Last day in Bangkok

I can’t believe our GAP experience is almost over. The last three weeks have been such a great experience. I have learned a lot about team work and professionalism, as well as Thai people, Thai culture and why they are so much better off than Vietnam economically.

Now heading back to my internship, I hope that the lessons I’ve learned from this trip will help me in my new position. Thank you Fisher for this wonderful opportunity, thank my friend for helping me during the project, and to Thailand: แล้วพบกันใหม่ (see you again).

Some random memories:

Most professional photo

Most professional photo

Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.

Thomas was checking out some painting on an ancient house wall.

Free live music in a shopping center

Free live music in a shopping center

 

This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.

This city keeps building huge temples every where, something to look forward to for my next visit.

 

Last meal in Bangkok, cooked by my girlfriend, taste like home. So delicious.

Last meal in Bangkok, cooked at home. So delicious.

Another side of Thailand

After two weeks in Bangkok, our team decided to expand our experience to some other areas of Thailand during the weekend. However, half of the team wanted the loudness and craziness Pattaya, one wanted the romance of Bali, Indonesia, while I chose Hua Hin, a very quiet and beautiful beach just about 300km (186 miles) from Bangkok.

The place was quite the opposite of noisy Bangkok. We enjoyed some of the most peaceful days since we came to Thailand. The most pleasant experience for me was the people in the town. They were extremely honest and helpful- definitely a great relief from the tuk tuk and taxi drivers in Bangkok. If you enjoy peaceful beaches, nice weather, great street foods and elephants, this is the place to go.

This was the place where we lived in Hua Hin, very nice little hotel we found on Airbnb

This was the place where we lived in Hua Hin, very nice little hotel we found on Airbnb

The elephant was coming to pick us up. 400 baht each ($13) for 20' riding. The name of the elephant was Tuk Tuk, which was really funny as the experience we had with tuk tuk (a kind of motobike taxi) in Bangkok was aweful.

The elephant was coming to pick us up. 400 baht each ($13) for 20′ riding. The name of the elephant was Tuk Tuk, which was really funny as the experience we had with tuk tuk (a kind of motobike taxi) in Bangkok was awful.

 

Tuk Tuk meeting his gang

Tuk Tuk meeting his gang

Camels, ugly animals with beautiful eyes. And they were almost as tall as  the elephants.

Camels, ugly animals with beautiful eyes. And they were almost as tall as the elephants.

Found a nice bar with live music (Jazz and Saxophone) with 5 stars on Tripadvisor. Obviously we didnt understand anything about Jazz, but the place was really cool.

Found a nice bar with live music (Jazz and Saxophone) with 5 stars on Tripadvisor. Obviously we didnt understand anything about Jazz, but the place was really cool.

Colorful Bangkok

After several days of hard work with the team, at last I had sometime to go around and explore the city of Bangkok on a sunny day. What I wanted to see was not the typical temples and touristy attractions, but the normal life of Bangkok. And, I was not disappointed. This city is so vibrant, literally. There were so many beautiful things to see and bright colors were everywhere. I truly felt thankful to the GAP program for this opportunity. Without it, I would probably have come to Thailand on a standard tour (which is very very popular in Vietnam) and missed the real attractions of this wonderful city.

Enough for the lengthy introductions, here are the pictures:

The statue outside of the Central World, biggest shopping center in Bangkok

The statue outside of the Central World, biggest shopping center in Bangkok

Thai people love Aston Mini, I love them too

Thai people love Aston Mini, I love them too

Cute elephants.

Cute elephants.

Outdoor shopping area

Outdoor shopping area

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What I hate the most in Bangkok is the traffic. It is even worse than that in Vietnam. However, this traffic jam looks really good in the picture. :)

What I hate the most in Bangkok is the traffic. It is even worse than that in Vietnam. However, this traffic jam looks really good in the picture. :)

People queing to wait for the bus. This is not something you will ever see in Vietnam.

People queing to wait for the bus. This is not something you will ever see in Vietnam.

Adding some colors to the street of Bangkok

Adding some colors to the street of Bangkok

Random photo of my  team mates going to a client interview. Just to keep this post work-related. :))

Random photo of my team mates going to a client interview. Just to keep this post work-related. :))

To be honest, before I came here, I expected the city to be the same as Sai Gon, Vietnam, but I was totally wrong. Bangkok is like Sai Gon on steroids. It has been a wonderful experience, and I will definitely come back here someday in the future.

#Shanghaibody

After a fun Saturday night, we had the chance to sleep in on Sunday and cut into our sleep debt! After awaking, we met six of Dandan’s friends from Shanghai for Dim Sum at 11 am. The food was INCREDIBLE. Yes- most of our team’s blog posts have been about food, but that is because what we eat here is just so amazing (#shanghaibody). At our Dim Sum brunch, we had round after round of appetizer type treats, with Dandan and her friends doing the majority of the ordering and the rest of us doing the majority of the eating.

One round of dim sum!

One round of dim sum!

In the afternoon, we all went different directions. Yuming and I went to the Yu Garden, one of Shanghai’s main attractions. It was beautiful and serene, in stark contrast with the rest of the city which is made up of sky scrapers and modern buildings. It was also FILLED with people, and the street vendors were going crazy. With the help of Yuming, I practiced my negotiation skills and was able to buy some reasonably priced souvenirs, and Yuming and I got in our average ten miles of walking in a day.

Yu Garden

Yu Garden

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Just a few thousand people

Just a few thousand people

We all met up for dinner at yet another mall food court, which sounds inauthentic. But, the food courts are filled with all sorts of different types of real restaurants, and are absolutely incredible. It also allows us to satisfy our different cravings (i.e. chicken feet and tendons for Yuming, spicy everything for Ian and John, American food for Neel, traditional for Dandan, and anything not spicy or too eccentric for me).

Words Aren’t Enough

One of the most constant comments that we have heard from Kurt Roush is that GAP would be the best experience we’d have at Fisher. He is definitely right. It’s hard to put into words how amazing this May has been, but I will do my best.

China is amazing. I have never seen so many people, viewed such tall buildings, or eaten so much great food. Every day has been a new adventure, from learning new words in Mandarin to exploring a new part of the city. You would need years to see all of Shanghai. And, it is only one of the incredible cities here! I can’t wait to come back to this country (although I am really looking forward to clean air!).

Which brings me to my next point: international work. I knew from the time I was a junior in high school that I wanted to work internationally. This experience has only made my desire stronger. I love learning about new cultures and actually living in them, rather than just being a tourist. And, the work itself has been so useful. I have less work experience than most of my MBA counterparts, and these three weeks have given me such great insight into corporate life, and my rate of learning feels exponential. From scope creep, to strategizing, to meeting with upper management, I have taken it all in, and am so thankful for the exposure.

I am going to end with the most important part of my GAP experience: my team. I have been on many teams—from sports, to consulting projects, to academics teams—and this team has definitely been one of the best. Each individual brought something unique to our group, and every single person had a shining moment during the process. Whether it was John enlightening us with his endless understanding of the U.S. healthcare system, Yuming expertly creating the slide that was central to our project, Neel asking thoughtful, unique questions to our client, Dandan translating all Chinese articles for us, or Ian being the diplomatic, incredibly intelligent, client manager that he is, each individual contributed greatly to our success. And, it goes beyond the actual project. From Yuming wechatting (we are totally bringing this to the US) all day, Ian being one of the most sarcastic, funny people I’ve met, Neel constantly trying to convince us to go to McDonald’s, John slipping in hilarious, unexpected jokes, and Dandan literally saving our lives on a daily basis, we had such a great time together. All the second years warned us that we would get sick of each other and people would need space, but this didn’t happen to us. The final Thursday of our project, working on only a few hours of sleep and in crunch time, was the first time that we had any visible tension. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with. None of us were super close before this trip, but I look forward to going back to Fisher with five new friends.

Team Philips!

Team Philips!

2 hours of sleep, 2 hour presentation, 2 people left!

Friday was a rollercoaster of emotion, from frustration to joy to pride to sadness. It started at the Philips office, where we worked until 1 am, finishing our 140 page slide deck and our prezi for our 8 am presentation. This culmination of an 18-hour workday on Thursday led to the first, albeit minor, tension in the Philips group, as people fought passionately for their personal preference of slide formatting and graphics. The hour ride taxi ride back to the hotel (apparently in Shanghai it is literally “rush hour” 24 hours a day) gave us barely enough time for 2 hours of sleep, before our agreed-upon (not completely willingly) departure time of 4:30 am.

Take out Korean food for dinner during our 18 hour work day

Take out Korean food for dinner during our 18 hour work day

After some final editing and another practice run, we were ready to present to the CEO of Philips Healthcare China, Dr. Desmond Thio (OSU MD), as well as the head of strategy, the head of R&D, and a few others. We planned for an hour presentation, including questions. This turned into 2+ hours of lively discussion, and we couldn’t have been happier. They were genuinely interested in and impressed by our work, and couldn’t believe how much we had done. It made all of the long meetings the last 12 weeks completely worth it. We can’t delve into details per our NDA, but let’s just say we hit a few points right on the money!

Team Philips with Philips employees post presentation!

Team Philips with Philips employees post presentation!

Our client contact, Andrea, took us out for Korean hot pot after the presentation, sans Dandan who decided to spend her last night at home in Nanjing. Neel, Ian, and John then went to the airport, and Yuming and I took much needed naps. We then had a great final night in Shanghai, which lasted until 5 am, meeting up with the CVG team and exploring some new areas of Shanghai nightlife.

Korean Hot Pot!

Korean Hot Pot!

The last two...

The last two…

I can’t believe this amazing journey is over.

Hump Day Dumplings!

Wednesday was another productive day for the Philips team. We had a great meeting with two folks from the R&D department, who gave us more insights into what product and service sectors Philips is looking to expand. We also took advantage of the white board that Dandan ordered for us on TaoBao (think Chinese Amazon, but cheaper and with more options), and dove deeper into our actual presentation by coming up with a detailed outline. The hard work we did in the US is really paying off now, because we are able to focus all of our energy on putting everything together and making a quality presentation!

Hard at work!

Hard at work!

For dinner, we met up with half of the CVG team at Tian Zi Fang and explored the giant food court. We had the best fried dumplings in Shanghai at Yang’s Dumplings, and some of us also got some sushi! We did some shopping at local craft shops in the area, and also enjoyed some Tsingtao. Dandan’s best friend from college also came out after dinner, and they haven’t seen each other in four years! On the way home, John, Neel, Ian, and I had our own adventure. We got off the subway at the wrong stop and wandered around a street filled with Gucci, Armani, and Tiffany stores for about two miles before Neel got us back on the right track. Just a typical night in Shanghai!

Obama/Mao gear was everywhere

Obama/Mao gear was everywhere

Dandan found some new sunglasses!

Dandan found some new sunglasses!

Best billboard we've seen so far

Best billboard we’ve seen so far

We discovered an editing app that Chinese girls use to edit their faces for dating sites, called "Meituxiuxiu" and here is how we edited Yuming!

We discovered an editing app that Chinese girls use to edit their faces for dating sites, called “Meituxiuxiu” and here is how we edited Yuming!

As Seen From Space…

“Ni Hao” from Beijing! We just had the most AMAZING day. After an evening full of peking duck (which included eating duck intestines, liver, and hearts), we woke up bright and early to make the three hour trip to The Great Wall.

I had been coordinating back in the States with a special guide (thanks to second year Katie B!) to take us to a non-renovated, non-public section of the wall. Communication wasn’t quite ideal between the US and Beijing, so we didn’t know what to expect. We were told a guide would be picking us up at our hostel at 7:30 am on Saturday, and, lo and behold, a man wearing an Ohio State shirt showed up and off we went! We were missing Dandan, who went home to Nanjing for the weekend, but luckily Yuming’s Mandarin is up to par, and he was able to communicate for us.

When we got to the Wall, there was hardly anyone around, but there was a small restaurant near the Wall where we ate lunch. It was the best food we’ve had so far, which is saying something! And then the trek began.

I don’t really know what to say about the hike, because it honestly cannot be put into words. The unadulterated beauty, endless miles of architecture, bright blue skies, and incredible history made this one of the best experiences of all of our lives. We were sweaty, dirty, breathing heavy, and absolutely thrilled. Even though photos can’t do it justice, I will let them speak.

O-H-I-O on The Great Wall

O-H-I-O on The Great Wall

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It wasn't an easy climb!

It wasn’t an easy climb!

Team Philips (minus Dandan)

Team Philips (minus Dandan)

Unfortunately, our CVG team friends missed the train last night. But, they managed to get an early train on Saturday. We set up a car for them to get picked up and taken straight to the Wall, and they were able to do the hike in the afternoon. That evening at the hostel (which was great–we had an 8 person dorm room all to ourselves!), everyone passed out early, prepping for another exciting day of touring Beijing tomorrow.

A Budget Traveler’s Dream

By far the biggest perk about studying abroad in Singapore is the ease of traveling around Southeast Asia. I was able to travel to 5 different countries outside of Singapore and the most I paid for a flight was $300 to Australia. Most flights were 2-3 hours long and only around $150. Airlines such as TigerAir and Jetstar make flying on a budget a breeze.

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Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

My favorite country I visited was Thailand and I loved it so much that I went twice on my four month exchange. From the white sand beaches, to feeding elephants, to 40 baht pad thai, Thailand was nothing short of Paradise.

 

My favorite experience out of both my trips to Thailand was visiting an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai called Elephant Nature Park. I heard horror stories about how elephants are domesticated and knew I didn’t want to go the typical route and go elephant riding. Instead, I got to spend the entire day among them, feeding them, bathing them, and observing them. It was an unforgettable experience and I recommend it to anyone traveling to Thailand.

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Elephants playing in the river

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Up Close & Personal

 

Other amazing experiences included visiting the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, sailing Halong Bay (New 7 Wonder of Nature), diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and visiting tea plantations in Malaysia.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

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Angkor Archeological Park

 

 

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Ta Prohm-Tomb Raider Temple

 

I was fortunate enough to travel to all these amazing places and not have to break the bank. Although traveling was relatively inexpensive, the people I met along the way, the culture, the views, and the memories were all priceless. I definitely recommend traveling as much as possible while on exchange because an opportunity like this doesn’t come often.

 

 

Double the New Year, Double the Fun

After 2 months of being in Singapore, I have come to realize what a truly multicultural country it is. Everything from the people to the food to the holidays embody that. This year I was fortunate enough to experience two New Year’s celebrations.

I started off my New Year in Singapore at Marina Bay and it was absolutely spectacular. The view of the city and Marina Bay Sands were picture perfect. New Year's 2015 in Singapore

 

I thought I would have to settle for an average New Year’s Eve because I knew that Chinese New Year’s was also big in Singapore but the celebrations were anything but average. I got to ring in the New Year with some local Singaporeans and my roommates who are fellow exchange students at SMU. As you can see, the city at night is full of lights.

New Year's with locals and exchange students

I can’t think of any other country where the Gregorian New Year (January 1st) celebrations are just as big as the celebrations for Chinese New Year (February 19th)! Chinese New Year in Singapore was just as fun and colorful with a cultural twist.

Chinese New Year Singapore

 

Even after I leave Singapore, I think my new tradition will be to celebrate two New Year’s, every year.