The MIM Asia Trip is a 3-week tour of businesses in Asia that takes place every March. It is repeatedly mentioned by students as one of the highlights of the MIM program, and this year’s trip was no exception. This year we visited Tokyo, Shanghai, and Ho Chi Minh City, and one of the greatest things about the trip for me personally was being able to see the contrast in business practices and economic development between these 3 cities.
Below I have put together a short list of tips that future MIM students may want to think about before they head out on the Asia Trip. The Asia Trip provides a great experience for MIM students, but if you really want to make the most of your time while you are there, you might want to consider some of the following points.
1. Put your language skills to use
Regardless of whether you are studying Japanese or Chinese in the MIM Program, you will have already been studying the language for about 5 months before leaving on the Asia Trip. This means that no matter what level you are at, you will have some language skills that you can use and opportunities to practice! I commonly heard students in the Beginning Japanese class asking for directions with phrases like コンビニはどこですか？ (Where is the convenience store?), and students studying Chinese were able to order a variety of beverages such as 可口可乐 (Coca Cola)，and 啤酒 (Beer)，and also introduce themselves as students from Portland State University’s Master of International Management program. Even if you are just practicing the same basic phrases over and over again, try to have fun with it and see where it leads!
2. Plan your free time ahead of time
You will have free time to do sightseeing in each city you visit, and if it is your first time visiting these cities, researching places of interest before arriving will help you make the best use of your time there. Look for information in travel guides, online, or simply ask students who went on the trip previously for their recommendations. If you are lucky enough to have classmates from the countries you are visiting who are also willing to show you around, that is a definite plus, but preparing your own list of places you’d like to visit and things you’d like to do ahead of time will help you get out around the city more, and hopefully lead to an even greater experience.
3. Seek out your own networking opportunities
The Asia Trip offers MIM students the chance to visit companies in Asia that most people would never have access to. This year, for example, we visited companies such as Nissan, Nike, Microsoft, and General Motors, among others. While these visits to companies are a great learning opportunity, students who really want to get the most out of their time on the Asia Trip should think about setting up their own networking opportunities while they are in each country. Consider trying to connect with companies that you are interested in and that have offices located in the cities you will be visiting, and try setting up informational interviews with them when you are there. This will of course require some research and preparation before the trip, and smaller companies will obviously be easier to approach and potentially more likely to agree to meet with you than larger ones, but the time and effort you put into connecting with local businesses will allow you to take one step further into the business world in Asia, and hopefully make some lasting connections as well!
4. Ask questions at every presentation
If you’re the kind of person who always asks questions, then you can skip this point. If however, you find that you have trouble coming up with questions to ask, then you may want to plan ahead and come up with some questions for each company before the visit. If you find that you are often too shy to ask questions in front of a group, then you may be able to talk privately after some of the general Q&A sessions at each presentation, but know that this time will be limited. Thus, researching the companies and having at least a general idea of what you want to ask them ahead of time will help you get a lot more out of each visit. If this sounds lame to you, then think about this: you’re traveling around the globe to visit some of the leading companies in the world and will have the opportunity to meet with company representatives and executives who are working every day in some of the most dynamic cities in Asia. Do you really want to travel that far, spend all that money, be given such great opportunities, and then just sit there with nothing to say? Be prepared. Decide what you want to learn from each business. Seize the opportunity, and interact as much as possible with the people you meet.
5. Prepare to eat great food!
Another great thing about traveling through a variety of countries is the chance to try a variety of different cuisines, each with their own unique flavors. Whether you are a sushi fan, or enjoy the spiciness of Chinese hot-pot, or the subtleness of Vietnamese dishes, you can look forward to authentic versions of Asian foods that you may have tried before, as well as many that you have possibly never heard of. Be adventurous and try everything at least once!
Josh is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou. Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.