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USU business students wrap up South America tour with rich impressions, lasting lessons

August 10th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

Story & Photos by Satenik Sargsyan

LOGAN—The team of USU business students that spent several weeks touring businesses and cities across South America this summer returned home with suitcases full of cultural and business knowledge. The Salt Lake City airport was filled with exclamations of, “I can’t believe it’s over!” and “I want to go back,” as the students met friends and family at baggage claim.

The 13th flight of the summer program brought the students from Los Angeles to Salt Lake, practicing their last “gracias” and “lo siento” (excuse me) with slightly confused flight attendants.

“I have mixed feelings right now,” said international business senior Auriner Castillo. “I was ready to come back home a week ago. But now that I am actually here, I wish we were still in South America.”

Political science and business sophomore Andi Barlow said she felt the same. She said that Machu Picchu and Sugar Loaf will always remain in her heart. “People around me and places we went to made memories that will never be forgotten,” Barlow said.

The students traveled across South America for intensive meetings and projects with businesses and start-ups, as well as a spectrum of cultural experiences.

Barlow said the trip made her value things she had always taken for granted. “In Trujillo (Peru), we saw the real South America: crazy poverty, dirt floors,” she said. “One of our microloan applicants had only one light bulb in his house and dirt water running in the canal.”

Business and accounting graduate Natalee Champlin ranked the Small Enterprise Education and Development (SEED) program in Peru as the best part of the trip.

“SEED was a wonderful hands-on experience on how to start a business,” Champlin said. “It helped me understand the culture in terms of economics and business. I do this for a job in the States but this was more challenging because I don’t speak Spanish. I had to learn how to be patient.”

Champlin described the SEED program as “rewarding” and said she hopes she can participate again in the future.

“I am excited for these people,” Champlin added. “I want this [microloan approval] to work for them. I feel like a mentor who can bring a change into their lives.”

SEED Director David Herrmann said he was impressed with student performance during the due diligence project, during which the USU students met with Peruvians who had applied for start-up financing for new businesses.

“It was impossible for the students to do a thorough job within the timeframe they were given,” Herrmann said. “However, I was impressed at how the students went outside of their comfort zones. They went on dangerous bus rides and familiarized themselves with already-functioning businesses. This was a unique experience for them.”

Herrmann said that out of seven student-approved microloans, at least three will be “up and running immediately.” The advisory board will announce the total number of approved projects later in the summer.


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