By Scott Schreiber
The first thing I noticed when stepping off the plane to Mexico City in the beginning of January was the weather. Having traveled south from a frigid New York winter’s night, arriving in the sunny streets of Mexico was like stepping into summertime. Still wearing my winter coat and having just met up with one of my future classmates, we waited for an Uber to take us 15 kilometers into the heart of Mexico City, and into a week of nonstop adventure, learning, and fun!
The 16 students who signed up for DBi Mexico were truly stepping into the unknown. Stern’s DBi program had never brought students to Mexico City before and we would be the first to experience the new curriculum and the culture. We entered mostly as strangers, all looking to make new friends, explore the city, learn about the environment and culture, and drink lots of tequila and mezcal. Over the course of the next week, we did all of this and more. This was in no small part thanks to the efforts of our administrator, Laura Giles, who seemed to know every restaurant and tourist attraction in the neighborhood.
On our first day, we were shuttled through the busy streets of Mexico City to the beautiful IPADE campus. The site of a former hacienda, much of IPADE’s architecture is preserved from the colonial days, giving the students a glimpse of Mexico’s history and beauty. The campus was lush and green, a major change from the concrete jungle of New York City. This was our school for the week, as well as that of the local MBA students, whom we had the pleasure of meeting during our first lunch. That evening, we discovered to our dismay that most of the major tourist attractions in Mexico City close early, but luckily for us, the mezcal bars have no trouble staying open late!
The next couple of days were a mixture of work and play, as we found our balance and learned more about our surroundings. During the day, we took classes on Mexican culture, the Latin American economy, local politics, and even business psychology. At night, we experienced the culture and cuisine firsthand. On Tuesday night, we explored the large Chapultepec park, home of many popular museums and attractions, and then the entire class filled a large table at the prestigious Rosetta restaurant. The following evening, after a brief stop for some unique mixed drinks, we wandered the Zócalo shopping district and Tenochtitlán ruins before finding a local taqueria for some local cuisine.
By Thursday morning, we were well-prepared to see Mexican business in action. We piled into our now-familiar vans and traveled out to Grupo Modelo for a brewery tour. Clad from head to toe in safety gear, we were exposed to the entire brewing process, but unfortunately ran out of time before sampling the goods. Following this, we traveled to Kidzania, a unique edutainment theme park where children role-play as adults. We were impressed by Kidzania’s unique business model and particularly by its clever method of teaching real-world employment skills to children in a country suffering from a lack of skilled labor.
Finally, on Friday, we arrived at the ancient ruins of Teotihuacán, the site of the awe-inspiring Sun and Moon Pyramids. After a brief tour through the ruins, we were given the chance to climb the pyramids ourselves. As MBA students, how could we resist a view from the top? Afterwards, we learned about the many uses of the local agave plant; the locals make sewing needles, thread, paper, and even medicine out of its leaves. We also toured an obsidian workshop, observing how the volcanic glass is used to make not only exquisite jewelry but also useful tools. When the day ended, our adventures continued with a live lucha libre show and a night of salsa dancing!
Although most of us were ready to leave by Saturday morning, we felt like we had gained an unforgettable experience during our week-long stay. Our professors showed us what business is like in Mexico, while our adventures gave us a taste of the life and culture of the country. In Mexico, there are strong ties between friendship and business, and similarly, our group formed bonds through our exploration of business that will stay with us forever.