff assisting with the trip took the opportunities to get their own pictures as well.” -Andrew Weber, CBS ‘13
“Today’s lunch meeting with Poulina provided a unique opportunity to learn about a successful Tunisian holding group with a well diversified offering of companies. The meeting with the Chairman was not only informative on its businesses and the economic climate within the region, but also gave us the opportunity to eat produce and meats sold by the company. Overall, I was extremely impressed with today’s visit and will be keeping my eye out for Poulina brands throughout the duration of our trip.” -Evan Tyner CBS ‘13
“The group was honored to go to Enda on Wednesday night to meet with the founders, employees and three inspiring women who have received aid from the NGO. The highlight was hearing how the three women’s lives were impacted through the loans, and their optimism to continue striving for a better life by setting higher goals. All aspects of the visit demonstrated the founders’ belief in empowering people. Specifically, employees gave presentations to inform and practice their English and the reception was catered by another women who is a micro loan recipient. It was amazing to see the gratitude and happiness radiating from the room.” -Krupa Tailor, CBS ‘13
CBSers with the founders, staff, and 3 clients of Enda Inter-Arabe microfinance
“The meeting was able to highlight a number of factors that can propel business in North Africa:
1) The region is the least integrated of all regional blocs in the world; better collaboration can lead to North Africans getting better negotiated trade agreements with the rest of the world.
2) Collaboration can be achieved by taking advantage of the cultural and historical similarities between Libyans, Algerians and Tunisians to open up each other’s borders to provide products and services that will benefit the region.
3) The region could reduce unemployment by moving skilled-but-jobless people between the countries’ borders to where they are needed most, and by leveraging their natural resources available by moving up the value chain.” – Nkazimulo Sokhulu, CBS ‘13
“We had the opportunity to visit COFAT, a company of the Elloumi Group and to speak to the CEO Faouzi Elloumi. For me, it was one of the more interesting company visits given the multi-national nature of the business and the plant tour we were given after the presentation. Understanding COFAT’s core wire and distribution business and then seeing the fabrication of these products in a plant were a fantastic way to start our early morning. (Professor Singh would have been proud!)” –Stephanie Cheng, CBS ‘13
Professor Jedidi and students at the COFAT factory
Salam and Bonjour from Tunis! We arrived in Tunisia yesterday, with the 22 CBS students flying in from destinations near and far from prior winter break travels. For those of us who arrived earlier in the day, Chazen organized a tour to the visit the ruins of Ancient Carthage, just a few miles north of the modern city of Tunis.
The Empire of Carthage, founded as a Phoenician city-State in 814 BC, was significant both politically and as a trade hub amongst the ancient empires. It is notorious for warring with the Greeks and the Roman Republic, which culminated with the Punic wars, which were led by Hannibal, immortalized by Vergil’s Aeneid, and ultimately ended with the destruction of Carthage.
Carthage, Atlas Mountains, Mediterranean
Remains of Carthage with Latin Inscriptions
CBS at Carthage
Following the tour of Ancient Carthage, we traveled to the summer vacation town of Sidi Bou Said, a 12 miles outside the city, for a welcome dinner. The town is known for uniform white buildings punctuated by azure doors and windows. Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, currently embroiled in a nationwide scandal, was a fellow diner at the seaside Dar Zarrouk restaurant.
Blue door in Sidi Bou Said
Yesterday marked the 2nd anniversary of the Revolution. The country decided a few weeks ago to officially recognize January 14th as a holiday, and as such, most businesses closed in recognition. In order to avoid the demonstrations in the streets, populated by Tunisians off from work, our group enjoyed the morning meandering through Hammamet, a, popular resort town outside Tunis, whose population quadruples in the summer months. We explored the town’s medina (old city), browsing the souq(marketplace)for Tunisian handicrafts, and stopped for some mint tea, a traditional beverage, ubiquitous throughout the region, at a salon de the (café).
Salon de The
Coastline in Hammamet
Mediterranean in Hammamet
The CBS Group
In the afternoon, we had several meetings focused around Foreign Investment. For a more complete recap: click here.
At the Mediterranean School of Business
This morning, we began the day with a Media Panel. Again, for details, click here.
To sum up the historical (and arguably current) history of the country’s censorship, one of the panelists told us the following famous Tunisian joke: A newspaper decided to interview Americans (developed country), Ethiopians (less developed country) and Tunisians (somewhere in the middle) about their opinions on the shortage of meat. When the journalist asked the Americans about their opinions on the shortage of meat, the Americans responded “shortage…what do you mean ‘shortage’?” When the journalist asked the Ethiopians about their opinions on the shortage of meat, the Ethiopians responded “meat…what do you mean ‘meat’?” And when the journalist asked the Tunisians about their opinions on the shortage of meat, the Tunisians responded “opinions…what do you mean’opinions’?”
Until the next (freedom of press protected) post –