In March, Lecturer Suzy Taherian led a team of MBA students on a week-long International Study Trip to Vietnam, a land of remarkable history, change, growth and culture that is right on the cusp of becoming a major player on the global economic stage.
Through Our Students’ Eyes
Yoon Saepharn and her fellow MBA students shared their experiences and insights daily from Vietnam. As guest blogger Chandra Yalangi noted, “The environment at TOONG resembled Silicon Valley. The various rooms were filled with entrepreneurs who were working on their big projects.”
We invite you to join the ranks of armchair tourists through the students’ blogs and travel with them as they met with companies in diverse sectors, government agencies, NGOs and universities—and discovered the wonders of this booming, incredible land. But first, read on as Taherian provides context for their trek.
Why is the International Study Trip valuable?
It is an exceptional opportunity to see how business is done in a global setting. Through the Graduate School of Management, our MBA students get unique access to companies and government organizations that wouldn’t be possible any other way.
This experience can inspire students to go on to start international ventures, consider working overseas, or help their companies expand/invest globally. It gives them insight on globalization and how it impacts us all: many of our clothes are made in Vietnam, a startup may gain a competitive advantage by recruiting technology talent from Vietnam, or a law firm may give us lower-cost service because of their outsourced back office in Vietnam.
How did the students prepare in the classroom before departing for Vietnam?
The trip followed 10 weeks of classroom preparation. We had some great guest speakers, including the general consul of Vietnam, who highlighted economic growth prospects; a former CEO who had signed one of the first U.S. –Vietnam business agreements shortly after the post–Vietnam War embargo was lifted; the CFO of a startup that imports coconut chips to the U.S.; and a Vietnamese-American professor of education, who shared insights on cultural differences.
American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM)
Center for Social Initiatives Promotion
Hanoi University of Mining and Geology
Hoa Lo Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton
TOONG, a co-working space startup
Ho Chi Minh City
Mobivi iCare Benefits, a social enterprise
U.S. Consulate General
VILAF: Vietnamese International Law Firm
Why Vietnam—and why now?
Vietnam has had impressive GDP growth year after year for decades. Since the U.S. lifted the embargo on Vietnam in 1994, trade has blossomed between the two countries. There is tremendous economic potential—and great business opportunities for our students. The recent Trade Pacific Partnership between 12 nations, including the U.S. and Vietnam, will further accelerate cooperation and turbo-boost Vietnam’s economy.
Most important lesson learned?
Vietnam is a nuanced story. There are tremendous opportunities but also many potential risks. It is a officially a communist country, but has strong capitalist activities. There is a dark history with the U.S. from the Vietnam War, but the country is incredibly welcoming and forward-looking with U.S. people and businesses. There are innovative startups that rival Silicon Valley, but also farmers farming in small rice paddies very much in the same way as in the last hundreds of years.
The most unexpected insight?
As we expected, there are lots of opportunities for our students to take their learnings and professional tools to help companies in Vietnam. But we were also surprised that there were many nuggets we could learn from them. For example, we met with a startup with creative approach to financing for low-income employees. It was a great idea that was very impactful in Vietnam and could benefit millions of people. This was a business model that we could learn from them to apply in the U.S. and other places.
What’s is like seeing the world—and the world of international business—through your students’ eyes?
Fantastic. Their enthusiasm to explore and learn and enjoy is infectious. I’m incredibly proud of their professionalism and how well they represent our school. It is a pleasure and a privilege to travel with our students.
I can’t talk about Vietnam without mentioning its unforgettable natural beauty—such as Halong Bay, which is often used in movies to depict an ethereal other-worldly place (you will see it in King Kong II) —and delicious foods. Come prepared to be adventurous!
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