! I chose to go to China because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone more than ever before. I wanted to gain perspective and learn about the amazing history and promising future of China.
Though my time in Harbin was short, but it was enough to begin to immerse myself into the community, and to gain the confidence to use Chinese to speak with people, and to figure out ways to get what I needed.
I knew that studying abroad would be a life changing experience, but I did not expect to learn so much about myself as an individual contributing to society. I've learned the importance of sustainability and my role in creating a more sustainable living environment for myself, those around me and for future generations.
The other facet supplementing what we were learning in classes were corporation visits with multi-national corporations (MNCs). These visits provided unique opportunity to have exposure to managers within different industries. Pairing lectures with visits allowed us to view the most salient aspects of the labor movement.
Some memories of China are especially vivid: bright little dragon kites flying from overpasses in the Beijing smog, the lively overpowering buzz of cicadas in Shanghai, the heat of a bowl of spicy-soup from my favorite shop in Harbin. But the things that affected me the most were intangible: I gained confidence, friendships, a broader worldview, better communication skills and so much more.
For those who don't know Hong Kong used to be under the rule of Britain and until recently was given back to China with the added right to be independent which is called the system of "one country two systems". This allowed Hong Kong to not only have a mixture of Western and Chinese culture but have an independent governing system which allows this culture to thrive.
Being a foreigner in China made me use all of my body parts to communicate with the local people. For the Chinese employees in the office, it was not easy to communicate at first even though they used English but after time, I was able to talk with them without problem through choosing simple words and speaking precisely.
Now that I am back home and have had time to reflect on my experience I can truly appreciate it. I have developed skills that will follow me through life such as being open minded, understanding things from different perspectives, and knowing that despite being so young I can make a difference and have an impact as a global leader.
At times throughout the program I would forget I was in China and it speaks to what a great opportunity the program ended up being. After the first few days it truly felt like I was part of the Chinese culture despite facing some challenges such as not being able to communicate effectively or blend in with the crowd due to the fact that we were American. Despite these difficulties I enjoyed all aspects of the program.
Getting to work with students with such a different culture than my own and speak with them about their values and culture was a once in a life-time experience. Actually hearing the similarities and differences rather than reading about them was absolutely incredible.
The most memorable experience while I was in Chengdu, China was going to see the Great Leshan Buddha. The biggest Buddha in the world and I had gotten to experience it. It was truly amazing.
As an African American female I know how it feels to be the minority and misunderstood. The encounters I had allowed me to take a step back and realize how I personally treat the Asian students on campus.
When I was accepted into the program, my entire family was concerned about studying abroad in China. They believed that the country is dangerous. But by studying abroad in China, I was able to clear up many misconceptions that my family had about the country.
If it was one thing I would miss it would be the food, all the new smells and all the new tastes were amazing.
The biggest takeaway I got from traveling to China was that there a few assumptions that can generalize to the entire culture or society. Although the government is present in every public decision or action, there also exists a high level of variability in how policies are carried out and regulated.
A few other guys and I, on the study abroad program, had an opportunity to play a couple of three on three basketball games with some of the basketball players at Sichuan University. It's weird how the same game can be played so different.
I noticed that many of the citizens in Chengdu, China did not have a lot of money or materialistic items, but they were rich in spirit, humbleness, and eagerness to care for their family. Interacting with the citizens in Chengdu showed me how I do not have to have a lot of materialistic things to be wealthy, but instead family, love and support are things in life that would make me rich.
With spending fifteen hours a week learning grammar, how to write, how to speak colloquially, and how to read, I was able to greatly enhance my Mandarin Chinese language abilities.
What will always stand out the most to me about the experience, however, is what I learned about the culture, and a way of life that is very different from mine in America, but at the same time surprisingly similar.
Aside from all the excitement of being in a new place, my main intent was to participate in an internship program. I was fortunate enough to work for the Singapore Business Federation, which is an organization that represents the business community in Singapore.
After getting used to China and its unique culture, I was able to enjoy my explorations of China. My favorite discovery was that many people go outside in the evening and enjoy being outside.
Our study abroad program met with over ten companies in different industries, which gave me some perspectives of the different strategic approaches each company possessed in the business world.
This study abroad week-long visit opened my eyes to the culture and I am thankful to have a new perspective and appreciation of the country.
The program wasn’t all business though; our program coordinators made sure we receive a well-rounded education with cultural undertakings for the adventurous soul.
This study abroad provided me with a chance to experience a completely different culture from my own.
While I was in China, I certainly improved my Chinese by leaps and bounds, but those improvements were simply a vehicle for the truly meaningful aspect of my time in China. The people I connected, spent time, and laughed with really embody what I want to take away from this experience.
China is a country of extensive culture and history, and I would recommend a visit to anyone who hopes to have a future in business.
Not only did I learn about China’s history, culture and business practices, I was able to interact with the students, professors, and business leaders that drive China to be the great country that it is.
I chose to do this program in order to improve my Chinese level and also gain valuable experience living abroad. I felt these two aspects would be helpful in finding a job in the future. With over 20 hours of language classes a week, this program was very challenging. But the classes were also a lot of fun.
I think the only way you can truly know your own country is to leave it.
My two-week trip to China turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had on either a personal or professional level. The ability for us to take learning outside of the classroom was unparalleled.