BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – As winners of a case competition in Brazil, two students at the University of São Paulo recently spent a week visiting the Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business.
While at Kelley, Giovanni Ginese and Roberta Versiani (pictured above with Erica Kovacs, middle) attended classes in I-Core Leadership, business economics, management and international business. They met with Kelley faculty originally from their home country.
It wasn’t all business – they enjoyed music by a Prince tribute band and the Jefferson Street Parade Band at IU’s First Thursdays arts and humanities festival. They attended their first “American football” game – IU’s historic 52-0 victory over Eastern Illinois University – had B-Town pizza and got to go to Nick’s English Hut.
But primarily it was a reunion of sorts for Ginese, a second-year student in business and accounting, and Versiani, a fifth-year student getting ready to graduate, with Kelley students they met through D272, a Kelley undergraduate immersion course that took 23 students to Brazil in May (pictured below).
The Brazil class is one of 18 international immersion courses that are part of the Kelley undergraduate curriculum, which helped more than 400 students expand their global awareness. The University of São Paulo is Brazil’s largest public university and the country’s most prestigious educational institution.
The capstone project for the class’ 10-day trip to Brazil was a case competition that paired up students from Kelley and the University of São Paulo and Ginese and Versiani were on the winning team. Teams worked on a case from Belgium-based brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and other international beer brands. Kelley students received the case four weeks before their trip and worked virtually with their Brazilian counterparts before arriving.
“Most of the work was done during the week they were there, overnight, and they didn’t sleep a lot,” said Versiani, who is from Brazil’s sixth largest city, Belo Horizonte. “We met at night and worked late to finish the case.”
This was not the first time that Ginese had participated in a case competition involving students at another U.S. business school – he’s done it twice before with students from Ohio State and the University of Illinois.
But this was the first time Ginese was on the winning team. “It was an amazing experience,” he said. “To work with people with a different cultural view, who have different ways to solve a problem is great.”
The immersion class and case competition created this year also provide Kelley students with a similar intercultural understanding and knowledge of what it’s like to work in South America, said instructor Erica Kovacs, clinical assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship.
“They saw different realities,” said Kovacs, who is originally from Brazil. “Not every place is like the U.S. There are a lot of differences and how people deal with those differences is a key point … Brazilians are more indirect and we (Americans) are more direct, so students needed to learn how to say things without hurting people. They had to understand the cultural differences and similarities.
“Most important was opening their minds to what is international,” she said, adding that more than two thirds of her students said they want to pursue another, more extensive study abroad experience. Many said they want to learn a second language.
Business education also is different in Brazil. Rather than merely having summer internships between school years, many students there work at jobs during the day and attend classes at night. This means the days are long, as Versiani – who has an internship at CitiBank — continues after class doing coursework until midnight, when she goes to bed. Courses also are more interactive at Kelley.
“I realized that after the classes here I kept thinking about what I learned and that doesn’t happen in Brazil,” she said, noting that most students there primarily study to do well on exams on covered material. “You talk to your teachers, you talk to your mates and it sticks more in your head.
“Coming to Indiana University really made me (want to) study abroad. It’s something I’ve thought about before – going abroad for a master’s or an MBA – but living here this week has helped me make the decision … It’s fixed in my head now,” Versiani said, adding that she might want to come back to Kelley for that degree.
Ginese, who is from a suburb of São Paulo, was similarly impressed. “We are studying at a university that is considered in most of the rankings to be the best university in Brazil and in Latin America, but when you watch a class here at Indiana University … you see differences in how it’s organized and in the technology that is available,” he said. “I can now understand how the international rankings work … All the teaching process and the experience that you have on the campus here at Indiana and the United States is something really different from what we have in Brazil.”
As they return to São Paulo, Versiani and Ginese said they look forward to continuing the friendships made with Kelley students. “We are closer to them, we now have more to talk about,” she said. “I hope they come visit us again.”