Not Another Day at the Office: Vignettes from Non-Traditional Summers

By Tanya Fraser '15

Consider the typical MBA summer internship. All earth-shattering revelations and budding summer friendships aside, for most of us, days were made up of building slide decks, conference calls, coffee chats, happy hours, spreadsheets, models (of the Excel, not the swimsuit variety) and lunch ‘n learns.  

ChiBus spoke with a few of Booth’s explorers, writers and risk-takers who did something different this summer. While many of us were navigating optimal work-time, face-time, play-time ratios, 29% of the class of 2015 took roads less-traveled. Here are a few stories from their adventures.

Taiga Oki explored South America.

One of the most beautiful trips this summer was traveling in North Brazil from São Luís to Barreirinhas. After a morning negotiating transportation, we settled on a four-hour cab ride to the Lençóis Desert. We arrived just in time for an early afternoon tour of Lençóis’ vast sand dunes, home to vibrant lagoons that last only during the rainy season. They were bright green and blue, with small fish that lie dormant for months until the rains come. We stood in the sand and watched the sun set behind the bright white rolling hills. Later that evening I had the best seafood risotto of my life.


Alex Brand ran a Subway franchise rollout in Kenya.

I worked for Liberty Eagle, a holding company that owns the franchise rights for Subway in Kenya. I was charged with getting their third location up and running from an empty shell to fully operational in just a few weeks. Subway is one of very few US companies in Kenya right now, so when we were asked to cater a fourth of July event at the US Embassy in Nairobi, we said yes.

I had to figure out the logistics of the cold chain,

getting ingredients, staffing the employees to serve an additional thousand people and organize everyone’s transportation. It took us over an hour to get through security, while they checked and rechecked our IDs and did a thorough examination of the vehicle including a bomb search. We prepared the classics, Italian BMT, Smoked Turkey and Roast Chicken—50 feet of sandwiches in 5 ft. sections.

After we set up, I ran out changed into a blazer, placed a USA flag in the lapel and walked back through security like a regular guest. This time entering the embassy took about 5 minutes.

Katie Smith is writing a novel. She started the process this summer.

I checked an item off my bucket list: “Start writing my novel.”

Over the years I’ve collected a lot of stories. The central narrative of my book picks up where a relationship I had long ago, began. There’s intercontinental romance, deportation and a very dramatic conclusion—I mean, “Lifetime Movie” dramatic. The stories I’ve included are a big part of what made me who I am today.

Most mornings after a kale smoothie and time with my trainer, I centered myself for the writing phase. I reserved four hours a day of focused composition time. I would sit on one chaise and Tiki, my dog and writing buddy would sit on the other. Coming up with the dialog for my characters was always the hardest part. “He wouldn’t say it like that, would he?” I’d ask Tiki.

She’d look up at me and cock her head to the side. She was always right.


Charles-Henri Marque launched a cashew consortium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

7:00 – Have coffee while catching up with neighbors celebrating the Ivory Coast in this year’s World Cup games. Take a $3 cab to work.

8:00am – Meet with our four cashew farmers to review details of the consortium’s operations. Review the work we’ve done, finalize the logo, slogan and motto.

12:00 – Call with local graphic designers and collateral suppliers, review and revise website design and other brand elements we discussed during the morning meeting.

2:30 – 4-wheel drive through the jungle and the forest scouting locations and visualizing scenes for the film.

6:00 – Shooting the testimonial video with local tribal chief about the social impact of cashew farming in Bondouku. Translator on staff.

7:30 – Back to the hotel, drop off our equipment, head into the village for a fish and chicken dinner with the whole neighborhood.

9:30pm – Bed.

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Tanya Fraser is a second-year student who spent the summer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where she met Bill (from Bill Nye the Science Guy).