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Expanding my World View in Asia

By: Rebecca Anderson, EMBA '13

Each summer, Executive MBA students like me get to choose between two international study tours as part of their McColl School experience. The trips are led by faculty and designed to give us a first-hand view of issues related to global commerce, international business and emerging economic trends. 

During his "pitch" for the 2012 trip to Asia, Professor Bill Berry said "No three Asian cities have a greater impact on global commerce than Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong."

That struck me as true and like many of my classmates the trip to Asia called my name.  I knew this would be a unique-maybe even once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to expand my horizons.

And to sweeten the deal my husband was also able to join the trip. Not only did this give him a chance to learn and grow right alongside me, it also helped him get to know my fellow students and professors. 

What started in January as a casual interest in Asia became something of an intellectual obsession.  I started a blog to chronicle my learning and talked to as many people as I could about their experiences in Asia.  The more I learned the more I realized I didn't know, so I read books (both fiction and non-fiction) and even set up Google news alerts to stay current with breaking news. 

Like many Americans, I've seen the headlines about China.  It's big.  It's growing.  It seeks a more powerful role on the world stage.  Check, check and check. 

But until you see it firsthand, you just can't understand the scope of what's happening in Asia. 

Shanghai is the size of five Manhattans.  It's like a kudzu vine with its rambling, organic, barely-controlled growth.

Singapore, with a population roughly equivalent to Atlanta's, boasts 100% literacy, the safest streets in Asia, and the second busiest port facility in the world.

And Hong Kong provides an object lesson in the inequity of wealth distribution with its magnificent multi-million dollar condo projects rising directly above floating boathouse slums.

Over two weeks we visited factories, ports, businesses, schools and libraries.  In our embassies and consulates we were briefed on America's "strategic pivot to Asia."  Everywhere we went we met bright, well-educated, multi-lingual people who are ambitious and incredibly hard working.  They're taking the long view in terms of planning for their countries' futures.

What was once a vague understanding of a shifting world dynamic has come into sharper focus.  Now I get it when someone says this is the "century of China." 

I'm thinking differently about the role America must play in maintaining a balance of power.  I'm thinking differently about what's "made in America."  And I'm certainly thinking differently about how best to prepare my son to compete in the global economy.   

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