Sunday, January 19, 2014

Our Adventure is Over

As far as I know, everyone got home safe and sound on Friday, although most of us experienced a fog delay leaving Delhi which caused us to miss our connection in Amsterdam. Luck was on our side though, and the very next flight to Minneapolis was only 5 hours later and was quite open. Our sleep schedules and digestion are settling back into our Wisconsin routines.

When this program was getting started a few years ago, I heard comments that a program this short would be nothing but tourism. I disagreed at that time, and having completed this trip, I disagree even more strongly. We certainly did "touristy" things; we saw many forts, palaces, and of course the Taj Mahal, we enjoyed the markets where we bought cheap scarves, skirts, and fake RayBans, and we sampled many restaurants and shows. We also learned in the academic sense; we heard lectures on international aspects of professional selling, cooperatives, economics, technology and many others, and the students completed a significant research project on international organizations.

I think many of the things we learned were more important than that however, and can't be learned without being there. For instance, it is commonly accepted that meetings won't happen on time, but many of the young people are trying hard to combat that because they realize that it makes their culture appear less professional to others. We learned that we really aren't so different from each other even though we are half a world away. We experienced many examples of infrastructure, and while some worked well (the metro system) and some didn't (water purity and availability, and traffic control), we were able to see first hand how a nation struggles with these issues to become a global force. We saw unimaginable poverty, incredible filth, and serious environmental damage, and we were amazed that huge expensive monuments are being built to honor current politicians rather than addressing the peoples' most basic needs. These experiences will stay with our students, and as they go forward into their respective career fields, they will see the world in a slightly different light.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Final day

Today is the last day of the program. The students did their group presentations yesterday, and they all did very well. I was proud of our students - their Business Communication classes definitely paid off! They have been working on their projects off and on since the first day of the program. They had to pick one organization and analyze its operations in at least two countries, so of course most of the groups chose India and the USA, and possibly one other. I was one of the judges, but Jerry and Professor Choudhary were excluded because they each had daughters among the students presenting! The Indian students are very competitive, so of course there had to be a "winner" which will be announced at a ceremony today. Also this morning, we will have dancing lessons and puppet lessons. I'm a horrible dancer but I have a lot of fun with dancing and music, so I'm really looking forward to it. After the awards ceremony, we'll be going to a concert, and then the Michigan group will be leaving. Our flight is not until tomorrow night, so we'll have a day on our own. Some of us are going shopping, but some are looking forward to a quiet day to sleep in and maybe do a little work.

Last night was our farewell dinner with all three schools. It was informal and fun, but almost of the women students and I had bought saris and we wore them. It looks like it is just a matter of wrapping the long piece of fabric around yourself a few times and throwing the rest over your shoulder - WRONG! There is a lot of pleating and tucking involved, which is very difficult. We had seen it demonstrated, and we watched some YouTube videos, but the guest house staff still laughed at us. We had to wait until our Indian girlfriends came to do it for us.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A new week

Well faithful readers, I warned you that I was a terrible blogger, didn't I? Long days, early mornings, and sketchy internet connections have conspired to keep me from writing. In my last post I mentioned that a colleague from SVSU and I were doing our presentation on cloud computing, and that went very well. The students did an activity and everyone participated well and came up with some really good solutions to the scenario we proposed. We continue to be surprised by the competitive nature of the Indian students. They are very friendly about it, but it is clear they want to provide the best and longest answer to everything!

Very early Friday morning we left for the Golden Triangle tour, which included the Amber Fort, Fatepuhr Sikri, Agra Fort, and a few others, and of course, the Taj Mahal. One of the highlights of that trip was our stay at the Shahpura house, which you can see here: It was spectacularly beautiful, and after our very basic accommodations at the University Guest House, we felt like we were in heaven. We saw beautiful open countryside where the mustard plants were ready to be harvested, tiny villages with no visible water or electricity installations, slums, markets, and very modern planned cities with highrises, green spaces, and wide expressways. This truly is a country of stark contrasts.

Today we have lectures on diversity and cooperatives, followed by a trip to Christian, Muslim, and Hindu religious buildings.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Day 7

Yesterday, Jerry's presentation on professional selling was a big hit. He walked us through the process for finding out how to meet a customer's needs rather than being just an order taker, and then had the class compete for bragging rights by practicing our questioning skills. He took the high road and called it a tie. The lecture on multiculturalism was very interesting as well. He brought many samples of cigarettes, spices, and other everyday items that are used by rural people and discussed how companies like Colgate and other large companies have convinced people to move to store-bought products.

In the afternoon we took a bus ride to the New Holland plant in Greater Noida. Because our group was so large, the tour itself was unfortunately not very effective. Most of us couldn't hear the speaker as we walked through the plant, but we did return to a conference room and we got our questions answered. One of our students asked why we had not seen any women in the plant, and the HR manager's reply was that the work was too difficult. We let that go at the time, but many of us took the opportunity to talk with our Indian friends about that later. The women and men both seemed fine with his explanation, but we shared our feelings that because this was such a modern plant, the men weren't lifting very much weight anyway, and if American women felt that they wanted that type of job, they would certainly be allowed to do so. They were surprised, so we had some good discussions about equal pay for equal work.

Dinner was at an amazing Rajasthani restaurant. We had many very little bowls on a large plate, and they gave us small samples of many dishes and breads, with the opportunity to have more of what we liked. I lost count, but I know it was over 20 different dishes! Most of us agreed that the mustard greens were the best. They had been prepared somewhat like creamed spinach with a spicy sauce.

On deck for today is my presentation on cloud computing and global management of IT, and one on Gandhi, followed by a trip to the Gandhi museum and a different type of market.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 6

I've discovered something about myself on this trip... I'm a terrible blogger! We are so busy and everything is such a whirlwind of new sights, smells, and sounds that we end each day by collapsing gratefully into our hard beds with the hard pillows. Only one person in our group has had an upset tummy but she is doing better, so everyone is happy and healthy but very tired.

The Kingdom of Dreams I mentioned in my last post was fun. It's definitely designed for the tourists, but there were foods from many areas of India, as well as shops. Several of us surprised the servers at the restaurants and our Indian friends by ordering the hottest and most unusual foods we could find, and actually enjoying them! The show was amazing. Try to picture a high-tech stage with many layers of HUGE computer screens across the stage that provide the visual landscape, combined with the color and flare of a Las Vegas show, the gymnastics and theatrics of a Cirque du Soleil show, and the storylines, dances and songs of a Bollywood movie, and you might get close. One of our student coordinators used to dance in the show we saw, so she arranged for us to meet the lead actor who is a friend of hers. He spent about half an hour answering questions and taking pictures with us. What a rare treat!

On the weekend, we toured the city including some of the most famous landmarks in New Delhi and Old Delhi. The large market was closed since it was Sunday morning, but we took rickshaw rides through the area. Some of the shops were open selling food (which of course we couldn't eat!) and there were still many people around. We've had lectures on international marketing, Indian history, and globalization of businesses, as well as one from a very famous fashion designer, Anuradha Raman, who started by weaving and dying her own fabrics and grew to become a designer for celebrities. She demonstrated wrapping a sari on one of our male students.  Last night we went to a more upscale market and had a lot of fun bartering for our shawls, jewelry, shirts, and trinkets. Someone discovered a stall with very thick knitted socks and I think the students must have cleared out her inventory!

On tap for today is Jerry's lecture on professional selling and the sales competitions, another on international economics, and a final one on multiculturalism. In the afternoon, we are scheduled to tour a business. We were scheduled to tour Neilsen yesterday, but that got cancelled. They decided to take us to a local charity organization for children, but the buses got stuck in the traffic from some sort of procession so they were over an hour late in picking us up, so that got cancelled as well. We were warned that one of the hardest adjustments for Americans is their flexible time schedules, and that has indeed been the case. We just go with the flow and use the time to talk more with our new Indian friends. The students are getting along so well. It's fun to hear them laughing and joking, discussing classes, politics, music, and life.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ready for Day 2!

Namaste! For the most part, Day 1 went very well. One group of students left the day after Christmas and went to Europe for a few days, but unfortunately their flight was delayed and they didn't get to SRCC until about 2 hours before the first session of Day 1 was due to start. They were very tired but they pulled through. We had a very nice opening ceremony, which included the formalization of an agreement between Saginaw Valley State University and SRCC for a program similar to what UWEC has. Dr. Rama Yelkur is now the Dean of the College of Business and Management at SVSU and she has started the program there, which will also include students from India going to Michigan. It was great to see her again.

On the schedule for today is for the students to begin working on their team projects. Each team consists of SVSU, SRCC, and UWEC students, and they will analyze a global business using some guidelines provided for them yesterday. They will present this on the last days of the program. In the afternoon, we will be going to Kingdom of Dreams, which is a large shopping, restaurant, and theater complex where we will be also seeing a Bollywood play which has gotten very good reviews from the people I've talked to here. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Today's the Day

Today's the day we're leaving, and as I sit here with all the things we need to bring strewn all over the living room waiting to go into their bags, I have to admit I'm a little nervous. Of course I'm excited for this new adventure, but I'm finding myself wishing that I had done more traveling earlier. I know one of the things I'll be asked on my return is for some sage words of wisdom, and I already know what they'll be! Travel abroad when the only thing you have to worry about is enjoying the trip. If the first major trip you take also has the added responsibility of being in charge of anything (students, a major client, implementing a major project...), that's really stressful.

We will be in the air for the start of 2014. Happy New Year to everyone!