Sophomore Business Fellows travel to United Arab Emirates for Winter Term global experience

Students deepened their knowledge of international business while also gaining a better cultural understanding of the UAE.

Twenty-six sophomore Business Fellows embarked on a journey to the United Arab Emirates in January 2022 as part of the Business and Culture of the UAE course led by Scott Hayward, assistant professor of management, and Lin Zhao, associate professor of finance.

A group of students in front of a USA sign
Business Fellows visit the USA pavilion at EXPO Dubai 2020.

For many of the fellows, the highlight of the experience was attending EXPO 2020 Dubai. With the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” the EXPO showcased examples of collaboration, innovation, and cooperation from around the world. The group learned about the global issues of sustainability, mobility, and opportunity, how these areas interrelate, various countries’ initiatives to address the issues, and the need for countries to work together to make a difference.

“While at Expo 2020 Dubai, we had the opportunity to visit the pavilions of 192 countries,” said Isable Sachtleben, a finance and marketing double major. “The participating countries each created their own immersive, cultural, informative experience showcasing what makes their country unique through the lens of opportunity, sustainability, and mobility. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about so many different countries and broaden my horizons in an interactive and compelling way.”

At the S.P. Jain School of Global Management, the fellows attended lectures delivered by the school’s faculty on marketing in the Middle East and Islamic banking and finance, as well as met with Dean Varun Nagaraj, who explained Dubai’s recent evolution and growth shaped by Sheikh Mohammed’s grit and courage.

“Attending the lecture and discussion with the S.P. Jain Global School of Global Management opened my eyes to the profound effect cultural preferences have on business practices,” said Bennett Curtis ‘24, a finance and business analytics double major. “I learned that financial institutions in countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and many other Muslim nations, practice different strategies when it comes to financing and investment product development. My perspective was widened by seeing how an industry whose fundamental rules I thought were set in stone can function uniquely in a different cultural context.”

The fellows also spent time with S.P. Jain students, learning about their home countries, which included India, the UAE, Singapore and Australia, and gaining insight into how the U.S. is perceived abroad.

The group also attended presentations from Adi Codaty, business development director at MR Healthtech, who discussed the growing importance of digitalization and how companies use digital technologies to create new values, and Brandon Rowberry, CEO of Aster DM Healthcare – Digital Heath, who led a wide-ranging discussion on his current challenges as a CEO and building careers in healthcare, finance and management consulting.

Business Fellows visit the International Center for Culinary Arts.

To understand the Emirati culture, the fellows’ experience included visits to the Heritage Museums to deepen their understanding of the daily life of Emirates and to Sheikh Zayed Mosque to connect to Islamic religious practices and significance. The group also visited Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, Al Shindagha Museum, Bur Dubai Souks, Burj Khalifa, Ferrari World, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Global Village, International Center for Culinary Arts, and the Arabian Tea House.

“I loved learning so much not only about Emirati culture, but about so many other cultures as well since only 10% of Dubai’s population is Emirati,” finance major Alex Cope said. “The people were so welcoming. I loved getting to travel around such a futuristic and tolerant city with my best friends.”

Hayward noted the fellows’ perspectives have grown from this global experience. “While international business was the course’s central theme, visiting a foreign culture – particularly one as different from ours as the Islamic culture – opened our eyes to different ways of life,” Hayward said. “Lessons learned about tolerance and understanding may be the most important lessons of all.”

“I now am much more open to the idea of ending up in a city that is what one might call ‘unconventional’ compared to my past expectations,” said Kieran Colasurdo, a finance and business analytics double major. “Whether that place is in the United States, UAE, or another foreign country, I am happy to say that my horizons have been expanded, and I’m not ruling out a divergence from my once set-in-stone career and life path.”