Gradutate School in Chile, Part I

Higher education in Chile is blowing my mind.

I can’t decide if it’s because my undergrad college choice was as poor or if my undergrad major was poor. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. What’s clear to me now is this: I’m in my first year of a Masters in Marketing here in Chile and I’ve learned more in the past three months than I learned in my entire four years of college back home.

The marketing program I’m doing is divided into two years: the first year results in what is called a “Diplomado” which is a mini-degree of sorts. Not quite a Masters but definitely considered post-graduate studies. Upon completing the second year, you’re granted a Masters. The good thing is that I can finish my first year and decide to return for my second year FIVE YEARS from now and I’ll still be able to follow the initial rhythm. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t wait that long (I might forget everything!) though I’m still debating if I’ll do my 2nd year right away.

Anyway, in short I’m very happy I decided to do this because I’m learning things I never knew! And now that I think about it, I wonder how many of my friends knew things I now know, but back before I didn’t know them? For instance, and the most basic of all concepts, when I imagine the word “marketing” I imagined the advertisement of a certain product or service, the commercial, the little picture you saw in the grocery store, the slogan or the Buy-One-Get-One-Free gimmicks associated with a product. But that’s not it at all. Marketing is as simple as this: creating a need in the mind of the consumer and satisfying that need, all the while reaching sales goals established by your company. And that pretty much sums it up.

Education here (as I’ve experienced it thus far, mind you) is much more structured than I remember undergrad in California to be. There’s a process and an evolution and the idea that one thing is connected to the other. First we learned about Marketing as a concept in general; creating added value for the consumer, the internal client and the external client, what’s involved in a sales strategy vs what’s involved in a marketing plan. We talked about how different products in the same company can mean different things to that company and that in and of itself, require completely different strategies (think toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash, all under the umbrella of the Colgate-Palmolive company. All three mean different things to them.)

This was then followed by more detailed business concepts in general. Examples: overview in Statistics (for the purposes of market studies), Finance, the mind of the consumer and what propels him/her to purchase something, and finally, an overview on the different kinds of Market Research tools available to companies. We’re in Module III now (the year has 4 in total) and from what I can tell, we’re looking at things from an eagle’s eye view with the purpose of applying everything we learned in Modules I and II and honing them.

While I had heard and read about SWOT analyzes, I had never done one until Module I when we had to read a case study on the car company, Renault (unheard of in the States, I know.) I was on my mini-moon in NYC and I had to work remotely with my assigned group for the year to deliver on what was expected of us the following week. I bugged G a lot during that time because NOTHING made any sense to me. The 4 Ps? What’sthat? (Now I know). SWOT analysis – um how do I begin do that with this car company I’ve never even heard of? I was convinced I was the dumbest person in class.

We’ve read and done analysis on topics such as Harley Davidson (you tell me: what do they sell?), an XYZ Argentine textile company, Hummer and their H1 model, Mattel and their marketing of toys to boys vs. girls. We’ve seen examples of how different products aim to strike at the different motivators within people (i.e. are you motivated to be a good mother? Are you motivated to belong? Are you motivated with the idea of a certain status?) and learned how the Coca Cola company has been able to target all IN ONE COMMERCIAL, one message. And coming up soon, we’ll all be behind computers, with our groups, doing a Product Management Simulation game which will supposedly drive home the 4 P’s of marketing, all the while teaching us about brand equity and marketing planning for a product/product lines. The objective of this simulation “game” is to have the highest net worth and highest company stock price compared to the other groups in our class.

And the cherry on top is this: we have a year-long project where we have to present a marketing proposal for a business or product of our choice. And I cannot tell you the amount of research and work this involves. Let me just say that I know way more about our chosen topic than I ever cared to know ….

Wait, what?? I sound all professional and sh*t.

But that’s the point, right? That’s why I’m paying over US$800 each month and that’s why I deal with having to write PAPERS and work with my team to produce presentations that demonstrate things we’ve been learning since early April. So that tomorrow (whenever that may be) I’ll be an added value myself to whatever company I’m working for at the time.

It does make me wonder if undergrad in Chile is just as structured as Graduate school seems to be. If it is, then it would result in candidates who are a million times more prepared and better educated than those of the United States. I wonder this recognizing that I have absolutely no basis for comparison on either, really. I never attended undergrad here and didn’t attend Graduate school there. But should my theory be correct, and Chile does produce people better equipped to enter the work force, it would explain why the labor market (at an executive level) is so competitive here.

I’m even more inclined to think that the public undergrad education I received back home was less than stellar (and I repeat, this could be due to my poor choices on institution and matter) when I hear my fellow Grad School classmates complain about the low quality education we’re currently receiving at one of the most expensive, most prestigious universities in Chile (and in Latin America for that matter.) To be fair, I do agree that too much information is being crammed into a period of time that is much too short. After all, I do believe that an “overview” of Finance should entail more than 7 hours of class and that said overview should include more than the Balance Sheet and General Ledger. But if many of my classmates feel and truly believe that in some ways we’re being “cheated” of a good education right now, what does that imply about their experiences in undergrad? Here I am just amazed at how structured and plentiful the education is and they’re saying that what we’re learning – and mainly how we’re learning it – is a crock! Certainly an example of looking at two different sides of the same coin.

In the end, there IS one thing that remains consistent with what I believe about higher education in the States. The name – the BRAND, if you will – truly matters. Can we deny that there are many who choose Stanford, Duke, Harvard, Brown, Berkeley and on, primarily for what that name implies to others once they’ve graduated? I believe the majority of us followed the same road when choosing where we’d receive our graduate studies. We looked at our options here in Chile, figured out the top three and opted for the best in this particular field (Marketing/Business.)

So even if some would argue that the system is a crock (as you read, I don’t agree), aren’t we truly then just paying for the name of the university and all that it implies? Discuss.

(Playing devil’s advocate and answering yes to the question stated above, from a marketing standpoint, it would seem my university has done wonders.)
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13 thoughts on “Gradutate School in Chile, Part I

  1. i think you're comparing apples to oranges. you would have to compare the level of classes to a graduate business school marketing program in the US that's top in the US (or go to France or to Argentina, doesn't have to be the US) to compare. graduate school is a totally different ball game then undergrad in general and also if you studied something you liked in undergrad (as i did) v/s something that was actually useful and hard in grad school then of course you're going to think that it's substantially harder. not to mention, graduate school prepares you for a job that's why it's so useful. undergrad – unless you study something that's like pharmacy or like accounting or something – does not prepare you specifically for a job in the same way. though i'd be curious to see if anyone disagrees. that said, i think it's great that you're learning so much. this experience is so totally awesome for you for your career and just in terms of getting more acclimated to life in chilsters. go dre!

  2. Nothing you've written sounds spectacularly unusual for a marketing course… all basic concepts I remember touching on in first year of undergrad. Maybe American higher education is very watered down? On the lower end, that is, since nobody can deny that there are some first rate universities and research institutions.

    Perhaps it's because, despite good intentions, too many people go on to higher ed when there aren't enough professional positions to merit this. Or maybe the system confuses equality of outcome with equality of opportunity… how many jocks get a free ride despite barely scraping through high school? Of course, this is tricky because I believe education has instrinsic value and shouldn't be sought out for the purpose of obtaining a professional career… but still, should any idiot be able to get a college degree which isn't worth the paper it's written on? Not to have a go at your undergrad degree, but honestly I can't believe this stuff is blowing your mind…

    Also – did you take accounting? That's where you should learn about balance sheets and general ledgers, it's not a finance topic…

    Sorry to be anon, don't have a blog… Liz

  3. I'm simply comparing my undergrad education to graduate studies, both as I know them. One blows my mind because the other was so mediocre.
    And no, I didn't take accounting in college … and I stated it was "Finance" simply because our professor grouped it under Finance.

    K – totes apples to oranges. Simply observing. I do wonder why my classmates who did undergrad here are so disappointed though … not all, but some.

  4. I haven't been to grad school at all, so I can't comment on that, but I have to say that when I studied abroad here, the classes were pretty comparable academically to my undergrad classes in the US. The style of teaching was VERY different, that's for sure, but the content and academic level were on par.

    So I was at your University today (at least I think so…escula de posgrado, right?) and let me just say, it is super nice!

  5. Im not sure your comparison hit home with me. (I had a great undergrad experience in the US…though I believe there the flexibility makes the experience what you make of it, to some extent.) I haven't done a masters, here nor there, but your post makes me think you must have studied something unrelated for undergrad, because as Liz said all the things you mentioned are pretty typical for undergrad marketing courses. I also find the stuff you mention really interesting, and you make me long going back to school and wonder if I'd enjoy a program like yours here in Chile, as I studied a related subject in undergrad and loved it. (I would think a Master's would take those concepts more in depth, of course, or even so, I havent really studied the finance aspect, or accounting or whatever it is, I avoided numbers like the plague in college…and I'm sure you'll get into a lot of new material I'd also find intriguing in the next two years!

    I also wonder in what aspects you consider school more "structured" and (due to abby's comment) if maybe different universities differ a bit too, because of the 11 courses I took in Chile, I remember evaluating only 2 of them as "on par" with my university in the US (a fifth year strategic comm class and a good linguistics course). Though I do think "more structured" might apply in the sense that majors here are more directed towards jobs in a specific field because they lack most generals and the workforce doesn't allow for a lot of flow between areas.

    I'd be interested to know why your classmates do complain. If they studied marketing as undergrads too, maybe the first few months have been too repetitive? Or if not… I suppose the grass is always greener, right? Its probably a good thing they're always pushing for better quality even if they've got it good as it is.

    p.s. my favorite dress shoes (the ones that made me too tall for Tyffanie's April Fools wedding) are Harley Davidson.

  6. Well, again, I'm just going to point out that it's based on my own personal experience and by no means is what I'm writing meant to be the bible on higher education here in Chile. It's my experience. My experience in undgergrad, in my opinion, was that it was disorganized to say the least. Therefore, in comparison, my experience in higher education here is that it's quite the opposite. Further, I never took Marketing 101 in undergrad, so if all of the above sounds pretty on par with what's expected – great. It means I'm getting my money's worth and being taught what's supposed to be taught.

    Lydia – yes, it would be totally interesting to know why those in my class are upset. Most are Ing. Comerciales, some are Periodistas and some are Relacionadores Publicos. Perhaps it's pretty mundane to them? The first year is a total review of things bc it's assumed you've been out of school for some time. The 2nd year is more theory and application.

  7. Abby: You mention "The style of teaching was VERY different, that's for sure, but the content and academic level were on par."
    Out of curiousity, how would you describe the style of teaching here (vs. back home)?

  8. I'm not Abby, but in my own personal experience, I thought the same thing with undergrad here and in Chile. I found the academic level to be similar, but the style of teaching different — to me in the U.S. I felt more that students were encouraged to learn HOW to learn. IE, ask the right questions, think independently, etc. Whereas in Chile, I felt teachers encouraged students to memorize much more specific facts and not to ask questions, because what's right IS RIGHT and word of the teacher might as well be word of god. That was my experience in most of my classes at La Catolica and La Chile.

    But I learned all this stuff in my marketing classes too Andrea, so I think it's just your choice of undergrad or university or something 🙂

  9. Ditto Kyle on the summary of how teaching styles seemed to differ between UCLA and U de Chile undergrad.

    I also think it's important to keep in mind that most majors here are designed to prepare you to do that job when you graduate – ie. if you majored in political science it's because you want to be a political science, and if you'd wanted to go into business you'd have been an ingeniero comercial – whereas in the US I feel like your degree shows that you have some general knowledge on your major's topic but more importantly shows that you do in fact know how to think and can learn to do the specifics of whatever job you get. Neither system is necessarily better or worse, but it makes sense that people who've already had a more specialized undergrad experience would be less wowed by a similarly specialized grad school experience.

  10. Kyle and Emily, thanks for your responses. I had a sneaking suspension that this was the case after learning Arabic at the Piedragogico (they call it that instead of Pedagógico because of all the stone throwing, tear gas filled protests that went on at the U). Though I assumed it was just that particular teacher.
    We have also seen the same style with 'new' Spanish teachers where they have to unlearn the (I am God) style of teaching they themselves have learnt by in Chile. Having said that, our eldest son's teachers have been very didactic, though maybe it is just the fact he has only started school this year!

  11. Hi, I enjoy your blog and have so many questions about Chile. Can you explain the whole professional title system in Chile? I'm a bit confused. Is that the Bachelor's or is in between a Bachelor's and Master's. If you get a BS do you always get this other degree? There seems to be nothing on it in the internet.

  12. Anonymous – actually I'm not sure I'm capable of explaining the whole professional title bit of Chile. I *can* tell you that an Ingeniero Comercial is someone who studied Business Administration for about 5 years (it seems to be quite similar to what I know of an MBA but perhaps less intensive?) I can also tell you that a Psicologa isn't just someone who studies clinical psychology in hopes of being a therapist. In fact, here in Chile many tend to work in HR departments of companies and of course, they also work in schools.
    There are many, many titles which I am completely unfamiliar with, such as, Ingeniero Civil – what the hell do they do and what do they study?
    It seems this topic could very well be a blog entry of its own …

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