Sarah James in Mexico Case Study Analysis

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This interesting case study was a terrific example of well-intentioned people doing everything correctly in terms of logistics, but failing to consider and plan for the human side of this very personal and unique interaction. As the text relates to us, Sarah James seemed on paper like a perfect representative for the inaugural term of the exchange program between Palm Lakes University (PLU) and the Instituto de Negocios Internationales (INI). Her initial performance in Mexico indicated that she was on track for success. She did well enough in her course work and in a screening process to be chosen for a business internship. Sarah’s success in Mexico was important to a number of stakeholders. Obviously, Sarah herself would benefit from her schooling and internship in Mexico; in addition to her degree, she would gain business experience and an opportunity to add references to her eventual business resume. For PLU, the exchange program offered a tremendous marketing opportunity in the ability to provide students of international management courses with international work experience. This would make the college more attractive to prospective students. Similar benefits would come to INI. Less obvious may be the potential impact to the community in which INI operates. Businesses would presumably profit from the work of student interns and might also use the internship program as a screening process for potential employees. Finally, the families which hosted the students would benefit from the stipend they would be paid, and less tangibly from the cross-cultural interaction. The text does not provide too much detail about the work experience, except for a brief reference that things ‘had gone well in her work environment. It is interesting to note that at work and in school, Sarah performed well. These are both environments in which one can be reasonably certain what is expected. Regardless of where we are working or learning, we have tasks which we are responsible to accomplish. It appears that Sarah’s trouble occurred exclusively in her interpersonal relations with her host family. In an article for her blog in The Huff Post: Education , author H Tavangar provides insight on an exchange experience which seems to have been very positive for all parties involved. She describes the benefits of opening her home, among them growth in global competence for her own children; confidence in ‘socializing, working, solving problems, and finding new ways to communicate with diverse colleagues and friends’ for the host and exchange families; and perhaps most importantly, ‘Adapting to living with someone raised by different parents can teach our kids much about their tolerance for different habits, and become better communicators and more cooperative, assertive, flexible, resilient, patient, grateful, compassionate and forgiving adults -- which is important as a college roommate, spouse, or business partner.’ Early in her article, she makes an important point: ‘It’s never the right time.’ While she is referring directly to the changed logistics in her home life which would be necessitated by hosting an exchange student, I feel she makes a broader point here about flexibility. As you read her article, it certainly seems that the experience which she, her family, and their exchange student (to whom she refers as ‘my new daughter’) was a resounding success. Several points struck me about Sarah as I read the case study. In the first paragraph of her email she says she enjoyed ‘practicing Spanish and hearing about (Mexican) culture and beliefs’. This was my first clue that here was a young woman not invested in cultural exchange but who saw the program as something exclusively for her benefit (and potential benefits she did not fully grasp, at that). Certainly it is true that using Spanish in a classroom is very different from conducting all your daily interactions in the language; however, her very phraseology tells us that...
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