Category Archives: Asia Trip

MIM Asia Field Study Part 3 – Vietnam

By Jake Culian

Well our grand journey has come to its last stage. After leaving Shanghai we traveled further into Southeast Asia and ended up in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam.  Since we arrived late on a Friday night we spent the weekend doing cultural tours.  Our first tour took us down into the Mekong River Delta where we took multiple boat rides, some nice walks and a motorcycle buggy ride.  Here we’re enjoying the warm temperatures, the river breeze and coconut milk.


The second day of our cultural tour took us through the Presidential Palace and the Vietnam War Museum. Featured below is the exhibit on Agent Orange. At least for me personally it was definitely one of the rougher sections of the trip.  From the perspective of a business person it makes me think about the long term consequences of the sort of chemical products we create and use in business as well as on a daily basis.


The first company visit we had was with a Vietnamese Pharmaceuticals company called Amvipharm.  They are one of the companies working to fulfill the local need for antibiotics and dialysis fluids with plans to expand their productive capacities.  This visit was interesting because it gave us a look at the countries growing health insurance industry.  Afterwards we were treated to a lunch at a very tasty local restaurant.


The second company we visited was a commodities firm called Louis Dreyfus.  This international firm has a “farm to fork” policy where they try to secure vertical control of their supply chain.  This goes all the way down to creating symbiotic long term contracts with their crop producers where they help them become more efficient and sustainable.  One of the things I found most interesting here was all the different ways they had to work to control multiple sorts of risk and their use of insurance, forecasting, and the futures market.


Over the course of the trip there were several opportunities to take additional tours or excursions, like an acrobatic show. Here is the possible tour of the Cu Chi tunnels which four of our classmates took part in.  This tour shows some of the places and methods that the Viet Cong used to hide during the Vietnam War.  I didn’t take part in this tour, but I’m fairly certain there’s no way I was going to fit in that hole.


Near and dear to many Portland natives is Nike.  During our time in Vietnam we got to visit one of their 65 contract factories which produce almost half of their total footwear per year.  We got to hear from both the local corporate side of Nike as well as talk to the local factories management and their ongoing efforts to improve efficiency.   After coming seeing just how automated the factories in Japan were it was interesting to see the mix of automation and sheer manpower behind creating all these shoes.


Our last visit was to Datalogic, an Italian tech firm which mainly produces scanners and bar-code readers.  This facility offered us some of the most direct comparison on the differences in companies in Vietnam and China.  Datalogic and a firm I discussed earlier, Hella, had very similar layouts, but Hella made much more efficient use of its space and was far more organized.  This all said Datalogic received a Priority Enterprise Certificate from the government of Vietnam which grants it many privileges.


As our trip came to a close we spent some time at the Vietnam International University where we explored their campus and visited with local students.  After listening to short lecture we reunited with our professor and got right down to the serious business of singing.  Many groups had gone out to Karaoke at various points on the trip, but here we had a live audience of local students.  To wow them with our talents, our program director started off with a duet with one our cohort members and then we serenaded them with Chinese songs we had learned for the New year.


After we finished singing we dragged everyone down for the largest group photo of our entire trip.  The students here had been extremely welcoming and nobody had booed us off stage so I think it was a pretty great success.  Particularly fun for me was some assistance from a local student in finding an awesome Salsa club to go dancing at later that night in downtown Ho Chi Minh.


Well it was a crazy trip full of long plane rides, lots of buses, and even more awesome memories. Ho Chi Minh was definitely my favorite part of this trip, I loved the environment and the food was delicious.  Here was our closing banquet where we talked about plans for spring break and enjoyed one more night spent with each other before many of us started our mad dash back to the US.  While I went home the next day I highly recommend staying in Asia someplace, but do yourself a favor and make sure to rest a bit before you come back cause when you do school is waiting to start off sprinting.



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MIM Asia Field Study Part 2 – China

By Jake Culian

Last time we discussed our travels through Japan, but as soon as that was over the MIM cohort of 2015 dashed off to Shanghai.  While we had all greatly enjoyed Japan it was time to continue our adventure and visit one of the largest cities in China.  To start things off we had lunch on our first full day there on the eastern side of Shanghai.  In the background you can see faintly one of the tallest buildings in Shanghai.

China 1

One of the first companies we went to visit was an electronic car components manufacturer named Hella.  Hella is a German based firm with 4 facilities in China and we got to visit their Chinese headquarters.  This firm produces many car parts which include circuit boards or other electronic components and this facility prides itself for having the lowest defect rate among Hella factories.  After viewing their factory we got to talk to a top facility manager who was able to discuss with us many of the issues of their business in Shanghai and new market trends.

China 2

While we had traveled by bus on all our company visits in Tokyo while in Shanghai we got a special treat and got to ride the bullet train up to Nanjing to visit one of the Hanes factories.  It was amazing watching the speedometer march up towards 300 km/hr and not feel anything.  The Hanes factory was interesting in that they actually ship 70% of their yarn to China from the US and then ship the cut products elsewhere to be made into garments and finally back to the US as a finished good.  The excitement wasn’t over though because on our way back into Shanghai our train stopped less than a mile outside the station for an hour because of technical issues.  Guess everything can’t go smoothly.

China 3

One of our two cultural excursions during the China section of the trip took place in Nanjing where we got to visit the Nanjing History Museum.  Never one to miss the opportunity for a photo when we saw the development of man pictures we just had to recreate them as a development of the modern businessman.  The museum had a wide variety of artifacts from many different periods of Chinese history including pottery, art, furniture and recreations.

China 4

The next day we returned to making company visits and this time visited a Toll Global Forwarding facility located nearby our hotel in Shanghai.  The Toll Group is an Australian based logistics solutions provider which prided itself on coming up with innovative total solutions which help companies in more ways than just cutting costs in logistics.  In the background you can see an example of these logistics solutions where they would pick and pack multiple types of wine and send them together to end users as a way of saving their customer an addition step in the shipping process.

China 5

One of my personal favorite things about Shanghai was how centrally located we were.  Below you can see the hotel with a spaceship on top.  That’s the Radisson Blue Hotel and it’s located on Nanjing Road, a major commercial area with lots of shopping and amazing food.  From the hot pot restaurant we nicknamed painful pot to the Xinjiang style restaurant 2 blocks from where we were staying we never lacked for good food.  The park across the street had a really fun bar in a little pond as well.  Then of course there were the two buildings we decided were probably Sauron’s tower, one of which you can see right in the middle here.

China 6

My favorite company visit was this one below, a flavoring and fragrance company called Symrise.  Our host was a little hesitant about our visit and started out not entirely pleased to see us, but like everyone we have visited on this trip so far we were able to win them all over.  Everyone we have talked to so far has been surprised how international our cohort is and then even more surprised how challenging the questions we ask are.  Since school has started some class members have struggled with being forced to speak up and exit their comfort zones, but now we get to see the vast rewards as potential employers are impressed time and again by the level of thought we present.

China 7

Our second cultural tour was visiting Suzhou University about an hour and a half outside of Shanghai.  This was the second of three colleges that we will visit and seeing how different programs work is an extremely valuable part of this trip.  In addition it allows us to start making connections with people who are going to be working in the same sort of fields we will be.  The students guided us around Suzhou and then took us to a large garden complex.  It was fun getting to walk around a more traditional Chinese city and cool to get to know more international students.

China 8

As business students it would never do to leave a city like Shanghai without doing some firsthand research on local small business strategy.  Towards this end many of visited the old market district up near the bund above our hotel.  Walking through the market was a little bit of an overwhelming experience with huge numbers of people and endless little shops.  Since this is China they also take their lights and colors seriously as can be seen below.  Don’t let the colorful exterior fool you though, the shop owners are vicious bargainers.

China 9

And now we come to the end of our time in Shanghai and the beginning of the next adventure.  Our time in Shanghai wasn’t very long, only until the afternoon of Friday the 13th but we all had a fun time.  As the trip kept going we all started getting tired from the constant running around, but with only one country left we can’t stop now.  Here we’re waiting with our brave program director in the Shanghai International Airport for our airline to let us check in.  It was a great time in Shanghai, and next stop Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam!

China 10

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MIM Asia Field Study Part 1 – Japan

By Jake Culian

One of the coolest parts about the MIM program is the Asia trip.  We left Portland for Tokyo on March 1st and were there till the 8th.  We had all finished off finals the previous week and before any of us knew what was happening we were sitting in the airport waiting to fly overseas.


With the glories of the International Date Line we took off at 11am and didn’t land until 3pm the next day.  After being stuck on a plane for almost 11 hours we did what any hungry college student would do… we went and found food.  Needless to say we were not disappointed with the food we found here.


We had the pleasure of staying the Grand Prince Takanawa Hotel during our stay here.  The first morning we all got dressed up and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast.  Then before we got on our bus to go visit our first company we took a group photo to commemorate the occasion.


As our very first company visit we got to see the Kewpie Mayonnaise plant.  This is a really interesting facility which has the ability to automatically crack around 20,000 tons of eggs per year.  We got to see these machines in action and they were quite interesting and part of a highly automated process, but like in most of the facilities we visited we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the process, so this is the line-up of salad dressings the produce which they allowed us to sample during lunch.


Later during the week we got to visit one of the Nissan plants located near Tokyo.  They produce 4 kinds of cars here including the Leaf electric car all on the same assembly line and in the order they are desired.  It was cool to see the differences between this plant producing regular sized cars and the Hino Toyota plant producing large trucks.  In this picture one of our translators, Hiroshi from Direct Force, is helping us ask questions to the guide from Nissan.


As is probably becoming clear I really enjoyed all the opportunities we had to eat good food and no trip would be complete without the opportunity to eat from a chocolate fondue fountain.


As someone who grew up in the United States it never ceases to amaze me just how huge cities in Asia can be.  From our hotel rooms we could look out across the city and see Tokyo Tower.  Getting the chance to go and explore the city definitely exposed us to a vast set of cultural differences for those of us from the US and China.


Almost as important as seeing how facilities and factories work in Asia is looking at the local culture.  We were given a free day to go out and explore the city on Saturday March 7th and most students explored the city.  This was one of the most impressive sights anyone found, a shrine which our Thai students went to go see.


On one of the last days before we left for Shanghai we visited with a group of Japanese economics students at Tokyo Kaizi University.  They really made us feel at home and helped teach us how to prepare a variety of Japanese traditional foods.  Here we are trying to evenly cook Takoyaki.


Finally as we prepared to leave Tokyo to make our way to Shanghai we all posed back in the gardens behind the Grand Prince Takanawa Hotel.  We had a blast visiting Japan and I know I really look forward to making it back at some point.  We got a chance to grow as a cohort and see how many of the concepts we learn in class are applied in real life.



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MIM Survival Guide: Gearing Up For The Asia Trip

It may seem early for new MIM students to start thinking about the Asia Trip for 2014, but by the time classes start it will seem like a whirlwind until that first plane ride to Japan. Below are some travel tips and things new students should begin to consider during this fall. 581677_10151548796807209_966615523_n

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5 Tips for Students on Future MIM Asia Trips

IMG_0041The 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.IMG_9418

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 IMG_9246them 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!IMG_0005


Joshua Thorpe 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.

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Asia Trip Review

After seven or more flights and many hours spent in transit our MIM class arrived back to PorIMG_0109tland last weekend. We are full of memories and a greater understanding of what businesses and factories look like in Japan, China and Vietnam.

True to its reputation, Japan was clean, orderly, efficient and full beautiful temples, shrines and gardens. While in Tokyo our class visited the Kewpie mayonnaise factory, this might be surprising but one of the things we were observing was the high level of automation on the factory floor. We also visited Nissan Motors, Hino Motors and the Bridgestone Tire Factory. Since we were in Japan, home of Just in Time production strategy we witnessed the pull system on many of the automobile production lines.


Kewpie Doll

We later headed east to Shanghai, China. I was looking forward to this stop as I was able to practice my limited Chinese skills. The hotel we stayed in was in a great location, right in the center of the shopping district, with easy access to the riverfront. On our first day we went on a city tour to the Jade Buddha Temple, Yuyuan Gardens, The Bund (riverfront) and to the Shanghai Urban Planning Center. While in Shanghai we visited General Motors, Skull Candy, Lenovo, 3M and Ogilvy & Mather. I really enjoyed visiting 3M and hearing about (and seeing) all of their amazing innovations.

Our next stop was down south, the temperatures increased and the humidity set in, we were off to Saigon, Vietnam. I was glad that our class went to Saigon, we were able to compare the different stages of economic development compared to Tokyo and Shanghai. Saigon is Vietnam’s largest city and is experience large amounts of foreign direct investment and development. We visited Becamex, Nike,


Part of the MIM group in the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai

Microsoft and HSBC. It was really interesting to visit Becamex’s industrial park in Binh Duong

province. The industrial park has attracted a lot of foreign direct investment that has led to the creation of more jobs for the area.

During the 4th week of our tour we all dispersed to the USA, Japan, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The trip was a lot of fun and I am so thankful I got to experience it with a great group of friends!

MIM students on the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

MIM students on the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Some of the MIM men in Japan

Some of the MIM men in Japan


MIM students at The Bund in Shanghai

Susan Forrester


 Susan Forrester is a full-time student in the Masters in International Management program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Portland State University. After living in Seoul, South Korea for two years she was interested in finding a career that linked Oregon and Asia together through trade. Susan enjoys the diverse background of the MIM student body that allows her to frequently practice her beginner level Chinese.

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Asia Field Study

Sayōnara さようなら

Zàijiàn 再见

Good bye!

The full-time and second year part-time MIM students are off to Asia tomorrow.  We will be traveling through Japan, China and Vietnam for the month of March. Here is a summary of the cities we will be visiting and the companies and factories we will be touring.

Tokyo, Japan


  • Kewpie Corporation plant tour
  • Nissan Oppama Plant (Yokosuka-shi)
  • Bridgestone
  • Hino Motors

Shanghai, China

  • Shanghai General MotorsCN_Flag
  • Oglivy & Mather
  • Skullcandy
  • Lenovo factory tour
  • 3M

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Nike/HSBC/Colgate factory tourvietnam-flag
  • Microsoft
  • Phillips Lighting

As we are traveling we plan to update the blog, however due to time zones and internet access our schedule might not be as regular. We will be posting lots of photos and hopefully some videos.

We will return to our regular schedule in April.

Susan Forrester


 Susan Forrester is a full-time student in the Masters in International Management program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Portland State University. After living in Seoul, South Korea for two years she was interested in finding a career that linked Oregon and Asia together through trade. Susan enjoys the diverse background of the MIM student body that allows her to frequently practice her beginner level Chinese.

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