Global Innovation: Paris and Prague

 

Global Innovation at the L'Oreal Plant in Paris

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their spring break in a classroom. Unless that classroom is in Paris.

When I signed up for the IBUS course on Global Innovation, I did so for a few reasons. First, the class is the only at Kogod’s international business department that has a European focus (the subject of my undergrad degree). Second, the course includes travel. Third, travel meant spending spring break and Paris and Prague.

We all know that one of the highlights of Kogod is the international atmosphere here, which is augmented by the many opportunities to take short study trips abroad. Whether it’s Brazil, China, Argentina, South Korea, or Europe, twice (or even three times) a year you can take a class that not only teaches you about doing business in a foreign country, but actually exposes you to engaging with business in that country.

For me, going to Paris felt like it would be a homecoming. Having spent all of my life since age five studying French, all of my college years studying French history and language, and four months living abroad in Paris, I felt like the first leg of the trip would be a piece of cake.

How very wrong I was.

Seeing Paris with Professor Tomasz Mroczkowski was like seeing an entirely new Paris for the very first time. Our group of 22 — mixed full-time/part-time MBAs, SIS grads, SOC grads, and some undergrads — was folded into the renowned European business school, ESCP. Apart from taking class with incredible professors, we went on a whirlwind tour of French companies to study innovation at France Telecom, NYSE Euronext, and finally, L’Oreal. By the end of the trip I was exhausted (and craving steak frites), but ready for more in the Eastern European city of Prague.

Having never been to Prague, I first thought I would be completely lost. I didn’t know a word of Czech (I now know how to say hello, please, thank you, beer, and water), and I certainly didn’t know the city like I did Paris. But Prague exceeded my expectations, and quickly took the top spot in my personal list of most beautiful cities. The academic portion was incredibly enlightening, and extraordinarily impressive. Our meetings were with the leaders of each featured company: the directors of strategy for the Czech energy company Cez; marketing, customer service, and PR executives of Vodafone Czech Republic; the leader of the US Commercial Service in Prague; and the CEO of GE-Walter Aviation.

Despite moments of exhaustion (it’s amazing how much you can fit into a day…), the trip was constantly eye-opening, and incredibly inspiring. Now back in class in DC, I find myself many steps ahead of where I was before the trip. The exposure to different cultures’ approach to business has changed the way I think about business, and has made me able to take the theories in class at Kogod and synthesize them in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

So in short, spending all of spring break in a class room wasn’t half bad. Let’s put it this way: I want to do it all over again.