During her spring break, Alexa Liberson, an MBA candidate at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, traveled to Singapore as part of an international business class on a travel program through our WorldStrides Capstone division. Her firsthand account highlights both the personal and professional value of the experience.
The Singapore trip was comprised of both cultural activities and business visits. The days varied, but usually started with a company visit, then continued with a variety of activities that gave us a look into Singapore’s history, lifestyle and unique characteristics. We went to several city centers such as China Town and Little India, where we got to explore on our own and bargain with street vendors. We toured Buddhist temples, museums, and city landmarks, all being led by our amazing guide, Lawrence, who lived in Singapore and knew every single fact and detail about the city. Having him throughout the trip added so much to my experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Lawrence took us to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which my professor said was Lawrence’s idea, and that was neat. It had a detailed model of the city center of Singapore, including plans for future development.
A significant portion of the trip was comprised of visiting company sites and hearing from business and HR leaders on topics such as future workforce trends, international business operations, and a broad spectrum of HR practices. The companies included General Electric, Willis Towers Watson, ExxonMobil, Singapore Airlines, Sonoco, and Standard Chartered Bank.
The company visits were of significant value to my future HR career because I was able to hear different perspectives on “best practices” used in HR and business, compare business practices and environments between Singapore and the U.S., see real-life cases of projects that companies are currently undergoing, and could apply what I’ve learned in my classes. I also saw a perspective from these company speakers that I have not gotten from our graduate classes thus far – the importance of having passion for your career and company, making an impact, and building relationships.
Traveling to Singapore gave me a larger perspective on how to do business. All of the business leaders that we heard from had differing viewpoints and approaches to human resources, business, and management practices, and what I got from that is that there are so many ways to reach the end goal. Hearing about HR and business from an international point of view was eye-opening. Singapore has a very diverse population, and while there I saw the importance of being aware of other cultures and types of people, and that as an HR Manager you need to adjust your communication and management style depending on who you’re interacting with. Dealing with various countries affects all areas of HR.
Also, the trip improved my confidence. I interacted with so many business leaders and was able to talk with them as a group and one-on-one, and each day I noticed it getting easier and easier to speak up and ask questions. The whole trip, not only the business visits, brought me out of my comfort zone and I’ve noticed a difference because of that.
Most days we had lunch and dinner provided, which offered a whole cultural piece on its own. We tried a mix of cuisines and the cultures that pair with them. We went to local food stalls, including Makansutra Gluttons Bay and Lau Pa Sat Stalls, which were jam packed with Singaporeans so we got to experience how and what locals ate.
On one of our last nights as a group, we went on the Singapore Flyer and were able to fit all 20-something of us in one gondola! It was amazing to see the city from that height. Singapore is one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen at night time –surrounded by water, colorful lights everywhere, and huge, unique buildings, including everyone’s favorite being the boat-shaped Marina Bay Sands. The ferris wheel was giant and moved slowly, so we were up there for about an hour, and it was the perfect way to end the trip, being able to see and appreciate everything that we were able to experience.
It was so worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat. We actually tried to convince the professor who took us to Singapore to take us on another trip next semester! It was one of the best trips and experiences of my entire life and it definitely had a positive impact on my studies and future career.