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Gabriel Benghiat

Good Morning, Vietnam!

by Gabriel Benghiat Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Over winter break, I had the privilege to travel to Vietnam as part of the Wisconsin MBA Global Business. This is a class offered every year with the goal of providing the opportunity for students to experience firsthand how global business is conducted and engage with a foreign culture. Along with fellow Bolz second years Katerina Herder and Nicole Kite, and 22 other Wisconsin MBAs, I spent a week in Ho Chi Minh City experiencing the business, culture, and food of this emerging global city.

Throughout the trip, I found myself making connections to what I was seeing with several of the topics I have learned during the MBA program. During a visit to a private hospital, they told us how they are reducing patient costs by only charging for the exact hours a hospital bed is used. This was a great example of cost allocation in action, which was covered in Managerial Accounting. At SC Johnson, we toured the plant floor where they package household cleaning products for the Pledge and Mr. Muscle brands. I was surprised to see that many of the steps in the process are still done by hand on the assembly line, rather than through an automated process. This took me back to studying inventory and process analysis in Operations Management, and I found myself analyzing the workflow and inventory in the plant to determine how efficiently the plant was running. And I drew upon skills from Negotiations while haggling on price with the vendors in Ben Thanh Market – and walked out with some really great deals!

We also had opportunities to visit arts organizations. Our group attended a water puppet show, a traditional Vietnamese form of entertainment combining dance, music, and puppetry. This was a great way to experience the culture and history of the country and take a break from all the company visits. We also toured the War Remnants Museum, where the story of the Vietnam War is presented from a perspective that I’m not used to, namely very anti-American. While I wasn’t expecting this narrative, I was reminded that this is the power of the arts – to tell stories and to stimulate thoughts and elicit emotional responses.

A major component of the Global Trip is a consulting project with a company in the foreign country. This is an opportunity to coalesce everything we’ve been learning in the MBA program and work with an actual client on a concrete project. My team is made up of both first and second years from several different centers, and we’re each bringing particular skills and knowledge to the group to produce well-researched and valuable deliverables for our client.

Since the Global Trip occurs at the tail-end of winter break, there was time to travel before the program and really get the most out of traveling in Southeast Asia. Prior to the program, a small group of us visited Siem Reap in Cambodia and Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. We went to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, celebrated the new year with thousands of Cambodians, took a cruise in Ha Long Bay – truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been – and ate incredible pho, amok, bahn mi, and other traditional dishes. I became very close with my fellow travelers and shared numerous once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This extra travel time contributed to a richer understanding of the people and culture of Vietnam and Cambodia and added to this engaging, thought-provoking, and cherished experience.

Overall, this experience was a very exciting and unique opportunity that the Wisconsin MBA program offers and I’m so thrilled to have participated in it. While I don’t plan to work for a global organization after graduation, the chance to immerse myself in a new culture and learn about global business will enhance who I am and how I engage as a business leader.