EDITOR’S NOTE: The Professional MBA Program at Mays, Class of 2020, is visiting Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore on the annual International Field Trip, a part of the program’s International Business Policy course. The itinerary runs Friday, July 25 to Saturday, August 3 with 47 students, Arvind Mahajan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, and Mike Alexander, Director of the Professional MBA program, attending. Stay tuned for additional segments to their journey, told from the perspective of a student.

Read Part I of Unknown in Asia, here


Heading into the unknown of Asia, I think one thing that was also largely unknown was just how long our flight would be – it is the longest flight that I have ever been on and it felt that long, too. One redeeming part of it, though, was the time it allowed me to get up and talk to fellow classmates. On the first leg of the flight I got to spend some time with Mike [Alexander] talking about traveling and I got to hear some of his stories from his time with the Professional MBA program.

We landed in Jakarta and it was an eye-opening experience. There are so many people in this city, traffic is crazy, and there was a blatant disparity in the nice buildings and the poor areas. There was seemingly no in-between. It made me grateful for my life and the opportunities I have at home. We made our way to a welcome dinner where they eased us into local cuisine, and we all fought off jetlag.

Our first full day was spent on a “1000 Islands Tour” where we got to learn a bit about the history of where we were and see some cool, old relics of the colonization of the area. It ended with some beach time, dinner and camaraderie.

Monday, our second day in Jakarta and our first working day, was amazing. We had a chance to grasp the full spectrum of the economy where we were in Jakarta – we learned about everything from the government and business to the slums. It was a very diverse day. We heard from fantastic speakers that addressed startup culture in Indonesia, intangibles as an imperative for success in today’s business world, and how society is going cashless. We were taken on a tour of the slums and it is something that I will never forget. Seeing how the people in the slums live and then meeting all of the kids was really moving. It seems like the only way out of the Indonesian slums is to catch a lucky break, while back home, if you work hard and “demonstrate capabilities,” you can go somewhere. It really makes you think of all those times you complain about something not going right and how insignificant that really is.

Tuesday we visited Javara and Go-Jek while participating in Batik Tuesdays – a new PMBA tradition. A Batik is the button-up shirt of Indonesia that is similar to Hawaiian shirts and can be worn to work. Some of our PMBA group had picked one up after Monday’s festivities and decided to wear them. Javara, the first company that we visited, is all about agriculture and social entrepreneurship. We were able to meet Helianti, the incredibly ambitious backbone of Javara. She showed us a presentation about how Javara is trying to revive the farming culture in Indonesia by creating pride and a sense of ownership in the industry. The way she empowers the farmers to be their own entrepreneurs is amazing. Afterward, we were able to shop all of the organic products that the farmers produce in her store and she treated us to a sustainable/organic meal that was absolutely delicious. The purple bungus tea was the star of the show, which is strange coming from a non-tea drinker. Go-Jek is a for-profit startup that revolves around utilizing technology to make society better. Go-Jek’s offices definitely put out some Silicon Valley feelings. It seemed like organized chaos with how everyone was working, and stuff was thrown on the desks. I would hate to be late to work, since the limited desk space means you are working in one of the many lounge areas. They shared a presentation that gave us insight into the company and how they got started by trying to help out the traffic with a ride share app. Now, they are giving back through Go-Life by training people in different skill sets to help them provide a better life for their families. This is a company that keeps trying to find new challenges to tackle through their services.

Tuesday culminated with an interesting and fantastic “foodie tour.” Our tour guides were patient, understanding and very knowledgeable.  We were taken to 6 food stalls around the Chinatown area of Jakarta.  Each of them had a signature dish or snack that we tried.  Supposedly it is normal for people to come to the area and hop around to get a complete meal.  My favorite was the first stop with the chicken rice dish, though it felt like that was our entire meal because they kept bringing out more and more food.

It was a fascinating few days leaning into the culture and business of Indonesia. There is a rich history, vibrant culture and great people there that I won’t soon forget. Now, onto Singapore!

Read Part I of Unknown in Asia, here