I wanted to write about my amazing week in Singapore now that I’ve been back in the States for over a week and I’ve finally conquered jet lag (enough) to organize my thoughts.
Naturally, I’m talking about this year’s Global Marketing Lab, Fisher’s winter break course that pairs teams of undergraduate business students with MBA mentors to create boardroom-ready presentations for multinational companies and their Asia Pacific leadership teams. During our week abroad, our undergraduates presented to Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue team, two divisions of Deutsche Post DHL and Wendy’s EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Asia) leadership team.
During each visit, the youngsters would present their projects and the respective leadership teams would educate our entire group about their business, and more specifically, illuminate the reality of doing business in Southeast Asia. Perhaps the most enlightening portions of each get-together were the informal Q&A sessions and networking opportunities. After all, these individuals already held the reins for three established, influential global companies. The best we could do was to simply soak in as much information as possible: every insight and industry tidbit that would inevitably help us in the future.
While we donned our business professional finest each morning to fulfill our educational duties, each afternoon held a different kind of education. Our days included cultural tours, tourist attractions and some of the most delicious food a human being could ever venture to ask for. Within 48 hours of touching down in the tropical city-state, we had all experienced:
- The Singapore Flyer: one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels
- The Marina Bay Sands: imagine a Las Vegas resort containing three massive towers with a boat-like structure spanning all three (complete with a pool, a bar and an incredible view)
- Gardens by the Bay: a man-made cloud forest and nature conservatory
- The Colonial District Tour: which can only be completed on a ubiquitous bumboat
- Jumbo Seafood feast
- Singapore City Gallery: picture an architectural tour by way of an intricate model of the entire city (down to the unique shape of our hotel’s roof)
- Asian Civilizations Museum: exactly as it sounds
Our first 48 hours were, in my mind, the busiest and most tour-heavy days of the trip. That’s not to say we didn’t resume our tourist roles again throughout the trip, but bedtime could not come soon enough on Sunday and Monday.
Throughout the week we toured and spent hours exploring Chinatown, Little India and the Malay District, experiencing the separate cultures that make Singapore such a distinctive place. It was very interesting as a novice Singaporean historian to learn about the cultural make-up of the nation that grew from a small fishing village and nautical crossroads to a British trade hub and, eventually, a free nation leading the Asian tigers to become one of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world.
The growth and prosperity of Singapore is easily seen throughout the city, as well as the strict regulations that govern its people. The public transportation system is immaculately clean. There truly is such a small amount of litter that it becomes rare to even see an empty bottle or cigarette butt in the gutter. As for jaywalking, chewing gum and the other strange laws that we hear about Stateside, I couldn’t tell you. I was too nervous to try.
Singapore is a marvelous entry point for travelers’ first Asian trip. It’s largely English-speaking, safe and compact. The small country, about the size of all five boroughs of New York City, has five million people. You can experience as much traditional culture as you please. Or, if you so choose, the shopping centers are (apparently) amazing. And I’ll say it again, the food is fantastic. Try everything. Find the stall in the hawker center with the longest line and have at it.
This goes without saying, but the trip went so well because of our esteemed leaders Professor Shashi Matta and Heidi Eldred, Director, Graduate Global Experiential Education Program. These two know the territory and show the students a great time.
Oh, and one last thing, it’s extremely hot and humid. Pack extra shirts.