This Summer I was accepted into the MBA Asia Study Abroad Experience as an Undergraduate. It was a trip that both challenged me and helped shape my world view. As one of the only undergraduate students on the trip, I felt a little unsure of what to expect, but I knew it would be highly beneficial to learn how business is conducted in a global environment. I was eager to learn the culture of both emerging developed market economies, as well as enjoying the art, food, and unique customs of each country!
The first stop was Beijing, China, and we kicked off the trip by some pretty unforgettable sight-seeing (After getting over the initial shock of landing and literally not being able to understand anyone or anything around us!). We started at the Great Wall, an obvious peak of the trip. It was such a surreal feeling finally standing in a place you see your whole life through the lens of a textbook or poster, and it was such a great way to take in the new country. That being said, I think the best part was getting up to and down from the wall. I hadn't given that aspect much thought (I just figured there must be a ginormous set of stairs or maybe, fingers crossed, an elevator?) No such luck. To my surprise, we were lifted up the 500 feet via ski lift with no seatbelts. Once I got over the fact that if I fell I would 100% die, the view was unlike anything I had ever seen, only to be topped by how we got down. Turns out you can toboggan down the great wall on a track, which is just as much fun as it sounds. After the Great Wall, we visited the Summer Palace, saw a Kung Fu show, and got to experience a traditional Peking Duck dinner. Not a bad first day at all!
In Beijing, we visited a wide variety of companies, including Tron Space, GE Healthcare, and Tsinghua University. The Chinese are extremely polite and hospitable, and I enjoyed learning about their unique corporate cultures, as well as how they are capitalizing on innovation as a competitive advantage. It was extremely interesting listening to pioneers in the tech industry and seeing how far advanced China in comparison to the US. It was highly beneficial to get to represent the college of business abroad and form lasting relationships with the executives of these successful companies.
On our last day, we got to visit the historic Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. Growing up, I had learned briefly about the protests that had happened there, and how students had been killed by government officials, but it wasn't until I got to walk through the square that the magnitude of the tragedy landed on me. We got to spend some time in the square reflecting and taking in the history of where we were standing. While I knew something terrible had happened there, it was very uplifting seeing the square filled with vibrant, happy people enjoying the day and taking in the beautiful sights. The Forbidden City was absolutely gorgeous, with every building featuring distinct architecture, down to the most intricate details. It was constructed in 1420 during the early Ming Dynasty and is the largest ancient palatial structure in the world. It displays the essence of traditional Asian architecture everyone associates with China, so I was extremely excited to see beautiful buildings that lived up to my high expectations. It felt like we were in another time period, and I've never experienced something quite like it.
China was unlike any country I have ever been to, and I am so glad that I took advantage of the opportunity to get outside my comfort zone & have new experiences. I loved being able to experience a new way of life so different from western culture, and develop lasting relationships with other students that share the same values. I can't wait to continue to travel all over the world & see as much as I can!