Culture Immersion With Culture Quest at The Lauder Institute

Just for fun! Lauder Culture Quest is an Amazing Race-style program that enables students to vote each year on a quest location and travel in teams to explore a different region of the world. Culture Quest was spearheaded by now-alumni Davis Smith, WG’11, G’11, and Greg Mitchell, WG’11, G’11, along with Lauder’s former director, Mauro Guillén. The first Culture Quest took place in May 2011 in Central America, and we have been exploring interesting locales ever since!

As a noncredit-bearing part of the Lauder experience, LCQ is now offered in late December/early January, before the spring semester begins. Students seeking an optional hands-on activity can join in the fun by “competing” in this 10-day international immersion experience, which is organized by the Institute in collaboration with a student committee.

Culture Quest is for students seeking an adventure as well as unique way to experience multiple foreign cultures in a short period of time.

Experience Counts

Every year, upwards of 50 Lauder students, their partners, and occasionally alumni, race through a region of the world in teams of four or five, scoring points along the way for engaging in activities from interviewing government officials to attending a wedding to learning an indigenous musical instrument to advising small businesses. The more teams interact with local residents and discover the culture firsthand, the higher their score.

Learning en Route

While Culture Quest does not bear academic credit, it is a phenomenal learning experience. In the past, quests have been organized around a theme relevant to the region in which the activity was set. (For example, the Vienna-to-Istanbul trek’s theme was “The Orient Express.”) In addition to the hands-on learning involved in the experience itself, readings and lectures chosen by Lauder faculty on the region’s history, current events, and business climate tie into the Lauder curriculum. Moreover, Lauder students make an effort to connect with Lauder alumni in their travels, inviting them to lecture or take the group on a tour of their own companies.

Rules of the Road

Whichever region or country serves as the backdrop, participants are given a starting point and a destination and told they may travel any way they can – except by air. The rest is up to them.

The Destination

To reach the finish line, some teams have traveled through as many countries as there are days in Culture Quest. Every team has a different approach to earning points, but they all come away with a nuanced understanding of the regions they’ve visited, as well as strengthened leadership and interpersonal skills.

10 days of Culture Quest

See Photos and Learn About Past Treks

2023: Philippines

2022: Ghana and Ivory Coast

2021: Egypt

2020: Oman

2019: Sri Lanka

2018: Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Guyana

2017: Playa del Carmen, Mexico to Antigua, Guatemala

2016: East Africa including Rwanda to Uganda and Kenya

2015: India to Bhutan

2014: Gdansk, Poland to St. Petersburg, Russia

2013: Vienna, Austria to Istanbul, Turkey 

2012: Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa 

2011: Tikal, Guatemala to Panama City, Panama

In the News

Here’s a snippet about the India to Bhutan Quest in the fall 2015 issue of Proudly Penn.

Read “Lost and Found on an International Vision Quest” from the Fall 2013 issue of Wharton Magazine, which captures the Orient Express Culture Quest race from Vienna to Istanbul.