One of the big perks of studying in a big university is the number of overseas study trips during your undergraduate student life. I was recently a part of one such trip – the NUS Business STEER trip to Brazil. NUS STEER (Study Trips for Engagement and EnRichment) is an initiative designed to familiarize students with the diverse socio-cultural-economic-political-business management environment of the emerging and fast-evolving regions. My goal for the trip was to have fun exploring Brazil, the power engine of Latin America, and learning as much as possible along the way.
I could go on and on about the trip, but I’m listing here the top seven experiences (in no particular order) that I’ll always remember. Here it goes…!
1. Witnessing the roll-out of a brand new completed aircraft from an assembly line to a flight test!
Each company we visited during this trip taught us different things. Banco Santander shared the macroeconomics aspect of Brazil. PUC-Rio gave insights on some cross-cultural challenges when doing business in Brazil. Cargill emphasized the importance of corporate social responsibility. One of the truly memorable company visits for me was at Embraer, one of the largest aeronautical companies in the world. Having the opportunity to visit Embraer’s huge assembly line was exciting enough. Imagine our thrill when, during the tour, we witnessed the roll-out of a brand new plane taking off for its first flight test!
2. The ‘Aha’ moment: Business is NOT solely about maximizing returns for its owners.
We visited and interacted with members of Greenpeace, an independent organisation working towards a peaceful and green future. It was heart-warming to see how passionate its members were about caring for the environment. It was then when I realized that business really is no longer just about maximizing returns for its owners – it is also about being responsible towards the environment and understanding the potential consequences of our strategies and business actions.
3. Meeting Singaporeans in Brazil and getting answers to questions.
Over a networking dinner, we chatted with executives from Singapore’s Economic Development Board in Brazil and felt right at home. They shared interesting insights into working overseas and how Brazilians live their social and work life in Brazil. Cultural differences and various know-hows were also shared to address any challenges that we may face when doing business in Brazil. These were, indeed, valuable words of wisdom.
4 Ticking off the ‘must-see’ places on my wish list!
Prior to the trip, I made a mental wish list for the places to visit… And I got to satisfactorily tick them off one by one! From the stretch of beach from Copacabana to Praia Ipanema, the Corcovado, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Santa Teresa e Lapa, the Museum of Japanese Immigration etc. These were all breath- taking and truly reflected the Brazilian way of life.
5. Learning and understanding ‘jeitinho’…
This trip has given me many valuable insights into Brazilians’ social life and exposed me to the interesting etiquettes and expectations of their culture. One such aspect is ‘jeitinho’ – it’s a typical Brazilian method for getting things done, by circumventing rules and social conventions. Think emotional blackmailing, bribes, family ties, etc…you could say it’s kind of survival mechanism for Brazilians. Equipped with this understanding (and added knowledge on the business environment, economics, corporate social responsibility, etc.) I could say I’d be pretty ready to take up my first gig in Brazil after college and settle there without many issues!
6. Making friends with Brazilians, Germans and Singaporeans! 🙂
In today’s context, professional success is a lot about long term, sustainable and trustworthy relationships. And it all starts with the right social network built from your school days. From this trip, I’ve developed some remarkable friendships with not only my fellow peers from NUS, but also with the Brazilians, Germans, and Singaporeans who were living and working in Brazil.
7. Vidigal in Favela, Rio De Janeiro
Located in south zone of Rio, Vidigal is an artistic seaside neighbourhood considered notorious for illegal activities, turf wars and hardships – this was what we read before traveling there. But I vividly recall seeing a favela in the shadows of the Dois Irmaoes mountains and it was such a stunning sight! The favela brought some of the most exquisite sights that could be seen from along the beach stretch from Copacabana to Ipanema with its glistening and shining lights on the mountains. At that very sight, we immediately saw the beauty of a favela. It is also important to share that many favelas are flourishing urban communities with a vibrant arts, music and food scene. What did I learn? That it is most important to always have an open mind in life. Only then, can we learn best and be receptive to new ideas, opinions and views of others – knowledge (and the discovery of treasures) is everywhere!
I’ve become a newer me after this trip, having grown professionally and socially. So for any of you considering a study-abroad trip, I’d say go for it! And, of course, if you ever need a tour guide on your next trip to Brazil, my contact details can be found below. Happy globetrotting!
Kelly Chng is a first year undergraduate student of NUS Business School. Besides globetrotting, Kelly likes knitting, crocheting and cross-cultural learning. You can connect with her here or drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about similar trips as a part of our NUS BBA programme, please click here.