Student Perspective: MBA Global Residency in Turkey

I chose Turkey as my MBA global residency location because I thought it would provide a cultural experience that South Africa and Chile could not. I knew I had chosen correctly before the plane even taxied to the gate at Istanbul Atatürk Airport. As soon as my flight from Paris had touched down, half of the plane began clapping and cheering like the pilot had landed on the Hudson River with one engine. The pilot had to make a few announcements over the loud speaker to remind passengers to stay buckled-up until the plane reached the gate and the seatbelt sign was turned off. This is because half of the passengers started moving toward the front of the plane while others were still applauding the landing. This was not an arrival in Cleveland.

My first intimate experience with a Turk was the cab driver who drove me to a çamaşır yıkama in the Beşiktaş neighborhood. The people inside spoke zero English, and I spoke zero Turkish. However, the sight of a weary, rumpled person with a bulging backpack seems to require no translation. A man stood up from his plastic stool, walked me over to an open washing machine and after I loaded my dirty unmentionables, he wrote up “30 TL” on a piece of paper. He started the load and motioned me toward a corner. I was perfectly happy to sit on the floor and read my book but before I could sit down he brought me his own plastic stool. A moment later, a woman appeared and asked me “çay??” (pronounced Chai). She was offering me tea. A simple but beautiful glass and a saucer and a sugar cube offered to a confused and tired foreigner would be perfectly representative of my entire week in Istanbul.

My classmates and I spent 7 fascinating days and 7 mildly-intoxicating nights learning all about a culture that is entirely different from our own. Through these experiences we also learned a lot about ourselves by leaving our comfort zones and getting lost—often literally—in a 9,000 year old city. Almost as interesting as the thousand year old mosques are the modern companies that have become drivers of Istanbul’s growing economy.

Most MBA students do not have access to the CEOs of major international airlines. The Mason MBA group that went to Istanbul found themselves with an hour-long personal audience with the CEO of Turkish airlines. Just a few days later we were touring a start-up incubator in Istanbul that would have fit right in at Silicon Valley, in a country that many in the US ignorantly assume is locked in the Stone Age.

Mason MBA students meet with the CEO of Turkish Airlines during their global residency in Istanbul, Turkey.

Mason MBA students meet with the CEO of Turkish Airlines during their global residency in Istanbul, Turkey.

In my opinion, these experiences contributed more to my growth as a student and as a person than any other class I will take in my 8 modules of the Mason MBA. The requirement for a global residency is the primary reason I chose the Mason MBA, and after reflecting on the trip for a week, I can say I made the correct decision.

Written by Matt Coyne (MBA Kennedy Cohort – 2016) who completed his global residency in Istanbul, Turkey the first week of January 2016. The residency was led by Professor Patrick Soleymani.


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