Local business students off to Mexico

Four women enrolled in Confederation College’s International Business course will get an invaluable training lesson in their field when they travel to Mexico at the end of the month.
Anita Barker, Lori Godin, Angela Halvorsen, and Patti Jorgensen take the course at the Fort Frances campus through tele-conferencing with the Thunder Bay one.
They will join five students from Thunder Bay, and course professor Julie Dotson, on Feb. 26 for a 22-day educational venture to Mexico City and the city of Cuernavaca.
The trip, though not a requirement of the program, will provide lessons on culture, language, and economics as well as give the students a chance to test individual feasibility studies of Canadian products on an actual foreign market.
“It should be great. It’s hands-on learning going to an actual market and not just looking at one through research,” said Godin, 31, noting the group will get the chance to set up their marketing studies within various facilities there.
“It’s first-hand primary information.”
“It gives them global perspective outside the borders of our wonderfully developed country and a sense of the economic development of other countries,” said Dotson, who has been taking student study groups to Mexico for the last four years.
The students said finding the information they need to complete the study requirements is a big job.
“It’s a lot of research, research, research, and more research!” stressed Godin. “We must check out everything from business practices [to] customs laws and regulations in order to find out if it’s viable.”
She noted Dotson wanted each student to have between 61-270 information resources under their belt as part of the study.
“Some professors have compared this [feasibility study] to a thesis you would write in university,” she added.
Godin chose wild rice as her marketing product because she felt it was a classic Canadian product.
Halvorsen, 24, chose “Lifestream” cereal as her marketing product. And although its maker already exports it to other countries, Mexico is not one of them.
“It’s Canadian and low-priced. The company does export it all over the world. I have to find out why not to Mexico,” she said.
Jorgensen chose a sweeter route, picking “Clodhoppers” (made with cashews and white chocolate) by Kraves Candy Co. as her marketing item.
She came across it at a Manitoba craft show, and has since found it for sale in Fort Frances.
“I bought all of it I could find [here] but I still don’t have enough. I ate some of it,” she laughed. “It will be interesting to see if people in a different country like it.”
Barker, on the other hand, is planning to market the Canadian version of a product already used in Mexico–and is hoping that plays in her favour.
“Robin Hood flour,” elaborated the 27-year-old. “Flour is something they use a lot of.”
Aside from the feasibility study, the three-week trip will saturate the business students in the country’s Spanish environment both in terms of language and living arrangements.
The group will be divided between host families and will spend two weeks taking Spanish immersion classes.
“We’re expected to speak Spanish as much as we can,” said Barker.
Dotson noted that for international business students, this kind of hands-on experience in a foreign country before graduation will have a positive effect on future job opportunities.
“It’s a big help when they are looking for employment. Future employers look more favourably on students who have really worked and studied in a country,” she remarked.
“I have a couple of graduates who are now working in India. They would have never gotten those jobs had they not been in a less developed country [beforehand],” she stressed.
“The course is very demanding but many graduates have landed really good jobs with really good pay,” she said. “There’s lots of opportunity.”
“Through this course, I will find out about the whole world instead of just our region,” agreed Halvorsen. “And I’m keeping all my doors open. I have no ties [here] so I’m open to any market in the world.
The student study group also will be working with a charitable organization in Mexico called “Vamos,” which helps distribute clothing and vitamins to children of poverty-stricken families.
The students are looking for donations of these items from the Fort Frances community. They also will learn how to shop the Mexican food markets and then donate the items they buy to “Vamos.”
“Not only will we be learning about their culture but we will also be helping children at the same time,” noted Halvorsen.
Local students who successfully complete the International Business program through the campus here will receive their two-year diploma come spring.
Then they can begin a third and final year in September at Rainy River Community College in International Falls in order to receive an Associate degree in business.