By Zeinab Ayoub, University of Michigan

Zeinab Ayoub

The course BA 310: Cross Cultural Business has been a great educational, professional, and personal experience that has enriched my business acumen, cultural intelligence, and interpersonal skills tremendously. This course utilized technology in an innovative way: it was the first time during my college experience that I partook in course lectures and discussions with classrooms in other parts of the country. I am Lebanese, but was born in the United States, so it was a great experience connecting with students from my home country and the Middle East. Moreover, hearing lessons from professors in different countries and witnessing the way class was conducted in these countries provided valuable insight into the educational systems in these countries. I was able to compare and contrast learning environments and curriculums in a way that gave me a better understanding of higher education in the Middle East. After this course, I am motivated to seek study abroad opportunities or summer programs at the University of Beirut.

I greatly enjoyed the course setting, assignments, and learning environment ranging from lectures, discussion posts, case studies, and group assignments. My favorite parts of the course include the international consulting project and the Lebanese Ixsir wine case. The international consulting case was an amazing experience that enabled me to form lifelong friendships with students from Lebanon, Egypt, and Libya while enriching my analytical and problem-solving abilities. Our team was responsible for analyzing the Libyan Market to determine whether exporting Montmorency cherries from Michigan would be a profitable, successful endeavor. My team utilized course concepts to conduct a thorough analysis of the market including market size and Pestle tools. We heavily relied on our teammate from Libya to provide insight about the Libyan market including consumer taste and shopping habits that the internet failed to provide us with. This project gave us a great opportunity to do the type of work top consulting firms like BCG, Mckinsey, and Bain do, while improving our cross-cultural competence. Through this experience, I learned how to communicate with my teammates and vice versa. We learned how to leverage one another’s strengths to provide the best recommendation possible. We also gained insight into the different cultural norms including infrastructure, consumer behavior and taste, and local cuisine. These cultural factors are just as, if not more important than, the economic factors that are considered when assessing if a business venture is a good idea or not. This experience highlighted the significance of culture in not only collaborating with others, but also when considering entering anew market. We had to look beyond numbers to come to our recommendation.

My second favorite part of the course is when the CEO of Ixsir wine joined our class discussion on the Ixsir case and recommendations to scale upwards. This again provided students with the ability to perform the type of work the world’s largest consulting firms conduct and provided access to C-suite executives. This was a one-of-a kind opportunity to put into practice what we learned in the course to solve a real-world problem for an international business. I appreciate the effort of my peers from the Middle East in giving insightful and logical presentations about the direction that Ixsir should take to successfully globalize their company while increasing profits. Each country had a different recommendation, which made the group discussion and feedback from the CEO very intriguing. It is not often that students are offered live feedback for their work, especially from C-suite executives. This experience further engrained the value of understanding the different cultural norms in different countries that one seeks to conduct business in.

In conclusion, I am very grateful for the opportunity to enroll in BA 310: Cross Cultural Business through the William Davidson Institute. I learned so much about how to be culturally intelligent, and how to successfully work on cross-cultural teams and international business ventures. Takeaways that I will cherish include the relationships I have formed with my international peers and the value of understanding cultures in business settings of all capacities and magnitudes a core function that leads to success and cohesion. I will always be more competent and cautious of cultural synergies and barriers in all aspects of educational, professional, and personal life thanks to this course.