One notable experience, which happened every single day, was simply walking the streets of Bangkok, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Whether it was during the day or at night, I was able to engage with locals via vendors and bargaining for food or souvenir prices and admiring their hand crafted goods. The cities felt alive at all moments of the day. I received and gave countless smiles. The streets contained an abundance of colors, there were various smells changing every couple of blocks from the food, and the sounds of cars and motorbikes surrounded me, literally, as I crossed the streets. My senses were always flooded with something new and exciting. Having the opportunity to walk the steps of the locals was an eye opening experience for me. It highlighted the differences between the cultures, American and Thailand or American and Vietnamese, and it broadened how I view the world we live in in the best kind of way.
To top the experience off, I also had the chance to speak and learn from directors and executives of companies, such as Ikea, Osprey, US Commercial Services, and AMCHAM Thailand. The ability to ask open ended questions about the various industries and how businesses operate in South East Asia was not anything I expected it to be. I envisioned long hour or two hour presentations that would make me drowsier than engaged, but, instead I got intriguing and engaging back-and-forth dialogue with these representatives. I amassed and gained a better understanding of how business operates in Thailand and Vietnam than any of the research I was able to conduct in America over the internet. It is one thing to research a topic, it is another to actually experience the theories in practice and hear insight on the matter from experience professionals. Being immersed in the culture and learning about the business enhanced my awareness and knowledge in unprecedented manners.
What would you improve about this program?
One improvement for the program is the amount of time between activities and travel. Flights are on the longer side and having more time to set your belongings down and settle into the hotel before going out would be a good reprieve. It it tiring to have to land from a flight and traveling to immediately go out and be socially engaged and aware.