Breakfast in Europe, Lunch in Asia

March 23, 2011

…describes just one of the last twenty incredible days spent abroad in Turkey and Israel for Spring Break and our International Experience Trip. As Erin and Eddie have described, Yale SOM Class of 2012 has been crushing it all over the world for the past month. My group began the official trip in Tel Aviv, Israel, a modern city right on the Mediterranean Sea that kept its promise of beautiful beaches, non-stop Middle Eastern nightlife, and entrepreneurship on every corner. We visited a lot of innovative firms thriving and building on the high technology focus in Israel, but my favorite was Better Place, a company that is not only developing affordable electric cars but also building out a massive infrastructure network for their use. I am probably biased (because this company represents the nexus of my interests in the business world: innovation, energy, and the environment), but I remember sitting through their introductory video (which, by the way, had a production value equal to or exceeding that of Braveheart) in complete awe. This is a company that is both financing developments to address an incredibly complex, global issue and actually creating an entire ecosystem to make these innovations feasible for use and affordability. You would think this is pretty common, but it is actually quite rare to have this type of foresight in attempts commercialize innovation. As if I wasn’t already drinking the kool-aid by this point, we then proceeded to a race track and were allowed to test drive some new models of the electric cars already charged at the office. We left Israel for Turkey, where the entrepreneurs and start-ups were replaced by massive, family conglomerates. Privileged to meet with the lead Turkey Macroeconomist from J. P. Morgan and a professor on political economy from Turkey’s Bogazici University, our group spent a few days in Istanbul getting to know how large Turkish holding companies grow, innovate, and build international strategies in a developing economy. A cruise down the Bosphorus at sunset, an epic dance party, and a once-in-a-lifetime view of all the most beautiful mosques and palaces in Istanbul—our last night was the perfect conclusion to the international experience. I know I am not alone on this point, but the best part of the trip for me was the bonding. I threw myself into an early week with six people that I now know infinitely better and will become even better friends with back in New Haven (Wolfpack—I miss you!). I learned the differences between North and South Indian cuisine and what it is like to move to the U.S. from India a week before school starts. I understand better what it is like to work full-time and still finish our full course load in Yale’s E-MBA program (note to self: maybe you do have a bit more free time than you think you do…). I may have had the most insightful three hours of the trip watching my classmates’ stamina during our group interrogation through Israeli airport security. Most importantly, I have three weeks of evidence that dancing, drinking (if you so choose), and a well-targeted “where the party at?” translates in any language or culture. I spent last weekend (exhausted) in Mississippi, where I had the chance to share stories about my trip with my friends and family from home. They all kept asking me if I realized how lucky I am to have all of these amazing opportunities. Trust me, I do.

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Jessica Aldridge

Joint Degree: Forestry & Environmental Studies; Post-MBA Position: Senior Associate, New York Green Bank