Home Sweet Home
I have now been at home in sunny southern California for just around a week or two, and Jakarta seems about a million miles (and years) away. It feels like eons ago that I was sweating through my suit at the Astra Honda motorcycle plant or harvesting spring onions and cabbage from the YUM organic farm. At this point in time it is safe to say that souvenirs for relatives went over well and I managed to make it through the entire trip without ever getting any food poisoning or sickness (as well as being able to say that without having to knock on any wood).
However, as much as I enjoy being in the comfort of my own hometown, and in the company of good family and friends of course, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by when I am not reminded of or don’t think about my adventures in Jakarta. I have no doubt that I have taken memories from this journey that will be burned in my mind for a lifetime to come. I cannot even begin to express how many valuable lessons I have gleaned from this experience, not only regarding international commerce, but also about my independence and traveling abroad, that I never could have learned inside of a classroom. Most importantly, I appreciate USC Marshall more and more everyday for providing programs such as LINC, where students like me can have international experiences and really poise ourselves to become globally minded citizens as we study about the nature and future of doing business.
Lastly, I might add, the most heartwarming and all-encompassing memory I will take away from this whole experience is the feeling I get when I think about not only the USC students I befriended on the trip, but also, most importantly, the Indonesian people who extended themselves along the way. I was blown away by the hospitality of the Binus students and the Indonesian USC alumni that we had the opportunity to meet, as well as each and every one of our company visit hosts; I can’t express my gratitude enough for their wonderful generosity and kindness. Thanks to them I am walking away with a greater respect for the businesses and regard for the people of the country than I could have ever foreseen. I can’t wait until the day when I return to Jakarta and see how much the city I once visited as a college freshman has grown! Sampai kita bertemu lagi.
Some highlights from our trip!
It’s amazing how fast time can pass by. It has been a week since I was on the other side of the globe and somehow it feels like it has been quite some time. Nevertheless, the memories I have gained from this journey will stay by my side for the rest of my life. The lasting friendships, hundreds of photos, and endless conversations with locals are some of the tidbits that I have acquired through a span of seven days.
With our last day given to us to explore the city, some of our group members went to the old historic part of Jakarta called Kota, which is actually the Indonesian word for “city.” Walking along the markets and old buildings, we were given a taste of what the colonial life would have been during the 16th century. There was a big festival outside of the Jakarta History Museum, allowing us to meet locals and shop for some last minute souvenirs. The locals were also very interested in meeting some of the members of our groups, often interviewing us about our culture and lifestyle. They even showed us their traditional styles of dancing as well as clothing. Numerous Indonesians would surround us wanting pictures and answers to their many questions; this would definitely not be something you would see very often unless it was a celebrity or the President walking down the street.
Jakarta has been an irreplaceable experience as I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge and information about the city as well as the country. The amount of time that we had to stay certainly is not enough to do the country justice as I would most definitely like to revisit and explore the different islands. Even though the country faces some challenges, Indonesia is certainly a country with endless potential. Knowing that many of the top businessmen in the country are Trojan alumni doesn’t hurt either. With its growing economy, friendly environment, and promising power, who knows if someday we will all come back for business? But maybe to come explore first.
So long for now!
Final Thoughts on Jakarta
It’s been several days since I’ve returned to Los Angeles, and I already miss my experiences abroad in Jakarta. Being in Indonesia with the LINC program truly was one of the greatest experiences in my life, because of the amazing adventures I was able to share with my classmates. One of the best days in Jakarta was the last day I spent with my classmates on Saturday. On this day, a couple of my friends and I went to the Sirinah building in downtown Jakarta in order to buy some additional souvenirs for friends and family back home. In the building, we went to a department store with the name “Underwear and Watches,” where we explored for about an hour. The store sold much more than underwear and watches, and included many handmade Indonesian crafts and the traditional batik clothing. In the basement of the building, there was a grocery store, where it was interesting to see the differences in food sold in Indonesia and the United States. One of the interesting options to see in the grocery store was frozen squid balls, which certainly wouldn’t be a popular option in the United States.
Overall, I would say I learned a lot and can take away an incredible amount from my trip to Jakarta. First, every company we visited mentioned the difficulty of doing business in Jakarta, due to the constantly changing government regulations and generally poor infrastructure. However, despite these challenges, every company also outlined the immense benefits of operating a company in Indonesia, with the friendly population, growing economy, and vast natural resources being just a few advantages. With this in mind, I truly hope I’ll be able to visit Jakarta or other locations in Indonesia soon. Given my experiences on this trip, it’s hard not to want to go back.
Thanks for reading!
Mangga Dua Madness
Yesterday was the last day of our trip and I decided to spend my free time revisiting a well-known shopping center in Jakarta known as Mangga Dua (why that translates into “two mangoes”, I have yet to discover). Unlike most malls in America that are well lit and have ample ventilation and walking space, this indoor marketplace was a sensory overload of products. Not only were there more counterfeit goods crowded in one space than I’ve ever seen in my life, but walking into the mall felt like stepping into a sauna of food smells and body odor (definitely not the most ideal experience I could have expected).
Despite these “unique” circumstances, I definitely made the most of my time at Mangga Dua. There were so many interesting clothing items and accessories to look at, and being there once again made me truly appreciate how fortunate we are in so many ways back at USC and in the United States in general. While I did enjoy myself to the fullest I could in that shopping trip, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little excited to make it out of there alive and back into an air conditioned taxicab; but not before snagging a furry Hello Kitty laptop case and a souvenir t-shirt for the road, of course.
The End of an Amazing Adventure
The end of our journey for LINC Jakarta is almost coming to an end. It is amazing how fast time has flown by in this incredible city. It has been an incredible experience visiting all the companies and different sites, gaining so much knowledge about doing business in Indonesia and learning about their culture. Every site brought something new to the table.
Yesterday we had the chance to go to two different food industry factories, Sosro tea and Saritama Bun Factory. I really enjoyed the Sosro tea factory tour, as we were able to see first-hand how they produce a brand name Indonesian tea that is considered a symbol of pride for the people here. The numerous products that they have created are all more specialized towards different age groups of the Indonesian population. As we took the tour, we were able to see the tea production process as well as the bottling and packaging process. One of the most interesting things about this company is the fact that they reuse the bottles, which allows them to cut cost while being environmentally friendly. They grow and pick their own tea leaves, filter their own water, and treat their own waste, allowing them to be very self-sustainable in many aspects. This also insures them to maintain the highest quality of their product that their consumers expect as everything is mostly internal.
It is most definitely sad that we are almost going home, but we have all gained so much from this experience. Simply talking to the local population has allowed me to learn about their lives and perspectives, as it is interesting to compare and contrast our two cultures and style of living. Hopefully I will be able to come back and travel around the archipelago more to discover more of what Indonesia has to offer as it seems to be a vibrant country full of surprises.
So long for now!
Buns Buns Buns!
At this point we have finished all of our company visits and I can’t even begin to believe how fast this trip has gone by! From networking with Indonesian USC alumni to helping plant vegetables at the YUM organization’s organic farm, this week has been a complete whirlwind of exciting new experiences. For me personally, the most engaging visit of all had to be the Saritama Bun Factory. Living busy lives day to day in the United States, sometimes we can get caught up in our own routines and forget to take time to step back and appreciate what we have and where it came from.
As we were taking a tour of how the buns for McDonald’s burgers are made on the factory floor, it suddenly occurred to me how complex and sometimes difficult the production process can be. Each bun only passes through quality control inspection if the “crown”, or surface of the bun, is completely flawless and void of any slight imperfections. They take so much time and consideration into making sure that every bun that comes out of that factory is the absolute best possible product the customer can receive. Considering how many McDonald’s cheeseburgers I have had in my life, it is kind of unfortunate to think that I have never even thought twice about how uniform and perfect each bun is every time I eat one.
However trite it may sound, having that experience of seeing how something I encounter in my everyday life is made, really opened my eyes to thinking more about where things in my life come from. I will no doubt have a much greater appreciation for these sort of things going forward and even though it seems small, this was truly a unique experience that will affect my whole perspective on the effort and time it takes to produce things in my everyday life. Come to think of it, I think that’s almost what this whole trip has been about. Seeing how different life is for people in Jakarta encourages us to have new perspectives on elements of our own lives. I’ll definitely be very sad to leave this city but fortunately, it’s not over yet!
Bye for now!
My Visit to Mangga Dua
One of the highlights so far of our trip was our group’s visit to Mangga Dua, a traditional mall in Jakarta. Before we even arrived at Mangga Dua, our tour guide told us the mall was extremely difficult to navigate by yourself and that we would split into smaller groups and each group would have its own guide. When we actually arrived at the mall, the tour guide’s words carried their worth, since the mall was literally a maze. Every store sold similar items, and there were no open areas or landmarks so we could have a sense of direction.
When we started visiting stores in Mangga Dua, the variety of items within the mall was amazing. There were some stores that stocked machetes, knuckles, and other weapons, while still others sold children’s backpacks and stuffed animals. Since all of the “designer” items in the mall were clearly counterfeit, I decided to buy some of the most unique and interesting things I could find. I ended up buying a big panda backpack, a batik shirt, and even an entire series of a Korean medical drama that I had never heard of before. The best part about all these purchases is that I didn’t even spend more than 200,000 Rupiah (about twenty-five dollars). At Mangga Dua, bartering is accepted at many stores, and many merchants were very willing to sell items at low prices. For example, for my panda backpack, the store owner originally wanted 140,000 Rupiah, which is a bit less that twenty dollars. I told him I only had 50,000 Rupiah, which he eventually agreed to and sold me the backpack.
I can’t believe that our trip is almost over, but with our free time today, I plan to do some more sightseeing and shopping in Jakarta’s historic Dutch district called Kota.
Sampai bertemu lagi!
A photo of the Wisma 46 building in Jakarta from this morning. The sky was very clear and blue today, compared to the previous couple days where it was gray and overcast. Today is also our last full day in Jakarta, and since we have it completely free, we plan to go to the historic Dutch area of Jakarta.
Selamat pagi from Jakarta!
These past couple of days in Jakarta have been a blast. We have been staying at the heart of the city at the Intercontinental in downtown Jakarta, providing us with ample opportunities to explore the best of what the city has to offer. Every day and night has consisted of exciting adventures, allowing us to explore and discover a little bit on doing business in Indonesia.
The variety of different sites we have visited provided us with an array of experiences from the different company trips to Manulife and Far Point Realty to working the farms at YUM. Everything has been amazing. Visiting these companies, especially those based outside of Jakarta, provided us with a great deal of insight on how to start and run a business despite all the challenges it faces. The welcome dinner with AUSCI gave us the chance to talk first-hand with our alumni about their experiences at USC as well as their stories of their careers. One of my favorite sites we visited was Binus International as we were able to meet local students and gain their perspective of academics, business, and life. We also had the opportunity to make batiks, really testing our patience and attention to detail.
It seems as if only a short amount of time has passed even though we have been in this wonderful city for a couple of days already. The 20 hour flight was most definitely worth the trip to discover this metropolis of southeast Asia. Many more adventures lie ahead of us as today we head off to Mangga Dua, a shopping district with thousands of stores consisting of a variety of products. Hopefully I will be able to pick up a couple of traditional Indonesian items to show off to my friends and family how lucky I am to have gotten a chance to visit such a remarkable country!