Top 5: Designs of Denmark

Finance student and Sustainable Business Global Lab participant, Zacks Wells, shares which buildings top his list of innovative Danish design.

In U.S. cities like Cleveland or Los Angeles, an intricate Frank Gehry rooftop will decorate the occasional intersection, but a good portion of American architecture seems to jostle between minimalism and utilitarianism.

I was delighted to find in Copenhagen however that the streets were lined with warrens of large apartment buildings and businesses alike, each uniquely taking on striking, almost fashionable designs. It’s true that the city is industrious and respectful of tradition, home to several palaces like Amalienborg which houses the Danish royal family, all to be seen from guided canal tours. Yet in other avenues Copenhagen displays airs of playfully fresh designs that are as “modern” as anything you’d find in New York or Paris. In some cases these structures are so lively and numerous that one begins to wonder if they are naively overabundant; rather, it’s likely they are the result of a few generations of ambitious people in Denmark who are fully committed to designing societal solutions that are creative, clever, and even lucrative.

Here are some of the most attractive and bewildering works of architecture & design I saw while in Denmark:

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

8 Topple – This apartment complex in Ørestad has a classic courtyard with inward facing balconies but also features two converging slopes that run from rooftop to ground level, and host a number of different types of grass; this type of “green” architecture attempts to support and enmesh itself into local ecosystems and it’s springing up all over, especially in Scandinavia.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tietgenkollegiet – We came across this student residence hall while roaming a lively Copenhagen campus. Its plan looks like a large circle with a courtyard inside, and its outer façade hoists and juxtaposes idiosyncratic apartment units with sleek wood paneling and community terraces.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amager Bakke (Amager Slope) – While this project is still under construction, our group got a good glance at what the finished product will look like, and even saw what work has been done on it already (physically it looks more than halfway complete). This futuristic, nauseatingly large slope will efficiently burn trash underneath, capturing most of the C02 fumes – on top, however, locals can ski down the slope or scale the 300 foot rock wall on its side (Google this one).

 

 

Autumn in the Dome of Visions.

Dome of Visions – located in Copenhagen harbor, we saw this little structure on a breezy canal tour. It’s a transparent dome with pieces of breathable, recyclable, polycarbonate triangles tessellated across its surface. It contained enough live vegetation or some type of plant matter when we saw it, that the site was visibly green from the harbor – this is no surprise, as the dome functions as both a space for art, music, and cultural showcases as well as a discussion space for future sustainable housing projects.

 

American industry has a lot to learn from places like Copenhagen and regarding our own sustainable practices, perhaps going back to the design phase is where we might focus our efforts. Some of the zaniest concepts and buildings might find themselves replaced with more fitting solutions as time passes, but artfully creative thinking and brainy designs are what the world needs from sustainable businesses.

Deutschland: A Fascinating Transition

Taking the step to study abroad for the entire 2016 autumn semester at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management, Colleen Sauer talks about her preparations and initial transition to her time in Germany.

When I used to picture myself studying abroad on the Student Exchange Program, I anticipated that I would eventually adjust and have wonderful adventures, but only a few weeks of a lot of fear and culture shock. Yes, I had a bit of that the first few weeks that I’ve been here, but I can now tell you that starting my time here has been so exciting and full of growth.

For today’s post, I want to start by talking a little bit about my preparations before arriving and how I’ve navigated so far. The first lesson I learned was to use my network, and to not be afraid to ask for help. Months leading up to my departure, I started reaching out to friends who either live in Germany currently or spent some time there, even if I hadn’t spoken to them in some time. After some digging I even found out that my friend Dominic who was an exchange student at my high school currently attends WHU (Crazy coincidence!). In other cases, I had friends who heard I was going to Germany and contacted me. Talking to people with experience was the best preparation I could have had, from learning more about WHU, to simple things like how to navigate the grocery store. Plus, it was amazing to hear their stories! It made me so excited to come to Germany.

One thing that has made my transition much easier was being able to meet all of the other “tauschies” (the term they use at WHU to refer to an exchange student here), early on through events put on by WHU. It’s amazing to now have friends from all over the world, who have the same excitement for Germany and to meeting new people! At the International Dinner tauschie event last week, we were able to share our cultures through food, where we introduced ourselves and presented a typical food from our country—I made mac and cheese. A few German students also come to our tauschie events, so it’s also been really nice to get to know the locals and feel more integrated within the WHU community.

14207642_1169644963101013_3090993761022815009_o

The International Dinner took place in WHU’s vaulted cellar

Aside from talking about normal life here, I’ve also traveled every weekend thus far! Before coming here I pictured myself not feeling comfortable enough to travel until the third weekend or so, but with the help of my adventurous tauschie friends I proved myself wrong. The first weekend I went for a day trip to Frankfurt, Germany, which was a really neat city and a great way to make new friends. On Monday I returned from Luxembourg (And no, I didn’t have class that day) which was so beautiful!

14195437_10154499156917486_517544463581257454_o
Day trip to Frankfurt, Germany the first weekend.
14285678_1398397823508104_1904555912_o
A beautiful view of Luxembourg city

I’m excited to continue to add to the list of countries I’ve visited. This transition into life in Germany has had its set of challenges, from the language barrier to learning the transportation system, but through the support of WHU, my friends and family, I’ve had a much easier time adjusting than I anticipated. I expect I’ll have many more adventures to write about in the future, as I explore the Deutsches Eck (the German Corner—aka Koblenz) and the surrounding cities and countries. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more posts!

Top 5: Tips for Traveling on a Global Lab

Alexandria Jackson, a rising sophomore in the business school, gives her top 5 “To Do’s” for students when traveling on Freshman Global Lab.

Traveling with the Freshman Global Lab was not my first time out of the country, actually visiting these two countries I was able to visit my fifth continent! But traveling on a Global Lab was a little different than my previous travel experiences. Here are my tips to make sure your time goes by as smoothly and productively as possible.

Tip 1: Packing

A tip for deciding what to pack on a business trip like this is to make sure you have the essentials—your business clothes. The next thing to consider when packing is to bring versatile pieces. This makes it easy for you to fit more things in your suitcase and the ability to mix and match when in country! Another tip for packing, specifically for the girls, is to not forget to toss in a sundress! It will come in handy when you get to go on a night out or to dinner. Lastly, make sure you have comfortable walking shoes for both your business shoes and causal shoes. We walked so much in Europe around different cities that having comfortable shoes is a must!

Tip 2: Traveling

Wear comfortable clothing and easy to slip off shoes to the airport! Nothing is more frustrating than someone who cannot get their shoes off in security. Also, keep your ID and passport handy you will have to present it to multiple people. On the plane, try to get some sleep because the time change when traveling internationally can be hard to adjust to. When in the country make sure you enjoy every minute of it, this may be your only time visiting these countries! On this trip we had a lot of long bus rides so try not to fall asleep during those long bus rides and listen to the tour guides. You will get to see and experience some great things while in country such as the beautiful scenery.

Tip 3: The Business Visits

The main reason for the trip is business, therefore pay a lot of attention in the business visits. Not only can you gain valuable information about how businesses operate in Europe but also you are able to figure out which business specializations you are and are not interested in. In this trip we visited many logistics and finance companies, and I realized that these are two specializations I am not interested in. However, I realized during the chocolate factory tour that I was interested in marketing. As we were touring the facility I was able to talk to our tour guide about why they package their chocolate the way they do, such as the packaging color and font. This affirmed my interest in the marketing specialization and allowed me to look more into marketing. The chocolate factory just so happened to be the best business visit on the trip!

At the factory we were able to tour the facility and pour our own chocolate!

Tip 4: Keep an Open Mind

I know that going into international travel with people you barely know seems crazy, but don’t go in with any pre-conceived notions about them! Enjoy the trip and get to know everyone, you will meet some great people on this trip! I made great friends on this trip and we still get together even though the trip has ended! Depending on the country you will be visiting you will most likely experience some sort of culture shock. I think it is a good idea to understand a little bit about the country’s culture and customs before you travel the country. Also, fully immerse yourself in the culture! Try new foods, talk to the people, and to get the most out of the trip!

Tip 5: Enjoy the Trip

Although business is the main objective of the trip you have to enjoy the country from perspective of a tourist! When we were in Switzerland and Italy we asked the locals for the best places to eat and shop! The people in both countries were very friendly and helpful when we asked them questions. In Switzerland we actually met a group of college students who sat and ate with us where we both shared what it was like to be a college student in our home country. When in country make sure you eat all you can! In Italy we ate gelato every day and sometimes twice a day!

I hope these tips gave you a piece of mind about the Freshman Global Lab trip! By following these tips, the most daunting parts of the trip should become a breeze! Enjoy your trip!

Private Thoughts: A Question of Motivation

Alex Rhodes, junior in Public Policy Analysis & Political Science, gains new appreciation for private sector profit maximization in the decision making process during his participation in the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab.

As a student studying public policy, I must admit I was quite interested in the implication of public actors in achieving the level of sustainability that I and many others had presumed Denmark and The Netherlands to have. I believed that private actors, or firms, were quite limited in their ability to widen the scope of their analysis of their own functions to incorporate or internalize negative externalities like pollution. I was taught that it is often only the government that can force businesses to consider the environment.

I was entirely mistaken.

Certainly the role of government cannot be overlooked. When we went to Aalborg University, several presenters fused sustainability ideas with application of public policy. We discussed a previous project one of presenters had worked on: a public biking path. We discussed how a cost benefit analysis of the path was created, how the argument for its construction was created and changed throughout the process of its enactment, and we learned how its effectiveness was statistically measured and analyzed. It was one of the most interesting discussion lectures I’ve attended in my undergraduate career.

Alex Rhodes 03
SBGL students visit SolaRoad, the first road surface that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity.

However, I soon realized I hadn’t given enough credit to potential of the private sector. I realized that under very unique circumstances, circumstances like those experienced by Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, firms can create radically innovative business models with sustainability and profitability to boot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
SBGL students on a tour of Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, an industrial network where companies collaborate to use each other’s by-products.

The Eco-Industrial park consists of a host of factories and firms that have assembled themselves in one location based off of one principle: their inputs are the same another’s outputs, or vice versa. That means less dumping of waste materials into landfills, less pollution from trucks transporting waste material to its resting place, etc.

But don’t mistake this park as being created to be “green”; I quickly learned after arriving that it was created almost solely for monetary reasons. Having only to ship outputs/inputs of a factory down a street instead of across a city means less cost to the business. These businesses just wanted to add a few more dollars to their bottom line. Surprisingly, similar to American businesses, the most sustainable businesses in the country I once recognized as one of the most eco-friendly countries didn’t prioritize the environment in their business model; they just wanted an easier way to maximize profits.

I truly believe that there must exist a catalyst to speed up the creation of unique circumstances that lead to profitable and relatively environmentally-friendly businesses. Perhaps due to their nature, businesses will always prioritize profits. They may just need to augment how they go about earning their profits. Perhaps the government can help them do this.

What to Expect from 2017 SBGL

In preparation for his 2017 program, Dr. Neil Drobny reflects on his experience directing the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab in Denmark and The Netherlands.

The opportunity to develop and lead the Global Lab in sustainability is one of the highlights of my teaching career at Ohio State.  And the decision to concentrate the experience on sustainable business practices in Denmark and The Netherlands was icing on the cake.

I have known for many years that physical, cultural and other factors in Europe have intersected to create conditions ripe for innovation and development of sustainable business practice.  The Global Lab experience was an opportunity to validate and observe what I had come to know only through reading and second hand information.  Similarly it was an opportunity to reinforce with students information that I had presented in the classroom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
During their time in Rotterdam, 2016 SBGL students met with representatives of Unilever to discuss the implications of sustainability in new product development.

The mix of visits to diverse business and cultural sites worked well together in conveying that sustainable practices are well integrated into everyone’s work and non-work lives.  We learned for example from Unilever, whose world headquarters in Rotterdam we visited, that an early consideration of all new product development is what the sustainability benefits and footprint will be.   If a new product idea does not score well on sustainability metrics, it is not pursued.

In Amsterdam we saw the world’s first (experimental) solar road, a roadway with solar cells built into it.  At this point it carries only bicycles and very lightweight vehicles, but there is every reason to believe that the technology will someday be incorporated into major roadways.  It was like visiting with Thomas Edison in his lab as he worked on the first light bulb

In Copenhagen we saw the benefits of sustainability-driven thinking in city planning.  In the older part of the city building height was limited to five stories and streets were exceptionally wide. With a latitude comparable to southern Alaska, sunshine is limited.  The wide streets and limited building heights enhance the penetration of sunlight in the urban core which is well-established as a key ingredient to overall well-being and productivity.  Today the wide streets help with accommodating bicycles and street cars in addition to automobiles and pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Interior of Pilgrim Fathers’ Church – a church in Rotterdam where passengers of the Speedwell departed for America in 1620.

Seeing the robust construction and results of careful maintenance of a 600-year old church in Rotterdam underscored that in the region things are “built to last” – a key element of sustainability.  Considerable interest was also added by the fact that the church was where the Pilgrims stayed the night before they “shoved off” for their voyage across the Atlantic.

For 2017 we will build on the success of the 2016 program by adding a visit to Lund University in Sweden and working with visit hosts to fine tune visits in coordination with course material in advance of the trip.

Design Like the Danes

In studying the successful sustainability of Denmark and The Netherlands, Robin Iritz got a lesson in design theory with FCOB’s Sustainable Business Global Lab.

A culture of thoughtfulness sits behind every feature in Copenhagen, Denmark. The same can be said for Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I traveled these cities in May 2016 as one of 25 climate-conscious Buckeyes. We observed innovative design at each carefully planned city corner.

In the US, sustainability is still securing its legitimacy as an essential consideration in our evolving communities. In Northern Europe, it’s always been in the culture. Our group visited seven influential businesses and universities with the goal of understanding how Europe continuously tops the environmental and social well-being charts. Put simply, what makes these guys so good at solving complex public problems?

It’s all in the design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
2016 SBGL students at Nordic Food Lab testing a grasshopper-based soy sauce alternative.

It seems as though Danish and Dutch cultures are focused on doing things absolutely right. Everything right. Objects, traffic patterns, personal interactions, all of it is designed with a specific purpose and function. Our group understood this at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen where the principles of sensory experience, functionality, and reflection were presented as important features of successful product-service experiences. This kind of design theory can be applied to any product, service, and professional interaction to create a meaningful experience. At Nordic Food Lab, it was applied to distilling grasshoppers into a nutrient rich soy sauce alternative.

We saw design again in the rapidly developing island Amager in Copenhagen where sustainable architecture is absorbing population growth and minimizing the environmental impact of greater population density. We saw design in incredible works of art throughout the many museums we toured in our free time. Design shined from the steel bridges crossing the river and canals in Rotterdam. The bridges are designed to look like the ships passing through Europe’s busiest port city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
2016 SBGL students tour facilities at Amager Ressource Center (ARC) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

My friends and I spent nights in hotel lobbies trying to figure out how to make sustainability as attractive in America as it was in our host cities. After tossing around ideas of flashy advertisement campaigns and political calls to action, we realized that nobody ever “sold” sustainability to the Scandinavians. Rather, it developed there out of geographical conditions, availability of natural resources, and a culture of collectivism. To instill such values quickly in Americans is a lofty endeavor. However, I think that our constraints are changing as a result of climate change and social and political pressure. The changing environment could catalyze innovative technology and community development in such a way that we develop our own brand of sustainability. What American Sustainability will look like is up to how we understand and adapt to our unique challenges.

Understanding the European’s approach to sustainable design has taught me how to deconstruct a problem and build the solution from its parts. Their responses to ever-changing limitations are at once inspired, effective, and efficient. My time in Europe was eye opening and a total blast. (Did I mention how well designed the nightlife is?) I couldn’t bring the culture of sustainability home but what I bring back to OSU this fall is a new point of view and a cool group of peers who know what it’s like to glimpse into the future.

That’s a Spicy… Bullfrog Leg?!

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.54.30 AM

Soon after final exams were finished and the first year of the MBA program came to a close, the Columbus Industries team was on the way to Shanghai!  We arrived in country on Saturday afternoon — some came directly from the U.S. while others were able to spend some time with family and friends in India and China.  Needless to say, we were quite jetlagged upon arrival, and it took some adjustment.

We decided to have our first team meal together on Sunday afternoon.  Our resident Shanghai expert (Hong) suggested that wScreen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.54.21 AMe check out Xin Xiang Hui in People’s Square.  We ventured up to the 4th floor of the building, and Hong got us into our own private dining room!  The experience was “family style” in nature — we all chose a dish which we shared by using the rotating wheel (Lazy Susan) in the center of the table.  Of course, we enjoyed typical cuisine such as beef, pork, tofu, veggies, rice, and noodles and everything we ate was quite spicy.  One of the more interesting (and delectable) choices that we tried were the bullfrog legs!  The best way I can describe the taste and texture was that bullfrog legs are similar to ….chicken, but better.  Did I mention that everything was spicy?

Overall, it was a great dining experience in an authentic Chinese restaurant.  After many hours of preparation and planning for our journey, it was nice to have all twelve of us sitting around the table enjoying lunch together.  I can’t think of a better way to start off our time here in China!  Next up — pork brain!  We’ll save that for another day.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.58.47 AM

I Promise I Study During my Study Abroad

Want to know what the university experience is like at Thammasat University in Thailand? Learn from Melanie March’s point of view as she enjoys her time as a full-time student there on the Student Exchange Program in the “Land of Smiles”.

Just to clarify, I really do go to class here in Thailand! My parents confirmed this last week when they dropped me off for class at Thammasat University. I am taking a variety of classes here that includes International Marketing, Marketing Analysis, Operations Management as well as Beginner’s Thai.

12524403_10206075955282853_7719325744664660311_n

These classes have been interesting and very different than my classes back at Ohio State. One of the biggest changes has been wearing a uniform to school every day. This has been very convenient in the mornings where you wake up and don’t have the energy to decide what to wear for the day. It also means that I have to wash it every day that I wear it because I sweat through it just walking to class. It’s about a 30 minute commute by foot and I get to take a ferry in order to cross the river to Thammasat.

Once we get to class we have fifteen minutes once class has started to sign in. Most teachers don’t start the class until after this sign-in period and then we have a 15 minute break in the middle of class to break up the three hour time frame. I wasn’t so sure about the break at first but it is a great time to stretch our legs or get some coffee. There is also an hour break in between classes that gives students plenty of time to get lunch at the pier or in the cafeteria on campus.

12565376_1241511335865956_1844587354745078690_n

My favorite part about studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been the students that I have met here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are very willing to get to know you. Exchange students are welcomed with open arms and staff and students alike are very helpful with any problems that we have had settling into Thailand. Most of the students have gone to international schools when they were in elementary school so they have been speaking English for many years. A majority of students also study abroad at some point in their high school or college career that allows them to have been in our shoes so they know what it’s like to be in a classroom and know very few people.

In the classroom, Thai students are extremely bright and some of the most motivated students. Many participate in international business case competitions that has taken them all over the world. They also go above and beyond on every task that is assigned which has shocked me because so many people only do the bare minimum in order to get by. Thammasat students are quick thinkers and only want to succeed and work hard to do so. It is motivating to see students my age doing so much and becoming the next generation of business leaders in Thailand.
12573709_1241511272532629_1163249868574369464_nIf any person decides to study abroad, I highly recommend taking a language course. It really gives you the chance to learn the language as well as learning about the culture that you will be living in. It’s crazy to think there are people who lived here years without ever feeling the need to learn the language when I can see the usefulness in my everyday life. We just started learning the Thai alphabet which has been really exciting but also challenging. Thai is a tonal language which means that a word can have many different meanings if you say it with the wrong tone. As Americans we tend to have a rising tone when we are phrasing a sentence as a question which can be a hindrance since many times people will not understand you because it sounds like you are saying a different word than you are trying to say. I was trying to ask a taxi driver to take me to Thammasat but I kept phrasing it as a question using a high tone. When I say it with a mid-tone that does not fluctuate, taxi drivers will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Thammasat University is a school that has immediately made me feel at home. Although frustrating at times, I am so happy that I chose to study in Thailand where the people are welcoming and kind. It really is the “Land of Smiles.”

12710770_10153951505781306_9098114440669916346_o.jpg

About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!

Hong Kong: One Student, Two Schools

David Drummond shares his highlights in Hong Kong, as he studies there for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. From the mixed culture, accessibility, and the many ways to spend your free time, he points out what makes Hong Kong a special place to live in.

35aebbe5cbccda54483e73752a0b008e

Hong Kong really is one of the must-see places in Asia. The tourism board touts it as “Asia’s World City” because of how many different cultures can be represented in one city. It is also one of the safest, and I think by far, the most accessible cities in the world. It has to be the easiest of cities in Asia for westerners to integrate into because of how much English is both spoken and seen. Since my arrival, here are the major highlights so far that have helped form my picture of Hong Kong:

  1. Highly accessible. Hong Kong’s transport system is extremely easy to get to know and get used to. The MTR (subway) service stretches across most of both Hong Kong island in the south and Kowloon in the north. It is easy and cheap, especially with a student discount, to travel anywhere in the city. If you cannot get somewhere by MTR you can find a double-decker or minibus to take you closer. All of these options usually cost less than 10 HKD (about 1.3 USD) and take the Octopus card, the most effective tool of mass transit EVER! You can put cash on this card just about anywhere through 7-11’s or McDonald’s or at any station and can even use it to buy food at many restaurants. If you’re in a hurry you can take a cab, which only takes cash, but still are fairly cheap compared to big cities in the U.S. and you only have to worry about them understanding you (Often speak no English). For such a big city, over 7 million, it hardly feels very crowded.
    IMG_9271
  2. Take advantage of good weather. In Hong Kong it rains a lot or the fog rolls in and you can’t see much. I’ve been told that the summer can get very hot and humid. But when you get, every other week or so, a stretch of sunny days there’s so much that you can do! From beautiful views over the city in high rises or the peak, to hiking the many trails and hills of the island and country parks, Hong Kong has much more than a city can offer. Around 70% of the land in Hong Kong is outside the city and much of it is easy to get to by bus. Spectacular views await as you hike on down to the sandy beaches in the southern reaches of Hong Kong Island and spend the afternoon eating Thai food and drinks! I’ve climbed mountains, met monkeys, and traveled to far away fishing villages all within a short trip away from downtown or campus. Campus is only about 45 min away from downtown and less than one to two hours away from the best beaches, hikes, and scenery it has to offer.
    12672046_1688147931398704_4422961549694076207_o
  3. Vibrant nightlife. Like any major city, Hong Kong has its nightlife district. Lang Kwai Fong is where people young and old congregate around a few blocks to enjoy the night, but head on up to SOHO and you find streets lined with unique restaurants with every taste you could be looking for. This is much more for the expats and young professionals where you can find any kind of cuisine of your choice. There’s always a new place to explore. The food scene is incredible. With so little space to work with, there is a huge variety of unique restaurants with food from all around the world. If you love to eat you’ll fall in love with the city. I have yet to get really into any music scene here but I have seen a few jazz clubs about.
    12697096_1688147988065365_273820927109159395_o
  4. Cultural crossroads. With the English no longer in control, Chinese culture may be becoming more dominant, but there are sizeable western expat communities and Hong Kong will always try to be the place to bridge East and West. British is no longer the upper-class standard, but you can find the influence still. I’m reminded of this when I see signs in English and walk past elegant western-style facades. There are definite pockets of the city which cater more aesthetically and culinarily to expats. However, when you walk through the markets with hanging fish and roasted ducks, see people chatting over a bowl of hotpot outside of a small dai pai dong, or walk through the crowds of Filipino domestic workers relaxing on their day off in Statue Square, you are reminded of the unique Asian cultures here. The little things also stand out, like having your card handed back to you with two hands or occasional subpar customer service (tipping is not very common). It’s harder to feel out of your comfort zone here, but you experience enough of the local and mainland Chinese culture to keep you interested to ask questions.
    12697494_1688148098065354_2853886174183624221_o
  5. Shop till you drop. And you thought consumerism in America was the world standard? There are literally malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong, attached to the MTR and major buildings. Markets, with street food, abound. It’s definitely fun to wander through the malls and down the back alley stalls and wonder, who all buys this stuff? It is a city that only exists because the British wanted to sell things, mostly opium, to the Chinese. In Tsim Sha Tsui, the downtown of Kowloon you’ll find a lot of premier shopping and lots of mostly Indian men looking to advertise watches, suits, shirts, coats, bags, etc. I am really curious how many people respond well to being followed and touched by these guys asking if you like nice watches over and over! Shopping is definitely in the culture here. I heard from my roommate that a local girl mentioned that her usual holiday was going to a mall and just spending the day walking around and getting little bites to eat at lots of vendors. She didn’t understand why he would go on vacation and go windsurfing or water skiing!

Hong Kong offers a beautiful and vibrant experience where safety, accessibility, and comfort bring you back, but from where you can travel to a wide swath of nations in Asia with ease. Over my first two months here, I have experienced a beautiful and unique city which bridges East and West. In some ways it is struggling to hold onto its Western identity as China tries to gain influence, but I have gained a great appreciation for how the two cultures can work together in interesting ways. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting to learn about a multicultural Asian city with many of the comforts of home. It really is a the perfect location as a home base to see the diverse nations in the region. Asia is your oyster, and Hong Kong is the pearl.

About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong

A Love Letter to South East Asia

More than the beautiful buildings and the breathtaking landscapes, Melanie March says that the highlight of her time in Thailand is the people she met while on the Student Exchange Program. Find out what is so special about the people in Thailand, South East Asia, and how it has become a life-changing experience for her.

I have been many places since coming to Thailand. I have been to Cambodia where I was taught that the problems I face daily are nothing compared to what others face everywhere in the world. I have been to Khao Yai that has shown the natural beauty of Thailand as well as the destruction that humans have caused. I have also spent hours in waters more clear and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I have been in the mountains of Laos that are slowly being taken over by tourists and backpackers but have also given me some of the best views of places untouched by foreigners.

What has really amazed me most here are the people.

The people that you meet in Southeast Asia are some of the greatest that you may ever have the opportunity to meet. Every person has their own story to tell and their own reasons for traveling here. Some are soul-searching and trying to figure out what to do in life and others just need a change of pace. I’ve met people who “just felt like doing something new” and other that weren’t happy with where their life was going so they decided to take a break and throw themselves into Southeast Asia.

I can hardly express my gratitude to these people and what they have taught me. From the exchange students who all have their own unique background to the Thai students who have been more welcoming than I could ever have imagined when I left months ago.

I have met people during my two months here that have changed my perspective about this world. These people have shown me kindness that is often unseen in the world nowadays and I believe the friendships I have made here will last me much longer than the trip.

So what I am trying to say that this experience has been life-changing. Asia will humble a person and remind them that there is more to life than just collecting objects. There are people out there to meet, conversations to have, and memories to be. It is just a waking reminder to live each day to the fullest so you can look back on life without regret.

About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!