One of the issues explored by the USC Marshall School of Business students who headed to the United Arab Emirates this past spring was whether the economic difficulties in the United States also were affecting people in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Traveling as part of the International ExCEL Program (The International Experiential Corporate Environment Learning Program), 40 participants spent almost 10 days exploring Abu Dhabi and its more glamorous cousin, the gulf coast city of Dubai.
For the United Emirates trip, participants met with officials from companies “shaping economic life in Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” said Sean O’Connell, director of the Undergraduate International Business Program at USC Marshall, who led the trip.
ExCEL is a program created and organized by USC Marshall to help undergraduate students view business practices outside of the United States. According to O’Connell, the trip included the companies that planned and built the Palm Islands, the World Islands and Dubailand, as well as several other $100-plus billion developments.
“Many students came back believing that the gulf coast countries aren’t immune from the effects of the economic downturn,” O’Connell said. “This is a global problem, with the UAE facing many of the same problems as (we) do here, such as job layoffs, a decline in real estate prices and a lack of liquidity.”
Stanley Lam, a junior majoring in business administration with a double concentration in corporate finance and global management, came away from the trip impressed with the country’s ambitions.
“Like it or not, Dubai stands as a prime example of what one city can accomplish with enough vision,” Lam said. “They have built the tallest building [the Burj Dubai], created several islands and multiple industries from scratch and are in the process of building the largest collection of theme parks in the world [Dubailand].”
“Upon arriving in Dubai, I saw on every street corner why the UAE was still called a ‘developing country,’ ” Lam said. “We saw enough five-star hotels and resorts to rival any major tourist destination, yet right next door to each one of these resorts would be undeveloped plots of dirt.”
The ExCEL group also met with executives from McKinsey Consulting and Nomura, the Japanese investment bank, who gave students an overview of their experiences in the region.
For Lam — who also traveled with USC Marshall to Thailand last year and Shanghai in 2007—meeting with these business professionals broadened his worldview and made him realize “what living in a global economy” really means.
“After this trip, I am much more open to working in another part of the world after I graduate because I know that there will be fewer opportunities available to me if I narrow my focus around only working in the United States.”