Mid-Semester Modules (MSM) are an excellent opportunity to meet the Global Requirement for graduation and learn about business in another country and continent.  It’s also a great opportunity to become closer to your Full-Time MBA classmates while exploring new territory.

For me, this was an extra special opportunity: I’ve never traveled abroad before.  I knew when starting my One-Year journey, that I wanted to be a part of an international MSM.  What better way to stamp my passport than with my classmates?  I chose Brazil as my first destination because 1) it is summer during our winter (i.e. no more coats), 2) the Olympics are giving Brazil extra attention and 3) it would be interesting to learn more about the culture, economics, and current state of affairs.  The MSM in Brazil took place in two cities: São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

After an overnight flight to São Paulo, I was tired, but soon awoken by the huge cityscape of this city (around 20 million people in the metro area)!  On our tour of the historic downtown and main regions of the metropolitan area, we learned how São Paulo is an economic center of the country and also a melting pot of different cultures.

Monumento às Bandeiras

Monumento às Bandeiras (Monument to the Flags) depicting the exploration and settlement of Brazil

In São Paulo, our company visits included UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, and SDG Glass Manufacturing.  Each company we visited gave us a perspective of the constant changes within the government and economy of Brazil, effecting each of their industries.

Sao Paulo

UNICA provided us with an information presentation and a beautiful view of Sao Paulo

Glass Factory Tour

Amy and I learned how hot glass factories are and safety is important!

We also learned about one of the leading cosmetics company in Brazil, Natura.  Natura gave us a full tour of the campus and a presentation by their International Vice President.  We learned about their history and model of direct selling, which has been evolving as the Brazilian market has fluctuated.  What intrigued me most was their commitment to sustainable sourcing and their use of cosmetics refills that reduce plastic waste.  I will be interested to see how sustainability progresses in the cosmetics industry, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Natura showed us their busy plant: filling containers with cosmetics, packaging, and shipping. The setup of machines varied between functions and some machines could be transformed to make other products.  The cross-functional training of employees provided efficiencies. There were so many bottles of perfume whizzing by!  Seeing the plant allowed me to connect what I had learned in my operations and strategy classes.

Natura plant

Natura plant

Natura Company Visit

Natura Company Visit

In the few hours of downtime, I had to experience Brazilian commerce myself…by going shopping!  Madalasa and I navigated the famous Rua Oscar Freire lined with local, American and European boutiques.  Then we made our way to bustling Avenida Paulista known for being the heart of the city with masses of commuters.  We tried out Brazilian branded stores, and I did my best to communicate with the local residents (Paulistanos).  I had never spoken Portuguese before this trip, but I found it exciting to learn some travel phrases beforehand.  Somehow I became the main communicator to ask for directions and food orders with my classmates.  It was fun to immerse myself in a different culture.  Even though my Brazilian Portuguese was elementary at best, I think the Paulistanos appreciated my efforts. Obrigada, São Paulo!


Madalasa and I purchased pairs of authentic Havaianas sandals

Agua de coco

When in Brazil, drink fresh agua de coco.