We are scaling the sacred Inca religious site Machu Picchu at close to 8,000 feet. The effects of high altitude are being felt with each step we climb but it is worth experiencing the lack of oxygen. The vastness and immense beauty of the 15th-century citadel in Peru is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The University of Alabama Executive MBA Class of 2018 began their international trip to Peru and Ecuador by visiting Machu Picchu and Cusco on February 22. Machu Picchu’s glimpse into the Inca Empire’s crowning achievement is a creation of escarpments, terraces and giant walls surrounded by a vast vista. A roughly two-hour train ride followed by a two-hour bus ride delivers us to Cusco surrounding us in carved balconies, bold architecture, ruins, and the colorful Plaza de Armas. Students visited the local San Pedro Market, the Sacred Valley and sampled pisco, cuy (guinea pig) and purchased alpaca clothing.
From Cusco, the EMBAs traveled to Lima, Peru. Coursework and culture co-mingled with company visits, a culinary class, and a chance to see Lima while biking or surfing. The international trip is part of the students’ global business course taken in their final semester.
As part of the course, the EMBA class (combining students from the graduating Huntsville and Tuscaloosa programs) work on a consulting project. This year EMBA students worked with MEDLIFE, an American non-profit organization that partners with low-income communities in Latin America and Africa to improve their access to medicine, education, and community development initiatives, through Service Learning Trips and the MEDLIFE Project Fund.
Our EMBA Class of 2018 worked with MEDLIFE to deliver a long-term strategic plan to allow the organization to increase its income and to develop, implement and market a new Service Learning Trip. Currently, MEDLIFE focuses mainly on pre-med students but is looking to create new SLTs for students in other university disciplines.
After visiting with Retail Head Juan Carlos del Alcázar at Financiera Effectiva, Acting Executive Director Alberto Ñecco at ProInversion and meeting with Edo van Hassel an entrepreneur in Peru, the students departed for Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Guayaquil is the largest city and chief port of Ecuador. The beautiful Simón Bolívar promenade flows along the Guayas River, and the colorful Las Peñas homes, cafes, and shops surround and lead up to Santa Ana Hill where the chapel and lighthouse surrender to a magnificent view.
General Manager Andrés Casal and CFO Jose Antonio Ponce at Concorsio Nobis presented and invited the students to join them for a spectacular sunset view of the city. Sweet & Coffee had packages of coffee for the students to take home after their manufacturing visit. The students also heard from Guillermo Lasso, CEO of Bank of Guayaquil, who ran for president of Ecuador in 2017, and VP-Marketing Communications & Corporate Affairs Sebastian Mantilla of Nestlé.
The international trip concluded at La Hacienda La Danesa. Students and guests heard from CEO of La Hacienda La Danesa Niels Olsen and CEO of New World Spirits Fernando Crespo. The afternoon included a tour and history of the plantation, a sample of cacao nibs, and a farewell dinner in a tranquil setting.
So how do you finally end a trip that begins with a bucket list location? You offer an optional once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands. Thirty-one of the UA EMBA students and staff jumped at the opportunity to visit the Galapagos. On Santa Cruz and Bartolomé islands we encountered giant land and sea turtles, sea lions, stingrays, lizards, crabs and sharks. Locals say the sharks are so well-fed that they do not bother humans. We all made it back limbs intact. North Seymour is for the birds and birders – a nesting ground for frigates and blue-footed boobies. Exploring lava caves and climbing the volcanic cone Pinnacle Rock, left us all wishing we had more time.
The EMBA Class of 2018 will be completing their degrees in a few more weeks. Graduation is May 5. Without exception the international trip to Peru and Ecuador will be a highlight of their program. A bucket list of places to visit is unique to each person, but it should include some adventure. It should provide us with an experience not found in one’s ordinary life. It may even transform us and change our viewpoint. And, it should leave a lasting impression that when we look back on our time there, we would say how fortunate we have been.