LINC Taipei | Student Blog
Last Thoughts from an American Foreigner - Brendan Nguyen

It’s been exactly two weeks since our LINC class departed Taipei to return home, and it’s truly been bittersweet. While I would love nothing more to spend my time in Los Angeles where English is the dominant language and I won’t get lost trying to find my way in the city, being a first-timer in Taiwan - even Asia, at that - was an experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. Imagine walking around a foreign country with absolutely no firsthand knowledge of the culture, the language, and the area. I was so useless without the help of friends who either knew how to speak Mandarin or had been to Taiwan before. But this was great for one reason: I was able to experience Taiwan with a fresh perspective. Here are my takeaways.

Taiwanese people are so polite to foreigners. From hotel bellhops to restaurant waiters, the service that my class received during our time abroad was arguably the best anywhere around. The way everyone in Taiwan catered to us deserved nothing but the highest praise. The best example of this was when we went on company tours. From Giant to KYMCO, from Ritek to FEBICO, the various CEOs and company representatives who escorted us patiently took the time to show us how their businesses functioned from the ground up. I know that we were all so appreciative for each of them to sacrifice a few hours of their work day to host a group of university students.

Taiwan, in general, is very organized. Like my co-blogger Sida mentioned, one example of this is the escalator system which was mostly prevalent in the metro stations. How it works is that an imaginary line divides the escalator in half: the right half is for those who aren’t in a hurry and the left half is for those who want to walk up. This system, in my eyes, is so efficient in preventing overcrowding that I wish it was adopted in the United States.

Lastly, I feel like Taipei was such an exciting city that there was always something to do during our free time. Whether it was visiting the Shilin Night Market or heading out to tourist attractions like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, every minute spent outside of company tours was never a dull one. Combined with the fact that transportation via taxi and train was relatively cheap compared to that in the United States, sightseeing is affordable and necessary in Taiwan.

I’d like to end my LINC blogging experience with a few thanks. Thanks so much to Professor Wolfe, Josh, and Lauren for organizing a seamless, well-run trip to Taipei. My first time traveling outside of North America was a fantastic one, and it couldn’t have been without the three of you always making sure that every item in our itinerary was run smoothly. Thanks to my entire LINC class for making this trip an extremely enjoyable one. You all are some of the brightest and most fun individuals I’ve ever met, and it was a joy to make friends with you. And finally, thanks to anyone who took the time to read this year’s Taipei blog, run by Sida and myself. I hope that we were able to provide you all with a clear perspective of our travels in Taipei. I think I can speak for both of us that we would highly recommend LINC to any prospective Marshall freshman student. No matter what country you’re paired with, you’ll end up having the best week of your freshman experience.

And with that, it was a pleasure blogging for you all!

-Brendan Nguyen

A Whole New World— Sida Lu

I was originally born in China and moved to the Bay Area when I was five. Since then, I’ve visited cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in various summers and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese at home. I consume copious amounts of Chinese food, and my parents named me “Sida Lu,” for crying out loud.

Going into this trip, I thought I knew what to expect. I assumed that Taiwan would be very similar to all the all cities in China that I had already visited, and that I’d get acclimated right away—no culture shock here!

Man, was I wrong. 

Cities like Beijing are fairly polluted, with smog that blocks out the sun and simulates cloudy days. There’s also a lot of foot traffic everywhere, with bikers and pedestrians jostling for position near the sidewalk, and cars honking at each other on the streets. In general, theres a lot going on and it always feels muggy, dirty, and crowded.

Taiwan, on the other hand, was like the perfect balance of East and West. I was extremely surprised at how clean it was everywhere, despite the fact that there are very few trash cans lying around. I guess the Taiwanese citizens all just held onto their trash, rather than litter— self control rare in the States, even with so many public trash cans around.

The people in Taiwan were also extremely nice and helpful to strangers.  Most of our cab drivers were really knowledgeable about the city and were always willing to share and answer questions, leading to some interesting conversations.

Unfortunately, we had one cab driver that dropped us off at the wrong location, a few blocks down from where we actually wanted to go. But this was quickly fixed by the fact that literally everyone we stopped on the street was more than willing to take some time and point us in the right direction.

And lastly, perhaps the thing I appreciated the most was the customer service everywhere we went. In America, I’ve ran into some pretty bad service— people with bad attitudes who look like they hate their jobs, but still expect a generous tip. In Taiwan, it was the complete opposite. The cleaning staff cleaned our messy rooms twice a day, and refused to take any tips the entire week. The front desk was available 24 hours a day and once spent an entire hour researching an offhand request of mine. Servers check in on you regularly and make sure all of your needs are met, no matter how strange; considering that they were serving American college students, there were definitely some strange requests. 

All in all, I learned a lot about Taiwan during my time there. From the efficient public transportation to the unique night markets and who could forget the breathtaking memorials like the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and how the city just burst into life at night…I’m definitely going to go back the first chance I get.

-Sida Lu

"Let’s get down to business"— Sida Lu

I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say that Taiwan has been an absolutely amazing experience for us all. We left USC with our freshman year of college under our belts, but still very much fledgling business students just beginning to learn about the world we were attempting to join.

Once we arrived in Taiwan, we began company visits at a frenetic pace, traveling all over the country to meet with CEOs and PR representatives, getting an invaluable inside look into how successful (and not so successful) business ventures operate overseas.

There will be more in depth thoughts about our company visits after the break, but in summary, I felt like this trip really opened our eyes to the different business philosophies of the Eastern world, compared to the business ways of America that we have grown accustomed to.

For one, it was clear that almost all of the companies we visited had a strong sense of pride in their products, and producing things their own way. They like to rest on accolades instead of outright advertise and “brag” and enforce company cultures that are very focused on things like honor and respect.

Beyond the companies though, all of the people that we met were not only extremely knowledgeable, but also humble and very nice to us. In America, foreigners are not always treated well and we had all come to know the warnings of how America was viewed by the rest of the world, so it was a bit of a pleasant surprise. Nobody was above talking to college students and answering our questions, from the people at the front desk, to CEOs of these multi-million dollar corporations. They also took care to make sure we stayed on schedule in the grand scheme of our daily itinerary, respecting our time and even making outside arrangements so that we could stay on track, ordering us food to go etc.

Warning: pretty dense text after the page break

American Institute in Taiwan (AiT)

The first “company” visit we had in Taiwan was at AiT located at the Taipei World Trade Center, which acts as the United States’ unofficial embassy in Taiwan (since Taiwan is not officially recognized as a country). Initially, I didn’t take this visit too seriously since it just discussed many of the economic and political issues that Taiwan is dealing with currently— all information we had gone over repeatedly both in LINC classes during the semester, and during our individual research sessions. It was, however, very interesting to meet the people working at AiT, and get information on their rigorous journeys on getting to work at an “embassy.”

I would also end up to be very very wrong about the importance of the information we received at AiT. In fact, it’d be this very information that tied in with the business operations of our last company visit of Taiwan, CP Logistics Inc.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the time, I believe my major takeaway from this visit was the catchphrase:

“We look like a duck, we talk like a duck, but we’re not ducks.”

in regard to AiT’s embassy status.

Here is a picture of Professor Wolfe and some of our LINC class exiting the building:

image

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (ASUS)

Immediately after we left AiT, we headed to ASUS, the Taiwanese based computer manufacturing giant— our first “real” company visit of the trip.

ASUS gave us a very warm welcome and led us to their presentation room, where several PR representatives gave us an over view of their company, before showing us some of their intricate and high tech products. All of the PR representatives seemed to be more or less fluent in English, which was quite impressive, considering only a handful of our class knew any Chinese at all, much less speak it fluently. It also delayed the culture shock of language until future company visits. Although very few of us had heard of ASUS back in the States, and even fewer of us owned ASUS products, ASUS has a very large market share in Asia, and a downright dominant marketshare in Taiwan.

Among the products we were shown was a product that ASUS had not yet launched in America: the Padfone, Padfone 2, and Padfone Infinity. These probably impressed us the most, as it featured an integrated docking system that allowed the phone and tablet to seamlessly function in combination. The PR representatives also led us to their show room, where we were able to have a hands on experience with many of their products, while also having multiple representatives nearby to talk to and ask questions.

Although flaws with certain products were eventually realized during the Q & A session (price points, the Padfone tablet doesn’t function without the presence of the phone etc.), our visit to ASUS was more about the glimpse into their company culture. It was very much a prideful institution that focused on innovation and staying ahead of the pack, while not boasting of its accomplishments through elaborate ad campaigns. ASUS was happy simply resting on the laurels of their accomplishments, and many innovation awards they had accumulated over the years. The setting of the company was very much like Google, where employees were given free meals at the cafeteria, and had the luxuries of a gym and rooftop pool, along with this amazing view:

image

Despite being skeptical about the products they showed/advertised to us, we were all very impressed with the company itself and how it was run, as well as the benefits that ASUS offered its employees. It emulated the luxuries of a top “Western” corporation, while still maintaining its more humble “Eastern” company philosophies.

Here is a picture of the ASUS sign as we were leaving. My friend Kenneth insisted on joining the picture:

image

HoCheng Group (HCG)

ASUS was definitely interesting, but their showroom, briefing room, and facilities were all heavily reminiscent of the companies that are so prevalent on the West Coast, especially in LA and from where I came from, the Bay Area/Silicon Valley.

HCG was something else— our first experience of a “different” company. HCG was extremely friendly towards us, welcoming us with a parade of people, ushering us towards refreshments that they had provided. They had a very modern showroom and demonstration area, where they showed us their higher end products, as well as innovations they have made to make their washbasins, toilets, etc. much more safer to use. But it was the tour of their factories that really made an impact on me.

At first, I thought the HCG setup with the administrative building so close to all of its factories was very “The Office” esque, but after touring them, they were anything but.

In America, we expect factories to have minimum safety requirements, and essentially be tedious and mind-numbing work but at least in workable conditions. Unfortunately, since HCG works with ceramics in most of their products, their factories had to be kept at a certain temperature, so AC units were out of the question. The factories themselves were hot and humid, much like Taiwan, but magnified with the intense smell of chemicals mixing with ceramic products. It was hard to imagine staying in such a place for more than an hour, but for many of the factory employees, this was their livelihoods. Although HCG’s factories were probably the worst conditions to work in out of all the factories we toured, it was sobering and humbling to really see for ourselves where a lot of products that we take for granted get made, and how much literal sacrifice goes into things.

It also makes the thought of true sweatshop work even more deplorable.

Snapshots of the factories:

image

image

Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI)

Our next company visit was ITRI, which is a nonprofit company that deals primarily with innovation and invention, without worrying about marketing or production.

ITRI was most interesting because of its business model, where all of its revenue is used as budget, and its revenue is composed of 50% commissions from companies and donations, and 50% government funding. ITRI is very comparable to America’s own Silicon Valley, and the gadgets they showed us were very practical and impressive. There was paper that also functioned as top-line speakers, hose nozzles for firefighters that also doubled as a generator for LED lights, robotic arms that could calculate trajectories instantly and make alot of basketball hoops etc.

No photos allowed here though…sorry! Definitely a very interesting organization and a place a lot of my classmates agreed they’d like to work at.

RITEK

Ritek is one of the world’s leaders in electronic storage and began their ascent in the business world on the back of their CD and DVD production. The most interesting part about this company was their change in mindset as global consumption habits shifted away from physical storage and went more towards USBs and now, Cloud storage.

Here is a picture of their CD/DVD production factory. It was highly mechanized, a contrast from HCG, which required alot of manual labor and attention. This was very clean, and very precise.

image

Obviously, the shift of global preference away from their primary product cut into their profit margins and as their CEO told us, Ritek had a few shaky years. However, Ritek diversified their products and actually broke itself into several “sub-companies” that all specialized in different parts of the storage market, and other markets that are tangentially related. The CEO of Ritek also stressed to us the importance of timing for most non massive conglomerate companies, and the change of their company motto from Leading Innovation, to “Right people, right product, right time.”

image

Giant Bicycles

Giant was a bit of a departure from the Taiwanese style of companies that we were adjusting to. Giant sells all sorts of bicycles, from very cheap low-end bikes to top of the line, carbon fiber high performance bikes— typically what we consider a very niche market in the United States, where cars dominate the streets.

In Asian countries, biking takes more of a precedent, but most people still either walk, drive, or ride mopeds to get around. Because of this, however, Giant’s mindset was not simply to set out and sell their products, but to sell a ‘way of life” or sell to the public their own company culture. A quote from their CEO and founder really stuck with me: “Walking is too slow, driving is too fast. Riding is the perfect speed to enjoy life.” And its a quote that the entire company believes in, having all of their top executives from all around the country come together and ride across Taiwan to demonstrate their love of riding and their love for their product. Giant wasn’t just selling their products and hoping people bought into their lifestyle though. In (what I regarded as) one innovative marketing move, Giant partnered with the city of Taipei to set up several “rent a bike” stations that citizens could easily access and use to get around. This allows them to introduce their products to consumers without paying for advertising, as well as develop a biking infrastructure to promote the sales of their product— all on government dime. Not bad at all!

Unfortunately, this was one of our last company visits of the particular day and I was extremely drained so I didn’t take many photos. The high end bikes were amazing though, and after their presentation I kind of wanted to buy one of their bikes for myself.

Japin

Japin helped reaffirm the importance of family when it came to business in Taiwan. Other companies also alluded to this and you could definitely see hints of family in company structures if you looked in the right places, but the CEO of Japin shared with us some important insight on carrying on the family business, remaining true to family ideals while still maintaining profits, and how to juggle family with work when family and work often merge into one and the same. She talked of the conflicts that she and her brother have over the direction of Japin, as well as how her entire life was essentially interwoven with Japin.

Once she told us her story, I began to realize just how prevalent family owned businesses are in Taiwan. From the smallest stalls at the night market, to corporations as big as KYMCO and RITEK, Taiwanese companies try to keep business within the family.

Here is a picture of me trying to assemble one of Japin’s water filters after being shown how by one of the factory managers. 

image

KYMCO Motors

KYMCO headquarters was located in KaoHsiung, which was on the complete opposite side of Taiwan. To get there, we had to wake up before 6AM and board a high speed train. Needless to say, very few of us remember anything about that morning ride…

image

But once we got to KaoHsiung and KYMCO, everyone more or less was well rested. KYMCO was interesting because it is a big producer of a vehicle that is very rarely seen in American markets, but is hugely popular in Asia and parts of Europe: the moped. KYMCO’s factories were a perfect balance between HCG and Giant’s— each individual part/gear was carefully hand made. There were very few comprehensive machines; the factory was made up mostly of smaller machines that helped the workers complete the task, rather than a bunch of machines working and workers supervising.

image

We also ate lunch with some KYMCO executives— once the language barrier was overcome, it was extremely cool to get their insight on all sorts of things. The guys were also crazy considerate. One of my friends left his iPhone at the restaurant where we ate and didn’t realize until hours later. Once KYMCO found out, their CFO personally went to retrieve the phone and drove out to our high speed train station to meet us before we headed back to Taipei. Considerate, humble… you name it.

Here is Tony, KYMCO’s manager for factory safety with Peter, the man who lost his phone.

image

CP Logistics

Our last company visit in Taiwan was perhaps the most unique of them all. Every company we had previously visited was more or less successful, with a big market share and constant meeting of their goals.

CP Logistics, however, is the story of an ambitious man named John Cheng, who wagered 60 million U.S. dollars on the passage of a political treaty between Taiwan and China 20 years ago. His vision was to build a logistics company at the port of KaoHsiung with a massive automated sorting/docking/storage system that would essentially be able to function 24/7 while Taiwan became a hub of global trade under this agreement.

The political instability between Taiwan and China that I mentioned earlier in this post would come back to bite him, however, as the treaty that he was waiting for for almost 20 years only just recently came to pass in 2011. By 2011, his automated warehouse was lacking in business, and the building he dreamed of was largely empty warehouse after empty warehouse.

This visit made me realize just how risky and fickle business was, that even the surest of things could go wrong. John Cheng’s vision 20 years ago was revolutionary, and he had every single aspect of his plan checked out. He even had government word that the treaty was about to pass, covering his last tracks. Had the treaty passed, his company would have become a huge success and been hugely profitable. Instead, today he is left with a massive building that he rents out to small events, and an unused automated warehouse system. Where he once dreamed of huge profits, a much older John Cheng had to overcome his failures and today he only dreams of paying back the 40 million dollars he owes, and clearing his family’s name of debt. I also found it extremely admirable that John Cheng was able to smile and laugh about his huge failure with visitors, and still holds out hope that someday his company will meet his original expectations. He told Professor Wolfe as we left CP Logistics: “I hope next year when you guys come I will not be able to show you my automated warehouse (as it will be fully operational and not possible to step inside of)”

Here is a picture of John Cheng’s completely automated warehouse and essentially the biggest/most costly dream and ambition of his life:

image

And that was all of our company visits on this trip. We also visited places like Children R Us, and National Taiwan University for a Case Competition with Febico Inc. but I’ll probably cover that in a separate post.

In hindsight, there probably was a way better way to organize this rather than doing it company by company and creating this massive behemoth of a post.

If you do happen to read this far, thanks for your time and I hope you didn’t find it too wasted reading my post.

 Special thanks to my co-blogger Brendan for a couple of the photos in this post. He was much more diligent with his photography than I was.

One more post to come!

Until then,

-Sida

Business View - Brendan Nguyen

image

Welcome University of Southern California, to Taipei.

While I was super excited to experience the culture of Taiwan prior to arriving here, I was equally as ecstatic to learn more about international business through a Taiwanese scope. Like many of my classmates, I had a few questions about companies that operated outside of the United States. How different were they from American companies? Were they better? Worse? I applied to go on LINC Taipei in order to develop a more mature perspective into this side of business.

Throughout our week in Taipei, my class visited a great number of companies - ranging from 2 to 3 daily. In fact, we had to wake up progressively earlier just so we could fit in a lot of visits in our itinerary; I cannot believe we were able to leave the hotel at 6 AM on one day.

The companies that we visited belonged to a variety of industries - from technology to sports. Here are some of my favorite companies:

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. image

Hocheng Corp. image

Giant Manufacturing image

By visiting a diverse group of businesses, my class was able to learn more about many different industries. Although these company tours took a long while, they were very enjoyable and informative. An opportunity to look in-depth at all aspects of a business - from production to management - like this is extremely rare, especially for students our age. I could not ask for anything more from this trip, and I have to thank Professor Wolfe, Lauren, and Josh for organizing this incredible trip and taking the time to make sure that everything ran smoothly. LINC Taipei 2013 was perfect, and I am glad that I was a part of it.

-Brendan Nguyen

Cultural View - Brendan Nguyen

image

Spending a week in Taipei was an experience unlike any other I have encountered. As I had mentioned before, this was my first time traveling outside of North America. A true foreigner, I was not sure how Taipei would treat me. Of course, I expected that this city would be rich of culture - but then again, I think that every time I travel to a foreign country. Nevertheless, I knew that I would be able to see some sort of Taiwanese culture.

However, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw this past week. I did not realize how overwhelmingly beautiful Taiwanese culture was. Right from the beginning, when my class landed in Taipei, we were treated to something special. We spent the first day sightseeing, going to the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101. The National  Palace Museum featured incredible historical artifacts - ranging from the Jadeite Cabbage to the Meat-Shaped Stone - that were generations old. Taipei 101 (pictured above) was literally breathtaking, as it used to be the tallest building in the world. Pictured below is a view from the top of this jade-colored building.

image

This photo of the view below Taipei 101 is a fairly accurate depiction of Taipei in general. The city is your typical metropolis, filled with towering buildings and vibrant colors. Only difference between Taipei and other cities around the world is that you would be hard-pressed to find another city like Taipei with a countless number of mopeds speeding across the streets. Taipei is also very green, perhaps due to the perfect humid conditions needed to grow lush foliage.

image

The Shilin Night Market is another cultural staple of Taipei. It is branded as the largest night market in the country. I went there twice with a group of friends, and I can vouch for its vastness. I do not think anyone can go through every square feet (or meter, since that is the form of measure here) of this place in one or two trips. It is humongous, full of street vendors selling food and merchandise ranging from shoes to headphones, from clothes to lighters. Of course, I came mostly for the food. Between my two trips, here are some of the traditional Taiwanese foods that I sampled.

Papaya milk: image

Fried oyster: image

Unfortunately, I did not have the courage to try the infamous stinky tofu, the smell of which strongly permeated throughout the entire night market. Needless to say, whatever interest I had in eating it quickly disappeared the moment my nose told my mouth that stinky tofu is something not to be messed with. On a side note, my friends who have tried it say that it definitely tastes better than it smells. Kudos to them. I’m still not trying it.

The last culture landmark that I visited was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. It is pretty much the Lincoln Memorial of Taiwan.

image

Here’s a picture of me posing with a statue of Chiang Kai-shek within the memorial:image

The statue is watched by two guards who stand completely immobile. The guards change shifts every hour, and it is a tourist attraction, to say the least. I was one of many to take a video of the “changing of the guards,” a process that takes about 15 minutes.

All in all, these are just a few snapshots of my cultural experience here in Taiwan. I am so glad that, for my first time venturing out of the continent, I was able to visit this magnificent country. LINC, beyond its business side, offered so much insight into Taiwanese culture, and I am so appreciative that I got a glimpse into it. I may not get another chance to visit Taiwan in the near future, if ever, but I can safely say that I was able to culturally experience so much of this nation.

-Brendan Nguyen

"I’ve got a feeling we’re not in America anymore…"—Sida Lu

image

We arrived in Taipei after a very long flight across the Pacific Ocean. 15 hours of cramped seating, coupled with the beginnings of culture shock with Asian plane food and flight attendants was quite taxing. Once we got our bearings and stepped out of the air conditioned airport, the muggy humidity of Taiwan rushed to welcome us.

Considering we arrived in Taipei around 6 AM, after a 15 hour flight and fighting jet lag in a new country, I think we adapted surprisingly well to all of the directions we were being fed. We had an hour to settle in with our roommates, before grouping up again to head to the National Taiwan Museum and Taipei 101. 

image

This hour was when it really struck me how different Taiwan was. The surrounding area was extremely green, probably due to the constant rainfall that Taiwan experiences during rainy season. But while we tend to associate rain with cold weather in the States, the weather in Taiwan hardly changes at all— even when its pouring rain. Its just constant, oppressive mugginess and humidity. (Thank god for air conditioning.) 

Other than that, the way Taiwan is built was also extremely interesting to me. Going to school at USC and living near Los Angeles/San Francisco my whole life, I’ve grown used to a certain type of image when it comes to “cities”: tall sky scrapers, a bit dirty, traffic, urban sprawl etc. But Taipei didn’t really fit any of this. Streets were astoundingly clean, and while there seemed to be traffic at times, it was a form of organized chaos— to us foreigners, there didn’t seem to be any traffic laws at all, but to seasoned Taiwanese drivers, I’m sure they knew exactly what they were doing (I hope…). 

image

Perhaps the biggest difference of all was the lack of urban sprawl, and how the beautiful temples. pagodas, and traditional East Asian style buildings fit seamlessly alongside the high-rises and gigantic apartment buildings. 

image

The National Taiwan Museum was definitely a cool place to visit. Although language barriers prevented some of us from completely understanding  the significance and history of some of the artifacts being displayed, it was still cool to take a glimpse into the past of the nation we were visiting. A Bok Choy sculpted out of jade and a piece of pork  made of porcelain were the main attractions at this museum— no photos allowed at the museum, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Taipei 101 was definitely more visually impressive, towering over all of the other buildings in Taipei. We rode the world’s fastest elevator all the way up to the 89th floor, where the view was astounding. I tried to take as many pictures as possible, but none of my pictures really did the view justice. I’m normally terrified of heights, so being on the 89th floor of the 4th tallest building in the world was quite a mixed bag for me. 

image

Here is a picture of us posing with some Taipei 101 figure, with the counterbalance for the top half of Taipei 101 in the background. The counterbalance is necessary in case of earthquakes, as well as the rapid winds that batter the top floors of Taipei 101.

image

And here we see more replicas of the infamous Bok Choy that we ran into earlier:

image

DISCLAIMER: All the pictures in my posts were taken by me on my iPhone, so please excuse the quality.

Thanks for reading, see you guys next time!

-Sida Lu

P.S. My roommate Shashank was disappointed we didn’t see the Great Wall today, but the cheap pricing and ubiquitousness of the milk tea in Taiwan (about 1.50 USD) was enough to satisfy him— but for how much longer?

The Journey Begins (almost)—Sida Lu
Hey everyone! 
My name is Sida Lu (larger one pictured), and I will be the other blogger for Marshall’s LINC Taipei 2013 trip. 
A little information about me: I was originally born in China and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese; I moved to America when I was five years old and grew up in Northern California before coming down to USC to enroll in the joint program between the Marshall School of Business and the School of Cinematic Arts. My interests include sports, food, and sleeping while my “disinterests” include waking up, cooking to survive, and heights. My first choice when applying for LINC was Taipei, because back in high school I had a lot of Taiwanese friends would go back to Taiwan for breaks and come back bragging about how absolutely amazing their experience was— kinda made me curious (and a tiny bit jealous…), so I jumped at the opportunity to find out what Taiwan was like for myself.
The past few weeks have been rather rough, with endless mountains of papers, interviews, and finals to study for. Even worse than that, once you finished all your work, there was the unenviable and equally endless task of packing up all of your belongings to move out for the summer.
But somehow, minimal sleep and maximum boxes later, we’ve all triumphantly reached (limped to) the finish line— all done with our freshman year of college, and more than ready to finally go on the LINC Taipei trip. 
I guess the sense of readiness can also be attributed to our past few early morning LINC Taipei classes, where we’ve learned about the history of Taiwan, taken a look at their economy, analyzed diplomatic relations between Taiwan, China, and the United States, as well as local politics, traditions, and culture. We’ve also thoroughly researched the companies that we’re scheduled to visit on our trip, and prepared for a case competition at the National Taiwan University, aka the ‘Harvard of Taiwan.’ 
Or you could attribute the sense of readiness to being tired of the status quo of spending your entire life in America and reading about/hearing about Taiwan for so long without actually experiencing it. Nothing will beat actually setting foot on Taiwanese soil, and getting culture shocked out of our comfortable American bubbles. 
Either way, its safe to say that our LINC Taipei 2013 class is more than ready to finally board our flight tomorrow and have this once in a lifetime experience.
After all, who knows if we’ll ever be back to Taiwan again? Definitely going to look to make this trip memorable, and I’ll try my best to share some of those experiences with you guys on this blog. 
Thanks for reading & until next time!
-Sida
P.S. My LINC Taipei roommate Shashank (smaller one pictured) says he is very excited to finally go and see the Great Wall of China. I don’t think I have the heart to tell him…

The Journey Begins (almost)—Sida Lu

Hey everyone! 

My name is Sida Lu (larger one pictured), and I will be the other blogger for Marshall’s LINC Taipei 2013 trip. 

A little information about me: I was originally born in China and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese; I moved to America when I was five years old and grew up in Northern California before coming down to USC to enroll in the joint program between the Marshall School of Business and the School of Cinematic Arts. My interests include sports, food, and sleeping while my “disinterests” include waking up, cooking to survive, and heights. My first choice when applying for LINC was Taipei, because back in high school I had a lot of Taiwanese friends would go back to Taiwan for breaks and come back bragging about how absolutely amazing their experience was— kinda made me curious (and a tiny bit jealous…), so I jumped at the opportunity to find out what Taiwan was like for myself.

The past few weeks have been rather rough, with endless mountains of papers, interviews, and finals to study for. Even worse than that, once you finished all your work, there was the unenviable and equally endless task of packing up all of your belongings to move out for the summer.

But somehow, minimal sleep and maximum boxes later, we’ve all triumphantly reached (limped to) the finish line— all done with our freshman year of college, and more than ready to finally go on the LINC Taipei trip. 

I guess the sense of readiness can also be attributed to our past few early morning LINC Taipei classes, where we’ve learned about the history of Taiwan, taken a look at their economy, analyzed diplomatic relations between Taiwan, China, and the United States, as well as local politics, traditions, and culture. We’ve also thoroughly researched the companies that we’re scheduled to visit on our trip, and prepared for a case competition at the National Taiwan University, aka the ‘Harvard of Taiwan.’ 

Or you could attribute the sense of readiness to being tired of the status quo of spending your entire life in America and reading about/hearing about Taiwan for so long without actually experiencing it. Nothing will beat actually setting foot on Taiwanese soil, and getting culture shocked out of our comfortable American bubbles. 

Either way, its safe to say that our LINC Taipei 2013 class is more than ready to finally board our flight tomorrow and have this once in a lifetime experience.

After all, who knows if we’ll ever be back to Taiwan again? Definitely going to look to make this trip memorable, and I’ll try my best to share some of those experiences with you guys on this blog. 

Thanks for reading & until next time!

-Sida

P.S. My LINC Taipei roommate Shashank (smaller one pictured) says he is very excited to finally go and see the Great Wall of China. I don’t think I have the heart to tell him…

Taipei Jitters - Brendan Nguyen

Hi everyone! I’m Brendan Nguyen, and I’ll be one of the bloggers for this year’s LINC Taipei trip. In due time, within the next two weeks, I hope to provide you all with a sense of what Taipei is like - culturally, professionally, and socially - complete with photos, videos, and first-hand accounts of my experiences!

With my last LINC class session completed a couple weeks ago and final exams concluded today (finally!), all I can say is, “Bring it on, Taipei.” Ever since I found out that freshmen could become involved in an international business program called LINC, I was enthusiastic immediately. When I applied, I listed Taipei, Taiwan, as one of my top destination choices. Needless to say, I’m glad that, in just three days, I’ll be heading to an amazing foreign country outside the borders of North America for the first time. That’s right. For the very first time. I’ve visited my fair share of states, plus multiple vacationing trips to Mexico and Canada. Never before, though, have I ever been outside of the continent. Pre-trip jitters? I’d say so. I flown to other states without family before, but this is my first time doing so to another country. I’d imagine that the culture shock I’ll experience in Taiwan will be incredible. I think this will be my first time experiencing an environment in which English is not the dominant language - an obstacle for someone like me who’s only fluent in one dialect. I’m glad I’ll be traveling with a group of my peers because I’d be helpless if I was by myself.

Despite my worries, I have nothing but excitement for LINC Taipei 2013. One of my primary reasons for wanting to go on this trip is exactly why I’m equally as nervous. I want to experience an entirely foreign culture. Looking ahead, I don’t know when I’ll have another chance to travel abroad that is so easily attainable as LINC is. The fact that USC’s Marshall caters so much to freshmen students is so special, and I’m glad and appreciative that I’ll finally be a beneficiary of this wonderful opportunity. I know I’ll have an awesome time meeting with top-notch companies and prominent business executives, while also soaking in Taiwan’s cultural atmosphere as a curious tourist. I can’t wait.

Until next time, I’m out!

-Brendan Nguyen

Reflecting on a great end of the year -Anh Cao

It’s been a couple weeks since we all came back from Taiwan. Keeping in touch with everyone has been pretty easy with Facebook and emails. We even were able to contact our friends from NTU that helped us during the case study and around the night market. I still miss the Taiwanese sausage and delicious boba, but I know that it only means I need to go back very soon! I cannot wait for all the abroad trips I may encounter during my years here at Marshall, but without a doubt this will be one of the most memorable. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and do not regret my choice in destination. I bet everyone had a great time on their LINC trips, but the people and faculty on this particular trip definitely created the experience.

During my study at Marshall, I will once again be able to work with the classmates I met through this trip and no matter what we will share a Taiwan LINC bond that no one else experienced. I learned a lot during this trip about business, Taiwanese culture, and most of all about the connections Marshall has given us. I really miss the friends and bonds I made in Taiwan, but it won’t be long till the Fall semester starts and we can all go back to our Marshall experience.

Thanks USC for this amazing experience!! The Trojan Family really cannot be found at any other university and I am grateful we all were given this experience. Fight on and until the Fall I’m out! :) -Anh Cao

Learning experiences and cultural awareness -Anh Cao

Tuesday: This day started at the National Taiwanese University where we met a number of students that we worked on our first case study with. In our LINC class we were split into groups and throughout the semester we have worked together on various projects. It was not until the end of the week that I realized as a group we have grown and developed into better business students, as well as bonded as classmates. A shout out to my Team 1 the Fighting Pandas!  The best part of this day was experiencing the nearby night market (Gong Guan) at the end of our day with our new found friends from NTU. There was good street foods from Taiwanese Sausage Rice Dogs to a variety of delicacies in a bag. 

Wednesday and Thursday: These two days were the core part of the company visits (ITRI, Ritek, Ma-Tek, Giant, and HCG) where we had presentations an on occasion a product line tour. Many of us were curious about the marketing or management aspects of their companies and discovered that although some of their business practices differed, we could still apply some of the concepts to our learning experience.

Friday: We woke up extra early and caught our high speed rail train to head towards Tainan in the southern parts of Taiwan. Although we encountered some obstacles we all learned to keep better track of everyone and had a chance to explore the station longer. Uni-president was our last company visit and the best part had to be wearing a lab coat, booties, and a hair cap before walking into an air shower. This was to ensure that the production line would not be contaminated. After tasting their milk tea, juice, and milk we all wanted to try more of their products. The rest of the day was spent on a cultural tour where we visited a tree house and a fort. This was a different opportunity for us to explore a side of Taiwan other than the corporate industries. The gift shops were cute and taking a camera around was worth it, even though there was rain.

Saturday: Our first almost whole day on our own. A group of us headed to Xi Men Ding to shop in their local stores and try more of Taiwan’s delicacies. The fried quail eggs tasted fantastic and the Taiwanese sausage was to die for. Bargaining for items was one of the hardest parts of this trip, the first being the language barrier that sometimes left me in a cloud off confusion, but overall utilizing hand signs and basic words sufficed (although having someone speak Mandarin was crucial for cab rides and not being cheated for prices). Coming back in the evening, all the group prepared for our final presentations to create something fun summarizing, as well as reflecting, on our week-long trip. In the end the Fighting Pandas wooed the class with our photos, testimonials, and, entertaining rap. Thanks to Johnny and Alex for pulling that together.The ending banquet with the class was bittersweet as some said good bye because they would not be heading back with us.

To the Fighting: We did well in the final presentation and it was a memorable week for all of us! Thanks to Bethany, Annice, Johnny, Alex, and David (Lupeng) for being a great group and showing that the Fighting Pandas are awesome!!!

To Professor Wolfe: Thanks for leading the trip and the class all semester. Taiwan was definitely one of the best abroad experiences I have had! The food and people was all you said it would be if not more.

To Hal: Thanks for curbing my gift shop addiction and teaching me that the Don Gato song is not the same without your rendition. Maybe I can help you photoshop that banner in sometime.

To Guille: Thanks for helping us this whole trip and making sure that everyone was safe, accounted for, and doing our best.

I can’t wait for my future abroad trips and to tell everyone about how awesome LINC is!! In the end I am glad to have been given the opportunity to transfer into LINC Taiwan from another trip. I would not have changed a thing on this trip. I met 34 other great freshmen business students and I am excited at the possibility of being in many future classes with them. Now for a really long trip home to Los Angeles! :)

-Anh Cao