Tuck

Singapore-Vietnam Learning Expedition 2014

April 3, 2014 -- Guest post by Katherine Gray T'15 --

It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was walking around the Nike factory outside Ho Chi Minh City, watching scraps of leather and plastic become the Nike Air Force I. A few days before that, my Tuck classmates and I were at the Ministry of Planning and Investment in Hanoi, asking the Director of Foreign Investment about the challenges of and opportunities for developing the workforce and infrastructure in Vietnam. And even before that, I was at Unilever headquarters in Singapore, learning about sustainability. Between those visits was a boat tour of Ha Long Bay (photo above), dinners at hawker stalls, TuckTails with alumni living abroad, and so much more.

These experiences were all part of my Learning Expedition to Singapore and Vietnam that I took this spring break with 28 other T’14s and ‘15s, led by Professor Paul Argenti. The trip was incredible. What made it so special, though, was the fact that I had just finished most of my core classes at Tuck, and every visit was a chance for me to see the principles and theories I had studied so hard for the past seven months come to life.

When I think about my learning experiences at Tuck, I appreciate how many of them are outside the classroom. This is not to say that my courses aren’t engaging – they are – but Tuck provides so many opportunities where I can apply my lessons, and that’s when the real learning happens. This Learning Expedition is my favorite example to date.

The trip was a chance for me to see how far I had come since starting at Tuck. Watching workers and machines at the Intel factory, I appreciated how Intel investing in the Vietnamese workforce through programs to foster a higher-skill level not only helped Intel find workers for its factories, but also helped grow the economy of Vietnam as a whole by moving the country to a higher PPF (Production Possibilities Frontier) – a concept from the General Economics for Managers course. Talking about the Singapore leader, Lee Kuan Yew, how influential he has been in shaping Singapore and its success, and what his succession strategy might be reminded me of discussions I had had in Personal Leadership about leadership style and how important it is to create a structure and system that can exist without you. At dinner, I drew on takeaways from our Strategy cases, when I talked to the Director of the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh about MacDonald’s opening its first franchise in Vietnam and how it had to revamp and manage the supply chain there. The examples are endless.

But while I was drawing on these lessons, I was also learning about and exploring an area of the world I had never been to before. One of the items on my “Tuck Bucket List” was to travel to Asia, and I am so grateful that I was able to do it. I did everything I hoped for and expected, ate fabulous food, admired beautiful buildings, saw lovely landscapes. But I was also able to learn about these countries and this region on a deeper level given what I had just learned in Hanover, on the other side of the planet.

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