Buying a house, flipping it, and selling it for a profit: that is what many students envision when they hear the term "real estate," according to Eugenio Acosta.
As the Senior Associate Director of the University of Notre Dame's Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate (FIRE), Acosta recently led an immersive summer study abroad program meant to help students leave this preconception behind and see how leaders in real estate can have a positive impact on people's lives and on the built environment.
The three-week experience developed in partnership with Notre Dame International was centered in Bangkok, Thailand. Not only is Bangkok one of the most visited cities in Asia, it is also one of the continent's most popular real estate markets. Thanks to a close partnership with Asset World Corporation, one of Thailand's leading real estate developers, students got an insider's look at what it means to manage a portfolio of properties and make high-stakes strategic real estate decisions.
Asset World asked two student teams to develop a presentation for an investment committee focused on a real world open lot in central Bangkok. The teams detailed their investment proposal—including what they would build and why—for a specific property owned by Asset World and connected to two existing retail developments. The students were able to pitch their ideas directly to the CEO, CIO, and key stakeholders in the company.
"Core to Asset World's business—and to Thai culture—is the practice of hospitality, and students got a firsthand taste of that," Acosta said. "From staying in world-class hotels to meeting with Thailand's robust Notre Dame alumni network to welcoming Thai students about to depart for Notre Dame, the students had an unforgettable experience."
The experience of hospitality also provided a clear window into why interdisciplinary learning is a critical aspect of the Real Estate Minor. As Acosta put it, "real estate is at the intersection of so many things; it is where developers, architects, and builders come together to imagine new spaces and opportunities.
"The experience abroad enhanced my understanding of real estate, and for that I am forever grateful," said sophomore political science major Corey Bowden. He added, "I particularly enjoyed our site visits. We were able to see builders' 3D models and learn how they help builders plan and envision how a building will function. We even got to talk to developers and construction managers to learn first hand about their work."
Students also discovered that real estate touches not just the best aspects of contemporary life, but also some of its deepest challenges. One such challenge was right under their feet: The city of Bangkok is slowly sinking due to land subsidence. Students were able to learn why Bangkok is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and to see the effects of its investments in climate-resilient architecture.
The team included students of a variety of ages, majors, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Students with established financial need were also able to attend thanks to scholarships provided by FIRE and NDI.
FIRE’s next Thailand program will take place from May 17 to June 3, 2023. Accepted students will get the good news this week, and thanks to high demand for the program and continued support from Asset World, the new class will welcome double the number of students of its initial year.
Students will spend a majority of their time in Bangkok, but they will also have the chance to travel to Chaing Mai before their final case presentation and conclusion of the program. Activities in the experience include seeing the Bangkok Grand Palace, visiting an elephant sanctuary, snorkeling and kayaking, and networking with Notre Dame alumni in Thailand. To learn more, visit https://studyabroad.nd.edu/programs/thailand-summer/.
Special thanks to Mrs. Wallapa Traisorat, President and CEO of Asset World, and Lee Lin (ND Architecture class of 2009), Group Head of product strategy and development for Asset World, for making this program possible.