Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Taste of America, Summer Study Abroad

How the time flies. Just over six weeks ago, I had just finished my Sydney Uni exams and jumped onto a plane bound for LA. It was there that I was to spend six weeks studying and travelling. Now that I am back in Sydney, I’m launching straight back into semester (my final semester too!) with an abundance of new friendships, experiences and knowledge acquired from studying at UCLA.

So what were some of the key things that I took away from it? Well, one thing was the cultural differences and differences in slang between the American and Australian way of conversing. Even though I was aware of this to a small extent beforehand, living there and interacting with American classmates and locals really made these differences more prevalent, so discovering these differences was interesting.

I also really enjoyed living on campus. Not only did it mean not having to commute to class, but UCLA really was a beautiful campus and a great university, proud of its athletes and its reputation (mention USC to any UCLA student and they’d tell you all about the great rivalry between the two universities). Although I didn’t get a chance to participate in any of the sporting activities myself, I really did enjoy my classes. Perhaps one of the reasons why was because I was studying something totally different to my usual field of Marketing and International Business. In fact, I decided I would try my hand at two subjects from the Arts faculty: Public Art in LA (a Mexican studies class) and Medical Ethics (a Philosophy class). Both were really great in giving me a better understanding of America’s history and its subsequent contemporary values and beliefs. For instance, each week our Public Art class went to a different mural or public artwork to observe and analyse the artistic techniques and historical significance of the work. By contrast, the Medical Ethics class involved a lot of discussion and debate about what was morally right or wrong about taboo subjects such as euthanasia, abortion, enhancement and so forth. Studying each of these subjects gave me great insight into different ways of writing, reading, arguing, problem solving, etc. all of which were very different to the styles that I had grown accustomed to in my Business degree. I think this was what I really valued about this experience overall.

Generally speaking therefore, I am glad that I’ve undertaken the program because it’s given me greater perspective into my strengths, interests, and ambitions of perhaps working or studying (a postgrad course) in America one day. It’s certainly been another stepping stone for me in understanding where I ‘fit in’ in the global market.  Only time will tell when the next time will be when I return to America with a new and improved purpose.

A few of the other participants, also from Sydney Uni, who I developed close friendships with.

The campus was really well-maintained. The only downside was that it was a huge campus, meaning that most of us had hilarious stories of getting lost and walking into class late during our first week.
Christine Ma
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Monday, 11 August 2014

Discovering New Forms of Business

Corporate Social Responsibility has been an idea embedded into the pores of business foundation classes from the start.

At the same time, I felt like it was more of an elaborate marketing ploy. Businesses are concerned with making a profit, I reasoned. Why would they willingly participate in extra activities and practices that would add extra costs?

It wasn’t until I stumbled across ‘social enterprise’ that I truly understood the implications that this CSR could have for business.

In the most basic of ways, social enterprises are the best mix of not-for-profits and businesses. It’s a term describing an organisation that has business operations (sale of goods/services) but exists or works towards a humanitarian benefit.

Why is it great? It enables organisations to create sustainable change without having to rely on donations or grants.

My first run with the term was about one and a half years ago, when I joined a youth-run social enterprise called AIESEC.

AIESEC’s social mission is to develop global youth leaders, and empower young people to make a positive change, while its business operations are focused on facilitating the international experiences that enable young people to develop those leadership capacities.

Interestingly, I was a ‘customer’ of AIESEC before I joined the organisation itself.

In the summer of 2012, I went on an AIESEC volunteering exchange, spending six weeks in Sri Lanka facilitating soft-skill training sessions for university students. 

From exploring a different culture, meeting like-minded youth from across the world, and working alongside locals on projects directly impacting their community, the experience challenged me to think differently about the world and how we can all play a part in making it a better place.

Working alongside more than 40 young people from 10 different countries!

I can definitely vouch for how much the life-changing experience has impacted me, and how gaining insight into not only how a social enterprise works, but also experiencing it firsthand has elucidated that businesses can care about more than just their profit margins.

As young people, I feel like many of us want to work for something that’s actually making a positive impact, but may be unsure of how we can develop or utilise our business skills to do so.

My answer? Discover the world of social enterprise, where business is moving more towards ‘creating shared value’ as opposed to ’corporate social responsibility’.

In a legitimately unbiased way, I think it’s really encouraging that the Business School here at the University of Sydney offers a Community Placement Program which enables students to learn and work for a social enterprise and be recognised for their learning in an accredited course (BUSS2503, 6 units of study), as well as many other subjects on social entrepreneurship and community service.

For more real life examples of social enterprises check out Thankyou Group, which sell things like bottled water to fund clean water projects in third world countries and TOMS Shoes, which donate a pair of shoes for each pair sold to a child in need.

Helen Chan
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Shanghai Study Abroad Program: Student Reflections

Six weeks in Shanghai flew by as a short-term study abroad student at Fudan University. This pilot program was organised by the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, and offered to students in the Business School and Arts Faculty.

As part of the program, 17 University of Sydney students completed a four-week intensive summer school at Fudan University, which is renowned as one of China’s leading universities. Students studied a variety of courses such as Chinese Diplomacy and politics, Chinese civilisation, Chinese art, and international business. Our study schedule also included daily Mandarin lessons that catered to all experience levels, from beginners to advanced. Most students received up to 12 credit points for taking these units, and all added real value and international experience to their degree. 

Another major component of this program was a series of site visits to Chinese business, government and non-government organisations led by US Studies Centre staff. These site visits enabled our group to enjoy presentations, discussion sessions and participate in debates with professionals working in Shanghai. Highlights of this two-week schedule of visits included engaging Q&A sessions at the Australian and American Chambers of Commerce, Australian and American Consulates, eBay China, Apple and AEG entertainment group. 

It was thrilling to hear from a variety of mid- to senior level management about their experiences as expats and local people, navigating the challenges and opportunities that doing business in China entails. Another stand out experience was participating in a round-table discussion with foreign service officers at the American Consulate, and enjoying a group dinner with Bates Gill, the CEO of the US Studies Centre and world renowned US-China expert.

Life in Shanghai outside the classroom certainly lived up to our expectations. As a group and as individuals, each student in this pilot program made a huge effort to immerse themselves in the local customs, culture and food. Some of us arrived in Shanghai not knowing how to use chopsticks, and others who had previously travelled to China deepened their connection to this exciting, vibrant metropolis.

Overall, this was an incredibly rich and rewarding experience; made even more special by the close friendships we formed within the University of Sydney group, and with other international students taking the program. I have certainly returned to Sydney with a strong case of the ‘China bug’ that will hopefully lead me to return to China later in my career.

Madeline Greer
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Importance of Leadership

Imagine it’s your first team meeting and you know well that you have to lead the team for convincing results. English is not your first language, you don’t know the demographics and psychological behaviors and you don’t even know how they react to the conversation and words at times. This is predominantly what every international student experiences while studying at the University of Sydney.

The best real life industrial management example for executing leadership in regards to the same situation is Nissan’s current CEO, Carlos Ghosn. He pulled out a remarkable turnaround which was not accomplished by adhering to conventional wisdom.

Leadership Quality
One proven way to develop effective leadership is to focus on the behaviors you expect a leader to display. Spell out these activities personally with your team. In conversations, discuss what a leader in your organisation should do - for example, act as a role model or motivate others - and describe each behavior with enough specificity to inform selection, training and evaluation. Be precise, real and action-oriented. By describing these qualities as behaviors (rather than as character traits) you’ll underscore two messages: It isn’t worth much to have an attribute that you don’t display; and if you fall short of what the best leaders do, you can still close that gap. Emphasising behavior over traits also opens the door to style differences, as long as leaders maintain the standards you’ve set.

Leadership Approach
When you manage a team of people, adapt your leadership style to meet each person’s needs. In general, there are four types of approaches: directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Depending on the level of your team’s competence and commitment, choose which will work best. When your direct report is learning new skills, be directive. Define tasks clearly and check progress to make sure the team is not faltering. Use out of the box experiments while learning new skills, but make sure there is freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Be supportive, encouraging highly competent employees who lack confidence. With employees who are both highly motivated and experienced, delegate tasks. In all cases, your responsibility is to find the balance between hand-holding and empowering. It’s our assignment to be able to energise others and influence them so that they all want to be around us.

One Strong  Recommendation
Group assignments are provided to work in a corporate environment at the University of Sydney. Students are prone to experience the politics, stress and develop an etiquette of learning useful managerial experiences. As a take home reward, ensure that you don’t have any personal animosities. University and your learning experiences will be what you make of it.

Shivaramakrishnan Ramamoorthy
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School
Master of Management, Master of International Management (CEMS) and Master of Commerce (Marketing)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Adventures in Paris: Student Reflections on the International Placement Program

Week 3 and 4: All good things have to come to an end…
The final week is up and we celebrated graduation at SciencesPo by going out together with the teaching staff. It was very sad, as we have enjoyed our classes and our time together over the last five weeks. We enjoyed dinner and drinks and later, the class handed over some nice treats for the coordinators of the European Studies Programme. We all decided to stay in touch via LinkedIn.

After the dinner we were given an academic diploma for the completion of the European Studies Programme at SciencesPo. It is a great addition to my resume and adds value as I seek to reach my aspirations of acquiring an international career.

After finishing classes which have taken up most of our evenings, more free time opened up. As we were pretty used to the fast pace, we suddenly had lots of time spare for sightseeing. Bring on Paris!!

One thing I have noticed which differs a lot from Australia is the amount of people enjoying lovely picnics in the parks. We went several times per week for picnics at various locations in Paris, and we were (clearly) not the only ones! People of all ages enjoy prosciutto ham, brie, wine and baguettes. I do not want to think about all the damage that needs some repair when I return to my trainer in Sydney!

One of my favourite spots was the Luxembourg Gardens. It closes at 9pm, so we had to hurry up after work or go and visit during the weekends. Although Sydney is wonderful, it doesn’t beat the wonderful nature you can find throughout the heart of Paris!


It was not very tempting to spend a whole day standing in a queue, so we went to have a look at the Louvre during the evening. Hardly anyone was there and it was really cool to see it in person.

As this was our last weekend, we decided that a trip to Disneyland was a must. We bought tickets online and jumped on a train in the morning which did not take more than 45 minutes. This had been my dream ever since early childhood and it was finally an opportunity for some childhood closure!

We were super lucky with the weather and enjoyed the day. However, Disneyland was in general very over-priced, so I recommend bringing lots of spare cash! Unfortunately it is still a long time until Christmas, as this is a paradise for Christmas shopping (and any other random merchandise you might ‘need’!).

We did not exactly have a lack of activities ahead of us so we decided to stay until the fireworks at the end of the day, at 11pm… and it turned out that was a very good idea!

On a light-hearted note, as a final remark to future IPP students:
Although it is pretty nice to get some international work experience and an extra university diploma, it hardly beat the feeling of having this:

Panne au chocolat/chocolate croissant for breakfast

…..and crepes for lunch:

... and this is even without having anyone looking at you in a strange way!
Au revoir!!

Anette Hansen
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France

Friday, 25 July 2014

Adventures in Paris: Student Reflections on the International Placement Program

Despite the pre-departure orientation, nothing could quite prepare our group of 16 Business School students for what it really means to be an intern in Paris! Armed with French phrasebooks and Excel cheat sheets to help us manage whatever came our way, most of us began our placements feeling reasonably confident we were up to the task.

What quickly became clear is that the true challenge of being an intern in France is not so much adapting our skills and knowledge, which most of us found reasonably easily done, but rather to get used to the huge differences between doing business in Australia and in France. This experience of course varied among the group, as we are in placements of many different kinds of French and international organisations, all with their own distinctive style of work.

However, there are definitely some common themes! For starters, le déjeuner (lunch) is one of the most important parts of the day, and team members usually eat out together at a nearby restaurant. Sometimes business is discussed, but it’s often just a nice way to socialise. It’s wonderful as an intern to be included in this kind of thing (especially for the chance to try some more Parisian food)! Lessons I’ve learned over business lunch is not to order Orangina, which is apparently akin to ordering a chocolate milk at a fancy restaurant, and not to eat too much so as to avoid spending the rest of the afternoon in a food coma! While the French have a career’s worth of experience eating a huge lunch and heading straight back to work, inexperienced Australians may find themselves nodding off in an afternoon meeting if they’re not careful!

Another difference between the French and Australian style of doing business is more subtle, but very important to understand. The French adopt a much more consultative approach to projects, spending a lot of time discussing and debating, and trying a few things out before concrete decisions are made. To an Australian used to ticking boxes and meeting targets this may seem like a waste of time, but the French are used to their style and may regard schedules and fixed goals as impediments to good results. That being said, the French appreciate Australians’ motivation to get the job done on time, which seems to go down well with the boss!

There’s often talk of Parisians behaving rudely to people who don’t speak French, and with a group of students with varying abilities in the language some of us were a little apprehensive about this! Fortunately, it quickly became clear at work that a friendly bonjour in the morning and an à demain in the afternoon (and an apparent French fondness for Australian accents!) smoothed the way.

Office attire, especially for the girls, has also been an interesting one. Preparing for the bipolar weather, finding something clean and then attempting to dress as glamorously as the Parisians is of course the goal, but it’s usually a matter of picking one or two of the three!

While adapting to the French style of doing business has involved many a faux pas, we have come a long way in four weeks and can’t believe there are only two more to go! 

Iona Main
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France, interning with Kimberly Wealth Management   

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Adventures in Paris: Student Reflections on the International Placement Program

Week 3
My supervisor presented some of the work that I have been involved in with all member countries present. Therefore, I got to come along and listen to the discussion and questions all the member countries had with my supervisor regarding the 2015 budget allocation. This time I was very prepared and I kept track of the entire discussion without feeling lost (which I did at my first budget committee meeting on my first day). It was such a great feeling to be able to keep track of the discussion and know what everyone was talking about, in detail. After the committee, my supervisors and I went for lunch at a restaurant nearby. We had a pleasant conversation which involved my future career prospects. I could really see myself working for the OECD, and my supervisor suggested that I should apply for the Young Professionals Programme after my graduation. It is certainly something I will consider.

 View of the Budget Committee Room - I was seated behind the Executive Director, Anthony Rottier.

Friday morning we went for a field trip to visit the European Commission and the European Parliament. We took the train early in the morning in order to be in Brussels at 9 am. The train ride did not take more than 90 minutes(ish)!

Representatives from the European External Action Service (EEAS) came to greet us and held presentations about the EU and what they do, before they opened up for an informal discussion regarding the internal work at the EU. First, we met the Head of Sector Correspondence, Corporate Board Secretariat, before Mr Tamas Macazac came and spoke about Australian Trade Relations. It was very interesting to get an understanding of how the EU works from a senior employee’s perspective, and how Australia interacts with European Affairs.

The second part of our field trip was engaging in a role play at the Parlamentarium. It was a location with a set and equipment where we had to go through the same procedures as the official elected parliament representatives when they discuss official matters, negotiate with other parties and come to a consensus. It was harder than I anticipated but great fun!

At the end of the day the group went for dinner locally in Brussels before the travelling to Paris, Amsterdam, London, Rome or Berlin - we had a long weekend which we wanted to take advantage of! First, it was time to taste Belgium waffles, beer and frites!

After returning safely to Paris we celebrated Bastille Day on the 14th which is equivalent to Australia Day. We enjoyed a beautiful picnic during the day and when the fireworks were to begin, we had a stunning view to the Eiffel Tower while we enjoyed Champagne, macaroons and other French nibbles.  The fireworks were fantastic and it represented four significant highlights in the last century: the First and Second World War, the fallen soldiers and peace.

Anette Hansen
Current student at the University of Sydney Business School and participant in the International Placement Program in Paris, France