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May 19, 2008

Globetrotting: Paris and Frankfurt

John Shoaf '10
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This post is part of a series following the “Pre-MBA World Tour” organized by Shoaf and members of the class of 2010.

While in Paris, we met with a few CBS alumni, including the president of the Alumni Club of France. We had many intriguing discussions, though one particular theme that arose — responsibility — left us with a new perspective on our careers. As CBS students we are now part of a larger community that has the ability (and inherent responsibility) to make a positive difference in the world.

During this trip I’ve been reading Making Globalization Work by Professor Joseph Stiglitz and am realizing that perhaps “another world IS possible.” Globalization is happening whether we like it or not, and the question now is: how should it happen? As leaders of our generation, it will be up to us to solve these challenges.

Frankfurt is much different than I had anticipated. I expected it to be a traditional German town, but it’s actually a very modern city and reminds me (surprisingly) of Charlotte, North Carolina. Although it’s a much smaller city than London or Paris, Frankfurt has the tallest buildings in Europe, and because it sits directly on the Main River (pronounced Mine), it’s often referred to as “the other Mainhattan.” It also has a disproportionate number of investment bankers, giving rise to its other nickname: “Bankfurt.”

There seem to be many advantages to working in Frankfurt. Because most of the companies based here operate in several foreign countries, most business is conducted in English. So if you don’t speak German, you can still get by. That said, you still might be better off working for a U.S.-based firm, rather than one of the three large Frankfurt-based banks (Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and Dresdner).

Another advantage is that the city is very affordable to live in. Euros go much further than they do in any other major financial city center. Public transportation is excellent (you don’t even need to swipe your card to use the subway, tram or bus), but since Frankfurt is a small, clean, pedestrian-friendly city, you can pretty much walk anywhere.

Clearly, one of the downsides to living in any small city is the dearth of nightclubs, restaurants and cultural centers. And though Frankfurt has many of these things, one thing it does seem to lack is diversity.