Iven: The Final Chapter

Hii everyoneeeee  ₍˄⌓⃘ ˳̫̬ ⌓⃘˄₎ค˒ ~~

Wowwww…. What a crazy few months it has been since my last blog post in February. First of all, I hope you all are keeping safe and coping well during this unprecedented global pandemic. I really wanted to take this time to reflect on these past few months and more importantly, discuss how I personally have been dealing with everything going on at the moment and offer some advice I have for everyone especially my fellow exchange students and UoA peers. Today is the first day where I have been able to sit down and actually process everything that is going on as I submitted my final assignment for the semester. It is going to be a lengthy one so I hope you’re ready, grab a drink or a snack and lets go!

Picking Up Where I Left Off…

Me and my exchange friends on our last day in Bali

The last time I caught up with you all I was in Bali and I truly did have the time of my life. Travelling during exchange with the life-long friends you have made in such a short amount of time is an indescribable feeling that you really have to experience. There will be highs and some lows, but the memories created will make everything worthwhile. Especially now, I would give anything to be back in Bali or just simply being able to travel with my friends— time is precious!

Check out my Bali Vlog on my channel! (◕ε◕✿)・:*:・。

Online Courses During Exchange

At this point of my exchange around early March, classes with 50 or more students started to become online so two of my lecturers became online with one being pre-recorded and the other being a Zoom session every week. Therefore, I still had to go to one lecture and all my tutorials. Personally, as an exchange student, I preferred this method of teaching as my courses were practical based so it was only the tutorials that were more important to physically attend.

Tip: Although classes are online, create a routine/timetable to follow so that you are still productive!

Also during this time, NUS started implementing some rules, for example, we were required to take our temperature twice daily with our thermometers ( that we were given for free at the start of the semester ironically) and take photos of it to upload online. The lecturers also had to take pictures of the class and check if students took their temperatures.

Covid-19 During March

As March progressed, the rules got stricter and soon all classes and tutorials were online. Social distancing rules started to be put into place so it would be common to see places marked with X and chairs removed so that the people would be keeping a safe distance from one another.

An example of a sign at a Mall in Singapore

Securing Another Internship

With all the craziness going on at this time, something amazing came out of it. Although I was still in Singapore, I was able to secure a social promo role for Umusic NZ! I was so so so happy as it was right up my alley, especially for my degree. The best thing was that I was able to create content while on exchange without having to physically be in New Zealand.

Tip: Never stop furthering your career even while on exchange! Always look for awesome opportunities

One Last Trip to Malaysia

I didn’t know it then but my one-day trip to Malaysia with a few of my exchange friends would be our last trip together 😢 We spent the day shopping, eating, living in the moment and simply enjoying each other’s company. Looking back now is very very bittersweet, it was the first and last trip with most of my exchange friends and I couldn’t be more content.

The Start of The End

My favorite people from all over the world <333

Mid-March towards the end of April would probably be one of the hardest and most emotionally draining times on my exchange and probably my life. Think of it like this, you live with a group of people, you see each other every day and get to know one another— you do everything together from having dinner to sightseeing to celebrating each other’s birthdays and then all of a sudden…. you have to say goodbye with no warning. That was the reality for me, all my Australian flatmates and most of my exchange friends were forced to go back to their home countries by their universities. For me, I was so thankful to be able to have the choice to stay or go back, it was a no brainer for me, I absolutely did not want to end my exchange early. This time was not only stressful but really really really heartbreaking. It really hit me like a brick wall having to say goodbye everyone, we all thought we would be together till the end, have more time with one another but that was not the case. For everyone reading this right now, cherish the time you have with your friends, loved ones and don’t take that time for granted especially during this unprecedented time.

Life in Singapore’s Lockdown aka ‘Circuit-Breaker’

Around April 7th, the Singaporean Government implemented a ‘Circuit- Breaker’, for a couple of days life was still the same then everything got way more strict and then it hit me, we’re basically in lock down now. Singapore’s handling of the situation at the start of this pandemic was definitely amazing but during this time the situation got progressively worse rapidly. If I had known that this ‘Circuit-Breaker’ meant lock down I would have definitely made the most of my last true freedom in Singapore — major regrets. During this time I basically stayed at home doing my final assignments as I didn’t have any exams. Whenever we go out to get food, do laundry or get some fresh air it’s compulsory to wear a face mask otherwise we would get fined. I also would Zoom with my exchange friends and video call with my friends and family back home to keep some sense of socialization and not loose my sanity!

Me at my current home: UTown Residence at NUS

New YouTube Video!

Checkout my newest YouTube video for a NUS dorm room tour, especially for those of you who are planning to go to The National University of Singapore for an exchange in the future after this pandemic. Also towards the end of the video, I talk more about how this current situation has affected me and my exchange. I’d really really appreciate it if you watch and leave a like/comment <333

Thank you ALL!

For now, I’m done with my exchange yet I’m still here in Singapore still trying to sort out how I will get back home. Right now, everything is uncertain but all I can say for now is that this has been a crazy first half of 2020 and I am so so so glad that I chose to come on exchange, as cliché as it sounds, this was such a life-changing experience that I will forever cherish. If you’re reading this and contemplating whether exchange is for you (after this global pandemic), the answer is simple — YES! To the 360 International Team, thank you for this amazing opportunity and thank you for being an awesome bunch of people throughout this whole process. To whoever has been keeping up with my blog posts, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my blog and I hope you learned something valuable. Feel free to connect with me and follow me on my social medias @IvenThePanda (Click the circle icons below), seeyaaa! (✿◠‿◠)

Iven aka IvenThePanda Signing Out…..

Taylah: No one was harmed in the making of this performance

monkey taunting the cat
the monkey taunting the cat

Jaragua… a small haven, encroached on by the outskirts of Sao Paulo city. It is a community of the Guarani and the smallest demarcated indigenous land in brazil. With such an urban presence it is amazing how they still hold true to their traditions, amazingly still 500 years later. We saw this in effect by them no longer having a hierarchy like the colonisers historically demanded, as they did in New Zealand also. They showed us a pre-war performance that was once used to ensure they were combat ready and agile enough for everyday life in the Atlantic forest. However, now it is to remind them of where they have come from and to keep fighting for their community although no longer physically.

This performance was definitely a highlight of the day, as 3 males were put through agility tests. This was done by one male swinging either at them or in the air, with a stick and the 3 having to pass by unscathed. The first male, obviously in his prime, did so with no hesitation or sweat. The second, passed his prime, did so with more effort and struggle. The third and more relatable was the youngest, not at his prime yet and he showed his fear and struggled to complete the tasks. It was funny seeing him been yell at to hurry up and him look up to the sky as if praying to a god to save him and to not let him get hurt. It even got to the point where he blatantly didn’t care and started to cheat, holding the others arm to ensure he didn’t swing down fast. At the end when the males essentially finished by ‘bowing out’ in their way, by bending their knees three times then saying a chant, the male got ready… swung back his stick as if he was playing baseball and… swung at their legs. The first jumped without caution or worry, the second after his 3 ‘bows’ took a cautious breath and after a moment when he was ready said his chant and jumped, the third… well… after 2 ‘bows’ looked terrified and quite frankly over it then ran the opposite way. The male with the stick jokingly ran after him pretending to swing. I can ensure that this was not with the intent of hurting anyone and that it was all in good nature and no one were harmed in the making of this performance.

The most shocking thing about the entire day, which wasn’t the mock attacks, and my favorite part, was the site of Capuchin monkeys! In mostly undeveloped land with a ginormous city of 12 million people at its doorstep and here these wild animals are, still here surviving. It was amazing to see one of the men feed one of these wild monkeys some sweet potato (which was very similar to kumara). I also got super close! you could see the monkey looking at me like “why is this white lady ‘pst pst’ing as me like I’m a cat?”. Safe to say if i could have i would have pet it and wouldn’t regret if i got rabbies. It was just a reminder of how this area is not only a safe haven for the indigenous Guarani but also the animals, to live almost the same way for 500 years and a inspiration to me due to my passion for conservation. I hope they continue for another 500 years resisting urban development and the pressure from others to leave, to preserve their incredible way of life.

Alofa: Fight the good fight

E mame le tava’e i ona fulu. This is a Samoan proverb which talks of a bird, the Tava’e, that is proud of her feathers. It’s commonly used in context when describing one who speaks or displays their culture in a prideful manner. After spending a couple of weeks in Brasil, I can confidently say that this is the perfect phrase to use.

This trip to Brasil continues to leave me in awe. There is an underlying passion that can melt even the coldest of hearts – and I’m not just talking about the couples making out in the middle of the streets. Activism for the rights of indigenous people to be recognised and the fight for freedom is prevalent in every street corner. Yes Brasil may be the best country to be in for parties – especially during carnaval – but beyond that limelight, there’s a heartfelt plea that has been begging to be heard since the colonisation of the 1500’s.

In our lectures the idea of slavery was explored as well as the complexity of the Brazilian Constitution of 1988. Let’s face it – no governmental system is perfect, just look at Herodotus’ debate on the three government types! And slavery? I learnt a long time ago in Ancient History that slavery was key to the rise of many empires and even up until the 1900’s it still was.

I love architecture and the Monumento o Bandeirantes definitely rates near the top, but the meaning behind it breaks my heart.

The artist Katu Mirim informed us of the fight that the indigenous continue to fight. Indigenous is not a costume that you wear for a Carnaval party but unfortunately this is something that the indigenous people have to tolerate. Katu showed us worksheets that are often handed out in class to students where indigenous are stereotyped as a naked person who wears headdresses and because of this, the indigenous continued to be discriminated against when they are seen adapting to the Western way of life.

A video produced by ISA to highlight the fight against stereotypes

The problem that we noticed about Brazil is that they have memory issues and many do not remember the past when the dictatorship proved to be one of the hardest period for the indigenous nor do they have a vast knowledge about the indigenous pre-colonisation besides the fact that they were ‘savages’. Indigenous people are talked about as if they were only in the past and that they no longer exist. In short, I am so glad that I live in NZ because we aren’t as bad as Brasil is cut out to be.

Growing up I’ve constantly had my grandparents pass on tala mai le vavau (stories of the past) and stories of them growing up in the islands. Even though I don’t live in Samoa, I know the customs and traditions well enough to keep my culture alive and functional in a Western society, and fortunately it informs people outside my culture about who we are. Quite frankly, this is currently not the case in Brasil – and it’s not because the indigenous haven’t tried. Their voices aren’t being heard as they are being spoken over but they continue to fight. Many of the indigenous tribes that we visited told us that they will continue to fight as they have since the beginning.

A video produced by a NGO ISA to signal the continual fight for the land

One of my favourite visits would have to be to the Quilombaque community who, amongst the discrimination and disparity, have managed to draft an urban plan to educate the population about the history of Brazil from the underdog’s POV. Although the plan has yet to be submitted for approval, the activism behind the movement and their fellowship with the indigenous community is astounding.

You would assume with how the world is going that it is everyone for themselves but in Brasil, those who aren’t against you are actually for you. There are a lot of things that we can learn between the relationship of the Quilombaque and the Indigenous tribe of Jaragua and the world would be a better place with this knowledge. The only problem is, the lesson to be learnt can only be felt with the heart by spending time with these people and listening to their stories rather than me telling you.

So if you ever get the chance to come to Brasil and talk to these amazing people, I high advise that you listen closely because you might learn a thing or two. The fight is continuous – it doesn’t stop. If only we had the determination that these indigenous do, then maybe democracy could actually work.

James McIntosh – Some random thoughts after a month in Mexico

Honestly, this blog is not going to have a lot of structure. It is more of a collection of thoughts I have had from the last month travelling around Mexico.

I did not spend a lot of time researching Mexico or Tecnologico de Monterrey before arriving in the country as part of the PMSLA program. My views on the country, like many others, had been shaped by media reports and TV shows like Narcos: Mexico. These last four weeks have completely changed that view. I have discovered a country that is extremely rich in culture and history, and a university that is truly leading the way in regards to technology and education.

To be honest, I do believe that we have been in a bit of bubble while in Mexico. The university is completely gated and the local students, while extremely nice, probably don’t give you an accurate representation of the situation most Mexican people face. Luckily we have also had a chance to explore each of the four cities on our own in order to get a more authentic view of the country.

Exploring Teotihuacan

Regarding the program, Tec de Monterrey does really well organising the daily activities, whether that be lectures, dance classes, or visiting local businesses. The program has really focused on the practicality and real life application of the theories we have learnt in class in a way that a normal university course would not be able too. I have also found the lecturers at the university to be really supportive with international students that are coming from universities with different styles of teaching and learning.

Overall, I cannot think of a better way to see and experience Mexico than as a part of the iWinter Global Business program at Tec de Monterrey and with the support of the PMSLA. I have seen four different cities and been able to take part in activities that you would not have access to if you were organising this trip on your own.

James McIntosh 

Allan: Surprising Sights in Mexico

It’s been another two weeks in Mexico, where we now concluding our studies at Tecnológico de Monterrey. A lot has happened, including visits to many amazing cities, business visits and a final group presentation. With all these experiences and classes I’ve learnt that doing business in Mexico is a fulfilling experience. 

We’ve got to eat some of the most amazing foods and seen some of the most magnificent views. During our stay at the Queretaro Campus we got to climb one of the tallest monolith in the world. Guanajuato provided some of the most amazing views I had ever seen. We also got to experience a football game in Leon. Being among the local fans was an exciting night. I definitely ticked a few things I didn’t expect too during my time here. 

We also had the opportunity to visit one of the biggest shoe brands in Mexico. Flexi are a Mexican multinational in shoe manufacturing and sales. It was interesting to see the company culture and dynamics. Flexi’s management is more traditional in a sense that there is a hierarchical structure with older management practices. For example, the current CEO decided not to invest in new robots for their production line. This was to ensure that 60 jobs would be retained in fears of automation. This is a common management strategy among traditional Mexican companies and not embracing modern trends.

Flexi’s Distribution Warehouse Visit

One of my favourite visits was to Bimbo in Monterrey. It is the biggest manufacturer of bakery goods in the world. We got to see their factory operations at scale and learn about the different markets they operate in around the world. Just being at the factory, it was amazing to see the sheer size of their operations. Our guide went through the manufacturing process of their snack based products. We got to see a hybrid of their manual and automated processes in packing their products. What I learnt as a business student is to have an understanding of supply chains and basic engineering concepts, especially if you want to be involved in a manufacturing intensive industries as career. Of course, snacks were provided during the tour!

Our last week was preparation for our final presentations. Wrapping up all that we have learnt in the past month. So what have we learnt about doing business in Mexico includes:

  • Mexico is made up of different regions with diverse cultures. 
  • Mexico’s demographics are made up of a large population of young and well-educated group.
  • Intellectual Property rights are well protected in Mexico.
  • You need to have a good network in Mexico to navigate through the political and regulatory environment. 

Whilst the list goes on, I have definitely learnt and experienced so much of Mexico’s culture and business. Coming to study in Mexico was something I never expected to do in my lifetime. As a final note, I would look to thank everyone involved in the logistics and planning of this trip, from the Tecnológico de Monterrey and University of Auckland. 


Technological Disruptions in Emerging Markets: Mexico

As my time in Tecnológico de Monterrey comes to a near close, the learning experience, the physical observations and company visits made me understand how disruptive technology will shock economies around the world… including emerging countries such as Mexico.

Current Senior Minister of Singapore Tharman Shanmugaratnum, who stated that “there is a war against intelligent machines and AI… There is another 5 to 10 years for countries to respond by getting into the game of global value chains.” The Minister was referring to the opportunity window for countries to up-skill their labour force and provide international social mobility for their citizens via initial labour-intensive market activities.

We visited multiple firms including Bimbo (largest multinational bakery manufacturing company), Pirelli (Italian premium tire and automobile company), Flexi (Mexican shoe company), and Neoris (a modern digital technological consulting firm.

All of these firms have some form of artificial intelligence and automation within their manufacturing facilities. For example, in Grupo Bimbo, all of the bakery made in the Monterrey factory were mostly made by machines. Even the packaging system from the package bag to the boxes were all organised by AI machines. The only role for some of the workers were to manage the functioning of the machines, correct errors from the manufacturing process of the machines and some manual labour for moving boxes and finalising the production process.

Flexi facility.

“Automation provides us with wondrous increases of production and information, but does it tell us what to do with the men the machines displace? Modern industry gives us the capacity for unparalleled wealth – but where is our capacity to make that wealth meaningful to the poor of every nation?” — Robert Kennedy

Pirelli office

This was staggering to me. I only thought this problem existed in advanced countries, but I was wrong…. the claims made by Andrew Yang in his book ‘The War on Normal People’ is happening across emerging markets as well.

Technological disruption and job insecurity for low-skilled work is going to get worse as a process. At our company visits, during the question and answer questions, most of the managers expressed their desire for more automation and greater efficiency through machines. This is great news for international businesses regarding efficiency and productivity, but this is terrible for manufacturing workers in blue collar jobs in both emerging markets and advanced countries.

Coming to Mexico was a life-changing experience and helped me understand that there are global challenges. Automation and technological innovation is great for the world, but it has a cost. We must continue to research for public policy solutions to the emerging problem of technological disruption.

As a final word, I would like to thank the faculty of Tecnológico de Monterrey for this wonderful opportunity. Special mentions to Professor Anil Yasin for the workshops, intellectual conversations, mentorship and guidance throughout my time in Mexico.

Award Ceremony for iWinterMX

Leonard Hong

Shisla: The most valuable experience

Today was our last day at Tec de Monterrey.

Four weeks, four cities, 27 students, 5 lecturers. I have to say, I will miss all of it.

It was a great opportunity that I am so thankful to have participated in. In just such a short time, I have changed and learned so much. Of course, I can write paragraphs about the people you meet, experiences you have, the relationships you form and that you will treasure forever. But anyone that has travelled can also write about that.

What I want to write about is the experience of studying in a country with a completely different culture. This is an experience that will help you grow, open your mindset, develop your critical thinking and open so many more doors up in your career.

Before I came to Mexico, most of what I expected included sombreros, Coronas and cactuses. I mean, I was right, there is definitely an abundance in all of that here. But there is so much more to it.

Bonding after a visit to Freixenet in Queretaro.

I learned more in classes and company visits than i would have ever learned just travelling or through research at home. The way classes are carried out, the content, the relationship with the professor- it is all so different, and so reflective of the culture. I feel like this sort of experience is so valuable in today’s world. Globalisation has really brought us all together and it is so important to understand how other cultures think in professional environments.

Especially with the ever increasing relationship between New Zealand and Latin American countries, it is amazing that students have an opportunity to get such valuable first-hand experience. Being here has also made me even more thankful for the support provided by the New Zealand government for students to have such opportunities. It is truly through such experiences that us, young kiwis, are able to continue the development of the great work done by the past generations.