Major: Business Administration
Hometown: Waxhaw, NC
Study Abroad Program: CIEE: Shanghai
I spent two months in Shanghai, taking classes on Chinese language and Chinese business. Thinking back on the trip, it really seems like I was just there, I realize that it was by far one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Anyone can take a course on Chinese culture or history, but actually being there, and seeing it firsthand, is something that can’t be taught in the classroom.
I came into the whole study abroad experience having no idea what to expect. My goal for the entire trip was to make the most of my time in Shanghai, and in retrospect, I am confident that I succeed. I got to meet some great Chinese and American businesspeople and get their perspective on the nature of doing business in China. That was very informative for me because as a business major, I will probably be returning to China in the future. Also on the topic of business, I was able to tour the Shanghai VolzWagon manufacturing center, and through Ambassador Phillips, I was also able to tour the manufacturing facilities of a High Point company called Culp Fabrics. I was able to see a bit of the countryside too, which is completely different from the city. For our weeklong break from classes, my friend and I booked a flight to a province out in southern China, and just went. We had no hotel reservations, no game plan, and to make things more interesting, we were both in the same Beginner I Chinese class. We made it back successfully, and only with a few mistakes, like taking the wrong bus to a random town in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go.
But that’s just it; the thing I loved most about my experience was that everything was an adventure. Even running down to the neighborhood convenience store for a soda meant utilizing all of my Chinese language skills. Once I learned the phrase “I want one fried rice,” life became a whole lot easier.
When people at home ask me about my trip, I always start by telling them how different things are. One weekend, I had the opportunity to stay with a host family, and in that one weekend, I learned more about Chinese culture than I did in my entire first week of orientations. The highlight of the weekend was when my host mother made dinner. Back home, a typical family dinner consists of chicken, corn, and green beans. It was really funny and ironic, because that’s exactly what we ate at my family dinner in China, but it was completely backwards. The green beans were called long beans, and were about a foot long, the corn on the cob was cooked until it tasted like rubber, and instead of chicken breasts, there were boiled chicken feet. The chicken feet were actually pretty good once I learned how to eat them.
Overall, the time I spent in Shanghai was one of the best experiences of my life. I made a lot of great friends, and had a lot of great times traveling around and studying. I just hope more students at UNC take advantage of programs like the Phillips Ambassadors, so they can have the same amazing learning experience that I did.