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June 29, 2009

Tour Report: East Meets West in Singapore

Kuber Sharma '11
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Above: Class of 2011 Columbia Business School students visit local business offices in Singapore.

This post is part of a series following the “Pre-MBA World Tour,” a program of international trips organized by incoming students in the class of 2011.

Our intention, as part of the World Tour, was to adopt a total-immersion approach, which would not only provide us a closer look at the countries’ economies by meeting the local executives, but also introduce us to the local culture and cuisine. Our first stop was Singapore, where we landed on June 7. To help us “immerse” in this country’s culture and introduce us to the city, we connected with a local business school admit, Xin Yu '11, who was a very helpful resource. After uniting with a few more local admits we thus began our Singapore odyssey.

In between visiting local attractions, we had the opportunity to meet with key executives from Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered and Thomson Reuters to learn about their operations in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries. My most memorable experience was our interaction with former Iraq Bureau Chief from Thomson Reuters. His experience convinced me how safe our working and living environment is compared to a war journalist, who face such tremendous difficulties in getting a real story and earning a livelihood. After our three-day stay in Singapore was over I concluded that it is the most Westernized country in Asia. Indeed, Singapore is now an economic powerhouse precisely because its political, legal and social institutions have been shaped in ways to ensure its assimilation into a global economic system that emanates from the West.

On June 10, we arrived in Malaysia. The drive from the airport revealed to us the country’s strong Middle Eastern and South Indian influences in the region. The architecture of the buildings, a trip to the Batu caves and the local cuisine further confirmed my belief. The highlights of our visit were to the Petronas Towers, which symbolize the strength and grace of the Malaysian economy in the center of Kuala Lumpur, and to Putrajaya, the seat of the federal government. I have never seen such an amazing organization of a government’s office in any other place.

Fresh from our Malaysian quest, we touched down in Bangkok on June 13. Our city ambassador Preaw Achiraya Chalermsuk ’11 did a fantastic job in preparing our itinerary, and our stay in Bangkok encompassed everything that one could ask for. We saw breathtaking natural and cultural sites in and around the city and we ate at exquisite restaurants where we relished the authentic hot-and-spicy Thai food. We also experienced the world-renowned Thai hospitality extended to us by the local Columbia Business School alumni during our company visit to SCG Chemicals. One could easily feel the warmth of the people as one toured around and I would definitely like to visit here again.

Photo courtesy of Kuber Sharma ’11