Study Away Opportunity
Brings Lessons Home

MBA students visit Spain during spring break as part of the international business course.

Over spring break, my international business class with 21 MBA students left Philadelphia to spend a busy week in Madrid, Spain. Our group participated in engaging activities and met with industry leaders to further our knowledge and understanding of global business strategies.

This course—and trip—stood out when I saw the MBA curriculum and registered for my first course in the summer of 2019. As a lifelong experiential learner, I knew I would benefit from being immersed in the country’s sights, culture and food and the wisdom of leading business experts.

On Monday, we met Fernando Alonso-Cortés Rodríguez, managing director at FindFor, a customer-centric consulting services company. Working in Jefferson’s marketing department (along with having an undergraduate degree in marketing), I found that this opportunity particularly piqued my interest. Rodriguez discussed FindFor’s mission and covered the similarities and differences in Spain’s marketing practices and strategies compared to the United States. Rodriguez also addressed some of FindFor’s marketing challenges, and the class presented recommendations for him to take back to his team.

As a lifelong experiential learner, MBA student Cory Josephs says he knew he would benefit from being immersed in Spanish culture and learning from industry experts. He's pictured here by the Palacio de Cristal.

We spent the second half of the day in small groups engaging in a local market immersion. Each team visited three businesses and observed the surroundings. We answered a series of questions on merchandising, trends and sales tactics, comparing Spanish businesses to similar companies in the U.S. We met back as a class to review our observations. My group covered the San Miguel Market (think a Spanish Reading Terminal Market), a local coffee shop called HenSo Café and the El Corte Inglés Callao department store.

Tuesday started with a walking tour of El Retiro Park before visiting La Botillería, which is owned by the restaurant and hospitality company Grupo Lezama. We learned about the company’s history and how the pandemic impacted Spain and the area hospitality and tourism industry. The day concluded at Tradichem, a global biopharmaceutical company. Executive VP Jose Angel Marañon addressed regulated and non-regulated industries and encouraged the class to stay creative and passionate about our work.

On Wednesday, we visited Casa Seseña, a niche fashion company specializing in handmade capes and cloaks. Our speaker, fourth-generation owner Marcos Seseña, discussed the challenges of maintaining and growing a 120-year-old business. (A few of us even bought capes!) Later, we toured the stunning 3,000-room Royal Palace.

Jefferson faculty in Toledo, Spain.
School of Business Dean Dr. Philip Russel and MBA Program Director Dr. DK Malhotra were among the faculty on the weeklong trip. As part of the experience, they visited Toledo (seen here), a short drive from Madrid.

Thursday, we spent the day in Toledo, a short drive from Madrid. We toured the city, embracing its culture and history, and visited a winery, Más Que Vinos. Here, we learned about the Spanish wine industry and the winemaking process and sampled a few wines.

Friday marked our last business session. We met with Valentín Cuervas-Mons, co-founder and CEO of the real estate startup Deplace. He discussed starting and growing a business and his experiences living, studying and working internationally. I found it interesting that young professionals in Spain face similar issues as we do here. For example, with rising real estate prices, some individuals can’t save enough money to purchase their own homes.

I’m now one step closer to completing my MBA journey. This trip allowed me to learn from business leaders, and importantly, my classmates. We shared laughs and stories, and I heard about their careers, lives and families. I now have lifelong friends because of our shared experience in Spain.

Cory Josephs is an MBA student and an interactive marketing specialist at Jefferson.

See more scenes from the trip below.

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