Leaving Thailand in a week, my final post.

I can’t believe it has been 7 weeks already. I’ll be leaving Thailand this Friday, at midnight, and my time here has been nothing short of amazing. The internship has been going very well. Earlier this week I made a PowerPoint presentation to one of my bosses, showing the work that I have completed so for my internship. They told me I did a pretty good job, then showed me where my presentation had some room for improvements. Overall, I’ve loved every minute of working at CPN and I’ll be sad to have to say goodbye. 

These past two weeks have perhaps been my funnest in Thailand to date. Last Friday I took a 14 hour train ride to another city, Chiang Mai, and I stayed at a hostel with a friend I met about a month ago in Bangkok. The atmosphere in the hostel was so relaxing and welcoming; it was filled with backpackers from many different countries travelling all around Thailand, and other parts of Asia, so I met many other foreigners to hang out with, and share the stories of our travels. 

 

On Saturday morning I went to a tourist attraction called Tiger Kingdom. It’s a place, about an hour out of town, that allows you to interact with and play with tigers of all sizes, from baby tigers to full grown ones. It was such a thrill getting to pet these majestic creatures, which appeared surprisingly tame. The workers at the park told us that they’ve raised the tigers since birth, and have gotten them accustomed to people, but I also sadly think they may have been drugged to remain docile (though I hope this is not the truth). 

 

On Sunday morning I decided to go bungee jumping. It was such a huge adrenaline rush, and absolutely terrifying, but I would definitely do it again given the chance. At night I decided to check out the nightlife in the area with some of the backpackers that I met at the hostel. We had an amazing time and met many other foreigners from countries as far away as Ireland and Russia. 

 

Monday was very relaxing. It was the Queen’s birthday, so it was a public holiday and many of the places in the city were closed. My bus ride back to Bangkok was at 8 pm, so I had most of the day to enjoy. I spent the day talking to a lot of the friends I made in the city, and even though I had only known them for about two days, it was very hard to say goodbye. Chiang Mai is definitely one of the most entertaining, yet relaxing, cities that I have ever been to, and I hope to be able to return sometime in the future.

Overall my time in Thailand has been nothing short of breathtaking. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I will definitely look to return sometime in the future. I learnt so much while interning here, and I have had many unforgettable experiences. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world. 

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

Final Thoughts on Shanghai

by Sean Yuan

I am now back at home in PA. From struggling with USD currency in the airport to waking up at 3 in the morning feeling wide awake and very cold in 75 degree temperatures, I have been trying to adjust to the life I lived before this summer. After spending two months in Shanghai, you get used to it. Instead going outside and buying whatever food I seemed to fancy along the way, I now just have to go downstairs and look in the fridge for leftovers. If I have to go anywhere, like most other Americans, I drive. After being used to brushing elbows with fellow passengers on the subway, I am very conscious of the layers of metal, plastic, and glass that separate me from other commuters. I’m certainly walking much less than I did in Shanghai. There’s a certain charm to big, crowded cities like Shanghai. I miss it, but it is also much more peaceful here in the suburbs.

I miss my coworkers and the other interns. I’ll be able to keep in touch with them, but liking a Facebook post just isn’t as fun as a handshake and saying, “Hello, good morning.” The warm, relaxed atmosphere of a the small office is another thing I will miss. In such an environment, everyone can be friends and grow very close to each other. Working at SMH International has opened my eyes to what life after college can be. I wish that, wherever I end up after graduating, I’ll be able to be with friendly, caring, and funny people like those I was blessed to meet at SMH International. I’ll miss the interns, too. I wish them luck in their studies, future job hunts, and experiences. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

This summer I learned a lot about myself and the marketing side of business, with a dash of modern-day tech. I researched international markets for agricultural goods such as wild blueberries and Alaskan seafood. I took this information and used it to make PowerPoint presentations and other projects. I also had the opportunity to apply my self-taught Photoshop and video editing skills in creating promotional videos for American Pistachio Growers. In addition, I helped start the ongoing project of building a new home page for the company. My experiences challenged me to think creatively, solve problems I never knew existed, and see marketing and promotion in a new light. Although this was a marketing internship and I am an IT Management major, I was prepared to apply myself creatively while being open to learn any technical or social skill I could, so it all worked out.

My favorite memories from this summer will be the conversations I had with my coworkers in the canteen for lunch, located at the basement level of the Super Brand Mall in possibly the most modern, thriving, commercial sector in China. Over our lunch placed on green plastic trays, we discussed social, political, moral, philosophical, and other matters which captured our interest. Whether the conversation was about NSA and Snowden, education in China vs. other countries, the difficulty in searching for jobs, or the ‘state of our youth’, the mix of perspectives from different cultures and geographies made our talks very exciting, but never heated or offensive. It was during these lunches that I really came to appreciate how Shanghai draws in people from around the world and unites them.

I believe that through international travel and bonding with members of various backgrounds, one undergoes a spiritual and cultural growth that can only be achieved by expanding the boundaries of one’s heart and mind. I also believe that this kind of growth is part of SIBC’s mission, “Peace through Commerce,” for Peace is often the result of understanding, which soothes the caustic effects of clashing cultures, while Commerce is the bridge which connects cultural and geographical rifts.

Therefore I must thank the board of SIBC and Mr. Frank Potenziani, for it is the result to their efforts and contributions that I am blessed to have had this learning experience in Shanghai. I could not think of a better way to spend my summer.

SWFC View

View from SWFC Observatory

SWFC View 2

View from SWFC Observatory (other side)

Shanghai Alaska Seafood Trader Conference

Shanghai Alaska Seafood Trader Conference

karaoke

Karaoke with coworkers

Who's that handsome guy?

Thanks for reading. See you at ND.

My time in Thailand – Second Post

Time has been going by so quickly, I can’t believe my stay in Thailand is almost over already. These past two weeks have been pretty amazing. Two Saturdays ago I took a bus to a nearby city to see what the beach there was like. The beach itself wasn’t too spectacular, and it was pretty small. A friend and I rented two jet skis and had a blast, venturing out into the ocean. We went so far out that we couldn’t see the shoreline behind us, and we contemplated trying to make it to one of the nearby islands, but decided that would probably be a bad idea. We turned around and on the way back to the shore my engine jammed. Luckily I wasn’t too far out though, so I just used the ocean current to drift me back to the shoreline. 

 

Afterwards I walked around a bit, and got to see some temples and shrines that the locals pray at. I also went to check out some of the local markets. Its amazing what they sell at these street markets; they sell everything from live animals (such as fish and eels) to designer shoes and handbags. I even saw electronics, such as phone accessories and high-end headphones, at one of the markets I stopped by. Everything sold at these markets is sold at a highly discounted price, though to get that price you’ll have to spend a couple minutes haggling with the vendor. They normally try offering the items to you for over twice the price they’re actually willing to accept. 

I didn’t get the chance to travel last weekend, because unfortunately I got a bit sick. I’m feeling much better now though, and I’m going to try and travel to Chaing Mai this weekend. Its long way from Bangkok, so I’ll either take an overnight train or fly there, but I hear it’s a very scenic area, where they have tiger temples, hiking trails and a lot of elephants. Hopefully I’ll get to go there this weekend, and of course I’ll keep you guys updated. 

 

Phillip Pryce

 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

 

 

 

 

 

Adios Ecuador! Nos vemos pronto.

Image

Wow, how quickly can eight weeks pass? Time flies when you’re constantly having new experiences I guess. This past week I returned to the US after spending a full eight weeks in Ecuador working with Social Entrepreneur Corps through Notre Dames’s SIBC. With such a wide-ranging, life-changing, and career-building experience, I have an extremely difficult time responding to the broad question “how was Ecuador?” posed by many upon my return. Some experiences, especially the one as diverse as 8 weeks working in Ecuador, are too difficult to put into words. But in this post, I will attempt to answer the all-too-common yet all-too-difficult question that I will be answering for the next few months.

Picking up this post where I left off, after a week of meetings in Cuenca where we learned about what the other travel group had been doing and set goals based off of our “next step” recommendations, we left for another two weeks of immersion in the field. The second two weeks of fieldwork took me to Timbara, a small community near Zamora in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Timbara was much more developed than Pulingi was, but this didn’t mean that there was no need for our work. We continued to work with both community organizations and asesoras while we were in southern Ecuador by providing valuable assistance and expertise. We first worked with Amor y Fortaleza, a community group in Timbara, providing thems with means of gathering live-feedback from their restaurant customers in order to adapt their restaurant to changing consumer demands. They had asked us what we, as foreigners, wanted to see improved in their restaurant but found it more appropriate to teach them how to gather feedback from all those who visit the restaurant. Our work was well received and the comment cards we provided them were immediate utilized in the restaurant. Next we talked with 23 de Junio, a female artisan group that works with recycled paper. In our meeting with them we provided them with an “asset map” which attempts to shine light on underutilized assets that the organization can take advantage of. Although we never had time for a follow up visit, I believe that the asset map provided the group with a mindset of looking within the organization for improvements.

The third round of consulting that we did in the southern region was with two of the asesoras for Soluciones Comunitarias. Without meeting the asesoras, my group was tasked with the job of giving a presentation on “initiative” given the story of one asesora who chose to read a newspaper on the job. We found our task difficult and paternalistic. We were expected to give a presentation about how people need to work harder without having actually worked with the group. Instead, my team decided to put together a presentation of leadership and tool-building games that the asesoras could apply to their job. We worked on salesmanship, communication, relationships, teamwork, and creativity through five different activities. By creating an interactive presentation we hoped to be less paternalistic and more instructive. From this activity, I took away one of my greatest lessons of the entire summer. While discussing the games afterwards, one of the asesoras noted that he liked the games because they taught him that “todos somos iguales” or “we are all equals.” One of my greatest concerns in this internship was striking a balance between economic development and cultural destruction. I feared that oftentimes we entered a situation with the mindset that we were the solution holders in Ecuador to provide answers for the needy. The quote “todos somos iguales” helped me to further realize that we are all in this together. My role in Ecuador was not to provide solutions or to hold hands, instead it was to provide tools so that we could walk together in the search of solutions. By reminding ourselves that we are all equal is a humbling way of realizing that everyone has tools to bring to the table and that together we can strive to utilize those tools in order to work towards economic development.

Enough on that tangent, our other primary goal in the southern region was to complete the project that our team had been assigned to work on. As I mentioned previously, I was on the Stove Team tasked with the job of redesigning stoves with the hopes of selling them in the future. We started working with a Peruvian designed cookstove, made of brick, cement, and metal costing $250 to build. An organization known as ADRA had been building these at no cost to the Ecuadoreans throughout the country. Our job was to rework this stove and create a plan to sell it to Ecuadoreans. We talked with local contractors (maestros), engineers, and stove users to determine what we could improve and eliminate on the old stove model. Our team was able to reduce the cost to under $50 including materials and labor. We built one stove in the north and one stove in the south as test models. We created a guide in Spanish on how to build our new model of stove and will be utilizing this guide to train future builders. In our last week in Ecuador we worked on piecing together a final project presentation that would provide the logistics of building and selling stoves throughout the country. We provided the leadership with a cost analysis and a sales/marketing plan along with a means for training local maestros to build stoves in the future. I am excited by the work that we did with the stove project. In the future Soluciones Comunitarias will be selling stoves to Ecuadoreans that use less wood, are safer, and are better health-wise at affordable prices. Better yet, these stoves will provide income to Ecuadorean women, provide jobs for local maestros, and keep money spent on materials within the community as everything will be sourced locally.

The goal of social entrepreneurship and international development is to provide a sustainable social good to impoverished areas. Instead of focusing on aid-giving, our goal was to work on tool-building. My hope in going to Ecuador was to provide the people I was working with and working for with sustainable tools that could make a lasting impact. Through my work on the stove project, I am convinced that not only will many more Ecuadoreans have access to safer and improved cookstoves but the building of these stoves will provide an economic stimulus to rural communities. I also know that my work on campaigns provided access for clean drinking water, solar light products, and reading glasses to numerous (exact number to come out later this summer) rural Ecuadoreans. I know that our consulting work with small Ecuadorean entrepreneurs provided them with tools to improve their businesses in the long-term. For example, remember the story of Sumak Ahuana and our presentation on business networking and finding markets? We just received word that the women put our preaching into practice when they used the skills they learned from our presentation to approach a local hotel about selling products in their store. Their actions based on our recommendations resulted in a $900 order of scarves for the 15 women in the organization.

My impact in Ecuador is one that will not only be felt when I’m there, but one that will be felt long after I have left. Through the help of the Student International Business Council, I know that I have left a lasting impact in Ecuador. But even more importantly, my time in Ecuador has made a lasting impact on me. Through my 8- weeklong internship, I’ve gained a lifetime of friends, memories and experiences that will undoubtedly and positively shape my future in ways unknown to me now. The knowledge that I gained in Ecuador will be carried with me for the rest of my life and I can only hope that the knowledge I shared in Ecuador will continue to empower individuals beyond my lifetime.

Image

Image

If you want more information about my experience or want to read any of the project reports I submitted as part of my experience, feel free to email me at bcooper4@nd.edu.

Goodbye Shanghai ~

Where did all the time go? Time really goes by in a blink of an eye – I arrived in Shanghai nearly two months ago but it all seems like yesterday. As my time in Shanghai nears an end, I am finding it more difficult to say goodbye to all the SMH employees and interns that I have grown close to these past months.

These last few weeks at SMH have been busy as August nears and many of the events and conferences that SMH hosts are nearing. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend one of the first trader conferences of the year that SMH hosts in a large city near Shanghai – Nanjing. As the Chinese in-market representatives of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, SMH holds annual trader conferences in several large cities throughout China and invites local traders, retailers, and chefs to attend. Another intern and I accompanied a SMH employee on this day-long business trip to Nanjing. We took the high speed bullet train in the morning to Nanjing and arrived several hours earlier at the local Westin hotel where the conference was being held to help set up and make sure everything was on track. And we found out that everything was not as we had planned with the hotel – only one conference room was booked for us when we had asked for two. But no problem! Our SMH coworker did some quick thinking and our minor dilemma was avoided. Everything else went right as planned. The conference lasted about 4-5 hours in total. It began with a presentation by our SMH marketing manager about the product we were representing – Alaska Seafood – and then following was time where traders could network and exchange information with one another. To end off the night was a dinner at the hotel where our Alaska seafood was served as the main course. After wrapping things up, we took the train back to Shanghai later that night.

Image

The entire trip was a great experience. As I had been helping out with organizing the conferences from booking the hotel to inviting traders, it was immensely satisfying to see the entire process from the very start to the end of the event. I learned a lot about how SMH operates, brings in its clients, and performs their marketing skills as well as how events are organized successfully. Throughout my time at SMH, I have been helping mainly with these Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute events. An interesting task – and a first for me – was to call potential traders and clients to invite them to these conferences. I had never cold-called in the past before, so this was a new, and surely a bit daunting, experience for me, especially because I had to persuade them to take interest and attend our event all in Chinese. Even though I was a bit stiff at this in the beginning and also encountered the select few who would hang up within 10 seconds, I was able to strengthen my communication skills greatly.

Finally, I would like to introduce you to our newly developed SMH website! www.smh-int.com It’s much more informative and sleeker than the previous one (and also take note that it’s at a different web address). I’m proud to say that I contributed to this new website as well. A few other interns and I teamed together to reformat and recreate this website and I must say, we had a very fun time doing so, particularly because we were working together and collaborating our ideas. Feel free to check it out and learn some more about the work we do at SMH International!

Overall, I have had an incredible experience here at SMH International. Once again, I would like to give an immense thank you to SIBC, and especially Frank Potenziani for giving me this opportunity to learn so much abroad from this amazing experience. I am going to miss my fellow interns and employees greatly and all of the wonderful memories we shared together in these months. Even though this is goodbye for now, I have realized since my time in Shanghai that I will definitely come back soon.

Here’s our entire office!

Image

The view from the World Financial Center!

Image

See you soon back home under the dome,

Sara Tan

Final Thoughts on SEC Ecuador

             Chimborazo: the closest point on earth to the sun.Image   After a rigorous final week of presentation preparation and reflection, I have the bittersweet feeling of relief with the completion of 8 weeks of work and of regret to see it all come to an end. Nothing can compare to the relationships I’ve formed with my fellow interns and the opportunities I had to learn about and from each of them. It was largely due to this positive group dynamic and cohesion that I believe our group was so successful and I have nothing but pride for what we were able to accomplish during our stay in Ecuador.

                For our final field location my group traveled to the northern city of Pulingui, a small agricultural community 40 minutes outside the city of Riobamba. All 12 interns in my group lived in houses along a dusty road that cut through the town. As we walked to the meeting place each morning we frequently shared the road with various livestock walking to the farms that patched across the hillsides.

                Our main grassroots consulting project involved working with a group of women called Sumak Ahuana who knit various products of wool from their alpacas and sheep. After an initial needs analysis, we identified that the women sold only to American and Canadian volunteer groups who visited occasionally throughout the year. They also have difficulty selling their products at the markets in Riobamba because their products are undercut by cheaper machine made products. After sifting through a lot of the information and future goals expressed by the women, we were able to focus our efforts on a few key components that we believed would provide a solid foundation upon which the women can expand their business.  

                We began our presentation to the organization by introducing the concept of the value principle and helped the women identify where the value their company provides intersects with the values of potential customers and collaborators. The Sumak women recognized that their company offers value through their high-quality, hand-made products. To convey this value to the customer we wrote and designed tags describing the history of the organization and the quality of the products that the women can attach to their products. We provided the women with instructions for new patterns and styles for their products as well as ideas for new products altogether. We also provided an internet tutorial for the women at a local internet café to teach them how to search for new products on their own. In order to help the women expand into new markets we created a catalogue of their products and order sheet that can be distributed to local hotels and businesses. We taught the women how they can use the catalogue to increase awareness of their business in surrounding communities and practiced making cold calls with them to hotels in Riobamba. In testament to the success of our efforts, a week after our presentation a few women met with one of the hotels we had called. They provided their catalogue, order sheet, and the history of the organization, successfully conveyed their company’s value and landed their first ever order since the companies creation over 7 years ago. The hotel purchased 20 scarves and was interesting in buying more after the first order is fulfilled.

                After Pulingui both groups reconvened in Cuenca for a final week of presentations highlighting all that had been accomplished in the field as well as research completed by each group throughout the 8 weeks. My group was responsible for testing the company’s new solar products and gauging market demand for them in the different regions. During our stay in Ecuador we conducted over 160 surveys in over 10 different towns throughout the country. Condensing this data into excel, we presented our findings and suggestions the team leaders and provided them insight as to how to best move forward.

                Overall the Social Entrepreneur Corps internship has provided me with insight into the problems of developing economies. I can better understand the challenges faced by those trying to combat global poverty and can better empathize with those individuals struggling to improve their lives and the lives of their families. I am well versed in the Micro Consignment theory and can understand its potential as one of many tools that will slowly chip away at poverty around the world. I have grown personally and linguistically and look forward to applying my new skills and knowledge to my classes at Notre Dame. I am extremely grateful to SIBC and all those involved who made this experience possible.

Kyle Dougher 

ImageProduct modeling for the Sumak Ahuana catalogue. 

ImageMy host sister in Pulingui. 

 

Cody Gilfillan – Final Update from Ecuador

Image

Wow, I cannot believe I am about to board a plane back to the United States!  June 2nd seems like last week, but I just finished my 8th and final week in Ecuador. While the goodbyes were hard, the memories made over the summer will live on.

We spent the final two weeks of the program in Timbara, a small community in southern Ecuador. I had the true fortune of living outside the city, literally walking 20 minutes on a dirt road through the Amazon forest to get to my house (quite an authentic and beautiful walk). I made a few new friends in my house, including my host family, a gecko, and a larger than average spider (I believe in the US it’s called a tarantula). Timbara itself had an incredibly tight community feel. Every weekday night after work and dinner, the interns played the kids in soccer or volleyball, as well as participated in “Bailo Terapia” (dance therapy, basically Zumba class) with about 40 other people in the community. This was a great way for us to get to know the kids in the area and after a few days, I was receiving Facebook friend requests and accepting new twitter followers from a number of Ecuadorians.

Personally, what I learned in 8 weeks would be hard to match in a year of studies. While classroom work is a necessary and an important part of the education process, working on the ground level and getting your hands dirty (actually) is the best way to learn, engage, and make the largest impact. My knowledge of that mysterious word “microfinance” went from “what is that?” to “How can we scale it in the developing world?”, and my Spanish skills went from “hola and buenas noches” to “donde esta el baño y quisiera una cerveza.” (Please, no translations).

Most importantly, the group of interns as a whole produced tangible and impactful results. We gave 1233 eye exams, and sold 467 reading glasses, 144 seed packets, 46 solar products, and 17 water purifiers to 17 different communities, most of which were small communities in areas where these products are not easily accessible. Our impact will not end when we leave. At the end of the program, the interns were allocated some money to use at our discretion, and some of the funds are being used to help pay for water filters in every classroom at the grade school in Pulingi, another city where we stayed.

Once again, I would like to thank SIBC and its benefactors for providing myself and the other Notre Dame students with an experience we will not forget and a motivation to leave the world a better place than we found it.

A final farewell from Ecuador,

Cody Gilfillan

Image

The water filter that our host family in Timbara now has in their house.

Image

Morning run in the Amazon.