International Study Week
The ten students were full of anticipation for the study trip to Singapore at their departure in Munich. "If the coming days were as fascinating and instructive as to our study trip last year, we would gain unique insights and experiences this time too. Thanks to Professor Dr. Eberhard Hohl and the university for this opportunity," said Jan Bolender, a student in the 5th semester of the MBA program.
The students got their first unexpected impression on arrival at Changi International Airport, which they had not expected. Instead of hectic activity and countless travelers, the airport, which is one of the largest in all of Asia, was almost extinct. The reason: COVID-19. The virus "accompanied" the pioneers throughout the week. In advance: the city-state with a population of around six million took early and consistent action against the pandemic, for example, by taking fever readings in hotels and public institutions. As part of these measures, few items of our program, such as a visit to "INSEAD BUSINESS SCHOOL," were canceled.
"Life goes on"
"Of course, the city is emptier than usual, but despite the coronavirus, life goes on here. With measures such as taking fever readings, wearing respiratory masks, and our modern health system, we can manage that," explained the tour guide as she took the Weingartner students on an adventure tour through the multicultural metropolis. Past imposing skyscrapers, well-kept green spaces, and across clean streets, the tour headed towards the center of the "Lion City," as the inhabitants respectfully call their home. Once there, the students explored Little India as well as the Arab quarter and, on their first day, experienced a mix of tradition and modernity with a visit to the Botanical Garden, the Thian Hock Keng Temple, and Marina Bay. While the study week started with the first cultural highlights, the following days were also supposed to provide unforgettable academic and business insights.
On the second day, the group left early in the morning for Sentosa Island. The approximately five square kilometer island was formerly a British military base and now serves the "Singaporeans" with its beaches, parks, and entertainment facilities as a local recreation area and is also the main attraction for tourists. The group enjoyed the decelerated life on the offshore island, and they discussed their first impressions of the country, which is foreign to many of them. In the early evening, the group met Professor Dr. Opas Piansoongnern for an intercultural lecture and discussed the first impressions of the MBA students, for some of whom it was the first time in Asia. Born in Thailand, Dr. Opas Piansoongnern is a professor at Ramkhamhaeng University, advisor to well-known companies in Thailand and guest professor at RWU. He will accompany the students in their adventures in the coming days. With his expert knowledge of management and his intercultural skills, he prepared the students perfectly for their visit to Singapore Management University (SMU) the next day. He also gave them insights into the cultural differences between Singapore, Thailand, and Germany.
"Think global, think generation, think growth"
"Once again, it is a great pleasure to have Professor Dr. Opas Piansoongnern on board," says IB student Mario Scheike. "With all his experience and his large network, we have the chance to visit top universities like this one," he added as he stood in front of the impressive building in the Centre of Singapore. The Singapore Management University, established in the year 2000, has over 4,000 international students and is one of the most renowned in the world.
The guests were warmly welcomed there by Ms. Esther Kong, Deputy Director of the Business Families Institute, with the words "Think global, think generation, think growth." During a guided tour through the green-planted "Zero Energy Building" and a subsequent presentation by SMU students, the group of visitors had the opportunity to learn more about life and work on campus. In the following lecture plenary by Esther Kong and the professor of strategic management, Professor Dr. Tan Wee Liang, the "IB students," was given a deep insight into the corporate landscape of this vibrant and progressive nation. Afterward, the participants had the opportunity to present their employers and thus provide the hosts with a picture of German family businesses. This informative and interculturally rich day concluded with a visit to the Street Food Market in Chinatown.
“Asia for beginners”
The group was greeted with the warm words "Selamat Pagi" which stands for a good morning in Malay at Schaeffler (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. Already on their way to the modern office, the students received deep insights from Mr. Clemens Hesse, Vice President of the Regional Business Unit. With around 89,000 employees in over 170 countries, the company is one of the "big players" among automotive suppliers. Our host Mr. Dharmesh Arora, CEO of Schaeffler Asia/Pacific, concluded his informative presentation with the following sentence: "The company chose Singapore as its headquarters for the Asian region because of the infrastructure, the language and the western lifestyle - Asia for beginners, as we say here."
The next stop: The National University of Singapore (NUS). Another academic highlight and the last item on the agenda for the day awaited the German guests with a lecture and subsequent discussion on Singapore's cultural identity led by Professor Dr. Tim Bunnel, Director of the Asia Research Institute.
"Willkommen im German Centre in Singapur, meine Damen und Herren" it sounded in the reception hall of a modern building marked in German colors and located 30 minutes outside the Centre. The voice was that of Katharina Ravens, Managing Director of the German Centre Singapore, which has been supporting companies enter the Asian market for over 25 years and helping them to gain a foothold there. In an area of over 20,000 square meters, the German Centre is home to over 150 international companies. The students had the opportunity to take a look behind the doors at the operations of Waldner Group, a company based in Wangen in Allgäu and the Swedish robot manufacturer OnRobot. An alumnus of DHBW Ravensburg Ms. Melissa Brandner, who is a senior consultant for trade promotion, gave insights into the functions of the Singapore-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce and on Singapore as a business location.
While in the morning, everything revolved around established companies, the focus was on the start-up scene in Singapore after a traditional Malaysian lunch. The IB group visited "German Entrepreneurship Asia," an organization sponsored by the German government, which helps German start-ups to enter the Asian market with its "German Accelerator" and "Next Step" programs. The day concluded with a round table discussion reflecting on the experiences so far and what is to come ahead.
“The green lungs of Singapore”
While in the days before the focus was mainly on academic insights and highlights in the business sector, we continue now with Singapore's unique nature. With a visit to the Tree Top Walk and the subsequent eleven-kilometer hike through the Mac Ritchie Reservoir, the RWU group got to know the metropolis from a completely different angle. With its great diversity of species, unique flora, and vast waterways, Singapore's "green lung" is a must for every visitor! Exhausted by the hike and the temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius as well as the high humidity, the group devoted the afternoon to Singapore's architectural features. The visit to the Gardens by the Bay and the world-famous Hotel Marina Bay Sands, with its view of the impressive skyline, made the day very special.
The last day of the eight-day study tour was devoted to a visit to ZF Services Asia Pacific, where our host Mr. Dominic Roth greets the group. Mr. Dominic Roth is a native of Ravensburg and alumnus of RWU, and he is the head of the ZF Singapore site. After the obligatory temperature checks, the visitors went on a tour of the plant to see what comprises as a part of operations in the after-sales market in one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers.
An intercultural workshop together with Professor Dr. Eberhard Hohl and Professor Dr. Opas Piansoongnern reflecting the experiences of Singapore as a modern, innovative, and progressive business location were analyzed and reflected together. "Like the study trip to Thailand/Myanmar, this study trip impressed me with its diversity and incomparable impressions. You can only really get to know the diversity and uniqueness of different cultures through personal experience", says Michael Stumpf, student of the 5th semester.
Text: Jan Bolender