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The Boston Globe

Business

Latin Americans turn to Spain for MBAs

After seven years of working in management in the United States, Joana Jo Fratini started making plans a couple of years ago to return home to Brazil.

Like a growing number of Latin Americans over the past decade, Fratini, who has an undergraduate economics degree from Pennsylvania State University, opted to start her reentry by earning a master’s of business administration in Spain.

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She applied to the Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas, or ESADE, a top business school based in Barcelona, and was accepted, starting classes last year.

“I really feel like I made the right decision to come to Europe because the whole educational system — the interaction with the professors, the interaction with the students — is so much more similar to the way that business is done in South America than what I was exposed to in the US,” she said.

Despite the fact that Spain’s economy is still flagging, its business schools say they are increasingly attracting Latin American students, often with international career experience, who plan to return to Latin America after they graduate. They see in Spanish classrooms more diversity than in the United States and a business culture nearer their own.

Spanish business schools are responding to the demand by building ever closer ties with the Latin American region and by making Spanish class time more widely accessible.

ESADE, where some 19 percent of this year’s graduating class hails from Latin America, has just started a study program called Doing Business in Latin America.

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To better accommodate students who will be working chiefly in a Spanish business environment, the school’s general master’s of business administration program — until now taught in English — will offer a full-time Spanish course, starting next year.

IESE, another top-ranked school in Barcelona, where this year 15 percent of students are from Latin America, started offering an executive master’s of business administration in São Paolo in August 2012, offering courses for business professionals from Brazil and neighboring countries.

Major reasons for the renewed interest in Spanish schools include economic ties, a shared business culture and, for many Latin Americans, a shared language.

Sergio Vera, a Chilean student at IESE, said his course material often focused on Latin American examples. “That’s the thing about the Spanish business environment: There are a lot of Latin American cases,” he said.

As the number of Latin American master’s of business administration students in Spain rises, so too does the number who say they plan to return to Latin America after graduation, said Javier Muñoz, who runs career services at IESE. With business in much of Latin America booming, “there are a lot more opportunities in Latin America,” he said.

Xavier Gimbert, recently appointed to oversee Latin American programs and initiatives at Esade, agrees. He said qualified master’s of business administration graduates were more sought after than ever before as countries in the region opened up to big Latin American-based multinational companies.

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