REFLECTIONS FROM A TRIP TO SINGAPORE

Lush greenery against a concrete jungle. Glittery glass metropolis meets tropical oasis. Aerial walkways that extended into misty pockets of endless possibility. It was mind-blowing that a place like this actually existed on Earth - yet there I was a month ago, experiencing the calm sanctuary in all of its glory, that pulsed with the heartbeat of an underlying hustle.

At the minimum, this trip was mind-expanding. At the max, life-changing.

I traveled to Singapore on a career exploration trip, sponsored by my school. Amidst the board meetings with Penn alumni and networking events with high-profile executives, I felt like I was at an extremely pivotal moment in my life. Innovation was at every corner of the rooms I skated through, between every phrase that danced on people’s tongues.

Before I went on this trip and was doing things like, having face-to-face meetings with the Google Head of Singapore, a Wharton alum (!!!), I wasn't fully aware of just how many resources were at my disposal. It was an absolutely visionary, chaotic realization… and somehow, as ill-versed as I was in business jargon, and as confused as I was about what I wanted for my future, my brain felt a strange sense of comfort knowing that I had so much room left to grow. I was a mere child in the eyes of these industry giants, but completely unfazed by it.

If you’re ever the smartest person in a room - then maybe, you’re standing in the wrong room. Embrace your lack of knowledge.  


 

This trip made me want to work in the tech field, and in Asia more than ever. I learned that although technology in Asia is growing rapidly, there are still countless amounts of marginalized regions and neglected populations that need help. And through technology, we can deliver basic necessities to some of the most underserved parts of the world.

For one, localization of Internet services should be a goal. There is a space for privileged people of the first world, like myself, to champion bringing wireless Internet access to developing regions and uplifting individuals out of abject poverty. There are a lot of places where people are digitally illiterate and merely have no knowledge of the services that exist to better their lives (they’ve historically been operating without the Internet, so they don’t realize they need it, or that it could actually help them!) For example, picture an elderly woman selling food and handmade goods in her roadside shack in an inner Mongolian suburb. She could benefit tremendously from having the knowledge that applications like Alibaba and eBay exist, promote her products online, and potentially sell directly to people across her country - or even across the world.

This trip also allowed me to dissect the Asian tech industry's strengths and weaknesses as a whole. As a continent with advancements in fintech and adtech (i.e. strong mobile transactions systems, a prevalent ecommerce culture and successful rideshare applications), Asian businesses have progressively challenged its Western counterparts to become leaders in their own rights. But Asia still lacks developments in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. As California remains a titan in this space, growing AI/VR in Asia might be the next big step to improving basic infrastructure, like Asian transnational transportation systems (with automated cars!) and education (learning through headsets!)

On the flipside, the more technology extends its reach, the more socioeconomic inequality could deepen. People tend to blame the cause of this stratification on immigration, and the larger cause could be attributed to technology - with the wealth gap widening between rural dwellers and the Jack Mas of the world. But with constant broadband and communication expansion efforts, the playing field could be leveled enough for integration to happen. It’s a twisted, complicated road to globalization - but opposing technology is not how we get there. Encouragement is the only way.

My trip to Singapore allowed me to tackle a personal uncharted territory in my knowledge bank - and I solidified my passion for technology and the Asian business landscape in the process. My confidence and career aspirations manifested as much as my trepidations did - but being in the world’s coolest, most hybrid city made me realize that international linkage is inevitable. Interpenetrative flow of the world’s digitized systems is occuring at such an explosive pace - and even as a self-proclaimed tech news fiend, it’s hard to keep up. But it is humbling to know that despite all of the progression, there is still so much work to be done - much more than can be accomplished in a lifetime. And a lifetime’s work can be fulfilling enough, so long as one keeps striving to create change and help others along the way. 

-Alina