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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even after I leave Singapore, I think my new tradition will be to celebrate two New Year’s, every year.
The day finally came for us to present our research (all 10 weeks worth) in a two-hour presentation in front of the C-Level executives at Philips Healthcare China. Our emotions were running high, from nervous to excited, insecure to confident.
Would we provide Philips with novel ideas that they had never thought of? Had our ideas already been implemented? Were we completely off track? There was a level of uncertainty that was present throughout the project, due to the ambiguity of the assignment. We were going to address that uncertainty today. Would it be a success though? That was the big question.
Fortunately, the presentation and our ideas were a success. After in-depth questioning of our research and recommendations, we found out that we reaffirmed ideas that Philips was currently working on, as well as presented new ideas for the Home Healthcare team to further explore. Philips was impressed with our presentation, our ideas, and our professionalism. And more importantly, the Philips team was impressed with us as individuals.They even treated us to lunch with live octopus being cooked right in front of us. It was definitely a new experience…
Although there was an air of sadness as we finished the day, this was an experience that neither we nor the Philips team will ever forget.