Reflections on School Trip to the University of Washington
By Cheryl Tay
The words “School Trip” conjures images of inflexibility, packed schedules, naggy, over-protective teachers, boring, compulsory site visits and the dreaded report or presentation that would be due at the end of what was probably only a mildly satisfactory trip. My experience in Seattle was none of the above. In fact, it probably isn’t your run of the mill school trip that most students go through.
During the term break, students from the Diploma of International Business(DIB) left for a 3 week program at the University of Washington. During our trip, we took the opportunity to catch a college football match, go shopping at the factory outlets, visit museums, eat seafood straight off tables and visit the first outlet of Starbucks.
We stayed at Hotel Deca, which was a 15 minute walk from campus and located conveniently in the University District. This locality offered a variety of dining options ranging from Vietnamese Pho to Mexican burritos set amidst a handful of record stores and vintage thrift stores. Classes were held from Mondays to Thursdays, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m. On a typical school day, there would be lectures conducted by a lecturer, followed by a presentation and Q&A session with an industry speaker. We ended the day with a sharing session on our reflections. The classes we attended were interesting: the set up was in a U-shape formation which allowed greater interaction and exchange between the lecturers and the students. The environment was open where lecturers and students engaged in challenging the other on the subjects taught. While the lectures were similar to Singapore with its PowerPoint presentations, tutorial questions were open-ended to facilitate discussion and thinking.
The visits to Starbucks and Microsoft were really enriching. The directors and managers gave us a brief insight to the company culture. I saw the amount of importance these two global companies placed on motivating their staff. For example, at Starbucks, employees are addressed as “partners” because the company offers shares to their employees. Financial incentives such as educational loans and health insurance served to motivate the employees, which is the secret to Starbucks happy, productive staff. At Microsoft, employees are offered flexible work hours. They can come in and leave the office as they like, provided work targets are met. Such flexibility is highly attractive to mothers and offers employees greater freedom to pursue their other interests or family commitments.
We also had the opportunity to sightsee. In the course of our stay, we visited the Space Needle and Pike’s Place Market which is known for their fish tossing fisherman and home to the first ever Starbucks outlet. The Washington transport system had its challenges compared to Singapore’s efficient transport system.
I benefited from the whole experience. Being a stranger in Washington, I learnt how to use the transport system, interact with locals, and did my own laundry and grocery shopping. The learning beyond the classroom was amazing. This is one school trip you definitely would not want to miss!