While MAM-SSM is now a full month into winter quarter, our 3-week journey across India and China still seems recent. Perhaps this is due to how fast each day has passed with a flurry of classes and projects, but I do not see the transformative and experiential trip ever fading from the memory of our cohort. Having prepped over the summer and throughout the fall quarter to learn about the culture, do’s and don’ts, to working on visa applications, how to deal with poverty and cultural shock, and how to effectively pack, we had been waiting for months in eager anticipation for our November 28th departure for Asia.
While past cohorts had traveled to 5 cities, this year we split our time between 4 major cities; Beijing and Shanghai in China, and New Delhi and Bangalore in India. Each city was captivating in its own unique way, with distinctive cultural sights, people, and fascinating companies for us to interact with.
We began our journey in the smoggy-skied city of Beijing. The polluted air quality was unlike anything many of the students in our cohort had ever experienced. Thankfully after a few days a strong wind came in and cleared the skies for us. While most of our activities in Beijing were cultural in nature, we did have an informative and stimulating visit to Baidu— what we referred to as “Chinese Google”. As a company valued at over 80 Billion USD, and listed as one of the most innovative companies in the world, Baidu is certainly a tech giant, competing with American equivalents in the tech industry. This was one of my favorite visits throughout the course of our trip, but I will say that both the magnificent Great Wall and Forbidden Palace are also vividly imprinted my memory from Beijing.
From frigid Beijing we traveled to the much warmer climate of India; first to New Delhi and then on to Bangalore (AKA Bengaluru). With spectacular cultural visits to the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Humayan’s Tomb, the Lotus Temple, and many more cultural and ancient sites—India was truly a breath-taking experience. The sights were beautiful, the people friendly, and the enterprises we visited were brilliantly informative. Throughout both locations, our cohort was welcomed into a variety of non-profit and social enterprise companies. A few of these included the following;
Guardian Bank, which helped kindle the entrepreneurial spirit of Bangalore by providing small loans to farmers and local entrepreneurs.
SELCO, a solar energy company which provided cost-effective solutions to home lighting for the poor.
URVEE, a handmade paper products company employing women who could not find work in other ways to empower them and give them an income.
In addition to those listed above, there were a plethora of other impactful companies creatively utilizing sustainable business to combat social issues. Our cohort was given the extraordinary opportunity to present a consulting project for the board of directors of the DIYA Foundation, an organization providing education and employment opportunities for people with various disabilities. We presented the board with new prospects and lines of business which we believed would help increase their financial stability, allowing them to further their impact.
Our final stop before heading back to the States for Christmas break was Shanghai. Hosting the most impressive city skyline I’ve ever seen; Shanghai was truly a remarkable city. Our biggest visit was to the Nike distribution center, which strove to provide a positive environmental impact to the surrounding area. With initiatives to provide basketball courts for local communities made from recycled shoes, using rain water, an innovative supply chain, and effectively managing energy use, the Nike center was extremely educational.
With great food, great friendships formed, and twenty-one days filled to the brim with unique experiences, it was an amazing journey for our cohort.