In addition to meeting with major companies, I was able to learn about Chinese businesses from locals. Every city that we visited had a rich background and many street markets to explore. With my limited Chinese, I was able to converse with the local market workers. When we visited the Great Wall there was one woman whom I talked with while she made me a chocolate pancake. She was excited to learn about my culture and why I was visiting China. I learned that she has a son in his 30’s working for a computer company in Beijing. She wishes that he was married so she could have a grandchild. When I tried to swap contact information she politely rejected and informed me that she didn’t have a cellphone. She was such a pleasant woman and because I brought her my friends to order from her vendor she gave me a free pancake to go! By talking with someone and actually learning about them, it helps create a better world. In business, it is important to understand coworkers and your business partners to strengthen business interactions and relationships.
One night when I was walking around Wangfujing, a worker called me over and asked if I am Chinese. After I explained to him that I am from America, he insists on seeing a dollar bill. After inspecting the dollar for a few minutes and asking some questions what it is like to live in America, he requests if he could keep it in exchange for a few dumplings he was selling. I obliged and was able to take a photo of him holding my US dollar for a memento. It was fun to talk to someone who was so interested in the American culture.
When we were in Shanghai I visited a bracelet shop in YuYuan. While she was making me a bracelet she told me a little about her life. She taught herself through online videos how to create different types of jade bracelets. She has a daughter in elementary school, her mother works in a baozi shop. She is an inspiration for her level of dedication to her craft. She is proof that if you are diligent and want to do something with your life it is possible to pick up a new talent and capitalize on it. By being able to talk to local workers, I was able to enhance my knowledge of Chinese culture deeply.
After a day of flying, we finally landed in Grand Rapids late at night. Things were quite difference here: a vacant airport with one bus station. In China, airports and train stations are always crowded. Transportation from the airport to the city is quite convenient; metros rush under the ground, and buses as well as taxis lining up out front. My Schenkel dad came to the airport to pick us up. We had a nice ride on the familiar red pick-up truck. By the way, people barely see pick-up trucks in China, especially in the cities. A special license is needed for pick-up driving. I went back to my apartment, unpacked most of my suitcase, and washed up for bed. We have much more space here than in our Chinese home, especially in the bathroom–the double sinks and the separated rooms for shower and toilet seemed to be a luxury. Also, the tap water is drinkable again. I went to bed at 2am, and I woke up around 5. The neighborhood was quite, deadly but peacefully. Five o’clock is when cities in China wakes up. An old Chinese Christian hymn goes like this, “China’s morning at 5 o’clock, sounds of praying comes along.” In deed, 5 o’clock is when my dad always wakes up and pray. At 5 o’clock, I could see through my windows and find students walking to school; I could see an elder lady riding a bike with a front basket, probably to the farmer’s market; rosters would be making the morning calls; kids would yell to the breakfast vender across the fenced street to make an order. The sense of community is quite different in China. In China, I always see what my neighbors are doing, but I don’t usually get to talk to them. But in the U.S., I don’t see my neighbors often, but when we run into each other, we talk about what we’ve been busy with.
Wow! I still can’t believe these three weeks have come in gone. Sitting here thinking about it still feels a bit surreal. I mean we were on the other side of the world. What an experience it was!
I felt that I really had the chance to grow on this trip. We all had to quickly learn how to navigate in these cities that would dwarf New York City. I feel like a became a subway pro, confident about going anywhere the subway could take me. We also had to learn how to communicate despite a language barrier, a skill that I feel is valuable wherever you are in the world. I learned so much about the history of China and the people of China it would have been impossible to leave without a growing respect for the country and for the people.
Some of my favorite moments on the trip include hiking the great wall, walking around the new financial district in downtown Shanghai and taking elevators as high as they would let us go, walking and boat touring around west lake, and the massacre museum in Nanjing.
I’m so grateful to those who put in the the time and hard work to ensure that we had such a well structured and educational trip!
This view here was from the top of Purple Mountain in Nanjing. This was a great spot that I will remember forever because Prof. Tubergan and I raced up the steps all the way to the top and he ALMOST beat me 😉
Our trip nearly fell on Chinese New Year! It was great to experience the amazing anticipation that the Chinese have for the New Year, the year of the rooster!!! p.s. There were roosters EVERYWHERE!
Pictured is Jay VanAndel and Rich Devos. Two hometown heroes! It was very cool to see what hometown company, Amway was doing all the way in China.
Another personal highlight: Worshiping in China was a whole new way to hear the word! Figuratively and literally!!!
As I look back at the last three weeks in China, I feel so incredibly blessed. I had never been out of America before! My knowledge of China was small, so thankfully I learned a lot on my visit. China is an old country filled with so many traditions. I have an appreciation for their culture and I hope that one day I can visit again. I am hoping that a business I work for in the future has a global location in Shanghai so I will have an excuse to visit again. 🙂
Initially, I was nervous to enter a country where I did not speak the language. In America, I often feel angered when people do not know how to speak English and try to communicate with me. However, the tables were turned this time, and the Chinese people were understanding and patient with me. I am hoping that if I run into a foreigner in America who needs help that I can be as patient as the Chinese were with me.
I want to tell you about my favorite part of my visit: Shanghai. I did not imagine China’s cities too much different than New York City, but I was very wrong. Shanghai, for example, is almost futuristic. I felt like I time traveled to a new world. One of the buildings, The Shanghai Tower, is the second tallest in the world. I was blessed to be able to go up to the observation deck of that building. Shanghai, especially from the tallest point, is so beautiful. It goes on forever. As far as the eye can see, there are tall buildings. From that view, I could see the thousands of apartment buildings, each of which were at least 18 stories high. Shanghai has a population of 24 million people. With rapid growth, this city looks brand new! It has shiny new buildings everywhere with many brand name malls.
I want to thank those who organized and planned this course. I appreciate the hard work and I am so thankful for all that I have learned on my visit to China.
[Below is a picture of the “bottle-opener” building taken from the top of the Shanghai Tower. The white machine hanging off the roof of that building is actually holding people cleaning the windows. That was fun to watch!]
Pretty much everything about our trip was great. Our classmates, our professors, our itinerary, and of course China! The professors and course assistants could not have done a better job so to them I say thank you.
I learned so much about China over the past 3 weeks, everything from business and people culture to societal and economic structure. It’s all so different and fascinating to me. Many of my expectations coming in were challenged and changed. For example, I was expecting the cities to be a bit more dirty and disorderly than cities in the U.S. but I was very wrong. The cities are quite immaculate and the infrastructure is all very organized and well thought out. And they were absolutely massive. I was expecting more of more vertical expansion in the cities than there actually was but they were so large horizontally it was crazy. Maybe this is just my view seeing as I have never lived in or near a big city but it was just amazing to see miles upon miles of city landscape.
The Chinese people were probably the most rewarding part of the trip. We were always treated with such care and affection. One small example I noticed is that often times when someone would go to hand you something, whether it be a business card or your change after buying a can of coke, they handed you the object with both hands as they pass it to you, as if presenting it to you as an important gift. Often soft spoken and a with caring tone, they would never say anything that would cause you to be humiliated or lose your respect. They care deeply about what they say and how it will be interpreted by the listener. It is a culture that places huge importance on respect and courtesy to others, something the U.S. could probably use a little work on.
I hope one day I can return to China, whether for business or pleasure. The people, culture, and land are all wonderful and I could probably spend a lifetime there and always be learning and seeing new things. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to get this experience. Goodbye China, I hope to see you again soon.
I’m writing here very low on sleep as this is the first day back from China. I was unable to sleep very well because I’m still in China time. Anyways I have had a lot to think about what I have learned these past 3 weeks in China. There are many things I can talk about but one thing that stood out to me was how much Chinese people cared for each other. This was shown as we would go for group dinners for a Chinese meal. We would eat family style which meant nobody got an individual plate. We all share a group of dishes that was brought out for us. This is a great way for people at the table to interact with each other as we are all trying the weird food like cow tongue or squid. It is a great way to meet new people as Chinese dinners normally last longer than the average American one.
Another example of Chinese people caring is how a group of us went on a bike ride one of the days. My chain fell and before I was able to get off the bike there was already a man willing to help fix it. As we were trying to fix it many other people also came and asked if they could help. This just showed how so many Chinese people cared and are willing to help someone in need of it.
Overall this was a great experience that I will never forget. I will always remember the Chinese culture and all of the lessons I have learned here!
Jet lag is real. Luckily my exhausted state has given me plenty of time to reflect on my trip, and what a trip it was. I came into this interim as a person who has never left the comfort of my own country. I was much happier sticking with the food, language, and culture that I had grown up with. That being said, having gone through with it I am ecstatic that was able to visit and learn. Not everything was the way I had expected. For one, I had no idea that China had a problem with their tap water. Chinese food, to my surprise, is nothing like the “chinese food” we order for take-out here in America. Some of it was very good, and some of it was very interesting. The sheer scale of China was another thing that had been lost on me until this trip. The fact that in all of our travels we didn’t visit a city smaller than 5 million people is pretty crazy to think about. I look forward to the rest that these next few days will bring, but I am extremely grateful for the incredible experiences and memories this trip has provided. I’m also thankful for everyone on the trip that banded together to navigate this whole other world and culture with me!
Learning to improvise is one of the greatest skills an individual can have, especially when traveling. Steven, with some help from Prof. Tubergen, finally managed to get his socks to dry (after hand-washing them) with some clever clothes-hanger rigging and convenient hotel architecture. Pictured below is a small pyramid of clothes-hangers suspending three pairs of socks from a small ledge running around the ceiling so that they hang directly in front of the A/C vent. It was very effective.