By Jessica Hirsch
Darden student Dani Bchara (Class of 2016) has sampled each global academic program
Darden offers as part of his desire to take advantage of international opportunities and expand his perspective.
Last May, Bchara visited Israel as part of a Darden Global Business Experience (GBE) in which students learned about innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of IT, bio-tech, and sustainability through academic lectures and experiential learning as well as visits to local businesses in a variety of fields.
“One of the most surprising things about Israel was how safe I felt,” Bchara said. “In the news, you see such a negative side of Israel with constant conflict, but I felt very safe and I mostly saw people just getting along with their lives.”
Bchara particularly enjoyed the opportunities to tour historic sites and learn about their significance, such as when the group traveled to the Dead Sea, hiked up Masada, and visited the Golan Heights, where guides claimed that they could almost hear the fighting going on in Syria due to its close proximity. Bchara’s opportunities to experience Israeli life helped him realize how their culture relates to their business practices, particularly in terms of innovation and resilience.
Following this experience, Bchara decided to undertake a Global Consulting Project (GCP), in which he worked remotely for a company in Brazil in the healthcare technology sector before going onsite to present his deliverables with the rest of his team.
“We visited hospitals because those were some of the company’s major clients and met with CEOs and higher-ups,” Bchara said. “We got a ton of info that wouldn’t have been possible to see without going onsite. The small team nature of the project was a benefit- there was the right amount of work to go around. They were considering launching a new product, and I think we gave them a good framework to think about how to approach the market and which analyses to consider.”
Although Bchara had a great deal of prior experience working with counterparts in other countries, he was less familiar with the healthcare industry as his previous work had been in financial services.
“The business environment in Brazil was pretty similar to the United States, maybe more laid back compared to when I used to work in New York,” Bchara said. “There was a big social aspect, like starting every meeting catching up and taking big lunch breaks. I was surprised at how similar the business is, and in some ways, the technology they were using was better that what we’re doing in the United States.”
Most recently, Bchara went on exchange to ESADE University in Barcelona, Spain. Bchara chose this location for the ability to travel around Europe, and he only returned to Darden a few weeks ago. He also experienced a very different academic environment from Darden because lectures at ESADE can be over three hours long, and many classes do not use the case format.
“The students at ESADE were very friendly and open to new people,” Bchara said. “I also made friends with exchange students from other universities in the U.S. One of my favorite experiences was when a group of six of us took 10 days to travel throughout Central Eastern Europe; we visited Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. We took trains the whole way and just had a great time. All of the cities in Europe were great for different things.”
After trying each of the global academic programs Darden offers, Bchara highly recommends that students take advantage of the diverse international experiences available.
“Hands down do it,” Bchara said. “I’ve visited 16 countries over the past two years in some way related to a Darden program. You may never have this opportunity again, and there are so many experiences and places you wouldn’t get to see as a tourist, especially on the consulting projects. These experiences taught me not to be scared to go anywhere. Without question, I want to spend a few years overseas later in my career.”