Global Moment: MBA students building bonds through Barcelona excursion

  • April 10, 2019
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 3 minute read

Angela Lu, MBA ’19, is president of Olin’s Graduate Business Student Association. She wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

What I remember most about Barcelona is the crush of bodies, pressed against me from all sides, holding me up, rendering me immobile and rigid—stable enough to sustain the five or six additional levels of the “human castle” above me.

Castellers demonstrate an unsurpassed level of teamwork when constructing and assembling towering castell structures—literally, a castle constructed with people. This is the very definition of “tight-knit.”

I lived in Barcelona for a year before joining Olin for my MBA. It was actually in Barcelona that I took my GRE and wrote my application essays (and participated in castell-building). It seemed particularly fitting that, six weeks before graduation, I found myself once again in Barcelona as part of Olin’s pilot for the new global curriculum.

Students pile into a jeep during a tour and discussion of marketing needs at Barcelona’s Gramona Winery.
Students pile into a jeep during a tour and discussion of marketing needs at Barcelona’s Gramona Winery.

How would the city testify to my growth over the last two years?

Ask any local what makes Barcelona a special city, and you’ll likely hear something about the thriving and integrated diversity of the city. We experienced this warm, inclusive welcome during our week, both at ESADE Business School and at the family wineries that opened their doors to allow us to learn about their craft and business operations.

While we turned our classroom knowledge into actionable insights for our hosts, I realized something else was knitting itself into existence: deeper bonds between two-year colleagues.

Here we were, thinking we knew each other well enough, yet discovering commonalities never uncovered before and having philosophical discussions and intimate reflections previously unimagined. The coursework was intense: We had long days with much work to accomplish, and just as much desire to explore the city and take advantage of being in this Spanish metropolis.

At the Gramona Winery, where second-year MBA students gathered data for a project to help the winery enter the US market.
At the Gramona Winery, where second-year MBA students gathered data for a project to help the winery enter the US market.

Every one of us had different goals and expectations of this trip. Instead of pulling in different directions, however, we came together to support each other—in a way that fully resembled forming a base of a castell.

The demanding pace of our week-long course forged stronger friendships and created bonds between previously congenial but distant classmates. Once again, Barcelona revealed to me how precious it is to be part of a tight-knit group.

We call ourselves a family at Olin. Like all families, we have our squabbles and disagreements. Like all families, we come together despite our differences because we fundamentally respect and care for each other.

Looking forward to this coming academic year, I am hopeful that the newest recruits to our Olin family will—over the course of their multi-week trip to Washington, DC, Barcelona and Shanghai—build genuine, lasting and enviable relationships with each other and commence their core curriculum in St Louis with an unmatched commitment to each other’s success.

About the Author


Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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