Maggie Hobson counts the many blessing from the semester abroad as she returns to the U.S. from Australia, after completing her semester at Curtin University on the Student Exchange Program.
My last day in Australia:
8-10am: Enjoyed my final $10 black coffee and raspberry muffin at my favorite on-campus cafe as I did some last minute studying
10-11:10am: Psychology exam
11:10am-2pm: Made my last meal of pasta using the one pan, one bowl and one fork that I bought for the entire semester and ate it while doing more last minute studying
2-4:10pm: Human Structure and Function exam
4:10-6pm: Packed my things, cleaned my room and had it inspected by the RA
6-9:30pm: Said my goodbyes with the amazing friends I made during the semester over one final group dinner
9:30-11:55pm: Went to the airport and checked in
From that time on, I traveled 32 hours to be greeted by my parents in the Chicago airport where my audit internship with EY started the next morning.
To some, this may seem like a “day” (it was only a day since I gained 12 hours) they would dread, but to me this is a day to be so thankful for. First of all, I had the opportunity to study in Australia and take classes a regular accounting major at OSU would not normally take. Not to mention, my professors were able to move my exams early so that I could get back to Chicago in time for my internship. Secondly, I made amazing friendships and lasting memories that I will never forget. Thirdly, I was greeted by two very supportive parents who were able to meet me away from home (Ohio) in order to move my things into an apartment in Chicago for the summer. Lastly, I am humbled to start an internship with EY where I am able to gain experience working for a big four accounting firm.
OSU has provided me with so many great opportunities and for that I am forever thankful. Studying abroad in Australia has been hands down my favorite college experience and I would do nothing to change my experience there. I am satisfied with the time I spent there: the places I was able to explore, the people I met and the things I was able to accomplish. Now, I am looking forward to continuing my internship with EY. My fellow interns have already been so enthralled by the fact that I was living in Australia for five months. I plan to share my experiences in a beneficial way. The knowledge I learned about different cultures through becoming friends with so many exchange students from all around the world, will only benefit me in the workplace. Therefore, overall I am thankful for this experience because it did not only influence me personally, but professionally as well.
“‘Everyone assumes that Cultural Intelligence (CQ) comes from understanding other people’s cultures, but you really have to understand your own’ (Middleton). Julia is so right about this point.” says Sydney Lapin studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program at Ecole de Management Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. Read more on what she learned about CQ and how it related to her experience abroad, as well as how being abroad has helped her learn about her own culture and about herself.
The other day in my International Marketing Strategy class, we watched a Ted Talk that really spoke out to me. It was called “Cultural Intelligence: The Competitive Edge for Leaders” spoken by Julia Middleton. In the beginning, Julia defines cultural intelligence as “the ability to cross borders and boundaries between different cultures, and actually thrive in doing so and love doing it and never want to not do it”. Julia grew up in the time where IQ meant everything, where it was considered crucial. Then, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) came around and people realized that it would be good for leaders to have this trait as well. However, people who are “good with people”, may really just be good with people who are like them. That is where CQ (Cultural Intelligence) comes into play: “the ability to work with people, and lead people, who are not like you”.
Julia went around the world, studying and interviewing people who she thought to have a good amount of cultural intelligence. Through her conversations, she found one large thing in common: “They had sort of figured out which bits of them was core, and which bits of them was flex”. By core “bits”, Julia means the behaviors, values and beliefs that are absolutely crucial to you being who you are, and a part of you that you are not willing to change. By flex bits, Julia means everything else that you are willing to compromise, or be flexible about. She states, “The more core you are, the more people trust you. The more flex you are, the more people trust you”. By this I believe she means that one needs to find a good balance, and that balance is what people who obtain cultural intelligence have found. For example, a salesperson is extremely flexible, and you lose all parts of your core and no one trusts you. And then, as Julia mentions, you have people like your grandparents, who are so set in their core that they refuse to be the least bit flexible.
Julia stated that cultural intelligence is found on the linebetween one’s core and one’s flex, and it moves from learning new things, gaining new experiences, and meeting new people. This video really got me thinking about which parts of me are core, and which parts are flex. I thought about my life, and my culture, and I tried and am still trying to figure it out. I think it will take a long time, if not forever, for someone to truly figure out where they stand because like Julia says, the line is always moving based on the things you learn and the people you meet.
Being abroad, I completely see how this video connects with my life. I have met people from all over the world, and not only met them but have held conversations, been involved in group projects, and traveled with these people of different backgrounds. There are parts of me I have and still need to adapt in order to get things to go smoothly when I work with people from other cultures.
With that, I am talking about the part of the video where Julia mentions knots in the core. We all have knots: parts of our supposed core that are based on PRE-judgement, rather than judgement. These are things we should push at and work on changing about ourselves. They might not be pretty, but I feel like that’s the point. For example, something I know I need to work on is my emotional resilience. When coming abroad, I thought that I had a pretty good grip on the things that would be difficult: the language barrier, the bureaucracy, the new school system. However, I did not think about preparing myself for how to react when difficult things are occurring. This is emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back and be okay when something is extremely frustrating and difficult. I have bounced back, but there are situations that I know I could have been more flexible and less reactive about.
An important part of the Ted Talk was where CQ comes from: “Everyone assumes that CQ comes from understanding other people’s cultures, but you really have to understand your own” (Middleton). Julia is so right about this point. She talks about the need to understand how your culture helps you versus hinders you, how it could open doors or close them, when your culture causes other people problems, and when your culture causes you to miss opportunities. To quote myself from my application, I thought one of the most important things was for me to “experience new cultures, learn about different backgrounds, and immerse myself in these cultures”. However, I now realize that the most important thing I am doing here, aside from learning about other cultures (which of course is still important), is learning who I am and how my culture, my core and my flex, affect my life and the people around me.
It is actually extremely complex, because when I think about the many things that I thought I was flexible on, it turns out that in some situations here I have found these things as “knots” in my core: they are things I want and aim to be flexible about, but I am currently not there yet, like my emotional resilience for example. It also turns out that when thinking deeper, things that I thought were in my core are actually things that I am quite flexible on. The biggest example of that I can think of is my Judaism. Being Jewish has always been one of the most important parts of me. I grew up in Cleveland, in an amazing Jewish community, that gave me so many opportunities I am grateful for. While being Jewish is something I hold very close, this video has made me think about the fact that yes, I am Jewish. Yes, this is important to me, and a part of me that I will not change. But, Judaism is actually one of the most flexible religions in the world. For instance, I personally do not think I believe in God, or in a lot of the things that supposedly happened back then, but Judaism still accepts me as a Jew. I am flexible to new opinions that go along with Judaism, and my thoughts and beliefs about it are always changing. So while being Jewish is something in my core, something that makes me who I am, I am still quite flexible about my beliefs through my religion.
I am beyond grateful to have seen this video while being abroad, and to be able to relate it to my everyday life here in Strasbourg, France. I feel as though I am much more aware of my personal strengths and weaknesses, and what I need to work on in order to become more culturally aware and to gain cultural intelligence. I know that the journey to having cultural intelligence is not easy, and will take a long time, but I think it is so important to be open to changing things about yourself, while also realizing what you are not willing to change in order to be who you are.
Megan Reardon introduces Singapore Management University (SMU), the university that she studied at for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. Hear about the classes she took, the faculty, the facilities, and all other things about SMU!
Attending Singapore Management University (SMU) was instrumental in shaping my experiences while abroad. SMU is an urban, multi-cultural learning hub designed to integrate the bustle of business with the drive for learning in Singapore. Unlike the two other universities in Singapore, SMU is incredibly urban. It is within walking distance of the city center, and offers the most activities compared to the other two school – Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS). SMU has five different schools (similar to how OSU has Fisher, the College of Arts and Sciences, etc.), all of which offer classes you can take as an exchange student. Compared to Ohio State, SMU was very small. Only about 8,000 students attend SMU, compared to OSU’s nearly 60,000. Being in the middle of the city, it didn’t feel that small, but it was still a stark contrast to OSU. The typical class size at SMU was 30-40 students. This includes the “intro” courses, which at OSU consist of hundreds of students in one lecture.
Courses at SMU are designed as modules, with one module consisting of roughly 3 OSU credit hours. While abroad, I took four courses: International Finance, Sociology of Terrorism, Introduction to Marketing, and Cultural Policy and Practice. My personal favorite was Sociology of Terrorism because it offered a unique perspective on terrorism versus the views I was used to seeing in the U.S. International Finance was incredibly difficult as an exchange student whose classes aren’t Pass/Fail. Though I passed this course, I chose to retake it at OSU to get a higher grade. Introduction to Marketing was similar to what I would expect an OSU class to be like. Cultural Policy and Practice was outside of my comfort zone as it was an intense dive into arts policy, but taught me the most about Singapore’s culture. Like at OSU, many of the professors had PhD’s or had strong institutional knowledge of their specialization. For example, my International Finance professors had both PhD’s and entrepreneurs who worked across international borders.
Classes at SMU had different formats than at Ohio State. I had one class on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, and two classes on Thursday. Each class was 3.5 hours with a 15-minute break in the middle of class. Classes rarely, if ever, were let out early. If I wasn’t traveling on Monday or Friday, I would spend those days catching up on homework or studying for exams in the library. Typically, a course was structured so that a group project was the main focus of the class. There was also a final for each course I was in, but placed at the same time as the group project was due, so prior planning was essential. I tried to allocate all of the time on my weekends to exploring Singapore or other countries in Southeast Asia.
Having aspiration of working abroad one day, Katelyn Mistele attends a professional speaker event at Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) about setting yourself up for a global career. She learns about the pros and cons of having a globally mobile career, and shares her insights on her experience studying abroad and what she gained from being abroad.
Copenhagen Business School is like Fisher in the fact that many companies and speakers frequently visit the school to give talks and recruit. There was an individual who is currently work with Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, but also worked with P&G with Gillette, who put on a presentation one day. I decided to attend as the message of the talk was marketing yourself and setting yourself up for a global career.
The individual who was giving the talk has led a successful and extensive global career. He is from London but after working with P&G for a few years in London he made a jump to Switzerland. From that he changed companies and spent the next decade jumping between Singapore and London with Maersk. Today he sits in Denmark still working with Maersk and his career is still mobile and he will most likely make another career move soon. This background was so interesting to me because I have always heard about individuals being globally mobile with their career but this isn’t as common in the United States. Instead, we see intercontinental movement with jobs. The speaker proposed that the major contributing factor to his ability to be mobile in Europe is the European Union and how it is easier to be mobile for work here than it is across boarders in other parts of the world.
He asked us to brain storm a list of questions regarding what we would ask if we were asked by a company to confirm that we are globally mobile. As a class we came up with questions regarding the length of the assignment, the preparation in cultural terms before the project, questions regarding the location itself, and the opportunities for development during the assignment and after the assignment. There are a lot of deciding factors that go into deciding if an individual wants a global career and its important to keep in mind aspects regarding preparation and development. In terms of preparation the speaker told us that small moves as opposed to big ones have more problems. For example a jump from England to France is harder to adjust to than a jump from England to Singapore. Another key factor to take into consideration is the development opportunities during the assignment and after the assignment. A lot of times with expatriation assignments there is high failure rates upon arrival back to ones home country as readjusting seems to be harder. The speaker told us that during his return from one of his projects his mentor told him to not talk about his experiences that much because people back at home really don’t care that much. He said it was so hard to keep his thoughts and experiences completely to himself but he said in the long run it was worth it and helped him to get back into to the English culture faster.
This presentation was very interesting for me as working abroad or on abroad accounts is something I am definitely interested in looking into in the future. At a first glance I, as I am sure most other people would be, just think about the location. We all want to travel and work somewhere cool, but there are many important factors that contribute to what would make this a successful assignment and contribute to a successful global career. The speaker also suggested that if we have any inkling to go and lead a global career that we should. He said that the 70-20-10 model can be applied to working on international assignments as 70% of your learning in your career happens on the job and the best way to learn and grow in an international environment is to just take the job. The 20% is learning what happens with peers or mentors and the 10% is “classroom learning” which can happen in the class room or even on the internet in the form of training videos. All parts of this model apply to any assignment but the speaker was trying to point out that you learn the most from being on the job so if you want to grow your career internationally it makes the most sense to take international opportunities as they arise because that’s when you’ll learn and grow the most.
He also mentioned how the environment of global employment is changing. There are now an increase in short term assignments which last less than two years and this is a positive as it is making people more mobile. However, there is a downside as customers do not like when people continuously rotate as it is harder to build long term relationships. Also companies are starting to now really look at the cost of expatriation as it is very expensive. So the question that is facing employees and businesses today is what is the balance?
Personally, I hope that at some point in my career I have the opportunity to go on an expatriation assignment. After spending some time in Denmark, I have grown so much culturally and learned a lot. Only these international experiences can provide you with this personal growth. It is one thing to just read about a culture and learn about its nuances but you really do not reap all the benefits of cultural exposure and integration unless you go and live in the culture. I personally have become not only more mindful of my nature, but also have picked up some of the Danish cultural traits. For example, Jantelov is an integral part of Danish culture. At its core, Jantelov is the idea that everyone is equal and on the same level and the Danish peoples actions should be in accordance with this idea. It goes further to describe how if one fall the society will catch them and help them back up. After being here and living in this culture I definitely can see aspects of this part of their culture and I am hoping that I will be able to assimilate parts of it into my everyday life and bring this part of Danish culture with me back to my life in the United States.
I strongly believe that cultural integration and sharing is something that I think will not only benefit myself and my career but could benefit a lot of individuals. As the speaker suggested 70% of learning happens on the job, and I think this can extend to study abroad or any cultural experience. It is important for myself to take advantage of these opportunities, and I hope that someday I will have the chance to go on an international assignment and further learn and mold my own cultural identity.
As she gets close in completing her Global Option in Business program, Megan Reardon reflects on how the program helped her learn, develop skills, and gain experience for her to be ready for a global future.
Before I came to Fisher, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Having studied Mandarin in high school, I wanted to be able to apply my language skills in a real-world setting. When I was abroad, it opened my eyes to the world of global business and that I could be a player in the international business scene. At this point, I did not find it worthwhile to pick up an International Business degree. However, I wanted a way to differentiate myself among my peers as a global citizen. Thus, I learned more about the Global Option program and decided that I wanted to pursue it.
The global option consists of several sections in order to earn the certificate. For my sections, I took classes, mentored students, and went abroad. Going abroad was definitely the most impactful section that I completed, however, it only gave me insight to business in Asia. Through the other sections, I was able to learn more about business in other parts of the world, including South America and Europe.
Since coming back from Singapore and having had a full semester to reflect on how my experience impacted my personal, school, and professional life, I have started to notice visible changes in how I act. I am now more confident in speaking up in classes. I no longer get nervous that my answers will be wrong or I am not knowledgeable enough about a topic to answer a question. My classes at Singapore Management University (SMU) were all discussion based. Because of the language barrier, I often had to make sure that I was well-prepared for classes and spoke very clearly about what I was trying to convey. This has translated back to my studies at Ohio State in that I come to classes ready and willing to make my opinions known.
I also think that I am much more understanding in group projects. Before I went to Singapore, I would completely commandeer the leadership position in my group projects. I would delegate and assign tasks to people, even if I didn’t have the best knowledge of the topic. After I went to Singapore, I am much more willing to take a step back and first look at what people are good at or interested in and discuss roles based on that. I no longer take a lead position in every project I work on.
Also as part of the global option, I took International Finance and International Marketing. I definitely found International Marketing more interesting because it focused much more on culture abroad compared to International Finance which focused on hedging and derivatives. For International Marketing, our final grade was a semester long consulting project designed to bring a U.S.-based firm to four different international markets – France, Hong Kong, Canada, and Brazil. We did in depth cultural, economic, and political analyses on these topics that resulted in recommendations for how to introduce this new firm to international markets. Overall, I really liked this project because it gave a good sense of business operations in other countries without having to go to those countries.
I would recommend the Global Option in Business program to any student at Fisher. As the world is becoming more globalized, it is inevitable that current students will have to work with foreign entities at some point in our careers. The Global Option in Business is a quick way for students to enter the workforce more prepared for inevitable global careers.
Why go to Singapore? Megan Reardon who studies at Singapore Management University in Singapore tells you the top 10 reasons why!
Probably the top reason I went to Singapore was because I knew that travel opportunities would be plentiful. People normally think of Europe when they want to travel, but Singapore is in the heart of Southeast Asia and offers easy access to destinations like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. On top of that, Singapore’s airport was recently voted as the best airport in the world for the fifth year in the row, making getting to these places very easy.
English is the most widely spoken language in Singapore. While Singapore has four national languages (English, Tamil, Malay, and Mandarin), signs and communication are largely in English and very easy to follow. Unlike other Asian countries, it is not a problem if you are only familiar with English.
3) Safety and Cleanliness
Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. There is essentially no fear of harm if you are out walking alone at night. Singapore is also very clean. Have you ever heard that gum is illegal in Singapore? It’s true! Singapore is so clean that the government doesn’t want to risk gum being spit out on sidewalks.
The university that Fisher partners with, Singapore Management University (SMU), offers great courses and a competitive curriculum. Unlike at Fisher, most of their core courses focus on one intense, semester long project. Every class is required to have a group project. This gives an awesome chance to work in a project setting with people from all around the world.
Singapore is famous for places called Hawker Centers. These are open-air complexes that house stalls selling inexpensive food from around the world. Most days, I would eat various hawker meals for lunch. These cheap meals also give you a chance to try all of the local flavors without breaking the bank.
6) Public Transportation
Singapore is small, and therefore so easy to get around. Getting to the middle of the city from my apartment was a 15 minute MRT train ride. The public transport system hits all parts of the island, and they are constantly adding more routes to improve efficiency.
7) Cultural blend of local and international students
One of the best parts of studying at SMU is that there is such a diverse blend of students and teachers. Whereas in Europe, many of the exchange students are from the U.S., in Singapore most exchange students were from Europe. I rarely met other U.S. foreign exchange students, which offered great opportunities to learn different cultures.
8) SMU is in the city
Unlike the two other Singaporean universities, Singapore Management University (SMU) is directly in the middle of the city. It’s easy to get to, and offers many off campus options for things to do when you’re done with classes.
9) Leading global business hub
Singapore itself is a hub of international business in Asia. Being a business student, this was an awesome way to learn about international business and how business is conducted in Asia.
10) High standard of living
Singapore offers a very high standard of living. SMU is a commuter school, so all exchange students live off campus. Most students live in condos with a few other students. These condos are luxury. They have pools, hot tubs, gym facilities, etc. Since Singapore is usually about 80 F, a long morning of classes is easily followed by an afternoon at the pool.
Considering to go to Singapore Management University (SMU), but still unsure about going? Read Megan Reardons advice on studying on the Student Exchange Program to Singapore!
Before I went to Singapore, all I wanted was someone who had been there before to answer some questions. I did not have this person, but I want to try and answer some of my biggest questions for potential students studying abroad in Singapore.
1. How hard are the classes?
Coming from Ohio State, I would say the classes are the same level of difficult. However, they are difficult in different ways. Singapore Management University (SMU) puts a large focus on class participation and group projects in every course, while Fisher’s core classes focus on exams and homework. Being an exchange student, it is also difficult because all you want to do is explore the city you are in and travel on the weekends. Since classes transfer back as grades rather than Pass/Fail as most other U.S. schools, you have to try for good grades. This means studying harder than your other exchange friends.
2. Where should I live?
Unfortunately, since SMU is an urban campus they do not have dorms. You are on your own to find housing. Most students end up living in condo’s run by individual landlords. Some people choose to live in hostels, however I would not recommend this. When I first arrived in Singapore, I stayed in a hostel that was very dirty and ended up being unable to receive my deposit back. Many students wait until they arrive in Singapore to find housing. They book a hostel for the first few nights, and take the first few days to contact a housing agent and tour potential condos.
Note: it is required that you have an agent to rent a condo. I was not the person in my group to contact the agent, but I believe they just Googled, “Housing agent for expat in Singapore” and emailing the first few.
I ended up finding two other Americans, three Finnish people, and one French girl to share a condo with. Being with other nationalities was a very rewarding experience because it gave us the opportunity to learn from each other. We stayed in City Square, which was right next to the MRT train station making it very convenient to get to school. There are many other housing options closer and further from school, depending on the price range you pay. We each ended up paying S$950 = US$680 per month.
3. What did you do about your phone?
Fortunately, most mobile phones that we buy now are unlocked. This means that as long as the phone is working well, it will be able to accept any wireless carrier. I brought my iPhone from the U.S., and was able to use one of the wireless carriers in Singapore to get a new sim card with data and messaging. It is very straightforward to get a new sim card. Like Verizon and AT&T, wireless carriers in Singapore have physical store locations. If you walk into one of these locations (I prefer Singtel), you will be able to purchase a sim card with however much data you want. I was able to get 2GB data for S$20/month. Singtel also offers international packages, so when you travel abroad to places like Thailand and Indonesia, you don’t need to buy a new sim card in those places.
4. How do the subways work?
The subway in Singapore is called the MRT. Rather than buying a package at the beginning of the semester, I recommend purchasing an EZ-Link card at any of the kiosks at the entrance to the MRT. You can refill this card throughout your semester at any self-serve kiosk at every MRT station. Rides are typically in the S$1.50-S$2 range per trip, but are cheaper during rush hour. This same EZ-Link card is used for buses and printing at SMU.
5. What do I pack?
Singapore is a hot, humid, tropical city-state. Students in Singapore look much nicer than students in the U.S. They hardly wear athletic gear and are more in favor of trendier styles. Still most people wear shorts and nice shirts to class. I would pack a light jacket because the air conditioning can be very chilly indoors. Additionally, research the places you want to visit. Northern Vietnam and Hong Kong can get chilly during the evenings, so jackets might be necessary. I would recommend bringing at least one business casual outfit. This can be used for group presentations, meeting with professionals, etc. I chose to purchase cheap, plain t-shirts and leave them in Singapore to save luggage space for souvenirs.
If you have any questions about studying in Singapore, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am more than happy to talk to anyone who is interested but unsure about what to expect.
“I would highly recommend reaching out to business professionals wherever you go abroad.” says Megan Reardon who attended Singapore Management University. She gives tips and advice on how you can set up informational interviews with professionals abroad to take full advantage of expanding your network while abroad!
One of the top reasons that I chose to go to Singapore is because I am really interested in working abroad once I graduate. That being said, I was excited to start grabbing coffee with Singaporean business professionals. It was surprisingly easy to find people to meet with once in Singapore. There are four different ways I was able to connect with people:
1. LinkedIn. I was able to search my LinkedIn connections for graduates of Ohio State who lived in Singapore. I reached out to several people this way and was able to meet for coffee with a few people in the banking industry and the fashion industry. More so – they were all impressed that I took initiative to reach out that they were able to give good recommendations for places to search for internships and jobs in Singapore. One of my connections brought me out to eat with his whole family, so they would understand what native English sounds like!
2. Leveraging professors. Before I went to Singapore, I spoke with my professors at Ohio State about my goals. Several professors were able to connect me with their peers in Singapore, which shows the power of connections given how small Singapore is. As it turns out, one of my professors at Singapore Management University (SMU) received their PhD in Finance at Ohio State! It was interesting to be able to talk to him about the differences between Ohio State and SMU.
3. Past work experience. I knew that one of my past internships in Cleveland had a location in Singapore that operated their Asian business. Since I knew that I was going to Singapore when I interned with this company, I was able to talk with the people who did business in Singapore before I went abroad then meet them in person while in Singapore.
4. Family connections. Though I previously believed that my family had no connections in Singapore, I asked my dad to reach out to one of his work friends that lived there previously. They set me up with someone else, and before I knew it, I was talking to my cousin’s best friend’s older brother who happened to go to the same college as my dad and had a cousin that I was friends with at Ohio State. What a small world!
It was typically very informal when I met with the business people. I would usually ask that they pick the place where we would meet – this gave the professionals flexibility and gave me good recommendations regarding the “local favorites.” We would usually meet at a coffee shop, and the conversation would start pretty naturally given that we had already exchanged a few emails by that point. Some of my favorite conversation topics were:
1. Do you see significant growth opportunities in Singapore in regards to business as a whole?
2. Do you do any business with the U.S., and if so, what are the major differences that you see?
3. I would usually ask about their family, whether it be a simple, “Do you live with your family here?” or “How are your kids liking school here(primary school in Singapore is much different than in the U.S.)?”
4. Would you recommend working in Singapore?
I would highly recommend reaching out to business professionals wherever you go abroad. This gives you the chance to experience other cultures at a more personal level and determine more about the working culture to decide whether or not you want to work abroad.
One of the classes Megan Reardon took at Singapore Management University (SMU) was “Arts and Culture Management”. She worked on a group project to research about The Substation, a arts hubs created under government policy, and through this leaned the difference in U.S. vs Singaporian business practices.
Singapore’s arts scene is not as vibrant as other countries. Since policy has always been focused on economic development, arts policy has often been deemed as a sort of forced social project. This is not a uniquely Singaporean problem – Hong Kong and Shanghai also face similar obstacles. One of the policies implemented was the Arts Housing Scheme, which refurbished vacant government buildings into arts hubs. The Substation was born out of the Arts Housing Scheme and is Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts center. Established in 1990 when the arts in Singapore were severely lagging, as a collaborative and pioneering experimental arts center. For one of my classes, Arts and Culture Management, my project team was assigned to analyze The Substation’s role in the emerging Singapore arts scene. Once the centerpiece of a bustling neighborhood, The Substation is now surrounded by new, upscale restaurants and shopping centers, and unable to financially compete with the surrounding businesses.
Part of our assignment was interviewing various people associated with the development of The Substation in its current form. Though no longer thriving, the mission is clear – to foster creativity and innovation in the Singapore community by providing programming, practice spaces, and courses to artists. For part of our project, we had to interview people closely connected with The Substation, whether it be previous artistic directors, the woman who gave The Substation its original building, or various artists who have used their facilities. These interviews gave me the opportunity to discover more about how business is done in Singapore.
The most interesting observation in comparing Singaporean business to how business is done in the U.S. is the level of formality. Though I had previously believed lunch meetings to be very casual, the lunch meeting with several of our interviewees was formal. There was no small talk, no exchange of pleasantries, but the ever looming feeling that we were there for business only.
Another difference in business practices was that our professor joined us on meetings. At first, I found this odd. It was as if our professor did not trust us enough to be able to conduct the meetings on our own. However, as we continued interviews, I eventually learned that my professor attended these meetings as a vessel to continue her own learning. She was just as curious about the answers to our questions as we were. The emphasis on continued learning is very strong in Singapore. Because it is such an economically advanced society, people are constantly trying to stay on the cusp of what is new and exciting. It’s why Singapore continues to thrive during these times.
Cayhil Grubbs explains the process of adjusting to a new culture while he is abroad in Tokyo, Japan on the Student Exchange Program to Rikkyo University. “I knew how to deal with this feeling – laugh”
When I first landed in Japan, I didn’t truly feel like I had left the U.S. There was English under each kanji character on every airport sign, every staff member greeted me in English, and there were foreigners everywhere. I didn’t truly process where I was until I went to the supermarket a few hours later to look for things like hand soap and paper towels. At first everything felt normal. The supermarket’s layout was similar, I could here American pop music playing through the loud-speakers, and I even heard the Migos’ song “T-Shirt” playing a few minutes later.
The soap section changed everything. Everything was in Japanese. I couldn’t tell the difference between hand soap, body soap, and shampoo. Trying to pick which soap brand I wanted was humbling. It marked the first time I felt helpless in Japan, but I didn’t mind because I knew how to deal with this feeling – laugh, pull out Google Translate, and learn more Japanese. These are the basic survival tools of living in any foreign country for the non-fluent nomad/exchange student.
One thing I’ve quickly adjusted to is the dorm and surrounding area I live in. Like Ohio State, Rikkyo University has more than one campus. The main campus is in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and the second campus is in Niiza, Saitama. Unlike Ohio State, Rikkyo’s dorms aren’t on campus. I live in the dorm right outside of Asakadai Station, called RUID Asakadai. The many restaurants and stores in and surrounding the station can be very lively during the day, but the area gets nice and quiet at night. There’s a certain sense of serenity in the air, a calmness, peace. I think this aspect of Japan is overlooked. The calmness is unmatched in the world.
Since I have Japanese class at 9 o’clock every day, I have to take the train during rush hour. Any train I get on before 8:30am is packed. The train ride to school is extremely uncomfortable, not because of how you get body slammed with the collective force of nine sumo wrestlers every time the train car rocks back and forth, or that at each stop five people try to squeeze their way in for every person that gets off, or even the fact that it’s a 23-minute ride. What makes it uncomfortable is the strange pose I inevitably end up in. It’s like playing twister, but all of your color’s spots that are close to you are gone, you only get one spin the entire game, and there’s no room to fall.
Having lived in Japan for nearly a month, I’ve noticed a few cultural things that are different. The one thing here that has stood out the most to me is using a public bathroom. Not all public bathrooms have soap and there’s nothing to dry your hands with. Paper towels only exist in grocery stores and the rarer than unicorn hand dryers are weaker than Derrick Rose’s knees. Lastly, anime, video games, media, and sushi are not representative of real life. Americans don’t eat hamburgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s better to not come to Japan with expectations, especially not ridiculous ones. Allow yourself to learn through experience. Let yourself be surprised.