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Exec MBA students travel to Istanbul, Budapest

Members of Cohort 9 enjoy an evening cruise down the Bosphorus Strait, the division between the Asian and European side of Istanbul.

Stetson University Executive MBA students floated between two continents as they sailed down the Bosphorus Strait between the European and Asian side of Istanbul. Astonishing views of architectural jewels like the Dolmabahce Palace, the Ortakoy Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge were glowing in the distance.

Twenty-five students embarked on a trip of a lifetime this summer as they studied and experienced global business practices and explored the historical and cultural influences of the Middle Eastand European region over the course of nine days.

A similar delight in Budapest was discovered when sailing down the Danube River with views of Parliament, Chain Bridge and the impressive Vajdahunyuad Castle.

Each year the Executive MBA program, as part of its course work, travels to a different destination to engage with entrepreneurial and well-established companies in marketing, finance, hospitality, operations, and manufacturing. Immersion in these destinations increases the students’ understanding of international business and its application to their own corporate careers.

General Electric Company, Divan Hotel Group, Budapest Bank, and Koc Holdings, all profitable and expanding in this region, shared their unique goals for Istanbul, which included their strategic ties as business partners, their economic opportunity with tourism growth, leveraging best practices, expanding marketing efforts, and/or being viewed as a “safe haven” for those wishing to escape volatile zones.

Students were provided a birds-eye view of lean and “just in time” manufacturing processes at both Mercedes-Benz Turk and Nokia. Students found it fascinating to witness a motor coach and a cell phone being assembled from parts in a very methodical manner.

Cohort 9 conducts a business visit Mercedes-Benz Turk at their Istanbul Headquarters and Manufacturing Center.

Pozitron (mobile applications) and IND Group (Internet banking), entrepreneurial companies, were similarly initiated by their founders during their late college days and feature a very young staff with an average age less than 30. Both started with family financing, and now less than 12 years later, generate huge revenue growth and sales. Pozitron reports 80 percent growth each year, and IND Group has revenues that top $12 million Euros with more than 220 employees in 15 countries.

The business visits were incredible, but even more significant was the appreciation they discovered for the traditions and culture of the people in this region by exploring the various mosques, castles, governmental buildings, and cathedrals. As they walked the pedestrian streets each night, the breathtaking architecture, community spirit and importance of maintaining traditions were truly evident.

Giving back while studying abroad

One of the most memorable experiences of the trip was a culminating activity in which the Stetson students participated in a safari park excursion with children from Budapest “State Care” (orphanage) as their way to “give back” in a significant way.

With the help of a local university and local adult volunteers from Hakosz (Students in the Community Service), students had the exciting opportunity to meet more than 20 children ages 4 to 12 for a morning at the Budapest Safari Park, located 30 minutes outside of the city.

“It was an enjoyable time of sharing laughter, interactive games, and diverse languages,” said Wendy Lowe, coordinator of the Stetson University Executive MBA program.

Executive MBA students Wayne Rigsby and Monica Jordan feed an animal with children in Budapest.

The cohort was broken into six teams, each with three or four children assigned to it. Along with the adult volunteers, the groups toured the park, seeing animals such as bears, deer, birds and wolves in their natural habitats while team members played interactive games with one another.

“One of the games was each team would build a sugar cube castle while blindfolded,” explained Lowe. “While we gave the Hungarian children directions in English, they gave us directions such us up, down, left and right in Hungarian. We also learned to turn over a rug together using logic and teamwork as we all stood on the mat.

“Despite the language barriers, the walls came down with smiles, the sharing of local snacks, and the help of the volunteers,” said Lowe. “Stetson students felt proud to be able to give these children a field trip away from their everyday surroundings and into a natural habitat where we could join in their excitement. During our three hours together, we shared more than just fun and games, we truly made a significant impact in their lives!

Wayne Rigsby, restaurant guest services manager, became a human jungle gym as the kids climbed on him and enjoyed his spirit. Christina Boncela, marketing coordinator, immediately bonded with a little girl that looked up to her like a sister. Joe Chatterjee, test automation engineer atWDWParksand Resorts Online, had running races with several boys who found his energy contagious.

“These children perhaps made a more significant impact on us!” Lowe said. “They helped us realize that the motto ‘work hard, play hard’ is definitely rewarding, and as we learned at Nokia, ‘living adventurously’ is possible. We will take away numerous life lessons from our time with these loving children.”

“The trip to the Budapest Safari Park was Cohort 9′s last organized activity together on the international trip and perhaps the most memorable,” said Monica Jordan, an associate facilitator at Disney Institute.

“We ended our trip with farewells and hugs,” said Lowe. “We will have lasting memories of our time in Istanbul and Budapest.”

This is the second philanthropic activity that the cohort has participated in since the inception of their executive education.  The first activity was packaging meals for hungry children in Guatemala City in December 2011 with Feeding Children Everywhere.

Executive MBA Cohort 9 students overlook the Danube River in Budapest.