MBA International Study Tour 2016 – UAE & India

University of Dubai 2
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.

University of Dubai 11
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.

University of Dubai 8

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.

University of Dubai 9

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….


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

Would You Choose Vietnam? (If you had another chance)

Some Life

In advance of the MBA International Study Tour, we had to vote for two out of three destinations. Among the three options – UAE & India, South Africa and Vietnam, most people selected the first two. As a Vietnamese student, it was a sad result for me (though I did not vote for my home country because we were encouraged to choose another place for our trip). I know that a few people were interested in Vietnam, but the final result proved that Vietnam was not as attractive (to our class) as the other two. Therefore, I write this blog to give you some interesting points about my home country that will probably change your mind.

Binh Ba
Binh Ba

1.Global opportunities:

It should be the first and the most important reason when considering Vietnam as an option for the study tour. As a developing country with the advantages of the low labor cost, Vietnam has been attracting numerous global companies. You can find a branch office of Unilever, P&G, McKinsey, Deloitte, Microsoft and several other international names either in Hanoi or Saigon. Those companies are open with international applicants and you – great MBA candidates – will definitely have many choices there. Furthermore, if you want to start up a business, especially in IT or Production, Vietnam is an ideal place with good human resources and reasonable cost of setting up.

2. Low cost of living:

You might not believe, but many locals can live (not very comfortably but in a basic standard) with 200 to 300 euro a month. The lawful minimum wage for workers in Vietnam is VND3.5 million (about 150 euro) per month, so if you spend more than 200 euro a month, you are richer than many other people.

3. Diverse Foods:

Have you ever tried Vietnamese spring rolls or Pho (noodle)? They are assumed as the best dishes of Vietnam, but that is probably not true. We have tons of different foods, from Broken Rice, Hue Beef noodle, Banh Mi, Banh Cuon, Bun Cha, to Café Sua Da. If you don’t require a high star restaurant, you can find those foods in many places with just 1 to 2 euro. And if you question about the taste? Just ask Pooja, Tar or Arka, they will tell you how the foods are.

Food Pic
Vietnamese Dishes

4. Amazing landscape:

Vietnam has 63 provinces/cities and each has a different landscape that you will definitely be attracted. While Saigon and Hanoi are dynamic and cosmopolitan cities which would be enough for one week of studying, you can spend an extra week exploring Sapa, Dalat, Ninh Binh, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Da Nang, and many other amazing places. The cost of traveling between the places is not very expensive, just from 5 to 100 euro depending on the type of transportations and the distances, but I promise that it will be more affordable than in any place in Europe. Each place will give you a different impression and you should have to shout “Wow, Amazing!” when you see those breathtaking views.

Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)
Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)


 Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)
Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)

There are so many things about our country that I want to tell you, but frankly my English sucks and too many deadlines are waiting for me. If I have a chance, I will share more about that. If my words are not convincing enough, this is a video that can help you have an overview of our country. Just take a quick look, you will love it!

Well, would you choose Vietnam if you had another chance?!

Nhan Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA (and lover of Vietnam)

The Smurfit MBA – A Diverse & Rich Learning Experience

lobby and welcome sign large banner

As a marketer, I have to learn how to tell an exciting, relevant, and believable story about the products, the brands and of course, the companies. As a person, I am a keen listener. Through stories, I learn not only the tellers’ interests, perspectives and experience in life but also a tonne of random facts – all of which are equally interesting to me. For all of the years I have spent working and travelling around the world; I have been told many great stories, yet very few of them could be exciting as the stories I have heard from my mates in the MBA Programme.

From memorable social experiences to nights out on the town, from the context in Asia, Europe to the Americas (continent not country!), all those narratives not only gave me some good laughs but also taught me so many things about the world – one of them is that funny accountants exist! And two of them happen to be in my class. How cool is that!


Diversity (70% of our class are not from Ireland) and rich experience (average of more than five working years and some wiser ones have worked for twenty years) would be the things that I appreciate the most from the MBA experience at Smurfit. Very often, I – a Vietnamese – drink American beer (illustration purpose only, my favourite is Irish now) with Indian classmates; and we will soon travel to Africa and China together.

The world seems much smaller to me because of the experience here. And now, during group discussions, when someone speaks up, I no longer think “oh, a different opinion…” I think “oh, a different perspective that I should listen to.”

Duc Le ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA International Study Tour 2016

Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai

Last night (for the ninth year in a row), we had Lyndon Worrall from Legacy Ventures join us for the Pre-International Study Tour Briefing Session. We are just four weeks out from the Study Tour so we were all eagerly awaiting Lyndon’s presentation and left the session feeling very excited after hearing all that is in store for us!

Lyndon Worrall – Legacy Ventures

During his presentation, Lyndon explained how the Study Tour allows participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of a specific country by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. The Study Tour combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.

Cape Town Overview
Cape Town

On March 12th, 61 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. 39 students will be traveling to South Africa, accompanied by Dr. Virginia Stewart, Lyndon Worrall and myself. 22 students will be going to UAE & India, joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Sze Von Lam and Roisin O’Loughlin.

The South Africa trip will include visits to both Johannesburg and Cape Town while the UAE & India group will be going from Dubai to Mumbai.

Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week:

Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.

Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.

Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.

View from below the world's tallest building, standing at almost 830 metres and 160 stories high. Illuminated at night.
The Burj Khalifa – View from below the world’s tallest building, standing at almost 830 metres and 160 stories high. Illuminated at night.

There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and Lyndon has lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner at Atlantis, The Palm Dubai, a visit to the world’s tallest building The Burj Khalifa, a sunset cruise around Table Bay in Cape Town and lots more.

Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in South Africa, UAE & India!

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Marketing & Events 

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Semester 1 Draws to a Close

Full-Time MBA Class

Today, our FT MBA students sat their last exam which marked the end of Semester 1 for the academic year 2015-16. Semester 1 is always intense and challenging for MBA students. Many students are International and many have not studied for a number of years. However, once the initial apprehension passes and everyone gets to know each other students make great progress working individually and in teams to meet the requirements of their modules. As well as the academic side of the programme, students immerse themselves in the various MBA clubs and the Social Committee is active to ensure that everyone has time to blow off steam after major deadlines throughout the Semester.

Semester 1 saw students travel to the USA, Canada, Spain and Turkey as part of the GNIW and the UCD Smurfit School welcomed students from Turkey, the USA, China, Mexico and Canada. Two students were lucky enough to travel to Bangalore, India to represent the MBA at a GNAM Conference. We welcomed three exchange students from Mexico and China and these students make a valuable contribution to the MBA experience.  Students began the journey of developing their self-concept through the Leadership Development Programme and commenced their Career Search. We were delighted to gain a new MBA mascot in the last few weeks when one of our students and his partner welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world which helps to put the daily stresses of life into perspective.

We envisage that Semester 2 will be as challenging and rewarding as the first semester. Students will travel to the UAE and India or South Africa as part of our Doing Business in International Markets module and will also take part in an international study trip to China. Students will liaise with Companies to choose an exciting Capstone project to work on during the Summer term and the diverse range of option modules available will satisfy many students desires to learn more about the topics of Entrepreneurship, Competitive Strategy, Management Consultancy and more. MBA students will continue on their self-development journey as part of the LDP programme and the Career Search will gather momentum in Semester 2 – it’s all to look forward to!

We wish all of our students, alumni, colleagues and friends of the MBA a very well-deserved, relaxing and happy break over the Christmas period and we look forward to what is to come in 2016.

Yvonne Harding ~ FT MBA Programme Manager  

From India to Dublin

It’s almost six months gone by and today we are in the second month of the second semester… and yes, I survived. Nonetheless I’ve come out stronger. Time flew and when I reflect back on the days spent on campus, it has been a hell of a ride. Lectures, presentations, group submissions, reports, continuous assignments and what not were the order of the day. The saga still continues but as the say in the old mafia way, I guess we have “made our bones” and are much better positioned to take on the world.

As we progress in to the second semester, it’s time for a reality check. Finally, why did I come to Smurfit School to do my MBA, in an unknown terrain, far away from home and with most basic factors working against me like the weather and food to name a few? Have I taken the right decision?

Well, the answer today is a thunderous YES. I was happily cruising along in life with a well set job but being in the field of human resources, I was convinced of the idea that a master’s degree could add to my future prospects. After completion of the application process, I had offers from universities of global repute but I finally zeroed in on the Smurfit School as a few facts stood strongly in its favour. First, the reputation of the college itself which has been ranked consistently in the top 80 in the world (we jumped 22 places this year…hurray!!), second the location, Dublin, the European tech capital and the last and most important, people around here who are warm, friendly and just make you feel at home. I cannot forget the date, 2nd Sept 2011 when I first stepped into the class. I was facing a cohort of 34 members representing 14 nationalities and I must admit, I was nervous for a while but as time moved on, it is this active group of fellow class mates who rode the highs and lows with me and I think my biggest learning’s have been from these turbo charged set of people who all, I am sure, will make a mark someday.

Life is not limited to study alone in Smurfit. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Rugby, a sport lesser known in India, has been an instant attraction. UCD, having won 10 out of the 11 finals of the world rugby championship is the place to be if you aspire to master the art of this game.  Drawn to the game, I can be occasionally be traced to the rugby field in Belfield campus. The Smurfit School is home to a great student cultural scene as well. Socializing and networking activities are regular. The recent Vietnamese social night was an opportunity to learn more about their culture while we couldn’t stop grabbing their delicacies.

Another exciting event is knocking at our doors, the international trip and me and my fellow mates are travelling to Brazil on an exchange program and are hoping to make the best of it. Brazil is an emerging economy like India and I am keen to have a first-hand experience of what life in Brazil is like. The study trip will help us appreciate the cultural differences between regions, culture being at the core of any major internal and external business decision makings.

The advantages of an international qualification, studying and living in a multicultural environment present an opportunity to learn even outside the classroom. While the MBA curriculum in the Smurfit School has, in what I believe, contributed to my professional development, the wholesome approach of the school combining the multifarious aspects of student life has indeed summed up in personal development as well resulting in a total learning curve. It has been a wonderful experience in so far whose benefits and value stand undisputed.

Sundeep Patnaik

– Sundeep Patnik, FT MBA 12/13

UCD Smurfit School Indian Welcome Reception

On 02 October, UCD Smurfit School hosted a welcome reception for the new Indian students. Dean Ciarán Ó’hÓgartaigh welcomed students, Smurfit staff and the special guests from the Indian Embassy.

More pictures…

” Indian Welcome Reception event organized by Michael Smurfit school for us was spectacular and fantabulous. I was overwhelmed   with emotions to see the hospitality extended by Irish culture.We all had great craic and fun. Also, got the wonderful opportunity to meet other Indians and to build new contacts with people.

Thank you so much Geraldine for giving me the wonderful opportunity to be a part of this special event. Overall, it was Grand!!! “

– Manya Arora, Master in Management

It feels proud to be part of the Smurfit family where every nationality is given equal respect. The welcome event was well organized and provided a fabulous opportunity to get together and connect with so many fellow Indians. The “samosas” were a special attraction of the evening and made us all nostalgic. I hope the tradition to organize this event continues in future as well.”

– Rahul Jindal, MBA

The MBA journey begins!

I am Vishal Vignesh, a proud member of the FT MBA Class of 2012! The diversity of my batch is quite incredible. There are students from India, Vietnam, Russia, Germany, Japan, Canada, US, UK, and of course Ireland. There are engineers, bankers, consultants, entrepreneurs and professionals from many other walks of life. It has only been a week and I am already a bit overwhelmed with information on a wide variety of topics ranging from Personal Development Plan Framework and Teamwork to Financial Reporting. Not to forget – it has also been a lot of fun! I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks hold in store for me.

Just to give you a brief background – I was born and brought up in Coimbatore, known as the Manchester of South India. Coming from a business family background, after school I took up a three-year bachelor’s degree in commerce.  I had a brief stint with Google before joining OnMobile Global, a leading mobile services firm. After spending a little over two years in the corporate world, I co-founded the company Swadhist Foods as a specialty food retailer. I am also a Freelance Online Media Consultant.

In the year ahead, I hope to share plenty about the challenges of business school, the perspective of being an international student and more.

– Vishal Vignesh  Balasubramaniam

It was not ‘just another day in my Life’…

Today is the beginning of my wonderful MBA journey; from the inception of the thought of doing an MBA till the first day of the class at Smurfit, it was all very decisive. I met many people, contacted many more over emails and over phone, did all of this just to make sure that this one step I take should make me a better person both personally and professionally. The decision to join Smurfit Business School was very strongly influenced by two factors; the first one being the reputation and strength of the course and the second being the city that made many a people fall in its love by its sheer charm, Dublin.

Before I landed in Dublin, I had many apprehensions written all over my face; Cold weather, new people, heavy work load, no Indian food and no native language were the important ones. But the moment I was greeted by an Indian friend at the airport I felt like home. The very day I went around the streets of Dublin city centre and it gave me a good insight into the culture of Ireland. With all its diversity, amicable people and rich culture, Dublin reminded me of my own country. I could find people from different countries especially India spread across the city and it was no wonder because Ireland as a country has so much to offer.

The long wait was over; 29th of August, the day after which my perspective towards things around me would never be the same, had come. I entered the campus all excited to meet my family for the next one year; I was delighted to see a well represented group of 40 people, all of them were carrying their dreams and aspirations into the class room. After meeting everyone in the class, I was directed into a lecture hall where the entire class was cordially welcomed into the MBA program. All along the day, the class was provided with loads of information required to survive the year and come out with flying colours.

That night I retired to my bed with a completely relaxed mind as all my fears were addressed; then I realised it was just not another day in my life, but it was the first day of my new journey, MBA.

– Aditya Koppula, FT MBA

The Symbol of the Table

The Symbol of the Table
Women of the MBA 2011: (Left to Right)- Nargiza Kalmamatova (Kyrgyzstan), Blonde Beauchamp (Boston/Haiti), Yvette Grave (Germany), Anh Pham (Vietnam), Lindsey Keefe (Boston), Gemma Ginty (Ireland), Megan Molloy (Washington), Megan Hayward (New York), Amneet Jhiete (India), Toan Do (Vietnam). There in spirit, Diana Vincent (India), Tham Nguyen (Vietnam) and Barbara O’Beirne (Ireland).

As part of the MBA we did a course in Negotiations where we learned about expanding the pie and creating ‘win win’ situations. As a final gesture towards the meeting of minds and cultures, the MBA women of 2011 translated this idea into the ritual of creating a dish and sharing it together at the table.

Thirteen may be considered unlucky, but in this context we are thirteen extremely skilled and confident women who have just qualified with an MBA. We certainly feel lucky to be in this position and with the world at our fingertips.

For us, this small but unique microcosm represents the world and it’s differences. The table acts as a common ground no matter what our religions or nationalities. For each of us, the act and art of making food gave us an opportunity to represent who we are and where we’ve come from and we did this with pride. Our menu ranged from Vietnamese fried spring rolls and chicken fried rice, Kyrgyz beef noodle, American brie in pastry and macaroni cheese, German potato salad, Haitian Curry, and Irish apple tart.

The ‘table’ represents the symbol of engaged exchange. In the future we will gather around different tables dotted around the world developing strategies, designing products, managing teams and deciding our own future. Although we will be in different contexts, we will continue to bring the same enthusiasm and creativity to our future challenges as we brought to this table.

As a unique group of Smurfit MBA graduates, we recognise our differences but also realise our future experiences will be similar, dealing with the challenges as young woman in business. These will range from our family expectations, stereotyping of our roles, how we fall in love and how we fulfil our dreams. We will also need to balance how society dictates how we should live, how we should behave, what our remuneration should be as business women, and how we will cope with raising children and doing the work that drives us to be successful.

We have promised each other we will meet again at another table in ten years’ time. But before we re-unite with our stories of work and life, it would be great to keep the idea of the metaphysical table intact, where we could advise and support each other as we meet our individual challenges. As we look to the future we hope to bring the same enthusiasm and engagement to our future tables, as we brought to sharing this last meal together as Smurfit 2011 MBA students.

-Gemma Ginty, FT MBA 2010-2011