This past summer, I received the opportunity to hone my independent research skills as I dove into a global issue with far-reaching social and business implications. I have always been interested in research, both as a significant aspect of my academic career as well as a potential aspect of my professional career. From writing research papers for seminar classes at Penn to conducting preliminary research and editing as a research assistant for my Lauder MBA team, I had enjoyed the process of continual learning, observation, and analysis to produce new knowledge and spark more awareness and discussion; however, I had never conducted a large-scale independent research project, and had never conducted research in field — partially because up until now I had not found a topic that particularly inspired me.
Yet, while on my gap year before Penn, I grew fascinated with an issue that drew me to in-depth study and exploration. Through my internship with a Taiwanese telecommunications company in Taipei, I gained a substantial understanding of the Southeast Asian migrant population in Taiwan and their work conditions, living situations, and financial and social needs that are only barely starting to be noticed and served — and I grew interested in the migrant worker population in other countries as well, namely Singapore.
Through the Wharton Social Impact Research Experience (SIRE) program, I sought to merge my passion for migrant workers with the actionable and effective solutions that finance and financial inclusion brings, finding an angle that is more results-driven than the human rights perspective that framed my academic research, and more social impact-driven than the profit perspective that framed my market research for my Taiwanese company. As the intersection of international relations and business, this not only dovetailed my two degree programs as a Huntsman student, but also furthered my future goals of wielding my business expertise for social impact globally after graduation.
Actually going to Singapore and conducting my research proved to be immensely challenging, but also immensely rewarding. Particularly during COVID restrictions, the travel and visa logistics, self-quarantine, and partial lock-down halfway into my stay required flexibility and coordination on my part. And of course, the research itself — as well as just living in a completely unfamiliar city — pushed me to take more initiative and boldness, whether in asking random strangers for their opinions at a mall where migrant workers tended to congregate after work or making first friends in a city where I knew absolutely no one. But those experiences are also what made my summer so special and gave me a sense of self-assuredness and the confidence to reach out to other people, pursue, and simply ask for what I want.
Reflecting back, I think I learned more about Singapore — both about migrant workers as well as Singapore in general — in my two months there than I learned about Taiwan during my entire gap year, as a result of merely being intentional about living there to soak everything in and understand as much as I could about its history, culture, and people. Coming back to Penn, one of my biggest goals is to keep that mindset of constant growth and seeking new experiences — and also to keep the amazing memories I made in Singapore, memories like sleeping outside on an island off the coast of Singapore with my German AirBnB roommate, running to the National Library of Singapore to do research and escape the never-ending heat, trying plate after plate of food from all the best hawker stalls, walking around the Marina Bay plaza and gardens at night (the one from Crazy Rich Asians), and of course, coming back home to reunite with my friends and family — and get excited about the rest of my time at Penn.
— Stacy Shimanuki
Posted: December 10, 2021