New year, new memories #whycbs

Our new year’s celebrations in Taipei were nothing short of epic.

Here in Asia we’ve learned that symbolism is everything. So on Saturday 12/31 before getting ready to ring in the new year, we spent the afternoon on Maokong, a beautiful hill in Taipei with gorgeous views and cleansing tea. It’s also a gathering place for families all over Taiwan.

We were lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve at a rooftop venue overlooking Taipei 101, which was also one of the companies we visited.  The design of the building consists of 8 “boxes” shaped like rice boxes since rice symbolizes good fortune. The building also has 101 stories – one beyond perfection. So it’s only fitting that we rang in 2017 with Taipei 101 with fireworks exploding off the building!


On January 1, we participated in another long standing tradition in Taiwan. We drove to Shifen to release lanterns for the new year. We each wrote our wishes for the new year on the lanterns and then sent them up into the sky!


Melanie Chow ’17

Jam-packed days in Taipei!

The last few days leading up to the new year have been jam packed with activities for the Chazen crew in Taiwan. We all landed in Taipei on Wednesday December 28th, and while it would be impossible to share all the moments of our trip so far here are some key highlights.
12/28: “There is a Chinese saying that the best boss is like a servant” – CEO of Franz Collection

According to Forbes Magazine, the fourth most desired item for young Chinese is fine porcelain: vases, tea ware, decorative ornaments, etc. Our first company visit was to Franz Collection, a company founded in 2001 that has quickly risen to prominence as one of the best suppliers of luxury fine porcelain. Their mission is to bring the beauty of ancient Chinese porcelain to the modern world. Their designs focus on highlighting the beauty of nature and Eastern symbolism. All items are handmade and even most of the “simple” items may take 3-4 months to produce.

We had the opportunity to speak with the founder and CEO who not only shared with us his ability to grow the business over the past 15 years but also how he aspires to maintain an open and non-hierarchical work culture. Two key facts:

  1. They believe technology and innovation are key for maintaining their competitive advantage – for years they have perfected their own 3D printing technology that allows them to build molds and designs more quickly and with more delicate elements that can then be translated into a handmade collectible
  2. Their employees are part of a “roundtable” – they don’t have hierarchical titles and all employees have a seat at the table. This encourages innovation and respect

12/28: “Our chefs are trained for 2 years so they can perfect their dumpling folding” – Din Tai Fung, top restaurant chain known for their soup dumplings (xiao long bao)


12/28: Taipei 101

Our second company visit was to Taipei 101, the most iconic building in Taiwan and home to a shopping mall, offices, and observation deck. When it was built, it was the tallest building in the world and has won multiple awards for its construction and green / LEED practices.

12/28: “Your biggest asset and risk is your reputation” – Stanley Ko, head of Hasmore Restaurant Group and CBS ‘99 alum

Stanley gave us insight into Hasmore – a family business started by his father that manages top restaurants in Asia. They partner with global chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, invest in new ideas and concepts, and build their own top-rated restaurants with Michelin chefs. He generously treated us to a 7-course dinner at Ryu Gin, an acclaimed Japanese restaurant led by Chef Yamamoto.

12/29: Morning cultural stop at the Martyr’s Shrine

12/29: Garage+ / Epoch

Epoch and Garage+ is a nonprofit that incubates startups and promotes entrepreneurship in Taiwan. The founder established the organization in hopes of finding a way to push Taiwan beyond cheap labor and manufacturing, which was its primary source of growth in the 1980s/1990s.

12/29: VR 

In 2016 HTC launched VIVE – their new virtual reality (VR) brand. We got to test out their games and take a tour of their beautiful building. We met with VR Chief of Staff Jimmy Feng and VP of Sales and Operations Victor Hu. They gave us insight into the future of VR and how it can be used not only in media/entertainment (e.g. Gaming) but also to improve healthcare (surgeons at UCLA use VR technology to visualize a neural MRI and CAT Scan before surgery in order to plot out the best entry site and incisions during the operation).

12/29: Alumni sponsored dinner by Shirley Wang (CBS alum) and Walter Wang (Formosa Group)

We sat around two large tables and each had our own hotpot set (traditional Chinese meal where you cook a variety of meats, seafood, and fresh veggies in a fragrant soup broth directly at the table)

And we haven’t even gotten to the “fun” stuff yet – more to come soon!

Melanie Chow ’17

Taiwan & Singapore – Kicking Off!

A lot of CBS students decide to join a Chazen trip to get insight into a new culture – they want to be immersed in a new language, new spices, new traditions that they have not yet experienced in their daily lives. And these are all excellent reasons!

But I decided to go a different route – to explore a culture I am immensely familiar with, but in a unique and exciting way. I am Cantonese and have traveled extensively through mainland China and Hong Kong, but have never been to Singapore or Taiwan. This upcoming Chazen trip, which kicks off in one week, will be a way to take a culture I love and see it through the eyes of my classmates and amazing trip organizers, Eric Yen ‘17, Evelyn Wuu ‘17, and Jayburt Tang, ‘17.

We’ve already had a taste of how great this trip will be from the kickoff dinner they organized for us a few weeks back. We went to Han Dynasty, a restaurant I’ve been to many times before. But while I often struggle with deciding what to order and properly pronouncing dishes I only half remember how to say with my elementary Chinese, Eric, Evelyn, and Jayburt quickly took the helm and ordered us a huge feast. They chose dishes that were mostly new to my classmates – things like chili oil dan dan noodles, beef tendons, double cooked pork with fermented greens, pickled vegetables, etc.

So what are we excited for?

  • Exploring Taiwan, from the startup culture to modern pottery to automated manufacturing to fine dining
  • Ringing in the new year while watching fireworks shoot off of Taiwan 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers
  • Visiting Singapore Airlines and learning about the luxury hospitality and real estate scene in Singapore at Marina Bay Sands, a 5-star hotel
  • Traditional Chinese meals from peking duck to local Taiwanese street food to multi-course meals in a palace museum…

and the list goes on…!

Melanie Chow ‘17
Singapore & Taiwan

key takeaways & lessons learned in Hong Kong & Taiwan

I’ve walked you through all of the business, cultural and social outings we engaged in during our trip to Hong Kong & Taiwan, but I didn’t really talk about lessons learned. Let’s rehash a few key takeaways:

As I’ve never been to Asia before the Chazen study tour, I was surprised to find how modernized Hong Kong and Taiwan actually were. I was less surprised by the former, as Hong Kong has been considered a developed region for some time. And by the end of our visit in Hong Kong, I came to the conclusion that Hong Kong was the “NYC of Asia”… at least in my view! But Taiwan was unexpected – while there was a lot of farmland and undeveloped property across the country, the actual city of Taipei was quite similar to a mid-sized city in the States. There wasn’t quite the hustle and bustle of a New York City scene, but there were plenty of cultural sites to see and the nightlife was certainly not lacking. Bars and clubs lined many streets, and the night market was something special. With that said, there were certainly cultural differences apparent in both Hong Kong and Taiwan that are worth highlighting.

When walking the streets of Hong Kong, I was overwhelmed by the number of hardware and home improvement stores. It was an observation that was made by several other students on the study tour as well. As I think back and reflect on this, it seems logical. While new construction is certainly not that prevalent in NYC, the residential areas and infrastructure in general are much older and more dilapidated in Hong Kong. It only makes sense that residents in the city would want to make improvements to their homes.

There were also several commonalities between Hong Kong and Taiwan that are starkly different from what we’re all accustomed to in the States. First, in almost every restaurant we had lunch or dinner, it was difficult to come across a pitcher of water (or even a glass of water for that matter). While we’re used to being served water with every meal – often without even asking – the tradition in Hong Kong and Taiwan (and I’m guessing across Asia) is to serve tea instead. It seems trivial, but for someone who doesn’t drink a lot of tea, it didn’t go unnoticed! Another observation throughout the tour, but particularly when we were on the trams in Hong Kong, is the abundance of retailers and shopping malls in the area. I never really considered Asia to be such a consumer driven society, but I now think twice when comparing consumer trends in the States to countries in Asia. One last observation – I found that I often received “free” gifts when purchasing merchandise above a certain dollar threshold. This is certainly not customary in the US, and something I found to be not only amusing, but also very generous!

Regardless of the cultural (or otherwise) differences experienced between the States, Hong Kong and Taiwan, my biggest takeaway from the trip is that at the end of the day, we are all people. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every person that embarked on this amazing journey… it was certainly the journey of a lifetime. I have made many great friends that I otherwise may never have met at CBS, and for that I am grateful. I would like to thank the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business for giving all of us at Columbia the opportunity to participate in these study tours. I would also like to once again thank our fantastic organizers – Karl, Gina & Justin – without all of your hard work, this study tour wouldn’t have even been possible. I look forward to traveling more through Chazen Institute next year and post-graduation with family and friends. It’s been real folks. Hong Kong & Taiwan 2015 Chazen Study Tour was a blast, but that’s all for now!

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Oh how I miss you, Taiwan

It’s only been a week since the 2015 Hong Kong & Taiwan Chazen Study Tour officially came to an end, and I am already missing Asia! First round interviews are in full swing, and students pursuing IB, consulting and/or investment management are working hard to secure those second rounds. On this wonderful Saturday morning, let’s recap all of the fun-filled events that took place in Taiwan:

Day 1 – By 8:30am, we were on a bus, leaving Taipei and headed to Nantou. After 3 hours on the road, we arrived at Sunny Hills Pineapple Farms. While sitting through a brief company presentation, we were provided pineapple cakes and tea. Delicious! The pineapple cakes were so good that many of us bought a few boxes to bring back to the States.

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We left Sunny Hills to have lunch at Taiwan Times Village. After a tasty meal – and a birthday celebration – we headed to Giant Manufacturing Co. We were greeted with a special welcome at their offices… check out the pictures below! The Chairman’s executive assistant gave a very informative company presentation. Shortly after, we headed to the factory to see the manufacturing process in action. Very cool!

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After Giant, we headed back to Taipei. When we arrived, we had the option to go to Shinlin Night Market. Many of us decided to check it out, and boy, are we glad we did. We split up into several groups while we were there, and my group’s strategy was to wait in the longest lines for food. Our thought was that the longest lines equated to the best food at the market… and we were right! The sausage in sausage, angus beef steak cubes and pork-in-a-bun were excellent. Many of us ended the night at Electro, formerly known as Spark ATT night club!

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Day 2 – Our first event of the day was a company visit to HTC Corporation. Very cool, unique office. The main lobby is actually referred to as ‘the gallery’ because of all of the artwork on display. Check it out:

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After HTC, we had lunch at Ding Tai Fung. Hands down, best meal ever. Wow, the dumplings at this place were incredible! I have never eaten so much in my life. Thanks to our fabulous organizer, Gina, for setting this up! Following lunch, we spent several hours touring the National Palace Museum and Zhishan Garden. Afterwards, we headed to the Grand Formosa Regent hotel for an alumni networking reception. Our keynote speaker, Tony Phoo, who is the Chief Economist at Standard Chartered Bank Taiwan, was impressive. He provided a detailed history of Taiwan & China, in addition to a convincing forecast of what he thinks is in store for Taiwan from an economic perspective. Later, many of us ended the night with a Karaoke Party at Party World SOGO.

Day 3 – Our last day in Taiwan was busy! We started with a visit to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The grounds are absolutely beautiful:

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From there, we made a visit to the Taiwan R.O.C. Presidential Office. Our charismatic tour guide made the tour a memorable one!

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After our tour of the Presidential Office, we headed to Chienyuan Restaurant for lunch. Following yet another scrumptious meal, we headed to Longshan Temple. What an experience! The architecture here was phenomenal:

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Later, we toured Academia Historica. There, one of our very own was sworn into office… Hello Mr. President!


Our final event for the day was a company visit to Taipei 101. There, we were given a formal presentation on the history of the building, followed by a trip up to the observation deck. Not surprisingly, the views were amazing:


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After seeing the city of Taipei from 89 floors up, we headed to our farewell dinner at Shinyeh A9. It was the perfect end to an even more perfect trip in Hong Kong & Taiwan! Thanks again to our fabulous organizers, Karl, Gina & Justin!

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Goodbye Hong Kong, Hello Taiwan!

After a jam-packed schedule of cultural, social and professional events in Hong Kong, our Chazen study tour group has moved on to Taiwan. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s do a recap of all the ground we covered in beautiful and exciting Hong Kong:

Some of us arrived to Hong Kong a day or two early. For those of us that did, our fabulous organizers (and other CBS friends) showed us a fun night on the town. We kicked off the pre-tour with a little bar-hopping in Lan Kwai Fong (LKF). One of my favorites by far and away was a hidden gem called ‘The Woods’. Unique drink specials coupled with a modern, albeit somewhat funky, decor gave the place its charm.

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Before grabbing drinks at this awesome local spot, we ran into something a little close to home…


I for one did a double take… are we back in New York?!

The next day, a few more of us arrived and decided to go hiking on the well-known Dragon’s Back trail. Following are some of the breathtaking views from this trek. Who knew we would stumble upon a beautiful beach in the middle of this hike?! Certainly not me, but it was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

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Later that day, the official tour commenced with a private boat tour on the Aqua Luna around Victoria Harbor. The wind coming off of the water was a tad chilly (note Alvaro’s warm, fuzzy blanket in the shot below), but the water and views were outstanding.

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After a fun ride on the boat, we all gathered to watch the Symphony of Lights at Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, followed by dinner at W1 Restaurant. The display of some of the local dishes was exquisite. Note: you are NOT supposed to actually eat the head of the chicken!


After dinner, we ended the night with some more bar-hopping at LKF. What a first day! After rehashing, I’m exhausted, so you’ll have to wait until next time for the rest of the recap on all the fun-filled events that took place in Hong Kong. Off to Sunnyhills Pineapple Farms!

Lauren Harmon CBS ’16

spending New Year’s Day at Newark airport, anxiously awaiting my flight to Hong Kong

I’m sure many of you celebrated NYE in a more traditional way than I did. Your evening probably involved dinner with family and friends, followed by a night out on the town and a champagne toast at midnight to ring in the new year. My husband and I stayed in to do some last minute packing and cleaning in preparation for the upcoming CBS study tour to Hong Kong and Taiwan – and I could not have had a better night. The excitement is building and I cannot wait to step off the plane in Hong Kong. While 16 hours on a plane may seem daunting to most, my overwhelming desire to kick off this tour far outweighs any dread I have over the flight. Happy new year everyone!

Lauren Harmon CBS ’16

The Umbrella Movement is Officially Over & CBS is Coming to Town

If you follow world news, you’re probably aware that pro-democracy protests, led by student groups in Hong Kong, have been disrupting city streets for almost three months now. Late last week, the city officially returned to its normal order. And for the small group of Columbia Business School students traveling to Hong Kong and Taiwan on the 2015 Chazen study tour, the timing couldn’t have been better. As the fall semester of 2014 comes to a close, students wrap up with finals and start heading home for the holidays (wherever home may be), the group can finally begin to focus on the upcoming trip to Asia. The bankers, consultants and research analysts among us will inevitably be rigorously prepping for first round interviews over break. But amidst all of the interview prep, we will also be reading the hundreds of pages of materials to prepare for our company visits in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Among the intriguing list of companies that we will be interviewing management teams are Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Giant Bicycles, to name a few. Not to worry, however, mixed in with the exciting line-up of company visits are a number of amazing cultural events and social outings. Upon our arrival in Hong Kong, the organizers of the trip – Karl, Justin and Gina – have planned a fascinating Aqua Luna private boat party. And I can think of no better way to kick off such an exhilarating and enlightening week. To all of you readers and bloggers out there, that’s all for now. More to come as we ramp up our preparation for the trip and get closer to take-off.

Lauren Harmon CBS ’16

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