Hard to believe it, but the international component of the FIELD curriculum is now finished! I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that my own personal experience was overwhelmingly positive.
I was initially worried that just one week with our partner organizations was a woefully small amount of time, and the management consultant inside of me was freaked out that, as a result of our limited time here, our final presentation wouldn’t be up to snuff. In reality, however, I think we…gasp…added value! Now, I’m not saying that we crunched all of our partner organization’s data and developed a completely new strategy for them or anything, but I do feel like we brought some new ideas and perspectives to the table. We interviewed more than thirty of their customers, and used the insights we gained, in addition to what we learned from our partners themselves, to apply some of our own thinking to their business. I also learned a ton about doing business in Vietnam. Needless to say, it’s a totally different environment than anything I’m used to, and it was interesting to see how our partner navigated the ups and downs of operating as a state owned enterprise in the country.
In addition to the actual work, we had a ton of fun. Saigon is a cool city with lots of awesome restaurants and nightlife. Needless to say, HBS took the city by storm and I don’t know that we (or Saigon, for that matter) have totally recovered. We also took a jaunt down south one morning to visit the Củ Chi tunnels outside of Saigon. The Viet Cong used this network (more than 250 km long) of tunnels during the war to fight and to hide. It was a crazy experience, especially since it really wasn’t all that long ago that they were in use. We got the chance to creep through some of the tunnels that had, conveniently, been widened to permit “Western-sized tourists” (is that a euphemism for something??) fit through. Not gonna lie…it was tight:
Now I’m off to Hanoi with friends to do a bit more traveling before the real world (e.g., school, job search, general expectations of day-to-day productivity) hits me like a freight train back in Boston.