Financial Literacy, USA
Between the 11th of November and 21st of November 2012, a selected group of 25 Year Four students accompanied by 2 Math teachers (Miss Fang Chye Pin and Mr Ong Eldwen) and their trainer (Mr Bennet Lim), set off on a Financial Literacy trip to the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, United States of America. The trip was designed to complement the Financial Literacy lessons attended by the students in Years Three and Four. The objectives of the trip were to raise the students’ interest in Business & Financial Studies as well as raise their awareness of the standards required for entry to prestigious educational institutions through visits to such institutions, financial institutions and start-up companies in the Silicon Valley. Mr Bennett Lim, also taught the students to analyse the financial statement of a company and calculate the cash flow.
Reflections by students:
One of the biggest highlights of the trip was the visit to Disneyland. At first, we were a little repulsive at the idea of having to listen to a talk before we could have fun in the theme parks, but when we went behind the scenes to learn the trade secrets of the theme park’s success, we realised that it was far more interesting than we thought it would have been. Some secrets revealed in the talk included how the park made use of the five senses to create the illusion that the visitors are in a real market street. It was a huge eye-opener for us as these seemingly absurd marketing strategies are actually successful in achieving the theme park’s goals. In fact, the company also shows that to survive in the business world, constant reviewing and innovations must be carried out. Their latest addition of the California Adventure Park with the more thrilling rides brings in more revenue as it will appeal to another group of thrill-seekers.
This trip also taught us the importance of proper communication as a misunderstanding had occurred when two of us were left waiting in the theme park for the other two who had gone back to the hotel. Since then, the bond between the members of our group had become stronger.
12Y4K Gan Jing Ying
The main focus of the trip; and also the most enriching part was visiting the various up-and-rising start-up companies. These include certain companies which have experienced exponential growth despite only opening its doors to the market recently and are creating a noteworthy presence in the renowned Silicon Valley. From companies like Box.com, Rocketfuel and Zeta instruments, we learned the arduous but not impossible process of expanding one’s own start-up company and the many difficulties faced, for example finding initial investment, publicity, branding, commercialisation and partnership. One important takeaway we had from these companies is the importance of employee welfare, which if well taken care of, would be the key to the company’s long term success. Box.com has an extremely bright and colourful working environment encouraging employees to decorate their unenclosed desks to promote comfort at work and transparency. They even have slides joining the second storey to the first and gaming cum snacks rooms for the employees’ leisure. Rocketfuel has its own welfare department to provide different food buffets of different cultural backgrounds as well as celebration of almost every festival of different races to boosts its company’s exposure to cultural diversity intended to amalgamate cultural awareness. When the people are happy, their energy transcends to the company’s prosperity.
12Y4H Benjamin Ho
The visit to the Stanford University helped us gain a better understanding of overseas university life. We were able to compare the education systems in Singapore and the United States along with their respective entry requirements and application processes into universities. Under the ‘insistence’ of our instructor, Mr Bennet Lim, we had a roulette-style of interaction segment with Singaporeans studying there; this ensured that all for us had a chance to talk to the seniors. Some of us commented that this Q-and A-session strongly resembled a speed dating session while some Stanford students remarked that they preferred to be able to interact freely with the students – another cultural difference we noticed. Another plus point of their University’s system is the freedom to learn anything offered (for example, dancing, fencing) during their first year – which encourages the students to explore their other passions as well, yet another major difference to our Singapore’s system. Those who were there as exchange students also shared with us the benefits of being exposed to both types of education systems. We were also treated to a tour of the campus as well as a visit to the students’ dorms.
Another highlight of the trip was the informal dialogue session with Mr Justin Choo, an ex-Dunmanian who is currently a director at the San Francisco branch of Singapore’s Economic Development Board. He shared with us EDB’s role locally as well as overseas, and Singapore’s role as a global business centre. Next, Mr Sukan Makmuri, an entrepreneur who specialises in building companies and growing investment portfolios, gave us tips on how we could start investing safely and advised us to be careful when handling our assets. He also shared with us his experience holding executive and leadership positions in US Fortune 100 and funding start-up companies. Both talks were insightful and gave us a clearer picture of the financial situation in USA, Singapore and globally.
12Y4M Lee Jie Min
Cultural differences between the American society and Singaporean society quickly surfaced, and we were struck by the emphasis that Americans put on care and friendliness, which was exhibited most explicitly via the channel of Service and Customer Care. An experience that one of us had in the Target store exemplifies this. While shopping at Target, he had purchased an electronic item. It was to his dismay that when he unwrapped the packaging, he found an entirely different product inside, inferior in many ways including quality and price. A few days later, when the group visited Target again it was with commendable ease that he had the product replaced. He is both impressed and grateful with this return policy.
12Y4C Ng Yuan Siang