Provo, Utah: Not Quite the Andes But Definitely Enough Spanish

Following two weeks of insanity preparing for Brigham Young University’s Business Language Case Competition, I finally have some time to breathe (and get excited about Thanksgiving!). As predicted, our team didn’t produce a magical presentation that swept the competition, but it was a fabulous experience that I might even choose to suffer through next year if possible. Here’s a breakdown of the trip …


After work and classes, I joined up with my two teammates, Robyn and Vy, full backpacks in tow, so that we could hitch a ride to the Pittsburgh airport. We had a layover in Chicago (you can imagine how weird it was being “home” but not being able to leave the airport), flew into Salt Lake City, and took an Express Shuttle to our hotel in Provo, which is about 45 minutes away. On the drive, I almost thought I was imagining the huge shadows we were driving past, but no! I forgot about the mountains!

Layover and shuttle ride included, we had been traveling for a full 12 hours. Due to each of our busy schedules and lack of knowledge about case competitions, we ended up having to work on our case presentation that entire time. Let me just say there was a lot of crazy Spanish muttering and self-motivation talk going on as we crossed state borders.

So looking forward to all of the work ahead of us

Vy and Robyn powering through on flight #2


Thanks to BYU’s business center being the Marriott School, we stayed at a really nice Marriott that was close to campus. The competition organizers had warned us that BYU was a caffeine-free campus, so we made sure to get plenty of our own at the hotel before leaving!

The hotel shuttle dropped us off right at the doors of the Marriott Center, which is absolutely gorgeous. I love having my business classes in Sennott Square or Mervis Hall at Pitt, but this building was amazing.

Water elements on every floor? What?!

After our initial shock, we got into business mode. Luckily our first presentation was scheduled for the second half of the first round, so we had some time to practice all together and memorize our points. Our first set of judges was really nice! We only had a question or two shot our way and they gave us feedback on how we spoke Spanish, which was helpful. Phew – one round done.

The second and third rounds were not exactly the same story. We got increasingly tougher questions that we managed to squeeze out an answer to, but obviously hadn’t thought through all the way. In the third round, I thought I had caught a break when one of the judges was an MBA student from Buenos Aires (with the same weirdo Spanish accent I have). While we set up our presentation, he and I chatted about the city quickly, and he was adorable and all smiles. Until we finished. After a rapid-fire succession of questions about the future of our plan, he couldn’t seem to get the information he wanted, took an exasperated breath, and simply said, “convéncenme” (convince me). So much for that Argentina connection, huh?

Well, we didn’t make it to the final round – surprise, surprise! After all the stress, though, we got to enjoy our gorgeous surroundings, have a couple of delicious meals with interesting people, and congratulate ourselves for surviving. 🙂

Here's why BYU's buildings are essentially all windows!

Team Pic! Mountains!

The Face of Survival

Between the final round of presentations (the top three teams did so well!) and dinner, we listened to one of the most Spanglish-y presentations I’ve ever heard from Senator Luz Robles of Utah. She may not be an international businesswoman, but she has become successful in her (various) careers by connecting with her Mexican heritage and being able to relate to people through the Spanish language and the culture that comes with it. It didn’t hurt that she was hilarious, too!

At dinner, Vy, Robyn, and I got to sit with a bunch of the BYU students who had been helping us out all day. It was interesting to find all the differences between our college experiences at BYU and Pitt. I never expected to hit culture shock within the United States! Everyone we met on campus was extremely kind, and I think we learned a lot more than how to get through a business analysis in a different language that day.


Our shuttle showed up at 4:30am to take us to the airport. Ha, rise and shine! Mother Nature wasn’t exactly on our side – there were high winds in Denver that delayed flights, but we made our connections and got back to Pittsburgh at around 6pm.

It was strange getting back so soon after we had left; it felt exactly like the business trips we hear our professors talk about or see on TV. Thankfully I still have a year and a half of the college life bubble left before getting into any of that. The only business trips I’ll (hopefully) be making will be to Brazil this summer and back to BYU for next year’s BLCC! Maybe next year I can convince Abi and Maddy to go with me, eh? 😉

– Alexa


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