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A Taste of Home

"March 29th, 2013: Today was probably the most impactful day of the trip. 

We started the day by going to the Eastern International University (EIU) and listening to some facts about EIU, Becamex, and the Vietnam economy. It was very interesting. I learned what a PESTLE analysis is and how it is applied to Vietnamese economics.

We then learned about Starbucks coming to Vietnam. Vietnam has some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. It is incredibly strong and the "coffee culture" in this country is even stronger. It is the world's second largest coffee exporter. Coffee isn't just a drink they drink on the go, but rather they drink it with friends and peers over conversation/discussion. A very popular way to have coffee is drip coffee. In this method, hot water is place on top of ground coffee beans and it is slowly dripped into condensed milk. After all the coffee is dripped, you mix it together and drink it hot or iced. As you can imagine, this is not the fastest of process, but a beautiful one for us coffee lovers. So far, there is only one Starbucks located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, but the Seattle-based coffee company plans to open more than 100 in Vietnam in the next 3-5 years. Currently, this one Starbucks is incredibly popular, queuing up lines of people just waiting hours for an average cup of joe. The "coffee-king" of Vietnam, Trung Nguyen Coffee, has called out its competitor by saying it is selling coffee flavored water with sugar. We discussed Starbuck's business strategy for integrating into the Vietnamese business-market. If one thing was clear it was that Starbucks is not selling coffee, but rather a lifestyle. As a Starbucks addict, I love it for a few reasons:

1) My drink is customizable. I can get anything I want, in my case, a triple venti extra-hot cinnamon dulce latte during the winter and during the summer a quad venti caramel macchiato without a lid. 

2) It's consistent. I know at my drinks are going to be the same anywhere I go, whether it be Portland or Vietnam. 

3) And lastly, the most important thing for me, the atmosphere and partners. I love the feeling I get when I walk into a Starbucks. It's a warm, comforting, welcoming, and accepting environment. The baristas at my shop know my name, my drink, and always make my morning. 

I don't necessarily go to Starbucks for the coffee (while I do enjoy it), I really go there for the connection I have with the company, its partners, my fellow Starbucks-addicts (including Mr. Loi), and its global work.

Later we split up into groups of five composed of both PSU and EIU students. Our task was to design a sustainable project for Binh Duong New City. This was a very interesting activity to try to work with these students and communicate with them. They are all very good at English but there is still some difficulty. What I got from this activity was that it wasn't about the project we proposed, but rather about how we worked with the students and to see how our culture differences played out while developing our ideas and presenting them to the other groups.

The Vietnamese students (like most of the population here) are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They are so giving and love to hear more about your life in America. One of the most inspiring students I met on this trip talked to me for a good amount of time. He thanked me for coming and told me that he loved becoming friends with me. He went on to tell me how his dream is to come to America to study or work. It was truly inspiring. We exchanged Facebook information and I told him to contact me whenever he is in America. He told me to come back to Vietnam soon so we can get to know each other more and spend more time together. This simple conversation made such an impact on me, it's hard to explain why.

Because of the beautiful people in this country I cannot wait to get back to Vietnam sometime in my life. I have fallen in love with the Vietnam people and their culture."

This blog posts comes from Caleb A. Haley, a participant in a Vietnam excursion led by Dr. Wheeler.