A group of future Australian business leaders recently witnessed the different faces of globalisation during a two-week study tour of Thailand.
The nine business, management and accounting students from RMIT University in Melbourne, all of whom aim to work in Thailand in the future, spent 14 days meeting with businesspeople and students from RMIT's exchange-partner, Thammasat University.
This is the first time Thailand has been offered as a study-tour destination for the business students, and it appears to have been a great success.
"You learn all the time here, even when you're getting dinner," said Sunday Berry, 22, an undergraduate studying management.
The students, both Australian and international, visited a number of large organisations, including the World Bank, the Stock Exchange of Thailand and law firm Baker and McKenzie, to see firsthand the practical effects of globalisation.
"It's amazing how much the organisations are interlinked with each other," commented Kristin Dahl, 32.
"We not only got an in-depth look at the institutions but were able to see how they all linked into the Thai economy in the larger picture, so that was really helpful."
Prior to departure, the students participated in two intensive workshops on globalisation, which got them thinking not just about the benefits of inter-linked economies, but also about the related ethical issues.
"Going out and talking to Thais taught us that while they like foreigners as tourists, they're very unhappy with multinational companies like KFC, that just take the money out of the country," Berry said.
"I'm not totally deterred from starting a business here, but you need to give back what you take out. It's really important."
Berry was inspired by the students' trip to Baker and McKenzie, which is implementing projects to revive the kingdom's mangrove forests.
"You want your business to flourish and stand the test of time, but you also have to look after your staff," said Dahl. "That's going to show through the quality of product and productivity."
The students' two weeks in Thailand were jam-packed, with morning study sessions at Thammasat University on top of the business excursions.
They also enjoyed a three-day trip to the cultural hotspots of Ayutthaya, the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Hellfire Pass at Kanchanaburi.
Students at Thammasat University helped the group feel welcome, guiding them around the campus and honouring them with a heartfelt rendition of the Thai national anthem.
"It seems to me it's a national pride in Australia not to know the national anthem. In Thailand it's the opposite," said Dahl, referring to the Australian students' lack of enthusiasm in returning the favour.
Two of the students on the tour were Thai nationals, taking the opportunity to understand the business side of their home country.
"I study in Australia, so this is good for me because some day I have to come back and work at home," said Zanti Kosiyanon, at 20, the youngest student on the trip.
The locals also proved useful to have on hand, using their knowledge of the culture and area to help navigate the pitfalls of being a foreigner in Thailand.
"It's kind of strange, doing a study tour in your own city," said trip leader, lecturer Len Faigen. "But even they have learned something. They're a very positive asset."
Faigen was pleased with the success of the first tour of Thailand and expects double the number of students to take part in next year's trip.