The Trinity MBA Blog

The Leuven International Residency Week Experience

/ by Fergal Barry

There are three optional week-long international residency electives in South Africa, Brazil and Belgium as part of the MBA programme. The one week elective module in Negotiating for Value along with masterclasses in Cross Border Management are held in the historic 400 year old Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe.

This immersive week long residency week in Belgium also includes field trips to the European Commission and to the trenches and cemeteries from the Great War at Ypres. MBA alumnus Fergal Barry reflects on his time at Leuven and the many bonds he forged there with his fellow MBA peers.

Fergal Barry 2MBA Alumnus Fergal Barry

My Background

My name is Fergal Barry, a finance manager with Boortmalt Ireland. I am a qualified ACCA accountant with over 23 years of experience. I chose the Trinity MBA for the reputation Trinity has and also for the way the MBA itself is taught and applied through the project methodology. I now look back and really do appreciate this methodology and believe that it is an exceptional approach.


Choosing Leuven

I picked Leuven because I believed that negotiation skills needed to be an essential part of my learning and development within the MBA programme. In addition to that, I had heard that the one week elective in Leuven was an excellent course and that Professor David Venter, who runs the one week elective, was an exceptional lecturer.

During the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa, David was the Director General of all government communication and information, working for 10 years closely with then Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.


IMG_3192David Venter

David's teaching methods are very relaxed and anecdotal. Every lesson has a story and for anyone that has ever had an interest in South African politics and its apartheid players, then you will hang on to his every word. I would listen to him and his way of delivery for a month, let alone a week.


Negotiating for Value

The skills I took away from the course changed the way I prepare and approach business and contract negotiation ever since. I always have the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Position) and the 'Win More Win More' philosophy at the back of my mind. I find myself changing and applying the teachings better each time I utilise them.

Negotiating for value has helped me in my career. Recently while negotiating for a €3.5m, 3 year service contract I turned to my notes and preparation templates to help me prepare for the negotiation. The agreement was reached by all parties concerned without anyone feeling that they had been “done over". 'Win more win more' rather than 'win lose' is the aim for the outcome of negotiating for value.


Discovering Leuven

The Irish College Leuven is in an excellent location and the facilities were excellent for the creation of a learning environment. The connection and links that were made across the class and amongst the class members were created in Leuven.

This was the element that I was not expecting but, it was by far just as important as the negotiation module itself. The links and bonds made in Leuven will never be broken!


shutterstock_1138263563Leuven, Belgium

The city of Leuven itself is a very small, welcoming city. There is a main square which is surrounded by restaurants and pubs. Dare I say we spent some time here. Beyond the square there is the town hall that boasts exquisite architecture, and beyond that the small shopping streets with the smell of fresh baking and chocolates.

I found the city itself starts to awake from 6:30am onward, when it is a lovely time to go for a walk and get your breakfast in one of the small cafes. About 10 of us used to meet each morning at about 7:30 in one of the local cafes for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, breakfast at the institute was good but this was our little treat to ourselves and it was worth getting up early for.  


Visiting The European Commission and Ypres

The trip to The European Commission was interesting as we were treated to a discussion around trade negotiations and how they develop, and crucially the time and energy required to get them to the final signing. This taught me that negotiations are not always just a few meetings, but can in fact take years to achieve.


Attending a European Commission Trade Discussion

The day trip to the WW1 sites and the Cemeteries will live with me forever. To see what soldiers had to endure to allow us to have what we have today makes me very humbled indeed. To then go to the cemetery and see the vast rows of headstones, the number of lives sacrificed definitely made me think. These people gave their lives for our future, our lives of today. We owe it to them to pass on their sacrifice in the form of a better Europe and World to the next generation, and not to abuse it for our own ends.


IMG_2344Visiting WW1 Cemeteries 

The Masterclass in Cross-Border Management 

The masterclass on cross-border management was presented by Marcelo Cima, Ambassador of Argentina to the European Union. Similar to the learnings in The European Commission, one of my key takeaways here was a new understanding of the need for patience, the need for diplomacy, to be conscious of it and the need to know your audience. 

The MBA Group at The Irish College Leuven

Highlights of the Trip

The Negotiating for Value module was without doubt one of the best modules I undertook during the MBA. The knowledge and tools acquired will forever be part of who I am going forward. The most surprising thing of all and the gem of the week was the way the class came together and bonded.

I still smile when I think of that sunny evening in Leuven square, when 50+ people sat in a horseshoe shape outside one of the bars. Careers, ambitions, family and personal stories were shared freely and bonds were created that I believe will never be broken. I would do it again in a heart beat!


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Tags: MBA, Residency Week, Alumni

Fergal Barry

Written by Fergal Barry

MBA alumnus Fergal Barry is a finance manager with Boortmalt Ireland. He is a qualified ACCA accountant with over 23 years of experience.