LINC Singapore | Student Blog
Final Reflection by Sari Schwartz

And that’s a wrap. Seven days.  Two blog posts. Numerous business meetings. And an entire new group of USC friends. This trip has truly been productive to say the least.

As I fly back to my hometown of Chicago for the summer, I can’t help but to reflect on not only the most fun, but also most pivotal moments of this past year. Freshman year is notorious for allowing individuals to grow and change for the better. Understanding this aspect of this last year has allowed me to more clearly understand why Marshall Business School would send 85% of its freshmen on a week long international trip, where they are representing their country, their school and their selves. Even throughout the trip I was nervous one of my peers might fall asleep during one of the business presentations or laugh and be loud at inappropriate times. But I can proudly say that was just not the case on this trip. Every single one of my peers took tremendous pride in the daily excursions and learning experiences. Each day all my peers on this trip would meet in the lobby on time and in appropriate business casual manner.  Students were attentive and respectful at early morning presentations. Question and answers sessions were always very interactive.

In addition, at the end of the day when we could take off our name tags and explore Singapore on our own time, this group was unbelievably inclusive of everyone. Seriously. I have never seen anything like what I saw on this trip, especially in terms of togetherness and unity. I attribute part of this phenomenon to the Trojan Family dynamic that has been instilled in us so deeply over the course of this past year. The other part must be attributed to the specific individuals on the trip. My parents always stressed that humans are mostly 90% a product of their environment. And after a couple of the students expressed a willingness to get to know others, the attitude spread to more and more kids.

Thank you Marshall for both an incredible experience, and the opportunity to form so many meaningful relationships within my Trojan Family. Fight on!

Blog Days Wed-Sat by Sari Schwartz

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Hard to believe that the second half of this week could be better than the first, but Singapore continued to amaze the group. On Wednesday, we started off the day by visiting DTS- Digital Theatre Systems, Inc. Everyone really enjoyed the visit and interactive Q&A session with the head of the office, but most of all students loved the demo of the sound technology this company produces. We were taken into a sound proof room in groups of 8, and shown a 5 minute clip of Ice Age, while instructed to listen for the high quality sound in the movie. Actually being able to experience the product a company is selling really does help create a fuller picture when understanding the company’s structure and strategy all together. Later that day we visited Yokogama Electric, a electronic and software production and sales company. We were taken back to the assembly line room and were able to see in first person the precision and time it takes to make goods that we use everyday. We ended the day with a visit to the American Chamber of Commerce, in which we got to take part in a discussion with a panel of American international businessmen who currently reside with their families in Singapore. Students loved asking these mentors for advice on what languages to take or activities to become involved in if they wish to one day practice international business as well. One of the panelist highly encouraged knowing the history of the country you plan on working and living in.

On Thursday we went to a printing company called Times Printers and were first introduced to the company and then taken on a tour of the facilities. One of the aspects of this LINC experience that students have been appreciating most is the diverse nature of our company visits. It’s been very eye opening to be exposed to so many different types of companies! Later that day we were given a campus visit of the National University of Singapore and were amazed at how little the admissions committee looks at students extracurricular in comparison to the heavy emphasis they place on academic merit. Later that night we had an alumni mixer while catching the light show in the Marina Bay Sands! It was amazing.

Friday we visited a law office called Kelvin Chia LLp and discussed issues of corruption in business. Later that night we had our closing dinner which was a good end to the trip!

Today we were given a free day and took cable cars into a neighboring island of Singapore called Sentosa. It was absolutely beautiful and a great tourist destination.

We are all devastated to be leaving tomorrow. It has been a truly amazing trip.

Worldy Wednesdays - Melanie Heyside

4 days later.. and we’re almost true ‘Singaporeans’ (or at least we’d like to think so!)

The past couple of days have been a whirlwind. Between getting over jet lag, putting on suits in 90-degree humid weather, and taking it all in.. it’s definitely been an experience! As we near the half-way mark of our trip, its crazy to think about where we started on this journey 8000 miles away in a classroom to now sitting in the hotel room watching the sunset over the breathtaking skyline of Singapore. Having traveled to parts of Asia before, I was expecting to see similar things - packed streets, honking cars, displays of both extreme poverty and wealth - but Singapore is quite the opposite. From the futuristic style architecture to the immense greenery (more plant species than all of North America!) its truly a cultural, economic, and environmental metropolis. 

So far our schedule has been packed between business meetings, eating with locals at the hukkacenters (indoor food markets), and trying to navigate ourselves around this not so big city/country. 

After arriving in Singapore at 3:00am Sunday morning, we were up and out only a few hours later! We were taken on a city tour to get our bearings, followed by a scavenger hunt organized by local Trojan alumni. Eager to win the prize, we split up into teams and were off racing around the streets of Chinatown and Raffles Place. It was the perfect way to see more of the city, and while my team may have taken a slight detour, the seafood dinner at the end was well worth it. The restaurant, J Pot, was unlike anything i’d been to before, as you quite literally cook all of your own food at hot plates on your table. We were giving everything ranging from ramen noodles to raw beef to fish paste… definitely an interesting palate.

Despite the jet-lag we were up bright and early Monday morning to start off our business meetings. We first met with the Housing and Development Board of Singapore, which is responsible for providing public housing for 80% of the population. Set up in an effort to tackle Singapore’s limited land resources with the growing population, HDB provides housing to most Singaporeans as part of a 99-year lease program, and their ‘towns’ are spread all over the country. With each town holding upwards of 80,000 units, HDB has major control over the countries real estate assets, which is viewed both positively and negatively by the people. This visit was extremely insightful, as no other country has been able to replicate a model like this, and having revolutionized the countries infrastructure in only 50 years is very impressive. Next, after grabbing a typical lunch of chicken and rice we headed to the Development Bank of Singapore to learn more about the Asian banking markets and how regionalization is integral to Singapore’s economic future. Later that night the group headed to a Night Safari in the northern part of Singapore which was altogether a crazy experience! 

Tuesday was another action packed day filled with visits to the Marine Port Museum and Urban Redevelopment Authority. Second to Shanghai, Singapore holds one of the world’s largest ports and has truly become a gate between the east and west. Accounting for 7% of the countries GDP, Singapore’s shipping sector catalyzed the countries economic success and granted them a presence in global markets. Hosting an interactive exhibit, the museum gave fascinating insight into the world of trading and allowed us a better understanding of Singapore overall. Next we headed to Chinatown for some more dim sum and dumplings, followed by a quick dip in a local fish spa. (yes the fish nibble at your feet!) It was definitely one of the stranger things I’ve done, but after the initial 5 minutes it was pretty relaxing… especially after all the walking we’ve done! Lastly we headed to the Urban Redevelopment Authority where we learned more about Singapore’s future redevelopment plans and how they plan to tackle their land and resource constraints. 

Today (Wednesday) we headed to DTS, a California-based sound technology company, where we learned more about the vitality of companies having branches in Asia in order to develop and assist their consumer markets. Later on we headed to Yokogama Electric, a Japanese technology company, for a factory tour and then to the American Chamber of Commerce. At ‘AmCham’ we were welcomed by a panel of three American businessmen working in Singapore, and after sharing their own personal stories we were able to ask them questions about their experiences being an expat in Asia. The conversation ranged from talking about the importance of multilingualism in business negotiations to how to ‘live’ in Asia like a true local. I definitely think  this forum was one of my favorite parts of the trip thus far, as we were able to get honest answers from the gentlemen and it definitely reconfirmed my desire to travel and engage in ‘international’ business - wherever that may be. 

And with that I’m off to ‘Little India’ to finally have some authentic curry and rice! 

- Melanie Heyside 

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The City of Lions: Blog on Sun-Tues by Sari Schwartz

20 hours later and we had landed in Singapore with only one quick stop in Tokyo. The day of traveling went surprisingly smoothly, heavily due to Marshall’s organizational efforts! Once we got back to the hotel we took quick naps and then were on our way to see a tour of the city and embark on a competitive scavenger hunt. On the tour we saw the infamous Singapore Lion sculpture at the edge of the marina which symbolized when the king from one of the neighboring islands first came to Singapore and saw a vision of a wild lion. He then gave Singapore one of its most well known nicknames- “The City of Lions.” After a long day of touring and racing to finish the scavenger hunt first, everyone took an early night in so to truly prepare for the week to come. 

On Monday we visited the Housing Development Board and the Development Bank of Sydney. Both were absolutely fascinating. Students were intrigued by the high-rise phenomenon presented by the Housing Development Board, and the need to continue to build up due to the lack of available land in the small country. The Development Bank of Singapore was also very educational and students loved hearing about the current state of the Singaporean economy, especially in comparison to the United State’s economy.

Tuesday we visited the Marine Port Authority Museum and had a blast learning about the shipping and receiving processes affiliated with Singaporean ports.  Students particularly enjoyed this visit because they got to engage in many hands on activities that helped them relate to the process on a more personal level.

All in all, these past few days have been amazing and I can’t wait to see what more there is to come!

Singapore, we’re coming for you! - Melanie Heyside

Dorm room… empty.

Boxes… shipped.

Suitcase…(almost) packed.

It’s the night before we leave for Singapore, and after the madness of the last couple of weeks I’m officially ready to trade in the books for my passport and head off on our journey!

While my unpacked suitcase may not speak for my excitement, I can’t believe how fast time has gone, as it feels like moments ago that I pressed ‘submit’ on my LINC application, anxious to know where I’d be finding adventure.  Having previously traveled to China and India, I chose Singapore, as I want to explore more of Asia and get a better sense of how the different countries work in relation to each other both culturally and economically. As a hybrid of eastern and western influence, Singapore has always been somewhere I have wanted to travel to, as its rapid economic success and development in the past 50 years is truly incredible. Thus, the LINC trip is the perfect way to fuse my interest of travel with business, as we’re able to see the country from a whole different perspective. Whether it’s touring the National University, learning about Singapore’s infrastructure at the Housing and Development board, or meeting with alums at our “Trojan Mixer” we will definitely be busy! Going into the trip, I definitely feel as though we’ve been given thorough introduction to Singapore and its economy, which will allow us to better connect with the companies that we visit, and ask informative questions.  

That being said, I really have no idea what to expect once we arrive… but isn’t that the best part? As nerve racking as it may seem, it’s those initial few moments when you arrive in a country, completely clueless, that make traveling so exciting. While my list of ‘places to go’ gets longer by the day, I cannot wait for my peers and I to immerse ourselves into Singapore culture, as the best memories come from the unexpected. And so I challenge both my classmates and myself to seek these moments – put down the map and talk to the locals in the market – as they can’t be taught or explained in the classroom.

Surprisingly, of everyone that I’ve talked to about Singapore, the first thing they say is, “don’t chew gum!” And while I’m all for good stories, I don’t think being jailed for chewing is on this trips agenda!

With that it’s time to put the final few things in my suitcase and rest up for the long journey ahead.

Singapore here we come!

- Melanie Heyside

Pre-Trip Blog: Pushing Boundaries -Sari Schwartz

Tomorrow I embark on an incredible journey with my peers to Singapore. I must say that although I am undoubtedly excited for this once in a lifetime trip, I am also rather curious. Even though I’ve done all my class readings and tuned into class discussions and presentations, I still can’t help but wonder what to expect out of this thriving city-state. What exactly does a cultural fusion of Chinese, Malayan and Indian influences imply? What happens if one of us accidentally pops a stick of gum in our mouth? What if a loose piece of paper flies out of my backpack and Singaporean police think I’m littering?

Although I am near to overflowing with questions, I realize the curiosity I am feeling now is the exact reason my father so highly encouraged me to put Singapore as my number one back when I was applying to this program. Different is good. It is the way we learn, grow and understand new perspectives. Of course the Sydney trip sounded intriguing at first-and to all my friends that are going on the trip I am sure it will be amazing-but I believe that initial intrigue with Sydney rooted from the fact that its western culture was what was most familiar to me. I want the focus of this trip to be about pushing boundaries: yearning for new experiences to become more comfortable in foreign cultural settings. The name of this program is Learning about International Commerce, denoted by the acronym LINC. But I want to challenge both my peers and I to do more than just learn about Singaporean trade and business practices, let’s desire to fully submerge ourselves into Singaporean lifestyle for the next week and learn about popular sports, food, music, habits, schools, books and anything else prevalent in their culture today. Let’s push boundaries.

Sari Schwartz

The [Business] World is Indeed Round. -Jake Simon

From all of our blog posts, it seems as though the consensus of the LINC Singapore trip was good.  We had fun, we experienced an interesting foreign country, and we made 39 other friends.  However, while the trip was full of excitement and fun long-lasting memories we will cherish for years to come, the USC Marshall School of Business has taught us that this is not what’s necessarily the most important aspects of an adventure such as this one.  Furthermore, the LINC program, through the company visits and immersion of culture, has taught us the importance of understanding that the world is round and as childish as that may sound, it is a very important thought.  I had so much associated the world with travel.  Any other country that I may have wanted to visit or visited was simply looked at as a destination for a relaxing time with city maps and a swimsuit.

But the business world is round too.

I hadn’t before really considered that business practices could be so widely shared and that there was such a great implementation of globalization and global business that seats itself beyond the naked eye of the globe.  The USC Marshall School of Business LINC program has really opened my eyes to a world that before was too distant to understand - it has created the opportunity to think outside of the USA bubble and to consider that there are lands beyond the sea with emerging markets and opportunities for wealth, success, and extraordinary experiences.  

After coming back and sharing stories with friends and family about LINC, the most common response I get is “And you’re only a freshman?”  This program is unparalleled to international programs outside of Marshall and I believe that the difference it has made - for me at least - will have a lasting impact not only throughout the next three years at the University of Southern California, but through finding a job, a career, then finally the niche for me.

Well, thats all folks!- David McClain Jr.

Now that I’m back home in my hometown of Saint Paul, MN, I truly miss the amazing experiences I had in Singapore. As my first trip to Southeast Asia, it will be one I will never forget. Not only have I learned more about international business and the rising GDP growth of East Asia but I was also able to try new foods, make new friends from Singapore and USC and connect with alumni. 

There are so many things I have been able to take away from this trip. I feel like I finally have somewhat acquired those global eyes Professor Voigt lectured about. To see the many advances in industrialization, technology and business practices is astonishing and makes me wonder how Singapore was able to transform so quickly within a 50 year span. I awe at the capability of human beings when we really work together.

Many people have asked how my trip was now that I’m back in the States. And I simply tell them it was honestly indescribable. I can’t put what I experienced into words. I am just so grateful that I was able to go on this trip as a freshmen in college. 

But man I miss the restaurant Pepper Lunch Express! I’ll definitely have to go back and reunite with that delectable pepper beef dish.

Until next time Singapore!

Smile Because It Happened- Mariana Aristizabal

I finally made it home, all the way back to Colombia. Flying for almost 18 hours back to LA and then 8 more hours a couple of days later to get to Colombia was exhausting, but it was worth it considering how much fun we had in Singapore. It’s still hard to believe that only last week I was in the opposite side of the world with forty of my classmates. As I’ve said before, not many people can say they had the privilege of going to Singapore for an international commerce class in their freshman year; I will always be grateful for this experience.

LINC Singapore broadened my horizons in so many ways. Before this trip, I had always thought that as soon as I finished college I would go back to Colombia and work and spend the rest of my life there. However, after meeting so many happy and successful business people from all over the world in Singapore, it has occurred to me that even though I probably will end up back home sometime in the future, there’s also the possibility of having some international experience somewhere along the way.

Spending time in this country also made me more sensitive when interacting and understanding new cultures. In a country where all the rules and traditions are so different from what I’m normally used to, I had to become more aware of my surroundings and try to act according to what this new culture expected. This applied both in every day life scenarios as well as in business situations. I believe this is a really important skill to acquire, especially if you’re planning on going into business where you’ll have to interact with people from all over the world.

This trip was an invaluable experience. We had the opportunity to visit some incredible multinational companies, meet amazing business people and learn from their experiences, discover how extensive and valuable the Trojan Network is all over the world, experience a whole new country and it’s culture, try new and delicious food, and tour around Singapore to admire all of its amazing landmarks and its incredible architectural wonders.

LINC Singapore 2013 was an incomparable experience that I will never forget.