Hungry for Hungary?

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Upon arrival to the Art’otel, our gorgeous, Danube River facing hotel in Budapest, we soon learned that one of the best restaurants in the city was half a block away.  Indulging in these traditional and local fish stews was an amazing way to kick off our week in Budapest and set the tone for the rest of our trip.

The night before classes started we took a bus tour of the city where we quickly learned that Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, split by the Danube River.  We ended our tour on the Buda side at the spectacular Buda Castle.  We were brought into a small, tucked away courtyard with climbing vines and had a lovely 3-course dinner with live music.  Walking down the hill to our hotel provided amazing night views of the Danube and its most important landmark, the Parliament.

Our classes were held at Central European University (CEU) Business School.  Our head professor, Dr. Yusaf Akbar was a rockstar!  He was provocative, controversial and provided tremendous insight into Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).  The region is extremely diverse with deeply rooted history both of which drive the current business and political climates.  We learned that the global crisis brought GDP to a halt in Hungary and the culture of corruption in government and business will be strong deterrents to Hungary’s growth in the future.

Our week in the classroom was filled with guest speakers representing entrepreneurs, government and large corporations.  Our first corporate visit was to Graphisoft, a leading company in developing Virtual Building solutions.  It was here that we learned about the entrepreneurial spirit within Hungary and the challenges that many small business owners face.  Our second corporate visit took us about an hour outside of Budapest to Grundfos.  This company is a global leader in advanced pump solutions and water technologies.  Our introduction to the company included a 3D film put together by engineers from Grundfos.  After this we took a tour of the factory which was extremely efficient and clean.

One of the most interesting parts of the week was during a lecture on Entrepreneurship in CEE.  Our guest speaker from CEU had invited some local entrepreneurs to come and speak with us.  As we listened to Elek Straub speak to us about honest and non-corrupt business practices, Professor Akbar circulated an article to the class.  We soon learned that Elek Straub, the former Chairman and CEO of Magyar Telekom, was charged by the SEC with bribing government and political party official in Macedonia and Montenegro.  This further proved Professor Akbar’s point about corruption in Hungary and how accepted it is among many business and government leaders.  He presented us with the challenge to fix these issues not stand for corruption.

Overall the week was very informative and we had a great balance between classroom learning and actually experiencing the city on our own.  We had the chance to meet and interact with local CEU students and by the end of the week, many of us felt like locals!  One of the students on the trip, Libby Klein, put it perfectly, “Budapest is a beautiful city.  It was fascinating to learn about the business environment in Central and Eastern Europe.”

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Written By: Rupa Mohan
Published: November 8, 2012

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