In Search of 小笼包

Hi there!

My name is Isabel Brownlee and I am a sophomore Marketing major, Creative Writing minor, and I am pursuing the Certificate Program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I grew up in Madison, New Jersey but this summer I will be making the journey halfway around the world to study at the Global Business Institute in Shanghai, and intern there as well. 

Last summer I went to Rome for three weeks on the Food Studies in Italy Panther Program. I took an Anthropology and a Gender and Women’s Studies/Politics class which discussed how those topics are connected with food in the context of Italy. With a handful of other Pitt students, I ate my weight in gelato and chocolate croissants, explored Rome, and even took a weekend trip to Perugia which I will never forget. Over this weekend we went everywhere from a chocolate factory, to truffle hunting (with a man who took Oprah truffle hunting), to untangling fish nets out on Lake Trasimeno. Beyond this, we learned about everything from responsible tourism to how to make fresh pasta. I’m excited to study abroad in Shanghai after having this previous study abroad experience because I know that right now I cannot even anticipate the things I am going to learn and do during my time there. 

This past summer I also got to work in New York City for SECOR Asset Management. I am hoping that this previous experience with commuting and working in a big city will prepare me for the challenges ahead in Shanghai. I am excited to intern abroad but equally nervous as I am not yet sure what to expect. 

As Chinese and American culture differ greatly, I am trying to prepare for how these differences will present themselves in and out of the workplace. However, I hope that by pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone by going to China, other challenges will not feel so daunting. Being able to intern while abroad was one of the main reasons I chose this trip. I would like to better figure out what I want to do after school through the internship as I still feel like I don’t know what is out there. Hopefully the internship, aligned with my interests, will be allow me to use the things I have learned so far at Pitt and give me real world experience that cannot be taught in the classroom. 

Furthermore, one of the other challenges I will face in China (which is simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking,) is that I will get to practice my Chinese with native speakers. I have taken Chinese since middle school and kept with it somewhat in college but I am hoping to finally reach a level of proficiency which I could not attain in a classroom. 

Finally, one of my favorite aspects of the study abroad in Italy was the length of time we were there. Because we spent three weeks in Rome, by the end I felt somewhat accustomed to what life is really like in Italy. I’m looking forward to hopefully having a similar experience with Shanghai as I learn to get around and live in local culture for two months. I think food is one of the best ways to gain an understanding of a culture and I’m excited to see what Shanghainese food teaches me. In particular, I can’t wait to eat 小笼包 (Xiǎo lóng bāo), or soup dumplings which Shanghai is famous for, so stay tuned for food pictures and updates along the way!