Global Network Week 2016

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Here at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, we are proud to be a member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, alongside other top business schools like Yale, IE and EGADE (visit GNAM website). The Global Network Immersion Week (GNW) Programme is an initiative of GNAM that is designed to provide students from participating GNAM schools with a rich foreign immersion experience.

The Global Network for Advanced Management connects member schools with diverse regions, countries, and cultures, and economies by facilitating interaction. Through one week immersion programmes and online courses, participating schools host fellow GNAM institutions for seminars, visits, and interactions within local economies.

The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School will be participating in the GNW Programme again this year, for our third year running. We will be hosting an intensive one-week course in October 2016 and June 2017 that will be attended by MBA students from both our school and all other network schools.

Global Network Immersion Week gives UCD Smurfit MBA students the opportunity to pursue intensive study at another network school, in a focused mini course that leverages the perspectives, programmes, and faculty expertise of that school. Alongside their counterparts from elsewhere in the network, students attend classes, tour local businesses, and meet with experts focused on current business problems.

In the video below, Executive MBA student Dermot Boyle & Full-time MBA student Ashish Babbar discuss their experiences of the 2015-16 Global Network for Advanced Management.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Every Ending Is a New Beginning…

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Today I finished my MBA. In Smurfit the final piece of work is a team-based Capstone project which I had the honour to complete with Arka Banerjee, Conor McMahon, Elsa Heffernan and Shane O’Driscoll. We undertook an industry review of a private equity firm, gaining an understanding of the industry in which they operate, how they are placed within it and then making recommendations to the firm involved.

We were lucky to benefit from the level of investment the firm put into the project, supporting and challenging us as the process advanced. I think it is fair to say that the final output is a piece of work that the whole team are very proud of.

It marks the end of what has been an amazing year for me. I have learned so much and about so much. The class of 39 has only 15 students from Ireland, with others coming from India, Vietnam, Brazil, China, Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia – a heady cocktail that ensures learnings. During the year I was fortunate enough to visit Yale, India, South Africa and China; I finally have an interesting passport!

I undertook a total of 16 modules, covering subjects from Corporate Finance to Corporate Governance, from Management Accounting to Financial Statement Analysis, from Global Corporate Strategy to Doing Business in International Markets. Yet, the most important thing I learned was that I did not study 16 modules, instead I have only studied business, albeit from all possible angles. I gained huge insights from the lecturers, the books and mostly from my fellow students.

The work was hard (I had much to learn), and the hours were long, but I thoroughly enjoyed the collegiate environment, the support and the humour and energy of those around me. I will never regret the year I spent doing the MBA and it is an option I would recommend to anyone thinking about it.

So what next? That I don’t yet know, but one other thing I have learned in the last 12 months is that in life you have to back yourself, know what you can do, work on what you can’t do (yet) and trust that opportunities will arise. One thing is for sure, I am better armed for the upcoming challenges than I thought possible a year ago and I look forward to the next chapter.

Paul Kelly ~ Full-Time MBA 

A Day in the K Club with Special Olympians

The UCD Smurfit MBA Golf Society Classic

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On Friday June 24th last, the UCD Smurfit MBA Golf Society held its latest event – the summer golf classic in the fabulous environs of the K Club in County Kildare, owned by the name sponsor of our school, Dr. Michael W.J. Smurfit.

We were joined on the day by current students, alumni and supporters of UCD. Also, as special guests, we had two Special Olympians and staff from the Special Olympics Ireland who took part in the day’s golf event.

The course proved challenging and up to its mark as a championship course. With scoring conditions tough, many participants found the scramble format somewhat of a relief and this hopefully added to their enjoying the day.

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A good selection of prizes were arranged by the committee with first prize being a fourball back to the K Club. This was won by the Special Olympics team and well deserved to say the least. An alumni team took second prize which consisted of a set of Cleveland wedges and Titleist golf umbrellas for third place was taken by current students. A number of top raffle prizes were also donated and given to the various winners.

The staff at the K Club ensured we had an enjoyable day despite some rain early in the proceedings and even arranged for local swans to greet golfers as they made their way along the course. We would like to thank The Smurfit MBA office for providing a budget for our event and our hole sponsors for the day – Business Change Management, Business Performance Perspectives, Geith International Limited, NxtGen, The Ash Tree Bar and Philip Lee. With their help and everyone else who attended we raised €1,705 which will be donated to the Special Olympics Ireland.

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As is obligatory, the 19th hole was visited after the rounds were completed followed by dinner and prize-giving in the K Club Palmer Clubhouse. An eventful bus journey then returned us to the Smurfit School where further reflection on the standard of our golf was discussed in Flash Harry’s of Blackrock.

It’s hard to find a better way to spend a summer’s day than on the golf course followed by a meal among friends and of course doing it all for a worthy cause.

Ciaran O’Shea ~ Executive MBA

Launch of Women’s Network WMBA

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

As a current MBA student in Smurfit, I was recently involved in setting up a women’s network on campus – the Women of the MBA. Last Friday, 17th June,  we successfully launched the group at an event attended by both male and female, past and present students of the MBA.

We were delighted to host a panel discussion with four exceptional female Alumni:  Grainne Barron, Founder & CEO Viddyad; Mary Lambkin, Professor of Marketing, Smurfit; Marcella Flood, Head of Digital Transformation, Allianz Worldwide Care & Orla Nugent, MBA Programme Director, Smurfit.

The theme of the night was how the Smurfit MBA can empower women to become leaders and take a seat at the table. We heard stories of the challenges of being female in Silicon Valley, stories of how an engineering background evolved into a career in academia, and of how being the eldest in your family gives you a natural advantage when it comes to being a leader! All of our speakers spoke candidly and openly about their journey to where they are today. It was a very engaging discussion which sparked some lively conversations during the Q&A.  A common thread running through all of the stories was the importance of self belief and hard work in achieving your goals. Another prevalent theme on the night was the importance of eliminating gender as an issue for the benefit of future generations.  This is why I believe it is so important that we get together to build networks such as the WMBA.

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

The MBA here at Smurfit has empowered so many great female leaders and it is a great time to be a woman in business with such initiatives as the 30% club. The WMBA hope to work on a number of initiatives to support female students and will host further networking events in the coming months for both male and female Alumni.

As the seanfhocail goes Ní neart go cur le chéile – There is no strength without unity. By coming together in unity we can keep this conversation going, men and women alike, to increase awareness and affect change collectively.

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA

A Smurfit MBA’s Startup – Hospital Contact

Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon
Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon

As a 22-year-old with two Bachelors of Science degrees to my name and 1 year of medical school under my belt, joining the MBA class of 2009 at Smurfit was the greatest risk of my very early career. That risk turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. For the first year of the MBA, the Celtic tiger was still roaring and I got a first-hand look at how not to do business. In the classroom, we were learning the bedrock principles of business and outside the walls of the school that bedrock was being broken by far too many people. To this day I can almost pinpoint when I realised it was all about to crash. We had just gathered for our first lecture on a sunny spring Friday and I was reading the cover of the financial times to see that RBS had announced a rights issue. I asked our economics professor about it and we then spent the first twenty minutes of class discussing what a rights issue was and what it all meant. From that point on, we had a separate Harvard business case study being played out in real life on a weekly basis. I remember thinking to my myself at the time that this is the best learning experience of my life and to this day I still believe that.

Since graduating from the MBA, I have gone on to finish medicine and am nearing completion of my training as a Radiologist in Galway. I have continued to use the skills I learned in the MBA on a daily basis as a director on the board of the Galway Clinic and as a co-founder of a company called Hospital Contact. Hospital Contact is a start-up and is the place where my MBA has been most useful. As a student, I concentrated heavily on entrepreneurial studies and took all the electives the school offered. Those classes opened my eyes to the fact that a start-up is hard work with little early payoff. But I also realised, through that second year of MBA discussions, that the company that sticks it out through the hard times will flourish in the good times. Hospital Contact makes healthcare related smart phone apps with our flagship app used by over 10,000 healthcare professionals in Ireland. The world of tech is full of ups and downs, but as my start-up now begins to flourish I know that without my Smurfit MBA the company might not have lasted through the past two years. Thank you Smurfit for the great education and happy 50th birthday to the Smurfit MBA.

Joe Sheehan ~ Executive MBA 2009

Smurfit MBA – Celebrating 50 Years

L -R Derek Scally, Nobert McDermott, Pat Hurley, Danny O Dea, Tom Saunders, Neil Murphy, Martin Hawkes & Josepht Dundon at MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
L -R Derek Scally, Nobert McDermott, Pat Hurley, Danny O Dea, Tom Saunders, Neil Murphy, Martin Hawkes & Josepht Dundon at MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th

UCD was the first university in Ireland, and one of the first in Europe, to offer an MBA in 1964. We are delighted this year to celebrate 50 years since the graduation of the first UCD Smurfit MBA class of 1966.

Since the programme was launched, the MBA at UCD has educated over 3,700 business leaders and entrepreneurs, many of whom are prominent figures in the Irish and international business arenas. UCD MBA programmes are consistently ranked in the top 30 in Europe and in the top 100 globally by the Financial Times and the Economist Intelligence Unit and are the only MBA programmes in Ireland to appear in these prestigious rankings.

L-R: Tanya Kenny, Orla Nugent, Pat Gibbons, Aileen Butler, Brian Marrinan, Avril Donohue, Colin Mc Mahon, Yvonne Harding, Kathy O'Reilly
L-R: Tanya Kenny, Orla Nugent, Pat Gibbons, Aileen Butler, Brian Marrinan, Avril Donohue, Colin Mc Mahon, Yvonne Harding, Kathy O’Reilly

Through the years, the MBA continued to evolve and graduate numbers continued to grow at a rapid rate. Students enrolling in the MBA also became more and more international in origin and today they come from a variety of backgrounds, representing different cultures, industries and expertise. We can proudly state that our MBA graduates occupy key leadership positions within leading organisations around the world.

L- R Jack Hayes, Brian Gregory & Tom Toner at MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
L- R Jack Hayes, Brian Gregory & Tom Toner at MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
L -R Kevin Gallen, Patrick O Sullivan & Stephen Dorman at MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th
L -R Kevin Gallen, Patrick O Sullivan & Stephen Dorman at MBA 50th Gala dinner at UCD Smurfit Business School, Friday June 17th

To acknowledge the rich history of the MBA programme and to celebrate its continuing success, we held the MBA 50 years Gala Dinner on June 17th in UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. It was a fantastic night of reunions and celebrations.

Thanks to all of our MBA Alumni who joined us on the night, for those who couldn’t, you can watch the ‘History of the MBA’ video which was shown on the night below.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Learning Outside the Classroom – China

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Prior to departing for China, expectations and excitement across the FT MBA class were extremely high to say the least. However, it is safe to say that each and every one of these expectations were surpassed. Our week long trip took place from May 28 to June 04 and, as an opportunity to bond with classmates alone, it was going to be something special. The cultural and experiential nature of visiting somewhere so different to Ireland and indeed the west in general, combined with the bonding experience, resulted in a week none of us will ever forget.

We began our journey in Xiamen, a port city on the south-east of China around 1 hour’s flight from Hong Kong. This ‘small’ city, home to some 2 million people, had an interesting mix of western style hotels strewn across an authentic Chinese city. Just a short stroll from our hotel lead us to market streets where you could buy street food, fish –alive or dead- and of course a beer or two. Trying to hold a conversation with the locals was difficult as Chinese is generally the only language spoken and as such the language barrier was quite severe. It must be said though that this only served to add to the authenticity of the experience and people were exceptionally nice to us and did their best to understand our charade-like descriptions of what we were looking for.

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During our stay in Xiamen we received exceptionally informative instruction on preparation for our Capstone projects from UCD Smurfit lecturer Professor Pat Gibbons. In addition, while operating out of the beautiful Xiamen University, we were fortunate enough to receive talks on the Chinese business and macroeconomic environment from two eminent professors; Prof Lei Ming and Prof Chen Yan. The value they both added to our understanding and appreciation of China was immense. The few hours they spent talking with us was the equivalent of reading for weeks on China and the level of knowledge transfer was something to be very grateful for. Our time in Xiamen wasn’t all work however, we received a tour of the Xiamen university campus, visited the famous Nanputuo Buddhist temple and also had a guided tour around Gulangyu island, a famous tourist resort known for its beaches, off-beat colonial architecture and a somewhat out-of-place amazing piano museum.

Following our stay in Xiamen we took a short flight to Hong Kong. It is difficult to describe in words just how awesome Hong Kong is. On approaching Hong Kong Island from the airport one could be forgiven for wrongly thinking that the skyscrapers around us were the city centre itself, when in fact they were just the fringes. The sheer depth and width of buildings all around is incredible and the container port alone is jaw dropping. It is safe to say that the scale of this place has dwarfed anywhere else I’ve ever seen. While in Hong Kong we made a number of company visits and received highly interesting and informative talks from Invest HK, Memorigin, CBRE, Heidrick and Struggles, Snapask, Hack Horizon and even Huawei. These talks provided a wide breadth of understanding for everyone on various aspects of doing business in HK and China. We received valuable insight into such areas as the wildly volatile HK property market, entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, and the challenges that the Huawei brand faces internationally as a rapidly growing technology firm from China. In the evening, students were free to explore the city at their leisure and some of the highlights were the laser show that takes place each night over the city which can be observed from the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui, the bustling night markets on Kowloon, Lan Kwai Fong (the ‘temple bar’ of Hong Kong), and last but certainly not least the spectacular views high up on the Peak lookout.

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The Full Time MBA Programme is undoubtedly an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey. Having the opportunity to visit China and experience all the great things we did this week as well as the bonding we were able achieve as a class just cements the sheer magnitude of this life experience. This week really brought home to me the value of doing an MBA beyond what you learn in the classroom. It really is a life-changing experience and memories like those we have from China will forever remind us of just how amazing the entire experience has been.

John Ryan ~ Full-Time MBA

Xiamen & Hong Kong 2016

FT MBA Class 2015-16
FT MBA Class 2015-16

At the end of May, the full-time MBA class took a week-long trip to Xiamen and Hong Kong to learn more about doing business across the globe, specifically the dynamic business environment in China.  We found the trip both academically enlightening and culturally fascinating.  To that end, here are a few takeaways from whirlwind, three-day trip to Hong Kong:

Travel like the locals

With 7 million people packed into the roughly 275 square kilometers, Hong Kong is crowded.  One can expect the roads to be congested most hours of the day, save late nights and early mornings.  Follow the lead of the locals and make use of the efficient, extensive, and economical public transit system.  While the MTR trains are the most widely used form of transit, visitors shouldn’t overlook the double decker trams, ferries across Victoria Harbour, and of course the tram up Victoria Peak.

Michael Niland, John Ryan, Patrick Farrell, Ryan Nuanes, FT MBA 2015-16
Michael Niland, John Ryan, Patrick Farrell, Ryan Nuanes, FT MBA 2015-16

Buy an Octopus card

Hong Kong pioneered the use of the reloadable transit card back in 1997, and it is still in use today. While these cards are common enough in transit systems across the world (such as Dublin’s Leap card and London’s Oyster card), the Octopus card is accepted as a valid form of payment at a variety of stores across the city, such as Starbucks and 7-11.  So even if you don’t plan on using the transit system much during your stay, running through the preloaded credit on the card should be no problem.

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Take in some culinary treats

With over 50 Michelin-starred restaurants, Hong Kong has amazing food for almost any budget or culinary preference.  Some members of the MBA class were able to grab dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, one of the least expensive Michelin-starred restaurants in the world with meals available at less than €10 per person.  Our only regret is that we didn’t have time for a return trip! 

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Enjoy a night on the town

During our short stay, most of our free time was at night and the MBA class took full advantage of that!  From strolling through the night market, to taking in some jazz at a speakeasy, to dancing in the nightclubs of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong seems to have something for everyone.  Word of warning: with the average pint at roughly €10, a long night can quickly turn into an expensive endeavor.

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Don’t forget to look up!

As we go about our daily lives, it’s easy to get lost in what is right in front of us (or more likely, what is on our phones).  Perhaps the most impressive feature of Hong Kong is the sheer scale of the city.  Whether walking through the gritty lanes of Mong Kok or the well-kept streets of Central, the most interesting views are probably above street level.

Plan a return trip

Despite the compact and dense nature of the city, Hong Kong is deceptively large.  The MBA class only had limited time over three days to explore the city.  Upon arrival back in Dublin, I know more than a few of my colleagues were asking “when can I go back?”

Ryan Nuanes ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA International Module – Visit to China

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For our final international module on the MBA program, the full-time class went on a study trip to China. Visiting Xiamen and Hong Kong, the trip aimed to give us an insight into the considerable economic achievement as well as the cultural and institutional practices in China. We set off on Saturday morning, flying from Dublin to Heathrow to Hong Kong and on to Xiamen. Xiamen is a beautiful coastal city in the Fujian Province in China, however being wet season, we arrived to thunder storms, lashing rain and approximately 90% humidity. Our first challenge was to make it from the airport terminal to the bus (which was parked only 50 meters away). Safe to say we all got soaked! We arrived at the lovely Lujiang Harbourview Hotel, checked in, dried off and headed back out for dinner at RongYu Restaurant where we sampled a variety of Chinese delicacies such as fried jellyfish and chicken heads. It was an interesting experience to say the least! A stroll through the city showed there was plenty more interesting food waiting for us…

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The next morning we set off for lectures at Xiamen University. We had a mix of lectures from Smurfit’s Prof. Pat Gibbons and Xiamen University’s Prof. Lei Meng. We learnt about the growth and structural changes in China over the past two decades and how China has emerged from its hyper growth phase into a medium to slow growth phase. With the increasing growth rate of wages for low skilled labour, China is losing its competitive advantage in the manufacturing sector compared to some other Asian countries. The challenge China is now facing is how to best manage this transition. However, the government keep changing the policies to manage this transition which is causing more uncertainty in the country. After lunch we met some of the students from Xiamen who gave us tour of the impressive university campus and the nearby Buddhist temples. We enjoyed a lovely vegetarian dinner in Nanputuo Temple before returning to our hotel.

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The next day we returned to Xiamen University for lectures with Prof. Pat Gibbons and Prof. Chen Yan. We learnt about China’s business environment and business strategy. There are many aspects to doing business in China that are significantly different to how business is conducted in the west. For example, China has a high context culture where relationships are paramount and one must pay attention to rules. Furthermore, China’s ‘face culture’ means that they don’t let people lose face in public regardless of the situation. After lunch, we took a ferry to Gulangyu Island which is the third largest island off the coast of Xiamen. A guided tour of the island showed us it’s off beat colonial architecture, lovely beaches and piano museum. With temperatures reaching 36°C and 90% humidity it was an eventful afternoon.

The next morning we returned to Xiamen University for our final lecture before saying good bye to Xiamen and leaving for our flight to Hong Kong. On the coach transfer from the airport to our hotel in Hong Kong we got a taste of the scale of the city with its stunning skyline and majestic mountains in the background. Once checked in, we enjoyed a buffet dinner in our hotel and explored the city.

The next day we visited three very different businesses – Invest HK, Memorigin and Huawei. Invest HK is an investment agency for the government of Hong Kong who promote Hong Kong as a preferred location for businesses to set up and support foreign businesses located in Hong Kong. Memorigin is a Hong Kong brand that produces tourbillion watches and Huawei is a global leader of ICT solutions. These companies gave us a great insight into Hong Kong economy and the opportunities and challenges facing businesses who operate in the region. That evening we went to Kowloon to watch the laser show from the impressive city skyline, followed by dinner and a trip to the night market.

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On our final day in Hong Kong we visited four businesses. First up were two impressive start-up companies namely Snapask and Horizon which gave us further insight into the type of entrepreneurial activity going on in Hong Kong and some of the key challenges they face. For example, Snapask, a Learning App, explained how they needed to build a completely different product if they wanted to expand into mainland China with different payment system, login system, etc. therefore they are focusing on expanding into other south east Asian countries. We then met with CBRE Group which is a real estate service provider and a fortune 500 company. This talk enlightened us with how competitive the real estate market in Hong Kong is. Our final visit was to Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm, who explained how their business operates and gave insight into the current job market in Hong Kong. We finished off the unforgettable trip with a beautiful dinner at The Peak Lookout restaurant.

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Muireann McCarthy ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA International Study Tour 2016 – UAE & India

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Visit to University of Dubai – Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki takes a selfie with the Smurfit MBA group

On a wet, windy and dark night in September, having just returned to year two of the EMBA after having had the summer off, signing up for the 2016 MBA International Study Tour was a no-brainer. The trip came highly recommended from alumni, promoted as a once in a life time experience – eight days away from regular course work and assignments and the office for the EMBAs – four days in Dubai followed by another four in Mumbai.

We departed from Terminal 1 Saturday evening, March 12th and arrived in Dubai in the early hours of Sunday morning. There was no time for jet lag and once we had checked into our hotel, we were straight onto the coach to go to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. The centre strives to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and to raise awareness of the UAEs local culture, customs and religion. Our host Nasif attempted to break down the barriers to allow us to ask the questions we would otherwise have been too apprehensive to ask. For example, “why are Emirati men allowed to have multiple wives but women are only allowed one husband”. His response was, let’s just say, eye opening.

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Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki & Professor Pat Gibbons

After some traditional Emirati food for lunch, we were given a tour of the mosque where we were informed about prayer times and the traditional clothing worn by Emirati men and women. Emirati men wear the traditional ankle length pristine white shirt, the Kandura and Emirati women wear the black Abaya which pretty much covers every inch of their bodies. As an example Nasif asked for a volunteer to dress up in the traditional Abaya to which I gladly stepped forward – I was fairly confident this would never happen again. Nasif attempted to convince us that the black material reflected the sun light and was cooler for the women. Well, it must have been thirty degrees or more, sleep deprivation was setting in, and my conservative dress under the black Abaya, lead me to strongly disagree with this theory. I was covered head to toe, even my eyes. Nobody could see me, but I could see everything – ideal for people watching, funnily enough, was not one of Nasif’s selling points for the traditional dress. I should have put that in the suggestion box.

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Day one was almost over but it set the tone for the remainder of the week ahead. Day two consisted of trips to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, the Dubai International Financial Centre, and the University of Dubai. Day three brought us back to the airport for a meeting with Dubai Airports, followed by a trip to the Jumeirah hospitality group, the company responsible for Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven-star hotel. We were so impressed with the Jumeirah group that we felt it was necessary to inspect one of their properties. Eight dedicated students took a trip to the Burj Al Arab at 11:30 that evening to see if it was worth all the notoriety. Unfortunately, a condition of the booking required us to sample a number of cocktails, to which we dutifully obliged. Getting up at 5am the next morning for our flight to Mumbai was not easy but just shows the true dedication to academia required of an MBA student.

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Before moving on to our adventures in Mumbai, it is important not to forget our meeting at the real estate developers, Nakheel. Nakheel are responsible for The Palm, a trilogy of man-made islands that take the shape of a cultural icon, The World, a collection of private islands that form a map of the continents of the world off the coast of Dubai, the Waterfront, the world’s largest waterfront development, which has received widespread international acclaim. We went to this meeting not expecting much. We figured we would be in a dark meeting room and presented with pictures of these famous landmarks, something we could have done on our own time. What happened next, none of us was prepared for. They took the group out on two speed boats, and gave us a scenic view of The Palm and The World – how many people can say that they travelled the world in 30 minutes? It was a little windy to say the least, but the absolutely surreal experience topped off what was truly, a once in a life time experience.

On to Mumbai, sore heads included. No sooner had we left the airport terminal building, we drove straight past the slums. I immediately questioned why I signed up for the trip – Dubai seemed an awful long way away. Our first stop was at the world’s largest open air laundrette. You will notice a reoccurring theme on this trip – the world’s largest open air laundrette, the world’s tallest building, the world’s only seven-star hotel….

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Our next stop, (this was all before we even made it to our hotel – remember, sore heads and a lot to experience in Mumbai), was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, one of the several locations targeted in the 2008 terrorist attacks. Our guide gave us a quick tour and a brief outline of the 2008 attacks before we were back on the bus and onto the next location – the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, not where we were staying unfortunately, apparently it was fully booked! After all, it was the first stop of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s recent trip to Mumbai. While we unfortunately didn’t gain entrance at this stage, we were able to properly visit it on our last day in Mumbai where we were able to learn of the events that took place in the hotel on November 26th, 2008. If you don’t know what happened in Mumbai that day, I would highly recommend you check it out. It is such a remarkable story of truly inspirational people with extreme courage and integrity that Harvard have even written a case study about it.

Too much happened in Mumbai to outline everything but as a summary we visited some of the biggest companies in India. The speakers were exceptional and answered all of the many questions of 20 odd extremely inquisitive MBA students. The companies welcomed us in the traditional Indian way by feeding us at any available opportunity. In India, a guest is to be treated like God, which was clear from all interactions observed throughout the trip. One of the meetings that deserves to be highlighted was the trip to the OSCAR foundation (the Organisation for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) which is a not-for-profit organisation which provides high quality football coaching to underprivileged boys and girls in Mumbai and across different areas of India. OSCAR runs a unique programme that not only teaches sport to children and youths but also helps them to understand the value of education. A condition of all youths and children joining OSCAR is that they remain in school. To learn all about what the foundation was achieved since inception and the challenges it has overcome along the route is another inspiration story that all of us were genuinely privileged to experience.

It is difficult to outline any one particular meeting or incidence during the eight days that truly sums up the experience gained from going on the trip. Personally, the trip to Nahkeel and the Burj Al Arab made Dubai special, but once we stepped onto Indian soil, Mumbai stole the show. We were shown such exceptional warmth everywhere we turned. As part of our trip to the OSCAR foundation we were given a tour of the slums – this was extremely intrusive for the inhabitants, having complete strangers wandering around their homes. But the Mumbaikars welcomed us with the biggest smiles I have ever seen. Some of the group even played football with them on our last day – I could be wrong, but I think we decided it was a draw!

The trip to Dubai and Mumbai wasn’t just about academia, it was a life experience none of us will ever forget. It has also taught us to realise the many differences in cultures that are all too often misunderstood. I have a new found respect for both the Emirati and Indians – something you couldn’t possibly even begin to experience from a book.

Dorothy Chestnutt ~ Executive MBA, Year 2