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Students on a beach with momuments

An International Experience to Remember

Megan Grossman ’25 writes that lasting connections, insights into a new business environment, cultural explorations, and spectacular food made the International Experience trip to Uruguay one of the most impactful weeks of her life. 

Before starting at Yale SOM, I knew I wanted to participate in an International Experience (IE) course. The chance to explore business from a different cultural lens excited me, and Yale SOM’s generous spring break allotment for immersive travel within the country with faculty and classmates made it even more enticing. Among the options, the Uruguay IE stood out to me. South America had already captured my heart during a previous summer abroad, and the idea of venturing to a country I hadn’t before considered visiting intrigued me. Additionally, Uruguay’s unique position as a rapidly developing nation in the region fascinated me.

From the outset, my expectations were high, and yet I can confidently say they were exceeded during my 10 days in Uruguay. The trip not only broadened my understanding of business through insightful seminars but also deepened my appreciation for Uruguayan culture and forged meaningful connections with classmates; the care and detail that Professor Lorenzo Caliendo and alum Matias Cancela ’22 put into mapping out this IE was so apparent and appreciated every step of the way. The guidance of Sami Cubias ’24 and CDO representative Mary Kate Scardillo also helped make our trip positive and impactful.

Our journey kicked off with intensive on-campus seminars, featuring notable speakers like Ignacio Munyo, CEO of CERES (Uruguay’s primary think tank), and Martin Inthamoussu, professor of creativity and innovation at UCU Business School. These sessions laid the groundwork for understanding Uruguay’s macroeconomic and cultural landscape. Class projects further enriched our learning, allowing us to delve into the companies we would later visit in the country. Excitement for the trip reached a crescendo with Professor Caliendo’s generous hosting of an empanada night shortly before our departure. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with members of the SOM community who had participated in the trip last year, building anticipation and fueling our excitement for the journey south!

Our inaugural day in Uruguay whisked us to Zonamerica, a bustling business park and free trade zone in Montevideo. Witnessing the operations of companies we had studied prior to our arrival brought the knowledge to life and was truly eye-opening. The visit culminated in a stimulating panel discussion with government and business leaders, followed by networking with Uruguayan MBA students. I am so pleased that these interactions fostered enduring connections; I recently shared insights into my pre-SOM work experience with one of the students who reached out to me. It was fantastic to gain a different perspective on the academic experience and cultivate connections that I anticipate being long-lasting.

Students on a company visit
Students posting in a Montevideo sign
Students outside of a company visit with palm trees

The remainder of the trip provided invaluable opportunities to explore business practices in an emerging economy. As a former chemical engineer, I found that visiting BASF chemical company’s business centers in Montevideo was a geek-out highlight. Tours of companies like Mercado Libre, Globant, and AF (Forestry Services) further deepened our understanding of Uruguay’s business landscape. But beyond business insights, the trip immersed me in Uruguayan culture. From private tango performances to exploring the coastal beauty and artistic musings of Carlos Páez Vilaró at his iconic Casapueblo, each moment was a discovery of cultural treasures. The flavors of traditional Uruguayan specialties like empanadas, asado, and chivito were a treasure trove that I suspect will linger in my memory long after returning to New Haven’s food scene. A visit to the breathtaking sculpture gardens of the Fundación Atchugarry, topped with an unexpected and exhilarating encounter with Pablo Atchugarry himself, added an unforgettable dimension to my journey. What I once perceived as a small South American country has revealed itself as a vibrant hotspot of immense beauty, culinary delights, and rich cultural experiences.

Yet, amidst the glitz and glamour, it was our visit to the nonprofit organization Impulso in one of Montevideo’s poorest neighborhoods that left the most enduring impact. Witnessing the enthusiasm of the kids as they practiced their English (and as I stumbled through my Spanish), bonding over shared interests like soccer and music, was truly humbling. The visit served as a poignant reminder of my own privileges and the transformative power of education and empowerment. This experience prompted my classmate Caroline Guiot ’24 to organize a donation drive with 100% participation from our group at IE, underscoring the pervasively lasting impact of our visit.

The IE experience wasn’t just about business and culture; it was about forging connections with classmates. Whether it was horseback riding on the Uruguayan steppe, listening to spooky ghost stories on the historical ranch San Pedro de Timote, or impromptu bus karaoke after visiting a stunning winery, each moment strengthened bonds across different class years and cohorts and broadened perspective at large.

Before my IE experience, I knew it would be an apex part of my business school journey, but I didn’t anticipate it becoming a cornerstone memory of my life. Uruguay gifted me with precious memories, valuable learnings, and enduring connections that I’ll cherish forever. Ultimately, the experience leaves me feeling incredibly fortunate and even prouder to be a Yale SOM Bulldog.