Adventures in Southeast Asia: Studying International Business with a Side of Pad Thai!

Megan Scott | Writing Contributor

Studying international business abroad is a life-changing experience, but why settle for the ordinary when you can spice it up with the vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia? Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia offer a unique blend of economic opportunities, diverse cultures, and rich histories, making them the ideal destinations for savvy female business students with a taste for

In May of 2023, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia with Professor Harold Wright replaced the textbooks with street food, the lectures with cultural dances, and the case studies with temple exploration.

Vietnam: Where Bun Chà Obama Meets Global Technology Centers
Vietnam is a land of chaotic motorbike traffic and some of the most unique street food in the
world, creating a one-of-a-kind combination of commerce and culture.

After our first day in the bustling urban hub of downtown Hanoi, we had to make a stop for dinner at “Bún chả Hương Liên,” home to the original “Bun Cha Obama”. This dish, served with a Hanoi Beer, has become a staple throughout the country and is named after our very own president who dined in the restaurant in 2016. The dish combines silky rice noodles in a fragrant
broth, topped with juicy beef or chicken, and an array of herbs and sprouts. Oh, and did I mention that the bill was only 2 U.S. dollars? And for all my coffee drinkers out there: Egg Yolk Coffee is also a must.

From a business perspective, Vietnam is like a hidden gem in Southeast Asia. The country has been on a rapid economic growth spree and has a thriving manufacturing sector. With its growing presence in global supply chains, Vietnam is the go-to place for businesses looking to expand their horizons. Visiting the Hi-Tech Park on the outskirts of Hanoi allowed us to dive into this thriving innovative atmosphere and engage with university students from halfway around the globe.

Now, let’s talk about photo opportunities! Vietnam is a visual delight with its diverse landscapes. You can capture the picturesque rice paddies in the north, the bustling streets of Hanoi, and the vibrant chaos of Ho Chi Minh City. Above it all, however, Ha Long Bay is stunning. From a cruise on its deep blue waters and a kayaking excursion near rocks of soaring limestone, I can attest that the sight is stunning. Your camera will be singing with delight!

Cambodia: Where Angkor Wat Meets Business Potential
Pack your bags and get ready for the profound temples and rich history of Cambodia, where Angkor Wat meets business potential in a heartwarming blend of tradition and modernity.

Cambodian cuisine may be less famous than Vietnam’s, but it’s an adventure for the taste buds. Amok, a delightful coconut curry, is every bit worth the short stop on the side of road, where the curry is made directly from freshly picked palm trees. In addition, Lok Lak is a must try! It is a succulent stir-fried beef dish, and an array of rice and noodle-based delicacies will keep you exploring the culinary delights of Cambodia.

Cambodia’s cultural tapestry is intricately woven with the Angkor complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The magnificent Angkor Wat temple, Angkor Thom, and Bayon temple are a testament to Khmer architecture and art. On our trip, we were able to experience traditional Apsara dance performances at dinner in Siem Reap, offering a glimpse into Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.

Cambodia’s history is marked by the rise and fall of the Angkor Empire, as well as the tumultuous Khmer Rouge regime. Visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh was an eye-opening and surreal experience that left me speechless and more than appreciative for things I often take for granted. Touring Tuol Sleng is a must, and it allows you to gain a deeper
understanding of the impact of these historical events on the Cambodian people and their journey towards recovery.

While Cambodia may not be as economically developed as its neighbors, it’s a place where international businesses are beginning to see great potential. With opportunities in tourism and agriculture, Cambodia is gradually becoming a destination for foreign investments. We had the chance to dive into the dynamics of these emerging markets by visiting a garment factory and
meeting Cambodian factory workers. We also had dinner with SHE investments, the first and only female-focused social enterprise that serves as a culturally tailored business incubator and accelerator programs for women in Cambodia.

And what about photo opportunities? Cambodia offers a plethora of breathtaking visuals. Whether we were capturing intricate carvings on temple walls, traditional Cambodian dance performances, or the daily life of the local population, our cameras were on overdrive. The serene Angkor temples and rustic countryside provide a backdrop for unforgettable photos.

Thailand: Where Milk Tea Meets Market Boom
Last but not least, let’s hop over to Thailand and dive into a whirlwind of flavors, culture, and business opportunities.

Thai cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its bold flavors. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to get enough of Pad Thai, a scrumptious stir-fried noodle dish. Since coming back to the US, I haven’t been able to stop drinking Thai milk tea, either. This drink is sweet, spicy, and a little fruity, and is refreshing at all times of the year.

Culture in Thailand revolves around Buddhism and the monarchy. We were able to visit the opulent Grand Palace in Bangkok, a testament to the importance of the Thai monarchy, and we also took the bus over to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Exploring these remnants of ancient temples and palaces transport you to another time.

Thailand is strategically located in Southeast Asia, making it a bustling hub for international business. The well-developed infrastructure and strong tourism industry make it a prime destination for businesses seeking expansion. As an international business student, I was able to learn about the dynamics of Thailand’s export-oriented industries and engage with Thai consumers in the city markets.

Now, let’s talk photo ops! From the lively cityscapes, temples, and salt farms, my photo storage was nearly gone by the end of the trip. I also recommend making the trip to the floating markets and the infamous railway market where the train strolls through a narrow space in a bustling street market. And as a pro tip: head over to Sky Bar in Bangkok where the Hangover II was filmed and look out over the miles of skyscrapers flanking the Chao Phraya river. You won’t want to miss it!

Studying international business in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia is like embarking on a mouthwatering, culturally rich, and historically significant adventure. These countries offer a unique blend of food, culture, history, and business opportunities that will leave you both academically enriched and personally transformed. Plus, there are countless photo opportunities to capture every memorable moment of the incredible journey. So, grab your backpack, your camera, and your appetite, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in Southeast Asia!


Megan Scott is a writing contributor for Alice Magazine.