By: Kelly Ribeiro / Contributing Writer
This Spring Break while many of us were heading home, students from Rinker School of Business were in Egypt visiting local and multinational businesses and participating in historical and cultural meetings.
The Egypt trip, led by associate professor of international business Dr. Ann Langlois, is the school’s third annual business trip. The team was accompanied by Dr. Ed Langlois and Kim Ladd of Faculty Development.
The business trip is required for International Business majors and students enrolled in the Spring MBA Global Business Environments course. Joining the students were alumni from the Rinker School of Business and graduate students. The course was open to all undergraduate students with instructor approval.
“The trip is unusual in the way it’s structured to have undergrads, MBA and alumni,” Ann Langlois said, “but it has wonderful synergies because each group learns from one another.”
Before going on the trip, students spent the first eight weeks studying the Egyptian and Middle Eastern economies, along with the historical, cultural, political and religious climate. The business destination changes annually with a focus on global business conditions.
Geographical locations are representative of “emerging and developing economies,” Ann Langlois said. “Egypt is a developing country with a mix of cultural, religious and political contrasts. In addition, Egypt is a strategic ally with the United States.”
The tour through Egypt started in Cairo, then moved to Aswan/Luxor and Alexandria.
“The visits and learning experiences in Egypt were ranked as once in a lifetime experiences,” Ann Langlois said. “The opportunity to integrate religion, culture and business allowed students a firsthand view of a developing country as they transition to a market economy.”
Business visits included the United States Embassy in Cairo, the Arab World Evangelical Ministries Association, General Motors, Net Signature and Fair Trade of Egypt. Many multinational corporations with headquarters in the U.S. and Europe have large subsidiaries in Egypt. These companies include Coca Cola, Cargill, General Motors, Nestle and American University.
Businesses benefit from the low cost of labor and the abundance of natural resources in Egypt. The U.S. Embassy and American Chamber work closely to promote Egypt to prospective businesses.
“Going there and participating in the business experience added a whole different element, so you weren’t the typical tourist,” said graduate student Kelly Fason. “You were also really learning about the culture and the people. It was a really interesting mix.”
“Though a country like Egypt participates in democratic elections, the political environment is highly controlled by the government,” Ann Langlois said. “This high degree of government control sometimes leads to bribery and minimal business transparency.”
The business trip integrated a strong historical and cultural component into the agenda. The group had the opportunity to sail the Nile River in a felucca or traditional Egyptian sailboat.
The students also visited traditional tourist destinations such as the Giza Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, Old Cairo, the Sakkara pyramids and the Kom Ombo and Edfu temple.
“Some of our greatest learning experiences were with the presenters and the local people,” Ann Langlois said. “Egypt is a very friendly country, and the people welcome tourists. People are what make the destination a cultural learning experience.”
Students were treated to a history lesson as well.
“The history of Egypt has really taught us to appreciate the patience and skills that the Egyptians have,” Langlois said.
The students and alumni witnessed two faiths of Islam and Coptic Christianity interacting in one country. Students were given an opportunity to be disciples and spread Christianity through a visit with the Arab World Evangelical Ministries Association and meetings with the Egyptian people in various cities.
Students participated in daily Bible readings and devotionals. The tour was led by a Muslim, Khaled Assam and his Christian partner, Avril Brett. Khaled shared many explanations on the Koran and the Muslim faith while participating in the daily devotionals.
Students left Egypt with experiences they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
“Egypt opened my eyes to a developing country‘s culture,” said Ryan Whitten, a student in the School of Business. “The people there are working very hard just to get by. Some of the street vendors were speaking five to six languages.”
Rinker School of Business students will spend the second half of the spring semester creating a portfolio, which is a professional document that will illustrate their business and cultural experiences.
The Rinker School of Business is currently planning their trip for next year.