Just when I thought my MBA experience could not get better, I made the excellent decision to enroll in the global exposure course over winter break to Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Yes, that means I was enjoying sunny, summertime days in the Southern hemisphere where dinner begins at 8 pm (at the earliest) and is drawn out for hours over great wine and conversation.
About 15 full-time and 20 part-time Tippie MBA students attended the trip. We spent about five days in each country visiting businesses and soaking in the culture. The trip provided an extra enrichment opportunity for me because I was a Spanish major as an undergraduate. I was able to use that skill, which was helpful for my classmates and fun for me.
The biggest lesson learned from the trip for me was how different the economic situations are in Chile and Argentina. I think many people have a tendency to group all Latin American countries together and make generalizations about the entire region. Chile and Argentina are very different.
Chile has a stable government with limited corruption. Inflation is under control. Investment and business are booming, and the middle class is growing rapidly. Chile is well known for being one of the most business friendly countries not only in Latin America but in the world. Chile is a strong exporter of salmon, fruit, wine and copper. Argentina on the other hand is dealing with rapid inflation, which its government is underreporting. Corruption is rampant. There is a huge gap between the rich and poor with a huge percentage of the population living in poverty. Taxes are insanely high, such that many businesses do not accurately report earnings. Agriculture is one of the most successful industries in Argentina with high exports of beef, corn, sugar cane and other crops. However, several individuals we met who are working in that sector reported that farmers and agriculture companies are routinely taxed at a rate of 40% or more.
This trip was a good reminder that every country has its own story and has the potential to impact the world economy. In this global world, it is important to understand the differences in doing business in other countries and to know that though two countries may be geographically close, they each have their own story.
Companies Visited: InvestChile, Gerdau (steel company), Enersis (Chile’s largest private energy company), John Deere, P&G, De Martino Winery and Citibank.
Famous Sites Visited: Iguazu Falls (a series of 275 waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil), Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s house and Chile’s Presidential Palace, La Moneda.
Most Notable Moment: Whitewater rafting with five MBA peers in Maipo Canyon in Chile. We wore wet suits because the water running down from the snowcapped mountains was so cold. I jumped off the raft and floated down the freezing cold river for about five minutes. It was a refreshing but jarring sensation since the water was extremely cold and the temperature was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.