OK, my job as staff member on the Flex MBA Singapore-Indonesia trip 2012 was to be available as a William & Mary representative should any emergencies arise. Safety is of paramount importance when we take students out of the country. What I got was no crises and the experience of a lifetime!
- Strangest food eaten? Cow lungs (crispy and delicious!)
- Most expensive drink? Singapore Sling at Raffle’s Long Bar, where they were invented. $26.00. No, really – $26.00 for one drink. (Diet Cokes were a bargain at $10.00 a pop, no free refills.)
- Extent of foreign language learned? “Tarima kasih,” meaning “Thank you” in Indonesian. This expression will get you far.
- Best hospitality in the world? It’s got to be Indonesia. I have never met such lovely and genuinely friendly people. And they all vacation in Bali (I asked). That’s a good enough recommendation for me, next time I am ready to fly halfway around the world.
The gleaming port city-state of Singapore is a Southeast Asia crossroads with strong Chinese influence, extraordinarily successful in attracting business on a global scale. Indonesia is a country of over 17,000 islands and hundreds of languages, spanning the industrial sprawl of Jakarta to the natural splendor of islands that time forgot – literally.
Professor Don Rahtz, Southeast Asia business expert and leader of the 2012 Flex MBA trip to Singapore/Indonesia, is confident that experience – with the proper classroom preparation – is the best teacher. International immersion through travel increases understanding of business practices, cultures, and nuances exponentially, he believes. But before he takes students to Southeast Asia, he makes sure they understand the economy, current events, history, and important customs, and sample the literature. As a teacher, “Dr. Don” wants his students to “get their imagination in focus.”
Given our professor’s knowledge and contacts, our group saw a side of international business that no normal traveler would. Wake-up calls were early, but we were learning too much and having too much fun to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Besides getting insider perspectives on businesses in Indonesia and Singapore, Flex MBA students worked with Indonesian MBA teams to present a case competition to Toyota and Ford in Indonesia, first via the internet and after some globe-trotting, in person. After organizing visas and coordinating flight schedules, I was happy to be an observer of this activity.
Once the pressure was over, the US and Indonesian MBA students got to know each other more socially, going out on the town together in Jakarta. William & Mary MBA students agreed that working and playing with their counterparts half a world away was the highlight of the trip. Other visits included the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, a micro finance company serving the slums of Indonesia, and an inside view of Universal Studios in Singapore, complete with roller coaster rides.
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