Student Life Blog

Entering content area for Student Life Blog

blog posts

  • Spring Break Study Abroad in Rio de Janeiro

    Matt Lesh
    Matt Lesh


    Sunday 3/20/11- Day 2
    By Josh McDonald, MBA1

    Our second day in Rio de Janeiro immersed all of the attendees in the culture, as we visited some of the most recognizable locations in Brazil. After exiting our hotel en route to what we thought to be Christ the Redeemer, Daniel, our tour guide, informed us that due to President Obama’s visit to Brazil and a cloudy morning, we would be unable to see monument.

    Slightly disappointed, the group re-routed to Sugarloaf or Pao de Acucar, another popular tourist location, boasting a breathtaking view atop a highpoint shaped like a loaf of bread (hence the name). Following our observation of the majestic Rio de Janeiro from Sugar Loaf, our spirits were lifted because, in a turn of events, we were able to visit Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). Though the clouds were out in full effect, they were unable to ruin the landmark, which extends to nearly 100 ft.

    The group enjoyed a lunch break prior to venturing to the market, greatly resembling a flea market in the US, where we were able to purchase souvenirs or simply experience another aspect of Rio.

    Monday 3/21/11 – Day 3
    By Matt Lesh, MBA2

      We met at 7:30 a.m. today to check out of the Ipanema Hotel and travel by charter bus to Embraer’s corporate headquarters for our first company visit of the trip. Embraer is one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world!  President Obama was staying near our hotel in Rio and because of this, our travel time was extended because we had to pass Obama’s hotel on our way to Sao Paulo. The Brazilian military had hundreds of soldiers stationed outside the hotel to accompany Obama’s Secret Service detail.
     The bus ride took about four hours, which included a stop for lunch at a gas station buffet off the highway. Surprisingly, the buffet was not that bad!  As we were traveling to Embraer’s headquarters, we passed the second largest church in the world called the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. The church can seat up to 45,000 people.

     We arrived at the Embraer Headquarters and we were taken to a conference room for a Powerpoint presentation and question and answer session. The presentation highlighted Embraer’s company history, corporate strategy, and product offerings. As we were listening to the presentation, a group of MIT MBA students entered the room. We spent the remainder of the day with the Embraer’s representatives and the MIT students. The Embraer representatives took us on a tour throughout the facilities. We were able to see the various states of manufacturing from raw materials to final completion. Embraer implemented a lean manufacturing system based on recommendations from a foreign consultant. Our tour concluded around 6:00 p.m. and we boarded the bus to travel to our hotel in Sao Paulo.

     Due to the high volume of traffic, our commute to the hotel took approximately two hours. The bus stopped at Red Grill, a Brazilian buffet, so that the group could eat before arriving at the hotel. By the time we arrived at our destination, everyone was so tired that we called it an early night so we would be rested for the first day of class!


    Tuesday, 3/22/11- Day 4
    By Josh McDonald, MBA1

    After the previous day saturated with travel to Sao Paulo and a company visit, the group began attending business lectures at the University of Sao Paulo, a top business school from an international standpoint. The lectures centered around the expansion in the construct of international business, which possessed a relevant and intriguing nature, as Brazil has been predicted to be a top five economy in the next 20-35 years.

    After broadening our international business knowledge the tour continued as we explored downtown Sao Paulo and touring BM&F – BOVESPA, a stock exchange facility in Brazil. We were able to meet other MBA students from Tufts University in Massachusetts, sharing our visit and experience with them. The group, then, changed at the hotel and got ready for the University of Illinois alumni reception, which enabled us to meet and interact with alums working in an array of companies and capacities ranging from Johnson & Johnson to the University of Sao Paulo.

    Wednesday 3/23/11 – Day 5
    By Matt Lesh, MBA2

     The itinerary today included a bus ride to IPE (Ecological Research Institute) and a soccer match in the evening. IPE is one of the largest environmental NGOs in Brazil and has its headquarters 47 miles away from Sao Paulo. One of IPE’s goals is to conserve biodiversity while respecting the traditions of local communities.

     The IPE visit consisted of four lectures from the IPE staff. The first lecture was about the general background and strategy of the organization. This first lecture was high level and gave us a basic overview of the organization. The second lecture given was more concentrated on the Black Lion Tamarin Monkey, a small monkey living in the Brazilian rainforests. IPE has a few staff members who are dedicated to the research and analysis of the Black Lion Tamarin Monkeys in the area.

     Upon completion of lunch, the third lecture began. The third lecture was about the IPE’s general marketing strategy. IPE strives for partnerships with large Brazilian consumer goods companies that they could work with to further market IPE’s initiatives. IPE has been able to partner with Brazilian based Havaianas Sandal Company to manufacture and market sandals that have IPE’s trademark on them. This lecture showed us that a corporate partnership is integral in the sustainability of IPE, especially since IPE is a not-for-profit organization. The fourth lecture related to the physical restoration in the IPE. An IPE staff member talked to us about how IPE is maintaining the land within their control. We also learned during this lecture that we would be planting trees before we returned to Sao Paulo for the day!

     The tree-planting activity was very rewarding. Our group was given a number of very small trees to plant in an area that was near our lecture room. We spent about an hour digging, planting, and watering. This project was extremely beneficial to the IPE because it would have taken them a much longer time to complete this activity on their own. We boarded the bus around 5:30 p.m. to head back to the hotel in Sao Paulo.

     Due to the large amount of traffic, we did not get back to the hotel until around 7:30 p.m. This did not leave us much time to get ready for the Sao Paulo Corinthians soccer game that evening. We met in the lobby at 8:30 p.m. to board the bus again for the soccer match. The game was very enjoyable. The crowd was very energetic and lively throughout the entire game. The Sao Paulo Corinthians beat their opponent, the Paulistas, 3-0. As we were walking out of the stadium, some students purchased Corinthians jerseys and flags from the street vendors. Overall, it was a great night because we were able to witness Brazil’s most popular sport first-hand!

    Additional Resources