Right now, planning an international trip feels like a thing of the past—or of the distant future. Traveling to faraway places is not part of our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. But back in January 2020, a cohort of undergraduate students at the Fox School traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, for an up-close look at its business and cultural landscape.
The trip brought together Fox faculty members, alumni, staff, students and business executives. One highlight of the trip was in partnership with the Ford Company Resource and Engagement Center (FREC), Impact Tours, and the SOS Foundation, a food rescue program that collects and redistributes food surplus. Students from the Fox School and Hult University in London joined a workshop to analyze how to support and improve the nonprofit.
Katie Jiang, BBA ’20, shared her first-hand experience of the trip.
had the amazing opportunity to visit 11 companies in Thailand with many other talented students from the Fox School. I was able to fully immerse myself into Thailand’s business and cultural environment. It was an enriching and valuable learning experience.
In Thailand, we spent the first two days exploring the capital city of Bangkok, the large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. We also learned about the country’s culture from our guides and residents. We spent the second part of our trip visiting companies and discovering how businesses operate in Thailand.
This trip taught me many lessons about myself and others. I gained a level of confidence that I believe can only come from experiences like this, where you must function on your own and form relationships along the way. I have learned that people are very malleable and laid back when plans change, which is often helpful in the business world. Culturally, I experienced many unique things, such as street food and Thai massages. These experiences have added value to my beliefs, and I hope to put them into practice in everyday life.
At the beginning of the trip, the students did not know each other well. However, as the trip progressed, that changed. We bonded and made plans to visit fun places together. I came to appreciate the different levels of knowledge and life experience that each of us bring to the table. These different experiences and backgrounds brought us closer together because we learned to appreciate each other more.
We also learned so much about how Thai culture works and how it differs from American culture. We learned different gestures and language that symbolizes respect, which was also different from the way Americans communicate. Religion also plays a key role as it helps drive the love and respect that Thai people have for their country.
Overall, the experiences I had in Thailand helped to shape me into the person I wish to be. I was born in China, a country that also has its own unique culture and language. China’s culture is also very different from America’s, but I have learned to embrace and love both countries. On top of that, being on my own in a different country helped force me out of my comfort zone. Traveling is a lesson, and it helps prepare us for future careers and other important interactions. Overall, this trip was a great learning experience and helped me determine the career field that might be right for me. It gave me more confidence that I could move to and work in Asia in the near future.
Jiang, a marketing major and international business minor, started her new job doing inside sales for an interior design company in summer 2020 and began graduate school in the fall.
SIDEBAR: Talking Thailand
“The case study we completed with Hult University was one of the highlights of the immersion in Thailand. I appreciated the opportunity to network with international students, most of whom wanted to eventually come and study in the U.S. he case study challenged me to utilize many of the course concepts I have learned in my time at Temple and apply them to a real, operating company, which I never had the chance to do before.”
-Julia Ryan, BBA ’20, credit analyst at TD Bank
“I love seeing these kids learn. Before joining the faculty here, I traveled a lot to Asia—China, Thailand and the Philippines. The highlight for me was seeing these students learn about business practices and the culture for the first time. Exposing them to this totally new world, like going to the market and coaching students on negotiating prices for things, it really made me feel like I made a difference in their lives.”
-Sheri Lambert, assistant professor of marketing and supply chain management, the Fox School
GOING GLOBAL AT HOME
Due to COVID-19, international travel is not within reach for Fox students in 2020. The Fox School, however, now offers virtual immersions for undergraduate and graduate students. These programs will be a virtual platform that offers the unique opportunity to “send” students to international locales without stepping on a plane.
The first immersion, led by Sheri Lambert, assistant professor of marketing and supply chain management, will be to Cairo, Egypt. Students will meet with executives working in Cairo, and discuss hot topics like cross border trade and the political and socio economic infrastructure in Egypt.
“We’re being creative,” says Phyllis Tutora, director of International Programs. “We contacted the Penn Museum, which has an exhibit on Ancient Egypt. We’ll host a speaker from there and students will attend the exhibit virtually. We’re also going to do a workshop for students on mummification. The students also will participate in a case analysis, alongside students at the American University of Cairo.
The second immersion, led by Bora Ozkan, assistant professor of finance, will be to Istanbul, Turkey. Tutora says that the team is looking into coffee tastings, belly dancing classes and other opportunities.
Graduate students who participate in “Fox Without Borders” will earn a certificate after the four-week program. Each week, participants will get together for a nighttime class with diverse programming such as a panel discussion of industry speakers living and working overseas, or an executive discussing the impact of COVID-19 on their country. The final week will be rooted in a cultural activity such as wine tasting or a live virtual cooking demonstration from a Philadelphian chef.
“If they are successful, I’m happy to incorporate them into our existing portfolio once we are able to travel again,” says Tutora. “It allows students who might not be able to travel for financial or personal reasons to still get this immersive, educational and cultural experience.”