Highline Leads Third Successful Short-Term Study Abroad Trip
It’s a rare opportunity to get a first-hand look at the operations of a shoe factory in Vietnam.
But that’s precisely what Highline College, Tacoma Community College and North Seattle College students did during their Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad Program trip held Sept. 1-10, 2023.
“While visiting Brooks [Running] factory, it was fascinating to see all the small elements that comprise a single shoe,” said Francine Roper, a Tacoma Community College student. “All the workers are cross-trained to work any equipment in their department.”
Roper, 48, lives in Olympia and is currently working on her associate degree in business with a concentration in global logistics. She was among 12 students who participated in the annual short-term study abroad program this summer, which guided students as they followed two products in the supply chain –– one exported to Vietnam (Washington apples) and another imported from Vietnam (Brooks shoes).
Yet the program began long before students boarded the 12-plus hour flight to Southeast Asia. In August, students visited CMI Orchards in Wenatchee, Washington to tour its packaging facility and learn more about Washington’s apple industry and the Brooks headquarters in Seattle to learn about footwear design and development, trade compliance, and logistics.
Highline College student Luciano Frigo said having the opportunity to interact, ask questions and learn more about professionals’ experiences was invaluable.
“From the Brooks office in Seattle to the factory in Saigon, the visit to the [U.S.] consulate and all the talk about the relationship between the two countries –– as well as commercial practices and interests –– but mainly the visit to the port, which was extremely interactive, educational immersive and interesting,” said Frigo when asked what was most memorable about the trip.
Frigo is a Brazilian emigrant currently residing in Kent. He is studying for his Bachelor of Applied Science in Global Trade and Logistics and expects to graduate in March 2024.
“[This trip] gave me a bit of insight and exposure into my field of study, which further fueled my ambition for a career in logistics and supply chain and put a lot of topics and questions on my plate to do research on,” Frigo said. “There are many possibilities out there, and this trip gave me the opportunity to see and reflect on my future and the direction I want to take in my professional and personal life.”
Launched in September 2019, the study abroad program was founded through a partnership between Highline College-based Center of Excellence for Global Trade and Supply Chain Management, Highline College, North Seattle College, Tacoma Community College and Wenatchee Valley College. This year’s trip marked the program’s fifth year with its third trip to Vietnam.
Students only had to pay $500 each for the Vietnam trip, while sponsors funded the rest. The trip’s sponsors include Lynden International, the U.S. Department of Education Center for International Business Education & Research (housed at the University of Washington Global Business Center), the University of Washington Center for Global Studies, and the University of Washington Southeast Asia Center, Seattle Colleges Foundation, Tacoma Community College Foundation and Highline College Foundation.
In addition to the shoe factory, students had a busy schedule of visiting the U.S. Consulate, touring a Wholesale Import Market at night, wearing hard hats on a tour at SP-SSA International Terminal (SSIT) – a port similar to our local Port of Seattle, swimming in the South China Sea in Vung Tau, visiting Foreign Trade University and two free days to explore Vietnam on their own.
Read what faculty and staff members had to say about the Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad Program trip to Vietnam:
“I think this opportunity is one of the best ways to support Highline’s mission as a diverse and welcoming institution to students from all backgrounds. By keeping the cost affordable and the length of the trip short, we are able to increase access to this kind of overseas experience. We had a very diverse group of participants, including students who have not traveled outside the U.S. before.”– Jennifer Jones, Highline College geography and global studies instructor
“Observing and sharing in the growth and development of the students on this trip is the biggest highlight. They made direct connections with individuals and with organizations. The impact this will have on their education and career development is invaluable. They can reference this trip as they enter and move through the workforce, and employers will be fortunate to have members of their team with the insight and understanding of global trade, the supply chain and on how to build international relationships.” – Joshua Gerstman, Highline College Vice President of Institutional Advancement
“I think that students who study supply chain and business truly enjoyed the experience. I believe they got to see firsthand how those things work “in the real world” and not just in theory (books, classroom, etc.). I also think they gained a lot from learning with Vietnamese students and experiencing their way of living and learning. To have an immersive experience is to learn first hand about things and to really see how the world is connected. ” – Dr. Tylir McKenzie, Highline College psychology instructor and program coordinator
“Some of the students expressed a strong interest in getting involved with international business. I hope they made connections at all the places we visited and that some of those connections will help them get started in their careers. I hope they learned something about the culture and that they carry this into the other parts of their lives and are more open-minded and respectful of the diversity they encounter in their lives.” – Terry Meerdink, Highline College mathematics instructor