“We would travel literally [only] two miles to visit a company, and it would take over an hour. It was mind-boggling,” says Brad Line about his Wharton International Seminar in Indonesia last September.
Transportation may have been unbelievably slow, but this nation of about 17,000 islands is urbanizing at breakneck speed, according to Line. As a result, he says, “you’ve got every infrastructure [and economic] problem you can possibly imagine” from energy to education to lifting people out of poverty.
It was a far cry from the image many Americans have of Indonesia: tropical white sand beaches and exotic animals like Komodo dragons. That side of Indonesia does exist, and Line got to see it as well. But Jakarta, where the group spent most of their time, was “about as major a city as you can get.”
Line, a second-year student in the Wharton MBA for Executives Program and an IT director for a financial firm, joined about 60 classmates who chose Indonesia for their week-long seminar. The trip’s aim was to study sustainability in an emerging economy.
Faculty who accompanied included Stephen Kobrin, Wharton’s William H. Wurster Professor Emeritus of Multinational Management, and Regina Abrami, senior fellow in management and director, Lauder Global Program.
“For some students, this was their first on-the-ground experience in an emerging market,” Kobrin says.
A new feature of the program this year was that East Coast and West Coast executive MBA students traveled together. Students from both campuses could choose from three seminars—Indonesia, Spain to study the leisure industry or South Africa to look at entrepreneurship in an emerging economy. (East Coasters could also visit San Francisco for an entrepreneurial/VC-focused trip.) Previously, Philadelphia students went one place, San Francisco students another.
Originally published in Wharton Magazine, Winter 2015.