In an increasingly global economy, international experience for Indiana University MBA candidates comes from hands-on work in the field as much as the classroom. A group of students, led by Dr. Phil Powell, travel to Peru to help local entrepreneurs tackle business challenges using cutting edge business practices. The Kelley MBA GLOBASE initiative provides a unique social enterprise experience by partnering with Peruvian businesses to make a global impact.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We're not that different

As I sat around the table of the Inkasign office on the second floor of an apartment building in the San Isidro area of Lima, I was wishing that I had taken Spanish growing up. My head had started to hurt a little bit from focusing so hard on trying to understand what everyone was saying.

Then I looked across the table at my teammate from Brazil who was having a great conversation with our client. He was much better as Spanish than he let on and seemed to be really enjoying himself. Everyone was having a bit of a hard time hearing because there was a good breeze coming through the open windows and the sounds of traffic on the street below were pretty loud.

I returned to the conversation because another teammate had just turned to me to translate the last few minutes. They had been joking about something and when I heard it in English, I started laughing too.

After our meeting, the owner of the company hosted us for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Our team of four was joined by he and the three women working in his small office. One of the women spoke English pretty well and another one was trying to learn.

Over our 2+ hour lunch, we talked about our families, culture, music, religion, political views, food preferences and plans for going dancing one night while we're here. I'm not sure if it was the pisco sours we were drinking or just my growing comfort with understanding a little Spanish, but I no longer had a headache and I wasn't worried about the language barrier. We were all enjoying each other's company and I realized that even across another continent, we're not that different.

So we had a great first day with our client. Not only did we get a clearer picture of their business issues but we got to put faces and personalities to the names, despite a language barrier.

I'm looking forward to visits to the plant and store today after we work from the hotel in the morning. I'll report more later.

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