01 Jun 2008

Immersion Program Digs Deep

Re: Rytis Vitkauskas (MBA 2008); Limor Moshkovich (MBA 2009)


HBS ramped up its commitment to the winter break Immersion Program this year, doubling its offerings from the three pilot programs introduced in 2007. Created to provide educational experiences that complement and extend classroom learning, immersions offer students the opportunity for intensive exposure to an industry or region of the world. Demand was high: This year, nearly 600 students registered for 300 available spaces; 241 participated in immersions to China and Vietnam, India, the Middle East, Europe, and New Orleans. A sixth immersion on the health-care industry, chaired by University Professor Michael Porter, took place on campus.

HBS senior fellow Regina Abrami led the fifteen-day China and Vietnam immersion. “It was case teaching in real time,” she says, describing how students were divided into teams and sent out into Shanghai with Chinese translators to complete a variety of one-day field projects with the goal of identifying business opportunities and constraints. One group of students, for example, was charged with discovering what happens to all of the uneaten prepared food in the city; they came away with a government incentive scheme to reduce the leakage of untreated food waste into the animal feed supply chain. “International business requires that you figure out how to work in different contexts,” remarks Abrami, a fluent speaker of Chinese and Vietnamese who has lived in both countries. Another project proposed an e-solution to meet the needs of consumers who must finish newly purchased apartments; in China, a property is sold as an empty shell, without flooring, lighting fixtures, or kitchen and bathroom finishings.

The global nature of the student group created additional opportunities for learning through different perspectives, Abrami notes. Rytis Vitkauskas (MBA ’08), a native of Lithuania, says he signed up for the China and Vietnam Immersion because “I really wanted to see what was behind all the newspaper stories.” Post-HBS, Vitkauskas will work as a vice president in the London office of Summit Partners and focus on the markets of Central and Eastern Europe. “The immersion was an amazing way to get firsthand exposure to top-level government officials and business executives,” he notes. “It was very useful for learning about how to do business in emerging markets.”

Limor Moshkovich (HBS ’09) served as one of the immersion’s student leaders. “Wherever I end up doing business in the world, understanding what is happening in China is going to be an important part of it,” remarks Moshkovich, a native of Israel. “In less than two weeks I was able to upgrade my understanding of business, cultural, and political issues — not just in China and Vietnam but in other countries as well.”

Despite her extensive experience with both countries, Abrami observes that it was enlightening to see China and Vietnam through the eyes of the students. “So many of them were experiencing these places for the first time that I began to see them differently as well,” she says. “You definitely can’t replicate this experience in the classroom.”


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