It might seem crazy to visit Russia in the middle of winter, yet the goal of the recent McGill University Hot Cities Tour was to see the “real” Russia, even if it meant getting lost in Moscow at minus-2 degrees Fahrenheit.
This was my second experience on the tour, and when the time came to choose the next destination, Russia was at the top of our list. As a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa/Singapore) emerging nations, it is seen as a place of great opportunity, we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
I wrote a column in the Press-Republican around this time last year about my trip to South Africa. I encouraged my fellow upstate New Yorkers to travel and meet new people.
This time, I encourage them even more.
South Africa and Russia offer eye-opening experiences and intellectual stimulation. These countries are actually quite similar in that there is a consensus that they don’t need “us.” They want to do things on their own and are quite capable.
In South Africa, I was told, “Why would I want to go to the U.S. or Canada?” In Russia, it was: “We don’t need the West.”
While I find it empowering that these countries can stand on their own two feet, it’s disheartening that working together seems unnecessary to them.
OUT OF THE CLASSROOM
The goal of the Hot Cities Tour is to show students — 37 this time — how business is done in these emerging economies, to get out of the classroom and out of our comfort zones.
Our tour began in Moscow, where we visited Jamilco, IBM, Saatchi & Saatchi, the Moscow Times, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Norton Rose, Christian Dior and Skolkovo Business School, among others.