Study abroad class immerses students in Southeast Asian marketing and culture
In January, 8 graduate students spent two weeks studying in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand as part of Professor Cliff Shultz’s comparative marketing class. Student connected with local, national, and international business in Southeast Asia to study marketing patterns in the region. See photos from the trip below.
The class created a short film documenting their time in Southeast Asia. See the trailer for the film below.
Below, student Katy Massey (MBA ’20, MSM ’20) and several of her classmates reflect on their transformative study abroad experience.
Connecting to the Markets, People, and Cultures
By: Katy Massey – MBA/MSM ‘20
Opening those glass doors and taking my first steps into Schreiber Hall as a graduate student in 2017, I could feel the nerves coursing throughout my body. I did not know what to expect or if I would be successful in the program, but I was optimistic the professors and program would help foster my growth as a businesswoman in today’s society.
My first course was Dr. Shultz’s MARK 460 course. Dr. Shultz introduced the course and his extensive credentials in domestic and international marketing. Needless to say, it was intimidating listening since I had barely any experience. I thought, “How would I ever be able to compare myself to him?” Throughout that first class, those feelings of intimidation subsided and turned into a thirst for knowledge and understanding.
By the third week of the course, Dr. Shultz proposed his annual study abroad course – MARK 561: Comparative Consumer Behavior and Marketing in Emerging Southeast Asia – to our class. Many students showed great interest, including myself. I am a travel enthusiast and thought the course would be a great opportunity to connect to a part of the world I had only dreamt about.
As you can imagine my heart was torn when I could not make the course work with my schedule. I thought, “Maybe next year”. Another year went by and I still could not make the course work. Now I am on my last year in the master’s program, and I waited patiently (kind of) for that email about the Southeast Asia course. When it finally arrived, I told myself “It is now or never!”
Upon entering the first class prior to our trip, once again I was apprehensive. I had this fear of not knowing any of my classmates. Would we get along? Do we have anything in common? Would we travel well together? After that class of introducing ourselves and connecting with my fellow peers about our past experiences, I knew I made the right choice. I was ready to take on this adventure with them.
As our departure date of January 1 approached, the nerves surrounding this trip left. Walking onto the plane and leaving the U.S. left me cool, calm, and collected to take on the world. The 30 hours of traveling could not have ended soon enough. Upon landing in Southeast Asia, a sense of euphoria overcame me.
As you walk into the Ben Thanh Marketplace, no videos or pictures can do the vastness of the market justice. You are walking down rows upon rows of intricate clothes, “designer” bags, ethnic food, and beautiful trinkets. Whatever you think could be sold here, they had it and trying to find the perfect item was probably the most challenging task. How do you choose from the extremely large selection of items? How do you know you are getting the item for a good price?
Prior to leaving for Southeast Asia, Dr. Shultz encouraged our class to “haggle” in the markets to get a better deal on products. This is a common practice, but many of us were not accustomed to it. This is where I excelled because of my competitive nature. Haggling became almost like a game for me to see how good of a deal I could negotiate from the sellers. The more I haggled though, I realized that I was fighting over pennies, which in reality meant little to me but meant everything to the seller. These interactions opened my eyes to the economic climates the Vietnamese people are working within, where pennies mean putting food on the table for the day.
Exploring the markets in Siem Reap demonstrated similarities to the Ho Chi Minh City markets, where there were rows of items geared towards tourists instead of the local people. The more we ventured out of the city, the more the markets changed to accommodate for the wants and needs of the local buyers, who were primarily farmers.
These markets were not as “clean” or tourist attractive as the markets within the major cities. Water was being thrown around to clean the floors and onto the tables after the local farmers would butcher live animals for you to cook that day. Many of these people would not have access to a fridge like us, so they want to guarantee the freshest food for their market by harvesting and fishing the morning before heading to the market to set up shop.
After leaving the rural market, our class traveled further into the countryside where the roads became dirt and towns became “floating villages”. These villages were made up of one room homes on twenty-foot stilts. During the rainy season dirt roads will become waterways, completely submerging the roads. Transportation changes from motorbikes to boats. Visiting these villages and seeing the poverty of these communities was a humbling experience. Poverty does not mean lack of prosperity or happiness within these communities. In fact, you could see the pride of the men and women performing their everyday duties to provide for their families and the joy of the children playing in the streets. It was beautiful to witness the people within the village appreciate the food on their table, the roof over their head, and the family they are able to be with every day.
Thailand was the most developed country our class visited. Infrastructure was impressive with Bangkok’s skyscrapers and developed means of transportation. Though a huge detriment to Bangkok is the amount of air pollution within the city limits. Thousands of people riding their motorbikes or walking around the city daily would be wearing masks around their mouths to better improve their breathing quality. This was concerning to much of our team since we did not expect the air quality to be so poor with being such a developed city.
After recognizing the severity of their air quality, Bangkok has taken on environmental initiates to battle the smog created by traffic. Transit worked on creating a high-tech rail system that has a minimal carbon footprint and provides fast transportation to their people. This project is at the forefront of their environmental initiatives. These changes though may not be coming fast enough to accommodate for the rapid population growth within Bangkok due to the job and educational opportunities compared to the rural areas.
It may be cliché to say this course was life-changing, but for me it truly was. It broadened my perspective and enabled connections in this part of the world when I never thought these markets would be an option for me outside of being a tourist. Our speakers brought to light the importance and knowledge of these emerging markets on the global economy. Our guides brought a human perspective to our experiences within each of their countries by sharing their personal stories within their cultures. I would recommend this course to any student within the master’s programs at Loyola University Chicago because of the diverse learning experience and connections we created to the markets, people, and cultures.
More Student reflections
Katy’s classmates also found the trip to be transformative. Below are some highlights for them.
Julie Frechette – MSHR ‘20
In addition to exploring beautiful temples, experiencing the different cultures, learning about the emerging markets in Southeast Asia, and making new friends along the way; I also gained some knowledge about international human resource management and how cultural considerations affect those practices. This class opened my eyes on these markets, and I am so excited I had the opportunity to use the skills I learned in my human resource courses at many of the companies we visited.
Sergio Juwa – JD/MBA ‘20
This trip enabled me to learn about the histories and cultures of three unique nations that I knew little to nothing about prior to the experience. This experience has taught me about myself, the world around me, and has made me aware of unique career opportunities that I would not have considered otherwise.
Cody Sarvello – MSA ‘20
Overall, you will see so many things that are new and exciting, but very different from your life in the U.S. You get to hear from real people, eat traditional foods and see some amazing sites. I can’t express enough how great this trip was and I would recommend it to any graduate business student at Loyola.