Beijing/Singapore Summer Program A Hit

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The Beijing/Singapore Summer Program, led by ISyE Professor Chen Zhou, offers undergraduate students the opportunity to have a culturally rich learning experience overseas while gaining ISyE course credits.

"In the global economy, Asia and China have become more and more important. It is vital for engineers to understand that part of the world first hand and to position themselves properly for collaboration and competition,* said Professor Zhou.

This year 24 Georgia Tech students immersed themselves in the culture of Asia and China as they studied side by side with 14 National University of Singapore students and 18 students from Beijing's Tsinghua University. During the eleven-week semester abroad, they learned about Asia as it exists today as well as its vibrant history and toured various manufacturing plants including UPS in Singapore, Hyundai in Beijing and the Yanjing Brewery.

"The tours allowed us to see first hand the differences and similarities between these plants and warehouses and the ones in the United States,* said ISyE student Nicki Skillings. "Mostly the layouts tended to be different, and in China the labor was obviously much cheaper. It helped me gain a better understanding of how things work abroad. Sometimes you think that things can only be done a certain way, but then you see them being done another way and you see the other way working. It really opens your mind to new ideas.*

This culturally rich program provided an opportunity for students to learn more than just course work. The students also explored neighboring countries immersing themselves in the customs and culture of the area.

Over the last 6 years, over 150 Georgia Tech students, 30 NUS students, and 80 Tsinghua students have participated in the program.

Here ISyE students Nicki Skillings, Sandesh Reddy, and Margaret Reinhard discuss their experiences and what they learned in the 2007 Beijing/Singapore Study Abroad Program.

Q: What do you think is the significance of studying abroad?

Nicki: The significance of studying abroad is to experience how a culture - completely different from yours - lives, functions, and thinks.

Sandesh: It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in different facets of a country's culture. Taking classes at a local university lets you understand how students in other cultures learn and this is important as these same students will be part of the country's workforce in the future.

Margaret: Studying abroad is a great way to gain exposure to other cultures, and the friendships that you make within your study abroad group are absolutely invaluable.

Q: What made you decide to spend a semester studying in Beijing/Singapore?

Nicki: I wanted to spend a semester abroad mainly to push myself. I feel you learn the most about yourself when you are outside of your comfort zone, and I knew that Asia would be completely different from anything I have ever experienced. I also believe that in order for me to stay ahead of my peers it was important for me to gain this international exposure, especially in Singapore, as so many companies do business there. I love traveling, trying new things, making new friends, and learning about new cultures which also influenced my decision.

Sandesh: I have serious plans to work in that part of the world after graduation and this program was a great opportunity for me to get a head start on that. Besides, it fit well with my graduation schedule.

Margaret: Being a co-op, summer school wasn't exactly optional, but I knew I would gain so much more from studying abroad than just a normal semester on campus. I had many people tell me I would regret it if I left college having never studied in another country.

Q: What is (are) the most memorable or remarkable moment(s) you had while there?

Nicki: Some of the most memorable moments I had while abroad occurred while working with students from either the National University of Singapore or Tshingua University. It was so interesting to live how they live, and learn how they think and what they like. It made me appreciate so many little things that I have here in the States that they didn't even know they were missing.

Sandesh: I lost my train ticket from Shanghai to Beijing about 30 minutes before the train left. All other trains were sold out and I needed to get back for classes the next day. After running from one ticket office to another for 2 hours with my very limited mandarin, I finally managed to get on another train. I then met someone on the train who I have become good friends with.

Margaret: One of my favorite moments was our trip to Phuket, Thailand. Almost the entire group went, more than 20 of us. We all chipped in and chartered a private boat tour. The scenery was gorgeous. The day was spent snorkeling and island hopping. We all had a blast.

Q: Did the semester abroad change the way you think? If so, how?

Nicki: It most definitely did. I now have a greater understanding of Asian culture and feel like I can work with people from these areas more efficiently. I appreciate everything that I own, especially my clean hot water. I was always told that money does not buy happiness, but now I can honestly say that I believe this to be true.

Sandesh: Not really.

Margaret: Studying abroad has most certainly changed the way I think. As worldly and sophisticated as I thought I was, I soon came to the realization that many of the ideas I had held to be universal were really just a product of the culture I'd been raised in. I now completely sympathize with anyone who finds themselves in a country without knowing the native language. I went to Beijing knowing zero Mandarin, but while the language barrier was frustrating at times, it was a lot of fun. It turned something simple like ordering dinner into a big adventure.

Q: Can you tell me at least one thing you learned?

Nicki: I learned about China's ancient history mostly up to present day, which was really interesting because I then got to go to most of the places in China that we talked about in class. I also really enjoyed my other classes and learned valuable material that should be put to use when I begin my career.

Sandesh: I learned more from just traveling and observing than through the classes. I gained an understanding of the cultural differences between the Singapore-Chinese, Beijing-Chinese and also contrasted that with my knowledge of the U.S. and India.

Margaret: We learned a lot of the bases for ISyE. Quality, logistics, and manufacturing are 3 main career areas. Outside of that I learned a few random Mandarin phrases, and I also learned a lot in our group projects just from working in a group with students from foreign universities. We had the same major but some very different perspectives.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? Do you plan to work in the United States or abroad?

Nicki: After I graduate, I would like to obtain a graduate degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. Then I would like to find a career in the U.S. that would require me to travel abroad often and work with companies from different countries.

Sandesh: I'm not entirely sure. I would ideally like to spend a few months in the States and the rest abroad.

Margaret: My tentative post-graduation plans are to get a masters in ISyE or something focused in logistics. I plan to work in the U.S. but wouldn't mind working a few years abroad.

Q: When you look for a career, how important is the idea of globalization in your search?

Nicki: Honestly, not that important. I am not going to choose a career because it will or will not take me abroad. However, I do want to work for a large, well-established company, which most likely will mean that it will be operating abroad.

Sandesh: Very Important. I wouldn't want to be tied to a career which is localized in a single country with little or no global mobility.

Margaret: I can't say globalization will be the most important thing in my career search, but it will certainly be a factor and can definitely equal greater career opportunities.

More about the students:

Nicki Skillings, from Garland, Texas, is the Vice President of Member Development for Alpha Gamma Delta, an analysis for the Student Foundation Investments Committee, and works part time while going to school at a small company called d. Terrell. Nicki is scheduled to graduate May 2009.

Sandesh Reddy was born and raised in Bangalore, India. He completed his CIE
A-Levels (12th grade) in 2004 and came to Georgia Tech in the fall of that year.
He is an ISyE senior scheduled to graduate May 2008. He is currently co-oping for RubberNetwork in Atlanta.

Margaret Reinhard is a 4th year ISyE student from Woodstock, Georgia who attended Woodstock High School. She is currently a co-op student working with Cellnet in Alpharetta. Margaret is scheduled to graduate in spring 2009.



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Barbara Christopher
  • Created: 09/13/2007
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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