Cal Poly’s latest Orfalea International Business Tour took 16 students to Spain and Morocco June 15-27 for an in-depth look at businesses and culture in the region. Marketing faculty member Lisa Simon and Assistant Director of Support Programs & Services Katelyn O’Brien led the cohort as it explored the cities of Casablanca, Marrakech and Barcelona.
The tour adopted the focus of “So Close, Yet So Far: Exploring the contrasting effects of business in Morocco & Spain,” which allowed students to meet experienced leaders in a variety of business sectors, learn about entrepreneurial networks, and survey the economic landscape and industry practices of different regions. Emerging markets and cornerstone industries include tourism, electronics, industrial manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, textile industries, food and beverage, and automotive industries.
The adventure began with a city tour of Casablanca to take in the city’s culture, food, architecture and Islamic customs. Students also met with business leaders at Pernod Ricard and Imperial Tobacco in Casablanca to explore business development strategies for global brands rooted in Morocco.
In Marrakech, the group explored the city’s winding markets and learned about trends in the hospitality and tourism industries at the Mandarin Oriental resort. The experience made a big impact on students exploring an Islamic culture for the first time.
“This trip was my first time visiting a Muslim country and it was eye-opening to see the reality of what that means and broke down a few generalizations and thoughts I had before the trip,” said student Sam Jones. “The trip made me a more global and culturally aware citizen and made me realize that I can take my career anywhere.”
“It was a pleasure getting to see an Islamic culture that was welcoming and opening and helped shed light on the overly aggressive stigma that is spread towards Muslims,” added Connor Jordan, a fellow student on the tour. “Getting to learn more about the governmental structure and how the international businesses operate within the culture of Morocco was eye-opening and will be carried forward in my future international endeavors, whatever those end up being!”
Once in Barcelona, students met with executives at MediaCom Barcelona to assess effective data-driven marketing strategies in the Spanish market. While at Privalia, an online retailer of fashion and lifestyle products, students also spoke with Chief Product Officer Kiran Thomas and gained insights into e-commerce operations in regional and global markets.
“The business visit with Privalia combined with the city visit of Barcelona really made me believe that I could live and work abroad. Supply chain is something that can and has to be done everywhere in the world and this trip opened my eyes to that,” added Sam Jones.
The final business visit took students to #HomelessEntrepreneur, which empowers struggling adults to start their own business ventures. The group met with President and Founder Andrew Funk to discuss the organization’s mission and vision. Several entrepreneurs shared their stories and business plans with the group as well.
A key feature of the tour was the opportunity to contrast business in northern Africa and western Europe. Students enjoyed an interactive, up-close look at professional life in these dynamic and diverse environments.
“This was my first time traveling out of the country, and, after being home for less than two weeks, I already want to go back and explore new places,” said student Kayla Wells. “I also now want to do an internship abroad after talking the meeting with Privalia and his amazing international experience. After meeting people from so many different countries who spoke English so well, it has inspired me to make it a goal to learn two more languages.”
“Getting to meet new people, trying different foods, and sharing memories with all of the students on trip was a blast. Experiencing Spain has pushed me even more to travel and to heavily consider an international career,” added Connor Jordan.
Orfalea International Business Tours have become a major part of the college’s career readiness initiatives, which aims to prepare professionals to lead in a global economy. The tours empower as many students as possible to have an international experience before graduation. Other tours have ventured to New Zealand, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Germany and Brazil.
The program was made possible through Orfalea Travel Grants that provided each student $1,000 to offset travel and lodging costs. Travel grants are made possible thanks to generous donor support to the Orfalea College of Business and its Dean’s Excellence Fund. For more information on supporting a future Orfalea International Business Tour, visit https://www.cob.calpoly.edu/giving-to-the-orfalea-college/.