By rotating 360˚, I could see the national borders, including numerous sea ports, of the country which lay before me. I was not engaging in Google Maps “travel”, but was standing on the observation deck of one of the tallest buildings in the small, bustling, tropical island nation of Singapore.
I was one of 8 Cambridge MBAs who had elected to attend the international monetary policy lecture series with Singapore Management University and Cass Business School students. The lectures were focused on gaining an understanding of how central bankers comprehend and react to macroeconomic activities, such as the export and import of goods via cargo ship which we could observe from our bird’s eye view. Interestingly, the economic and monetary policy course proved to provide a lens through which we experienced Singapore. Leave it to Cambridge MBA students to find Singapore’s seemingly ubiquitous high rise construction, immigration policy, and plastic dollar notes quite interesting and worth debate (which I much enjoyed). A walk through a mall full of high-end clothing retailers and countless jewelry stores did not include excited utterances of “Oh, look at this”, but rather remarks including “Why do I not see anyone holding bags of purchased goods?” If my memory serves me correct, the phrase “I see economic bubble” was uttered several times by one of my more discerning counterparts.
Cultural differences were even debated – such as the perception Eastern, relative to Western, populations have a greater propensity to save their income – from an economic perspective. Nevertheless (and thankfully), our time in Singapore was not entirely focused on “the dismal science.” – yes, MBA students do leave their spreadsheets and critical viewpoints behind from time to time. Given our academic demands were only 3-5 hours a day, we were provided with ample time to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of the energetic, extremely humid island nation. Highlights included the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, and Singapore Zoo. Our taste buds also experienced the cultural delights of savory hot pot, putrid smelling durian, and (my favourite) chicken rice. Although a week long, my time in Singapore proved a highlight of my Cambridge MBA experience.
I highly recommend the course to future MBA students with a keen interest in economics, love of experiencing different cultures, and need a break from the “leaves–something-to-be-desired” weather of Cambridge.