Transformative travels in Southeast Asia


The MARK 561 class gathers in front of Reunification Palace in Saigon.

In January 2024, a group of graduate students studied abroad in Southeast Asia as a part of MARK 561: Comparative Marketing and Consumer Behavior in Emerging Southeast Asia.

The course, led by Cliff Shultz, professor and Charles H. Kellstadt Chair of Marketing, and Molly Melin, professor and chair of Loyola’s Department of Political Science, included stops in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand where students were immersed in new cultures and learning.

Below, Baumhart Scholars MBA student Jill Wenninger reflects on the trip and the incredible things learned along the way.

Study abroad reflection by Jill Wenninger

The most meaningful parts of any journey are the connections made, the appreciation for different perspectives and the lessons learned along the way. It was important for me to incorporate a study abroad experience into my Baumhart Scholars MBA program because I didn’t have that chance to travel while pursuing my undergraduate degree.

When I met Dr. Shultz at a Quinlan event and he shared his experiences with me about traveling to Asia with the MARK 561 class, I knew it was meant to be. I’m a passionate traveler who loves to learn about new cultures and ways of life, meet new people and have unique experiences. I had been to Vietnam already but was excited to explore it more while also seeing Cambodia and Thailand with this incredible study abroad opportunity.

Once we all arrived in Vietnam, our trip began with a tour of the Mekong Delta which I didn’t have the chance to see during my first trip there. Over the next few days, we were able to hear from both expats and locals about their social enterprises and personal experiences with how the country has evolved over the past few decades. We met with an inspiring Vietnamese female lawyer, Kieu Vuong Nguyen, who works to bring jobs to women in the Mekong Delta and creates possibilities for families to care for the elderly and children while still bringing in an income. I learned so much about the people and country during our short stay in Saigon!

Cambodia was a group favorite and I’ll want to go back soon. We saw Angkor Wat at sunrise and temples that made us feel like we were on a movie set. While we stayed in Siem Reap, we visited NGOs and markets and ventured out to rural Cambodia for a service project at an elementary school. The school visit was one of the most impactful days I had on the trip! Hearing the stories of the students’ daily life and how far they’ll travel for a half day of school and one meal was an effective way to leave the city and see how most of the country lives. One of our last stops in Cambodia was the Killing Fields. Bunthin, our tour guide, was separated from his parents at the age of 6 during the Khmer Rouge genocide. He shared his personal feelings about his experience. I struggle to put into words how emotional this day was, but I am grateful to Bunthin for sharing his story with us.

Our last stop was Thailand where we had a whirlwind tour of Bangkok. We explored the city via boat trips on canals and Tuk Tuk rides to markets, business meetings, and restaurants. Another one of my favorite days of the trip was traveling out of the city to an elephant sanctuary. We learned about how the elephants are taken from abusive or neglectful situations and cared for in their natural habitat. Spending time feeding, cleaning, and hugging the elephants was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

This trip exceeded my expectations and was an amazing and unique way to take an elective. I met locals, expats, and fellow students that I would have never interacted with otherwise. I learned so much from these connections and the experiences we had together. I believe that I made friendships that will last a lifetime and have gained so many memories I will never forget. I’m so grateful I met Dr. Shultz when I did and decided to participate in this trip. I would encourage anyone even considering this experience, to learn more and ultimately take advantage of this amazing opportunity!

Learn more