One of the best parts of attending business school is having the opportunity to travel to amazing locations with your classmates. Incoming Class of 2014 student Ryan Grand recounts his trip to Colombia as part of Booth’s Random Walk program.
My business school experience is just getting started, but it will be difficult to top the way I kicked it off – by exploring a foreign country for a week with sixteen complete strangers! This past week, I was lucky enough to take a Random Walk trip to Colombia (As many of my friends have asked before, Colombia as in South America, not New York).
We began our adventure after only having met each other the previous day, arriving at O’Hare airport at 3 AM as a ragtag group from various backgrounds, including a banker (myself), consultants, marketing gurus, research analysts, a trader, and even a former CNBC correspondent. The next ten or so hours passed by in a blur as we made our way down to the coastal paradise of Cartagena.
Cartagena is a very old city, surrounded by enormous walls and a fortress along its coast to protect from the various intruders who had attempted to invade in the past. We were in a hotel near the Old Town section of the city, which contained the most prestigious residential district and most of the city’s shops and nightlife. One of the highlights was a guided bike tour that took us through the ancient streets, where we learned of the city’s extensive architecture and history.
We also enjoyed our fair share of the nightlife during our time in Cartagena. At Club Havana, we danced with the locals to the rhythm of a tremendous live band. We took in the sweeping ocean views at Cafe del Mar while trance beats shook the ancient walls of the former fortress. The Colombian people are not shy about having fun and I like to think we held our own as we danced through the night.
After the next few days, we visited Santa Marta, where we had the chance to bathe in a mud volcano, stay at an ocean side resort, hike through Tayrona National Park, and relax on the beach. After that, we headed to our last stop, the Rosario Islands. We stayed on a secluded island of only 800 people and took in more fun and beach time. We watched in excitement as locals made us piña coladas on the beach by chopping apart coconuts with a machete and pouring in the necessary ingredients into the fresh coco water. We even chowed down on full fresh fish that had been caught and fried only minutes before.
The best way to sum up the trip occurred on the plane back into the United States. I was seated next to one of the members of our group as the flight attendants passed out customs declaration cards to everyone on the trip. We started to fill them out when she looked at me and said, “What should we put for the number of family members flying with us?” I quickly said without thinking, “sixteen” as she uttered the same number simultaneously. We laughed for a second, but then seriously contemplated writing it down because we had been through so much together in only one week. That’s the true magic of the Random Walk experience. A group of strangers all came away with friendships that will last through our experience at Booth.