Arrival in a metropolis of 12 million

For most people, transitioning from a town of 10,000 people to a metropolis with a population of over 12 million might seem like a daunting task – for me, it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

My third day in Manila – a panoramic view facing Manila Bay!

In July 2015 I left my quaint life in North Carolina and moved to Manila to fulfill a year-long position as the Princeton in Asia Fellow for the Hinrich Foundation. I was extremely excited to start this new chapter in my life, working for an international charitable foundation while immersing myself in the vibrant culture of the Philippines!

Rooftop view from HKBU
Enjoying the rooftop view of Kowloon City while visiting scholars at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Fun with fieldwork

I hit the ground running at Hinrich Foundation, eager to gain a deep understanding of our three main programs while establishing strong relationships with my coworkers through my flexible job role.

I especially enjoyed my experience working with the Export Assistance Program, which allowed me to get a first-hand experience with the suppliers we are assisting through fieldwork with our Export Consultant, Lycah. Meeting wonderful individuals like Ms. Lisa Fonseca and seeing the lives we were impacting inspired me to work even harder than before!

Ace Creative
All smiles for Lycah and I as we worked with Mrs. Lisa Fonseca, one of our suppliers in the Export Assistance Program.

An international impact

Before I knew it, it was late October and time for the Global Sources Trade Show in Hong Kong. This would be my first trip outside of the Philippines, and I was thrilled to further my international exposure while also connecting with my coworkers and friends in the world-renowned city.

I had a full itinerary for the trip, with plans to visit both of our partner universities, meet all of our scholars, and interview as many alumni as possible regarding their experience with the foundation. I also had the privilege of manning the Hinrich Foundation booth at the show, allowing me to educate dozens of new contacts about the amazing work of the foundation. It turns out that the trip was even more enjoyable than I had imagined, both professionally and personally!

Hong Kong Trade show
Manning the HF booth at the Hong Kong Trade Show, speaking with with CEO of Global Sources, Mr. Spenser Au and HF Alumni Leadership Committee member, Ms. Celeste Zeng.
Part of HF team in HCM
The Education and Marketing Teams from our Ho Chi Minh City office. From left to right: Mai, Dory, myself, Ly, Thuy, Ella, Moon & Hai.

Promoting sustainable global friendships

Little did I know that my short time in Hong Kong would lead to lasting relationships with my friends and coworkers whom I met during my stay. In February, I decided to travel to Vietnam to visit a friend in PiA who has spent the past year teaching English at the University of Can Tho.

After a few day in Can Tho, Fred and I made our way up to Ho Chi Minh City, where we met up with my coworkers and friends from Hinrich Foundation. It was an awesome experience being able to introduce my two friend groups and see how things in our Vietnam office operated! The visit further strengthened our friendship and allowed the Vietnam team to introduce me to the important aspects of their culture and life.

VN office
An awesome Friday night out in the city with PiA and Hinrich Foundation friends! From left to right: Dory, Fred, Ly, Tirot, myself, Mai, Ella & Moon.

Overall, the experience as a PiA Fellow working at the Hinrich Foundation has made for one of the best years of my life! As I wrap up the final few months of my fellowship, I look forward to continuing my efforts to make the very most of this unique place and position!

About the author – Alex Ward

Rooftop view from HKBU

Alex Ward is the 2015-2016 Princeton in Asia Fellow at the Hinrich Foundation, and has spent the majority of his fellowship developing the Hinrich Foundation Alumni Association online platform and working with the Education Team on various projects.

Alex graduated from Elon University in 2014 and hopes to continue his journey in Asia after the conclusion of his fellowship with PiA. His year living in the Philippines has led to an incredible variety of experiences which have pushed him to do more and live life to the fullest!