As much as I loved Panama it feels good to be back in America! Of course my flight was delayed 50 minutes so why not buy my first legal drink and write a final blog. As I sit here in Buffalo Wild Wings (should be called B-Dubs like in Panama) there are a lot of emotions running through my mind. Sadness that its over, happiness that it happened and also some relief to be back home. This trip was definitely something I will never forget not only because of everything that I was able to see and experience but a majority because of the people I got to experience it with. Being around ten other people for three solid weeks can be a challenge for sure and there were definitely times I needed a break, but they became a second family to me and I always provided a good laugh. It was hard going our separate ways in Houston but I know we will all hang out again when we return to Arkansas!
Along with a great group of people we had the best professor there is leading us on this journey. In the three years this trip has been going on he has made not only a fun trip but one of the most educational experiences I have had in my college career. I chose this specific trip because it was geared towards my major and everything he had planned just helped to confirm that what I am studying is exactly what I want to pursue in the future. He set up business visits with banks, logistics companies, transportation companies and many more to offer us not only a look at the supply chain in Panama but a well rounded business education. I cannot thank Dr. Esper and his awesome wife Mishi for the best three weeks ever!
The final and the most important thank you goes to my family who made this trip possible. Thank you first of all to my sister who suggested I major in Supply Chain. Coming into Arkansas I had no idea what I wanted to do except for that I wanted to enter into the business college. Supply Chain being her major as well, she explained what it was and the things you could do with it and I was hooked from the start, and this trip only confirmed that I made the right choice for my future. Finally the BIGGEST thank you to my wonderful parents! Without their love and support this trip would not have happened. I cannot thank you enough for getting me through the hard times and always encouraging me to follow my dreams no matter the cost or time it may take.
I cannot wait to take everything I have learned in Panama and apply it to not only my school work but to my internship and even in the future when I enter the workforce. This trip has truly made me a more well rounded individual not only in the business world but culturally as well. Spending three weeks in Panama experiencing its culture, economy, nightlife and everything else it has to offer has really pushed me out of my comfort zone and I am so thankful for that. The things I have learned there will stay with me forever and I can’t wait to return and travel to other places around the world to experience everything the great Earth offers.
Thanks again to everyone who made my first (but not last) trip abroad unforgettable! 🙂
Well only two days left! Last I wrote we were on a train to Colon. First of all the train was beautiful and the view even better! We got to see beautiful greenery and the canal as we passed. When we arrived we visited a small 3PL called Logistics Services Panama. What was really cool about this visit was seeing their processes first hand in the warehouse. In my international logistics class we spoke about value added services like re-labeling and kitting. But here I was actually able to see how that worked. Something else I found interesting was that one of their major customers was Payless Shoes. He explained that a lot of major US companies came to Panama after the port strikes in the western part of the US. And slowly more businesses came to Panama because of the benefits they offer to large corporations. Before I came here all I thought when Panama was mentioned was the canal but it’s cool now to see that it has so much more to offer and the US is very involved here.
Our next stop was the Panama Ports controlled by MIT (Manzanillo International Terminal). I really liked this visit because not only did they talk about their business but she also touched a lot on what they do for the community. This was something that I had seen in a lot of the presentations we had seen. However, Ms. Wong said it best when she talked about how you must not only invest in the economy of Panama but the people because in the end that is what really drives your business. That really stood out to me because in such a large organization such as MIT they still understand what drives a good business.
After our visit there we had lunch on the overview deck where we could also see the expansion of the canal being finished. Then onto the hotel after lunch to finish our final projects!
Final projects went well and everyone did great! One of our judges or spectators for the project was the head of the Colon Free Trade Zone. Before our presentations he made a statement about how all of these study abroad programs come here and take notes and pictures but they never see what the students learn from it. So even though this project was not easy I was glad that it was a part of our grade because we got to actually apply what we had learned for people here in Panama and gain some great insight from what he said afterwards.
Last business visit was to General Cargo in the free trade zone. In class we had talked about free trade zones and the benefits they offered with taxes and other things. However, coming into this meeting I had in mind that this was almost like an outlet mall where you didn’t have to pay taxes. At General Cargo they explained that this was more of a wholesale place for businesses to come and buy things for their stores. Their explanation made it much easier to connect how the duties worked when good were bought here in Panama and then exported again to their stores in another country or out of the zone.
Today has been a free day for us so we of course did a few more touristy things. I really should be packing right now but that doesn’t sound fun so I’ll put it off a little more haha. Soon we are going to try and go bowling for the third time since we have been here. Each time we go there are never lanes available because they apparently have league bowl every night… And why they couldn’t tell us this over the phone, who knows? But hey third times the charm right?!
Well we have tried three times now to go see the presidential palace and each time we have failed :(. First time we were getting in the van and they had to cancel on us and second time it got struck by lightning and killed the power?! Haha go figure… But now we are scheduled for Friday after our exam so fingers crossed!
After our failed attempt to see the palace we headed to lunch at a local diner called Niko’s. One thing we have definitely experienced in our almost three weeks here is that customer service is not #1 on Panama’s list. Which seeing as their economy is 80% service based you would think it would be exceptional. Many times we get very bad looks when we sit down to order because our appearance screams American and we butcher every word when trying to order. But hey at least we are trying! However this does not help and we are reluctantly served. Also something I found odd is that drinks always have to be ordered separate and they are usually not given to you until your food is ready. Along with the slow service, language barriers and the fact that they rarely check on you for refills or service we have had a somewhat frustrating time at restaurants. The food is excellent though so I guess I can handle that!
Later that day we finally got to visit the Panama Canal! We went to the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the country. At first I was very confused why they would be lowering the water in one chamber and making the other one higher to push the boat through. Then our driver, Alex (the coolest guy ever) explained how they are making the water levels even so the pulleys connected to small trains on the side can guide the boat through. We began to wonder why the system took so long to work, about 8-10 minutes per lock with three locks, and why the boat couldn’t propel itself through. Then we concluded that the sides were already scary close to the edge of the canal and self propelling through would cause too many currents and rock the boat casing damage. Therefore while a very slow process taking almost 8-10 hours to get through the canal we see now that the slow process is essential. Pictures truly do not do justice when looking at the size of these ships, they are MASSIVE and the ones we saw weren’t even post Panamax ships. The current ships that can fit through the canal hold around 4,000-5,000 containers (TEUs) and after the expansion they will be able to fit ships that can hold as many as 12,000 TEUs. However something we have been discussing in my classes and was even confirmed in talks here was that even after that expansion there are still some vessels that won’t fit through and will be rerouted to the Suez Canal in Egypt. This canal is naturally made and does not contain locks so it can handle these ships. Although panama does see this as a problem, further expansion plans have not been made for the Panama Canal.
After the tour of the canal and a brief video explaining its history we headed to the old city of Casco Veijo. This is a beautiful city filled with restaurants, shops and history. Our driver explained a couple historical events like a fire that occurred in the city three times and burned it pretty much to the ground. He lead us around and showed us some other cool landmarks and fun facts about the city. Then we walked into a cool little shop and THERE WAS A MONKEY! One of my goals on this trip was to hold a monkey and I actually got to do it! He screamed the whole time I held him but it was okay cause I did too.
Next day was another beach day!! Usually the group would use this day to go visit the indigenous tribes in the rainforests, but with Zeka being a large problem we decided against that this year. This beach was by far the prettiest we have seen yet! It had clear waters and beautiful sand and we were dropped on an island for the day. Soon after we arrived a man walked up with snorkels for rent so a few of us got some to use for the day. It was unbelievable just to float there without any effort and look down to see squid, fish and star fish! However we did conclude that they used jalapeños to clean the masks cause my face was on fire by the end of it! Currently my face is also molting off because I did not apply enough sunscreen, so lesson learned there
Yesterday was an early day with our visit to the Panama Canal Railway. This visit was particularly cool because I got to connect a lot of terms I had learned in class like manifest and transshipment. When doing my last project in my international logistics class he had briefly covered that using transshipment was a possibility if we chose. Obviously not knowing a lot about that we did not choose it. However, at PCR he explained that transshipment is a lot of what they do. Ships comes into the port and containers are taken off, loaded onto a train and taken to the other side of the country and canal. Here they are then loaded onto smaller vessels for final delivery. This allows the larger ship to not have to pay to go through the canal with assistance from the railway. So very much a win win for both modes of transportation.
One last stop for the day was to the Maritime Academy to take a look at the simulator. This simulator is a scale replica of the canal and allows pilots to practice maneuvering ships in the canal. It is on a 1/25 scale so it is much smaller but it has locks, bays and can control currents to allow for optimal practice situations. The instructors said that in order to become a pilot they usually go through about 20 years of school and work before even being eligible to apply. The most interesting part of this visit was when he said these pilots come in and take over control of vessels when they enter the canal. At first I thought this was odd because if I were a captian I wouldn’t want someone else controlling my ship. He explained that in such a tight space as the canal they have to have highly trained pilots who know the waters and can control these ships easily to ensure there are not wakes behind them or damage to other ships within the canal since it is already a tight squeeze.
Currently I am typing this from the train on our way to Colon! This is where we will see the Atlantic side of the canal and learn more about the expansion plan. We will be staying the night there and in the morning we will present our final projects. After that we head back to the city and it will only be a couple days until we are back in America!
While I am ready to be back I am also not ready to leave this amazing country where I have learned so much!
Yesterday was my 21st birthday and while it was hard being away from family and close friends I couldn’t have asked for a better group to celebrate with here in Panama! Haha although I don’t feel much different seeing as I’m already legal here!
This week has been a very busy one filled with a lot of information and learning. Although very long I enjoyed it very much and it was awesome to connect some of what we leaned to not only my schooling but to my internship in the transportation industry. One of our first stops was at Panamcham, which is a not a Panamanian Chinese restaurant. Panamcham is the Panama chamber of commerce and it was founded in 1979 to promote growth and well being in business through all of the Americas. Here we leaned about their multinational headquarters law which allows companies to earn tax benefits and other aspects for having their headquarters in Panama. This incentive along with the infrastructure of Panama is why it is becoming a huge player in business now with big names such as P&G and CopaAirlines setting up shop here.
Next stop… Super99! This is a chain grocery store founded by two UofA alumns! They operate about 45 stores in the entire country and it is still run by the original owners, the Martinelli bothers. This trip was one of my favorites because while I am in the transportation industry with my internship right now I would eventually like to go into the buying and procurement side and so I was able to ask him questions about his buying for the stores. He was able to explain how to source from where and why and explained that they even have their own farms which provides food for Super99. We asked him a few questions about Walmart, who has been trying to buy him out forever and he just explained that it needs to be the right time and the right price. The biggest thing that I got out of our visit with Mario Martinelli was that hard work pays off. We asked what he attributed his success too and he stated the UofA and hard work everyday.
Our next business, Unilever is a large global company with products around the world. This one really spoke to the supply chain side of my studies with their Ultralogistik processes. They use a system called OTM which is to monitor their trucks that are out for delivery and pickup. This system is similar to the one we use in my office but wayyyy better so it was cool to ask questions about it and maybe I will get a chance to talk to my boss about it! While the presentation was very detialed and apparently geared toward MBA students I felt very smart that I could keep up and ask intelligent questions. I was able to connect content such as DC Centralization to my Advanced Inventory class I just finished and my job to ensure I was grasping their logistics concept.
Proctor and Gamble was our next visit which focused more on marketing and consumer segments. As much as I hate to admit it, my consumer behavior class came in quite handy with this company. I was able to connect my minor with real world examples when they talked about brand loyalty and market segments and why one product may be some here but not there. One girl asked a question about brands competing within the P&G label like Head and Shoulders vs. Pantene. They explained that these products Appel to different consumers and market segments so while they are both shampoo they don’t really compete with each other.
Our next two stops were right up my alley in the transportation and logistics sector! We went to Parque Sur, a logistics hub and to CEVA Logistics which is a third party logistics company. Here I was able to connect how transit laws such as driver times and weight limits for trucks were different or similar here from the states. It was also interesting to connect what I had leaned in class about logistics hubs and free trades zones so I could ask some specific questions about how their rates and classifications work if they bring something into the zone and modify it a tad and ship it back out. In addition, all of the paperwork requirements I learned this semester in International Logistics, at CEVA they talked about these and how important they are to ocean travel.
Last stop CopaAirlines! Here the coolest aspect I took out of the presentation was when he talked about higher oil prices being good for business. In my last meeting at work my boss said the same thing and explained that when gas prices are higher they pay us more to take loads and this increased our margins. So it was cool to see how this is the same for each mode of transportation.
Sorry again for the long post, there is just so much I have learned here!! I can’t thank the UofA and all my professors enough for preparing me and giving me the ability to use what I learn in school to a real world problem. Sometimes we think that we won’t ever use what we learn in class but I can tell you that is not true at all!!
Until next time 🙂
Well it’s Monday and the last time I blogged was Wednesday so obviously a LOT has happened! Thursday was an early day for us because we headed into the interior of the country to learn more about the culture and finally go to the beach! On our way we stopped by INA. INA was started by the University of Arkansas as sort of an exchange program for high schoolers looking to go into the agriculture business but over the years it has developed into all majors. Nearing closer to our destination in Chitre we stopped by the oldest standing church in the ENTIRE Western Hemisphere. Not only was that cool but we got to see their celebration that showed the past of the conquistadors and their time as slaves and how they overcame. They had created beautiful pictures on the ground using colored rocks, wood chips and other colorful items. If you follow me on Facebook take a look at my pictures because it is absolutely amazing the detail they put into them!
After a little while longer in the car we made it to the Cubita Resort… And lemme tell you, I could get used to the resort life. We were greeted with cold towels and cantaloupe juice and cookies in our room when we went up. That night we decided to explore the night life of the interior and went dancing at a nearby club. And if you know me you know I really like to dance! Three people asked to take a picture with me and one guy kissed my hand so needless to say it was an interesting night :/.
Next day, beach day!! Finally we got to go to the beach and wow that was awesome! The water was so warm and you could just float there all day and we got to go explore some cool rocks where the waves hit. However, the second beach day was probably my favorite! We stayed at the Cubita Resort for two days and then headed further into the interior to another beach. While driving (which is very scary here by the way) I was looking at some semi trucks pass by. Being a supply chain major and working at a transportation company I began to wonder if the laws that are placed on our drivers regarding weight limit and drive times are also placed on those in other countries such as Panama. Hopefully when we visit some more companies this week I will get some answers! Moreover, thirty minutes later we were at the beach! Just saying if I ever come up missing you can probably find me at Break Beach surf camp in Panama! Hammocks hanging outside the doors, endless waves to jump in and the best pizza I have ever had right on the beach!! Thankfully Dr. Esper is the coolest and let us stay longer the next day before heading back to the city so I got to ride a horse down the beach and explore a little more!
On the way back from our beach weekend we stopped at a greenhouse and got to see a little how things are grown and some of their plans for expansion. They are trying to work with Walmart on being a supplier and knowing Walmart only the best suppliers are picked. On our way out our tour guide expressed his gratitude for Arkansas and all that it has done for Panama. He was an INA alumni and it really made me proud to be a razorback! Not only does our school care about our education but they also have their hands in so many other countries trying to make a difference and bringing everyone together to make a better business and supply chain.
Today was an early start and we begin our company visits this week. Today was based a lot around finance so pretty much it went all over my head! Haha just kidding but it did take me a little bit to catch on but I finally got there. We visited Banco Nacional de Panama which is the national bank and they explained how the banking system works here. Like a said in an earlier post, the US dollar is the official currency and our instructor Mr. Lee talked about the Bretton Woods Agreement which I found very interesting. After WWII the world bank and World Trade Organization were formed, however since the USA was pretty much the only country not completely destroyed by the war the dollar was put in place as sort of an example to help build the world economy back up. After this stop we had a guest speaker at our dorms who just graduated from Arkansas and he spoke to us a little more about the Panama Papers scandal. He explained that while Panama really isn’t in any trouble for that because offshore accounts are not illegal, some still look down upon the practice because it is unethical. While I am not a finance major and not all of this makes sense to me it was still very cool to hear from these two gentlemen today!
Overall my Spanish is still absolutely awful and I say most things with a small twang but hey at least I’m trying! Sad to say I do miss home a bit, this is my first time out of the country so it’s very new! But I am loving every second and hey my birthday is in three days so PARTAY! Just kidding we have meetings that day but I’ll make the most of it 🙂
Adios! I promise I won’t wait so long to blog again!
Well today has been a whirlwind of a day! I have been here for two full days and it feels like two weeks but there is still so much more to see! Last night we managed to order pizza completely in Spanish and we learned that tipo does not mean tip haha. Thankfully the driver found it funny.
Today was our first meeting at USMA, the local university and we met with Professor Fong. He talked to us about Panama’s history and culture and a little bit about the canal expansion. One cool thing I learned is that John McCain was actually born in Panama but since it was owned by the US he was still an American citizen. During our lecture professor Fong also talked about the independence of pans in 1903 from Colombia and how the founders decided to declare the US dollar as the official currency. However they are not allowed to print the dollar so he explained that Panama and its people have leaned to “live within their means”. Therefore they must have a strict fiscal policy with government spending and taxes to make sure money is flowing correctly and inflation is not a problem.
Another thing I found very interesting was that Panama just got Starbucks within the last year. Being such a coffee centered country I expected for them to be everywhere but we learned that unlike Americans, Panamanians drink coffee as more of a social event and not as a quick pick me up. In addition, compared to other places Starbucks is very expensive and not near as good as coffee from Panama.
Finally we finished off the day by going to a futbol game! It was Panama vs. Venezuela and wow they are crazy! People throw beer everywhere and cops are armed with barricades and heavy armor I case of riots which are apparently very common! Unfortunately the game ended in a tie but the experience was awesome! Oh and bird eggs with a spicy sauce is a normal snack at a futbol game…
Well day one is complete and onto day two now! We got to sleep in a little this morning (thank goodness). Now time to get up and dressed for breakfast and city tours! Day one was an adventure with missed flights, delayed flights and luggage but the whole crew finally made it. Our driver Alex is a hoot and has lots of cool facts about the city when we drive around! Last night we didn’t get to see too much besides some things out the window as we were driving but I did see my first container ship and wow those are huge! Along with touring more of the city today we will be going to the Albrook Mall where we will get to start doing some research on our industries (mine is bicycles because both of my partners are awesome and can ride unicycles). Panama is absolutely AMAZING but I did learn water and food are your best friend cause it is also very hot and sticky! Well that’s it for now, stay tuned for more adventures with Kat in Panama 🙂
Well the semester is officially over and I leave in exactly 8 days! As I stare into my closet I am not even sure where to start packing. Apparently it is very humid there so I am already prepared for my hair to be a big puff ball. But I am spending three weeks in the beautiful country of Panama so who cares?! I cannot thank the Walton College of Business and the Center for Retailing Excellence enough for providing me the tools to embark on such an amazing adventure. I will be joining a small group of students and our faculty leader, Dr. Esper, on the Business Seminar in Panama. During our three weeks there we will be staying in the City of Knowledge and visiting the historical landmarks while learning more about the canal zone and the international business practices in Panama. This trip means a lot to me because I not only get to leave the country (for the first time ever!!) but I also get to take classes and learn about things that pertain to my supply chain major. I am not sure how my day to day life will be while I am there but I can’t wait to get out and go explore! The language barrier will probably be my biggest challenge seeing as I have never taken a Spanish class but I am up for the challenge! From Texas to Arkansas and now to Panama I can’t wait to see what this country has to offer me and I am very excited to meet my classmates and get to know them over these three weeks! These 8 days can’t go by fast enough and stay tuned for further posts and pictures of my adventure abroad!