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Spring break on an island

Business College to offer Costa Rica study abroad program

Lamar business students spent their 2016 spring break in Costa Rica and Panama.
Lamar business students spent their 2016 spring break in Costa Rica and Panama.

Study Abroad will offer a business program to Costa Rica and Panama, March 8-15. The program will offer upper-level, joint undergraduate and graduate classes including special topics in management and global enrichment.

“We’re there, in Costa Rica and Panama, to experience business as it’s done in another part of the world, and that it means not just being immersed in the business world but also into the culture aspect of that country,” Enrique Venta, professor of marketing and management, said. “The students will understand that the American way of doing things is not the only way, and the fact that in the rest of the world, people still behave in moral fashions, they actually get to know the people they’re doing business with before they’re ready to make a deal.”

During spring break, students will explore business practices and international trade in two Central American countries. Their first stop, Costa Rica, is a center for ecotourism and agricultural and manufacturing exports. The students will visit volcanoes, a tropical waterfall, a coffee plantation and coordinate visits with local businesses.

Venta said that students are able to fully immerse themselves in the program because they will be staying with a host family who, in most cases, speaks little English.

“During the day, the group gets together as a whole and travels to do different things,” he said. “The activities in Costa Rica are focused on the elements of industry there, like ecotourism.”

Venta said that next year’s program activities have similar structure to past ones.

“In the past, we’ve visited things like national waterfalls and how the Costa Rican government is using them to develop tourism,” he said. “We also visit mountain tops, retreats, resort areas and things of that sort, in the ecotourism world.”

There are also interesting activities that might appeal to coffee lovers and history buffs.

“Coffee is one of the largest exports from Costa Rica and is world renowned, so we visit coffee plantations,” Venta said. “We also do some cultural visits to the ruins of the native Central Americans.”

After staying in Costa Rica for four days, the students will fly to Panama, the intersection for Atlantic and Pacific trade. In Panama, they will receive a lecture and get a chance to meet the CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, Jorge Quijano, witness container ships go through the Miraflores locks, coordinate business visits with multinational companies and search for wildlife in a national park.

Venta said that activities in Costa Rica are more country-wide since they’re not based in the major cities.

“Whereas in Panama City, we’re there to study, in some sense, international finance,” he said. “We visit banks, financial institutions, and of course, the most important thing Panama is known for, the Panama Canal.”

Students will be taking a special tour of the canal, unlike any tourists, Venta said.

“The director of the Panama Canal Authority, Jorge Quijano, is a graduate of the College of Engineering from Lamar University,” Venta said. “So, you can imagine that when we request assistance from his office, he is very happy to provide that assistance.

“It’s not just a superficial tour of the Canal, but rather an in-depth tour where we talk to marketing and operations people and how, particularly now, the second canal is affecting global trade.”

Venta said Panama is an interesting experience, and it’s a different type of experience compared to Costa Rica. He said Panama City, as one of Central America’s largest cities, is a much more urban experience.

Gevorg Sargsyan, professor of finance, who will lead the program, said his goal for the trip is that the students learn how the local communities in Costa Rica benefit from tourism, the financial and cash flow of tourism, and see the financial aspects of Panama.

“We want the students to observe the businesses, understand their practices, ask questions, and get information on projects,” he said. “My idea is to give the students, projects to show some touristic destinations that model, how tourists bring the money to that local community and how it affects local economy development.”

Dan French, dean of the College of Business, said that Costa Rica and Panama have many benefits that are relevant not only to Lamar because of its geographic area, proximity and natural cultural ties, but to the students as well.

“There are many opportunities for our students, both, to potentially be working in Latin America or also, in Texas, where we have a lot of demands for Spanish-speaking or Hispanic-cultural business representatives, sales people and supervisors,” he said.

French said he wants the students to absorb as much as they can from dealing with local businesses in transactions to currency exchanges.

“We mix educational experiences along with cultural experiences,” he said. “Networking give students experiences that they can have domestically.”

Venta said he wishes that every students in the College of Business could experience study abroad programs because of its many benefits.

“They have to be much more self-reliant, and they can’t think ‘American’ all the time,” he said. “They have to be flexible in how they handle situations, so that provides them with the experience and maturity that they didn’t have.

“In addition, the ability to interact with other cultures, which they would have to do everywhere they work, not just because they have to compete globally, but because they have to be with people from all over the world that happen to work in the same places that they work at.”

Sargsyan said that study abroad opens up people’s minds to different cultural environments.

“In my past experiences, when we came back from study abroad trips, the students told me that it was ‘the best time of their lives’ and it changed their ways of thinking,” he said. “When they go outside of America and get experiences by meeting with business people, they will gain global enrichment from a business-cultural perspective that will open their eyesto what’s going on in the world.”

For more information about the program, contact Sargsyan at 880-8702 or email

Story by Vy Nguyen, UP staff writer

Category: News