When deciding whether to add a Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) to my coursework at Duke, I wasn’t sure if I would find value in the trip. I went back and forth, but ultimately decided it was an experience I couldn’t pass up.

For the first time, Weekend Executive MBAs were able to join Daytime MBAs for GATEs, which gave us the opportunity to choose between South Africa or Brazil—I chose the latter. Not only did I come back with great stories and new friends, I also found a new perspective on Brazil and international companies that will certainly affect my future career decisions.

I work at Ingersoll Rand as a corporate development & investor relations analyst, and have been with the company for more than 4 years. I grew up in North Carolina, completed my undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain during my senior year. After that experience I knew I wanted to live and work abroad one day. I hoped this GATE would help answer some questions I had about South America, other business cultures, and working abroad in general. It certainly exceeded expectations from that perspective.

Touring Brazil Foods as part of academic travel to the region
Touring Brazil Foods


Patrick Duddy, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, was the faculty member leading the trip and helped arrange several of our corporate and governmental visits. I was consistently amazed by the presenters, from the vice minister of foreign affairs from Paraguay to the U.S. consul general in São Paulo. During the trip we visited some of the most successful companies in Brazil and the world, including Ambev, Brazil Foods, Itau Bank, and the media firm Globo. In Rio de Janeiro we got to see preparations for the 2016 Olympics up close through meetings with Ernst & Young, Odebrecht and The Olympic Municipal Enterprise.

Going to Itau Bank in Sao Paulo was the most interesting experience for me. We spoke with a senior employee at the company, learning the bank’s perspective not only on the industry but the Brazilian economy and politics. Hearing the business community’s views gave me insight I couldn’t have found visiting or working in Brazil on my own.

John F. - Brazil GATE falls
Iguassu Falls

It also did not disappoint from a cultural perspective. Going to Iguassu Falls was a great stop in the middle of the trip, and gave us an opportunity to see a different part of Brazil. We visited Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, where we stayed on the Copacabana. I had a blast going out with other students and exploring the different cities. Not only did this trip answer a lot of questions I had about the Brazilian economy, but I also gained new friends within the Daytime MBA program, and strengthened friendships with others in my Weekend Executive MBA class.