Spring break, an academic holiday often defined in the public eye as undergraduates flocking to the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, has a different meaning within the MBA context. For my classmates and me, these 10 days of holiday come as a welcome excuse to explore new hemispheres, discover different cultures and take mental breaks from classes, projects and team meetings.
This year, we found ourselves travelling to opposite corners of the globe – some admiring urban skylines in Asia, others climbing peaks in South America, several uncovering new technologies at South by Southwest in Austin and even more chasing the sunshine in various tropical destinations.
I never imagined I would travel as extensively in just two years, however it has been impossible not to take advantage of the perks of the academic calendar – when else will we have so much time off!
Many students choose to join treks organised by student-led associations – offering hassle-free trips with anything from 20-100 other students. While this type of group travel may not be ideal for some, it is actually unreal to find yourself halfway around the world with such a large group of your friends. It also perpetuates the idea that the MBA programme opens the door to many new experiences with diverse and intellectually curious individuals.
Some of these treks even incorporate additional activities like community service, industry conferences and corporate visits (although most are purely vacation). Additionally, other MBA programmes often have similar destinations, so it is not uncommon to run into fellow MBA students from other schools while touring ruins in Peru or the beaches of Israel.
This past March, my spring break plans led me to South Africa with 70 other students. We learned about the country’s history and current progress while in Johannesburg and Cape Town, took thousands (literally) of pictures while on safari in a game reserve and enjoyed wine tastings while touring Stellenbosch.
While there were the expected moments of extensive head-counting while waiting for everyone to get on the bus, the trip was enriched by the diversity of students who attended – all having different perspectives, questions and opinions of the country and its tumultuous history. We often found ourselves reflecting on our daily interactions and experiences with the country and it was interesting to observe how such an international and open-minded group could overcome the complexities often associated with diverging cultural backgrounds and beliefs.
We came away from the trek with not only a new understanding of South Africa and its history, but also with a new appreciation for the diversity of thought and background of the students with whom we have shared classrooms for the past two years.