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2019 Global Immersion Program: Hong Kong Part 2

With open arms, we returned to Hong Kong’s increased independence, free speech, reduced language barriers, unrestricted internet access, social media freedom and more on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

After re-crossing the border and checking back into our hotel, we had the rest of the day at leisure. A few of us went to a nearby mall and visited the Apple store, which had three floors of products. Later, my roommate and I ventured off in search of some vendors on Hollywood Road to purchase some antique souvenirs. When buying souvenirs from vendors in the streets, you’re expected to barter the offered price to a number that satisfies both you and the vendor.

We also had a very special guest join us Wednesday evening. John Kuhl, a USD and Beacom School of Business alum, was in Hong Kong on a business trip and was able to speak with us about his story and finding success and life balance in international business. Here were a few pieces of advice he gave us:

  • Keep improving your communication and interpersonal skills. These are keys to success.
  • Use bullet points in an email. This helps with readability and the delivery of your message.
  • Always ask people for help. Initiate the conversation or ask someone to a cup of coffee so you can pick his or her brain; by doing this, it shows you are truly interested in what he or she has to say.
Beacom students, faculty and staff along with USD Alumnus John Kuhl (’97), Senior VP, Moscoe Group.

Along with souvenir shopping & listening to Mr. Kuhl, we wrapped up our trip by making a few more visits to nearby businesses. One of our visits was to Modern Terminals, a shipping port established in 1969 and headquartered in Hong Kong. This port is vital to 1 of 4 major pillars in the city: trading and logistics. In the photo below, you’ll see a plethora of containers located at this port. Containers do not remain at the port for more than a week. They are constantly being loaded and unloaded from massive ships to ensure efficiency when shipping and delivering goods.

We also visited Edelman, an international marketing and public relations firm that has an office in Hong Kong. Adrian Warr is the Managing Director of Edelman Hong Kong, and he gave a brilliant presentation to us about their international studies on the concept of trust. Among other things, their studies yielded a correlation between good economic performance and higher levels of trust in one’s government. Warr also noted that businesses seem to be expected to fill the gap that politics has made in regards to CSR (corporate social responsibility); examples include gender equality, pollution reduction, and engaging with, or taking a stand against, some political notions.

Finally, we concluded our trip with an elegant farewell dinner on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. I honestly don’t know what was better: the 4-course meal or the aerial view of the city at night. Either way, it was a magnificent ending to an already incredible trip.

But now, I’d like to take this moment to thank USD, the Beacom School of Business, Dean Venky, donors, and alumni who helped make this trip come to fruition and at an affordable cost. Our group consisted of graduate and undergraduate students who took classes either on campus, at the University Center (now referred to as the USD Community College for Sioux Falls), or completely online; one student traveled from Florida and another student was an international student from Germany. Having a diverse set of students truly enhanced the program, as we listened and learned from each other’s perspectives. We all have something to contribute to this world, and I know that each and every student on this trip will do amazing things in his or her lifetime.

If you’re reading this and wondering if you should study abroad or go on a faculty-led program, the answer is simple: do it.

Thank you so much for following along on this blog series! I hope you learned a few things along the way. And if you were part of this Hong Kong trip, remember to walk like sticky rice.

As always, Go Yotes!

Taylor Schoenfelder

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2019 Global Immersion Program: Shenzhen, China

After spending a few days in Hong Kong and learning about its temporary autonomous government, it was time to experience the other side of China’s “one country, two systems” approach.

To begin, Shenzhen has a surprising history with its population. Until the 1970’s, Shenzhen was a small fishing village of less than 10,000 people; fast forward 40 years to 2019, and Shenzhen now boasts a booming metropolis of over 20 million people!

Aerial view of the Shenzhen skyline.

We started our journey to Shenzhen by having to cross the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. Our passports, visas, and arrival cards were inspected diligently, our fingerprints and faces were scanned and recorded, and our bags were x-rayed; it’s safe to say that China is very particular about who and what may enter.

After making it through customs, we ventured into Shenzhen where we immediately noticed some differences between the two cities. First of all, you can forget about social media; the Chinese firewalls really limit internet access, so we could not use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Photos and videos would not load or download, so we could only rely on WhatsApp and iMessage to contact people.

Another difference is that Hong Kong has a noticeable British influence in the naming of streets and the inclusion of English on a majority of signage; in Shenzhen, however, it’s quite the opposite. English is not as common in regards to advertisements, street signs, etc. nor is it as commonly known by Shenzhen residents. Along with the language barrier, we also encountered a payment problem. Chinese residents use WeChat, a mobile app that includes the ability to pay simply by scanning one’s phone at the cash register. It’s rather incredible that the Chinese population is so accustomed to using a mobile payment system rather than cash or credit.

On the other hand, the popularity of mobile payment presents a challenge for tourists like us who do not have WeChat. In fact, many of us did not exchange our Hong Kong dollars for Chinese Yuan (also known as RMB) before entering Shenzhen. Remember the “one country, two systems” approach? This also means that Hong Kong has different currency than mainland China. With no usable cash or WeChat, we tried to eat at a restaurant for lunch on our first day in Shenzhen however, the restaurant did not accept debit or credit card payments. So, we ventured to some nearby ATM machines to withdraw cash – and all of our cards were denied. Alas, I settled for a Starbucks ham and cheese croissant, because our lunch break was almost over and Starbucks accepted card payments. There’s nothing like a little adversity on a trip to make you appreciate how easy your life actually can be at home, right?

Although we encountered some struggles upon our arrival, we also had some really incredible experiences. While in Shenzhen, we visited an art museum and a neighborhood of vendors selling oil paintings. We also toured two factories in or near Shenzhen; one factory produces vacuums for Miele, a German company, and the other factory produces fans for Halifax Fan, a British company. It was rather neat to see the implementation of lean operations principles within the factories such as colored lines on the floors to section off walkways versus work areas.

Tour of the Halifax Fans factory in Shenzhen, China.

Factory management also explained some of the challenges they face like recruiting and keeping good workers, ensuring employee satisfaction and morale, dealing with increased labor expenses, creating high-quality products consistently, and facing the trade wars between China and the United States. It’s also very enlightening and memorable to be in China during a historic time such as this.

Along with the factories, we toured the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (which was super cool) and later listened to a panel of successful Chinese entrepreneurs who range in industries from public relations to creating shared workspace units for other entrepreneurs or small businesses.

Here are some takeaways from our business visits while in Shenzhen:

  • Shenzhen is the only city in mainland China that has air, land, and water ports for shipping and receiving goods.
  • The Shenzhen Stock Exchange started in 1990 and has a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with 46 other stock exchanges around the world.
  • Factory management in Shenzhen noticed a pattern in which hard-working, male, office workers left the factory at a young age to return to their hometowns to get married and start a family. To combat a high turnover rate, more local, hard-working women are being hired for office work in factories, since Shenzhen is their home and that makes them less likely to leave.

Overall, Shenzhen provided an eye-opening experience for all of us. Seeing first-hand the restriction of social media usage, the language and payment barriers, and the decisions and repercussions that businessmen face in China during the trade wars with the States really forced me to look at my own country in a new lens. At the end of the day, though, I am truly proud to be an American.

We will wrap up our final few days of the program back in Hong Kong. Come back soon for the final recap of our time here in China!

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2019 Global Immersion Program: Hong Kong Part 1

Hi everyone! My name is Taylor Schoenfelder, and I am currently pursuing my MBA at the Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota. Follow along on my trip with other USD business students, faculty, and special guests as we embark on a 10-day, global immersion journey to China.

Taylor Schoenfelder - Global Immersion Program Blogger

The trip is designed to balance cultural excursions while also allowing us to apply business theories and compare and contrast business practices between China and the United States. We’ll spend 2/3 of our time in Hong Kong and the other 1/3 of our trip in Shenzhen, China. Let’s get started.

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in this world.” – Gustav Flaubert.

Travel certainly grants you new perspective on your life. For example, the continuous 16.5 hour flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Hong Kong is equivalent to two work days in my current full-time position. It was the longest flight I’ve ever had in my life. However, the experiences and relationships that we will acquire from this trip will truly make it worth it. For starters, just look at this incredible view of the city! 

It’s also enlightening to try the local cuisine in a new country. Upon arrival to the hotel in Hong Kong, a group of us headed to a local Cantonese dim sum restaurant where we feasted on various dishes of dumplings, meats, rice, pork buns, and more. The texture of the foods were very different than in the States – for example, the flat noodle or rice pancake, is a slimy and gelatinous noodle that feels like it’s alive and squirming in your mouth when you eat it. After watching an episode of Anthony Boudain: Parts Unknown, I learned that Asian people love to eat chicken feet. I did try this popular Asian dish, and I must say, one bite was all I needed to realize I never wanted to eat it again.

2019 Global Immersion Program participants at Victoria Peak

Travel also incurs the feeling of sonder for me, which is the “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own” (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, 2013). This realization dawned on me while we listened to Alan Brinker of the U.S. Consulate discuss the current economic state of Hong Kong and its “one country, two systems” approach. He also eluded to concerns for when Hong Kong formally re-enters China in 2047. Hong Kong used to be a British colony from the 1840’s to 1997, but then was allowed 50 years to start the acclimation back from an autonomous government to Chinese communism. I was truly uneducated about the history of Hong Kong until this trip, and had never thought much about how the transition back to communism would vastly affect the city of Hong Kong and its residents in every single sense (politically, economically, socially, etc.). Can you imagine living your life with an autonomous government, enjoying the privilege of freedom of speech and press, and freely browsing the internet only to be forced to adhere to a much more restrictive government system against your will? And Chinese censorship includes the removal of free speech and of apps such as Facebook and Instagram? And you can’t even do anything to stop it?

To wrap up this post, though, here are some fun tidbits of information I gathered after listening to our speaker from the U.S. Consulate as well as from a few speakers from a Hong Kong digital agency, Prizm:

  • It’s very common for young adults to live with their parents up until, or even after, the young adults get married. This is because housing is too expensive for young adults to move out sooner.
  • A significant amount of tourists from mainland China will travel to Hong Kong to purchase name-brand items like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc. because they know that the products are authentic in Hong Kong. There are too many knock-offs or fake products in China.
  • When it comes to clothing, Chinese people will pay more if the label says “Made in USA”.

Thanks for reading this recap of our first few days in Hong Kong! We are now off to Shenzhen, stay tuned for another post about how different the experience was on mainland China!

Beacom Students Travel to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day 9/10

Day 9/10: May 19, 2018

Today we left Hong Kong.  We said good-bye to Wing after she was nice enough to show us where to go at the airport. They looked through our carry-ons twice before we left. The plane ride seemed quicker. We were flying for 12 hours-one less hour than on the way here. We got to Seattle with very little turbulence.

The layover in Minneapolis was five hours. It was nice though because we could all get together and laugh about our funny experiences. Overall, the group loved going to Hong Kong. Everything was completely backwards there, which benefited us more compared to other study abroad programs. We would not have gotten as much out of the experience if we had gone somewhere more Western. This really pushed us out of our comfort zones, and we learned immensely from our business visits and from Wing. This trip increased the students knowledge of the Chinese culture, increased their understanding of the global business world, and built friendships along the way. We will never take this time for granted. Thank you Beacom, thank you Hong Kong.

Beacom Students Travel to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day 8

Day 8: May 18, 2018

We started today off with a trip to MAN Diesel, a company in the Volkswagen family that sells and refurbishes large diesel engines.  MAN Diesel was interesting, and I think my brother and dad would have found it fascinating. I did not know much about engines and ships or trucks, but we got a comprehensive view of the business. The cylinders were big enough to fit a person in! Fun fact: they often don’t make money on the engines they sell and make most of their money through the servicing of the engines.

Day 9

Next, we spoke with real estate developers. We had heard so much throughout the trip about housing and rent being huge obstacles. One of the groups creates shared spaces for companies to rent for their office buildings. Another designed buildings and the inside of buildings. They provided interesting information, and most were wary of what will happen in 2047 but were still optimistic about the future of real estate and business in Hong Kong.

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Then we had our debriefing. Jack and Gina, President and first lady of Cortrust Bank in Sioux Falls, gave us their thoughts about Hong Kong and its comparison to South Dakota. After the debriefing, we went to the farewell dinner. We had quite a bit of interesting food, but overall it was delicious. Some of the food we had were prawns, pickled fungus, and fried squid.

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Beacom Students Travel to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day 7

Day 7: May 17, 2018

Wow, today went by too fast. We loaded the bus at 8:20 a.m. and did not get back until 7:00 p.m. Today we traveled to Macau. We drove our bus to the ferry launch, and we went on a ferry with nice, comfortable seats. It was huge and probably went as fast as any boat I’ve been on. We were on the boat for about 45 minutes. We met our guide, Mario, at the island. He was from Portugal and has been living in Macau for 33 years. The Portuguese occupied Macau from the 1600s to 1999. They were given Macau by the Chinese for helping them during a war. The island is much greener and influenced more by its European inhabitants compared to Hong Kong. They have their own currency, which is similar to value to the Hong Kong dollar.

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We saw the “Virgin Mary” of Buddhism statue, called Guan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Most statues of her are looking toward the sea, but this one faces the land, bringing luck to Macau. The casinos make up most of Macau’s money. They give 40% of their revenues to Macau. No citizen pays taxes. Children learn English, Cantonese, and Portuguese (Mario also knows all three languages). Macau has 66 casinos. They have the first and second largest casino in the world. Portuguese architecture is bright and colorful.

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After the statue, we went to Saint Paul’s church which was burned down, but still has the back wall intact. The church contains both Catholic and Chinese engravings. They said if the saints, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus could not keep them from evil, at least the lions might! Then we went to the oldest place in Macau, a temple. It was very hot there, but the temple was spectacular. We then went to a buffet on the 60th floor of the building. It revolves too! The only really weird thing I had was a steamed lotus bun. People can also bungee off the building for $500 US dollars. Afterwards, we went to the Venetian, the largest casino in the world, and it was humongous. Seas of people, mostly Chinese tourists, flooded the casino. We finished the night eating local cuisine.

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Beacom Students Travel to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day 6

Day 6: May 16, 2018

Fun Fact: there are 800,000 vehicles in Hong Kong, but it costs more to pay for parking and gas than the price of the car!

Today was interesting, and I think my roommate and I are starting to get our footing in Hong Kong. We went to GoGoChart this morning. It is a company that specializes in app store optimization. They have done really well for themselves and have become one of the top ASO companies in the world. Their founder, Daniel gave us a lot of information about his background and how success is not always achieved on the first attempt.

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For our lunch break, we stopped at a mall and my roommate Mara and I went to Pokka Café. It was supposed to be western style, but definitely was not. I had an interesting open-faced sandwich. One half was mango with shrimp. The other was avocado with a soft-boiled egg, but hey, at least there were fries.

Then we drove to ATL logistics. It is a facility where companies in Hong Kong can rent warehouse space. It looks like a huge parking ramp. They are the largest multi-floor logistics center in the world. The view was amazing, and it is difficult to believe that anything gets where it is supposed to be when you think of all the shipping and logistics involved in transporting it from the manufacturers to the consumer.

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We went to the Night Market tonight. The shopping was quite successful. I got a watch (a knock-off), that normally costs $910. I purchased coasters for my grandpa, a weird charger for my brother, a jade elephant for my sister, and some painting prints of Hong Kong as well as a magnet. We had a wonderful time walking around. There was a bike memorial for people who had died while riding bikes in Hong Kong that closed down much of Nathan Road. I learned the ATM fee for $500 HK dollars is only $0.63 U.S. We had a great, relaxing day in Hong Kong with slightly less sweating (but still a lot of sweating).  The weather is HOT!

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