Saturday, March 13, 2004

GTLS Singapore

While I was at Texas A&M for my masters, I joined this student organization called IAESTE (i-yes-tay) and pretty much got to travel a lot, to Singapore, Japan, Europe, Baltimore and Lake Tahoe. And, the best part.... it was all paid for. How did I manage to do this, let me tell you.

IAESTE stands for the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience. I know, really long name, but what can you say, the Austrians came up with it along with other European countries after WWII. It was created with a vision of having technical students getting international internships so that they could grow globally in their field.

They way it works today is that a local chapter at a university finds internships on their campus or in the nearby area and then trades them for internships with other countries. When I applied, I had the chance to work for Volvo in Sweden for 6 months in their aerodynamics group. And I was also given a second offer from Alstom, a big power generation company in Switzerland. There are also jobs in research labs. I had to turn them down, as Motorola came through with an internship in Ft. Lauderdale, which I took to help me get the full time position.

Now, about the travel. Since IAESTE is an international organization, they've got chapters all over the world and they hold various conferences to have students from different chapters interact and also put their globalization skills to work.

In March of 2004, IAESTE was invited to send about 6 students from its chapters in the US to attend a conference in Singapore and Japan hosted by Arizona State University called the Global Tech Leaders Symposium. The purpose of the conference was to expose engineering and business students to globalization in the tech sector. We were to visit certain tech firms, economic/business presentations and tours of facilities to show us the reality of globalization. The first part of the trip was actually sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board as they wanted to show us future corporate leaders the global business environment in multi-cultural Singapore. I was hoping this would look good on my resume.

I applied after being with my local chapter for 6 months and got selected. And maybe my quick rise to president and overhauling our chapter had something to do with it. But, I still had to find the funding on my own, about $2000 for airfare, hotels and certain meals. No problem. I started writing fundraising letters to various departments on campus and suprisingly, the money was easy to come by. There are departments that actually have budgets allocated for student travel and getting exposure for the school, which was an angle that I pushed, stating that I was selected with 6 others across the country to go on this conference. Some alumni donate specifically saying that the money has to go towards student development, and this trip qualified for that. In the end, money came by pretty easy. All I had to do in return was give a presentation when I came back.

The main groups of students that were going to be attending the ten day conference were IAESTE US, Rice University (Houston), Arizon State, Macquarie University (Sydney), Tokyo Tech, Nanyang Tech (Singapore) and Malmo University (Sweden).

Cick here for an article from Arizona State about the GLTS trip.

Another part of this trip was to do some high-tech community service in Singapore. We would be participating in International Students With Advanced Technologies (I-SWAT). Two months before the conference, groups were formed by students from the various unviersities and we were given a task to accomplish through the internet that would be implemented when we were in Singapore. Projects included designing and launching websites, creating databases, and building computer networks for local organizations. My group had a guy from Tokyo Tech and three girls from ASU, Rice and Malmo. Our task was to create a simple online form for volunteers working at a retired community. It was fun to work only through email and get this done. It was an easy task, but interesting to see it being accomplished with strangers across borders.

The itinerary was five days in Singapore and five in Tokyo. There was a lots of free time to do touristy things and the chaperones, as such, were a really cool bunch. In the pictures below, I've tried to show the fun side as well as the conference part of it, which was also fun for the most part.

My I-SWAT team: moi, Tiffany (ASU), Linda (Rice), Lina (Malmo) and Danny (Tokyo) in front of the Merlion, the symbol of Singapore.

Having a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar, famous colonial establishment. We were sent on a scavenger hunt the first day to explore the city. We had to take pictures with a digi cam of various places. One of them was at the Long Bar.

Boat Quay (key), a promenade along the riverfront with bars and restaurants, which really comes to life at night. The water wasn't as muddy as shown.

Taking a river cruise

Our 5-star hotel, the Merchant Court Swissotel

View from my room

At the opening ceremony for the conference with the IAESTE US team: Cy (Virginia Tech), Erin (U Minnesota), Debbie (IAESTE US), moi, Sandhya (U of Illinois, Singapore native), Garrett (Minnesota), Mary (Carengie Melon) and Jared (VT). It was held at the Night Safari park. We went on a little open train through the park and saw animals that were not caged but in their natural environment. The only thing separating us was a big ditch. Very cool experience.

Getting a traditional Japanese welcome from the Tokyo Tech group at the ceremony. They were really loud.

Clarke Quay, another happening place along the river

Meeting up at Clark Quay before heading out

Walking over to the Centaur Club, part of the Fullerton Hotel (in the background)

There were interesting sculptures along the pathways and Garrett (Minnesota), Liz, Steph and Ven (all Houston) posing on a bull.

One really cool aspect of this trip was the immediate close friends that everyone made. Everyone from all the different schools and countries, had the same mentality of exploring and having fun. Being around like-minded people was such a thrill.

Party people, taking an underground automated walkway (mirror shot).

At the Centaur Club. Didn't know who those two other girls were. The older guy was a chaperone from the Swedish university. This was one happening club.

All of a sudden, a space was cleared on the dance floor and these acrobatics started doing a little act. Never seen this in a dance club before.

Giving a presentation for our I-SWAT project with Tiffany

Getting a certificate of appreciation

Our group with the JiaYing Retirement Home volunteers

Taking a look at the one of the living quarters

Getting suited up in bunny suits for a tour of ST Micro's semiconductor fabrication facility

The group in bunny suits

Stylin' it maanh

Strict fines imposed inside the factory. Durian is the national fruit of Singapore and has a really strong pungent smell. It's banned from many places for its smell.

What are they having so much fun about...

A thermal imaging camera at the front desk to check like at the Asian airports if people entering the facility are sick. Dont want them to spread germs. We are so easily amused.

Dosa is a crepe-like South Indian dish that you have with lentil curry or chutney. My favorite Indian food.

Near a shopping mall on Orchid Road - the main shopping street. Too bad the picture wasnt properly
framed. Next time.

An Indian Hindu Temple. Singapore is made up of descendants from Malaysia, China and Southern India.

Singapore's Financial District. The country may be small but it's an Asian powerhouse.

Their subways were excellent. The stations were also immaculate.

Having South Indian food in Little India. Mmm mmm good.

Near China Town. Being a former British colony, driving is on the left-hand side.

Having Tiger Beer (Singaporean) in China Town with Jess (Houston), Garrett and Liz

Promenade of China Town

Sculpture of boys jumping in the river on a hot day. The first time you see this you always do a double take. It looks so real. The amazing thing is the boy on the bottom, is only connected by the foot of the boy on top of him.

River sunset over Clark Quay

Clarke Quay coming to life

This is Amy (Houston)

Either they're playing innocent with this sign, or it really means what they're advertising...

Jurek (Yurik, from Houston).. a kinky little store...

No comment

On the bus with Linda (Houston) going to Nanyang Technological University.

Connie (Aussie) sharing Australian English with us. For McDonalds, they say "Maccas." We had a hoot on this ride hearing wierd Aussie sayings. Haha.

At the NTU Info Session

On the NTU Campus with Linda and Scott (Aussie)

Something cool that was told to us at NTU was that in Singapore, since more and more young people were becoming career-minded and pushing off marriage, the birth rate was declining rapidly. At NTU, you had mostly guys doing engineering. Then at the business school in the city, you had mostly girls. So what did the government do? They made the guys take a few classes at the business school and the girls take a few classes at NTU. They were openly encouraging dating and marriage and having kids. Wow.

On the riverfront with Steph, Amy, Liz, Debbie, Garrett and Yu (Tokyo). I mainly hung out with this group throughout the conference and even till today, we keep in touch.

Tamar (Houston) getting a sparkler in her coconut drink

Debbie and Cy in the typical tourist picture in a cycle rickshaw

The two Swedish girls on the trip, Lina and Carolyn

Heading to a night club called Zouk. We had 17 people in this mini van.

Taking the cable car to Sentosa Island with Garrett and Liz. Sentosa is a small island which is entirely a big theme park with roller coaster rides, aquariums, musuems, forts, beaches, etc.

The cable car crossing the harbor

Sentosa is identified as the southern most tip of continental Asia

Liz, thinking about taking a picture with this python. Thankfully she declined. I can't stand snakes.

Garrett and Liz in the under water tunnel at the aquarium. There's a shark behind them.

Water dragon sculpture

The beach with cargo ships in the distance

Scott and Jurek with a bunch of signs. Note the No Durian sign.

Having dinner at one of many open food courts. Food was cheap and good.

Action shot at the swimming pool at our hotel with Liz and Garrett

Eating in the streets at Smith Street. Once a week, I think Wednesday nights, local restaurants are invited to have a food stall on the street where people can eat outdoors. Very lively area.

The rest of the group

Waiting at the Singapore Airport for our United flight to Tokyo

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