After three and a half months, my semester in China has come to an end. I’ve been home for the past two weeks, catching up with family and friends, and relaxing. On one hand, it’s hard to believe my time in Shanghai is over. I’ve been craving bao zi for breakfast. My automatic responses in some conversations are Chinese. I even miss using chopsticks (something I thought I would never be able to say). Yet, on the other hand, life goes on, and I’m very quickly re-adjusting to life at home.
Reflecting back on my time abroad, I was able to experience so many incredible places, activities, and people. Going into the program, I was a bit nervous about adapting to a new culture, as well as getting to know new people, since I did a non-Pitt program. In the end, I’m very glad that I branched out through CIEE. I’ve gained a network of friendships spanning across the country, as well as the world. I gained deep insight into politics, beauty standards, academic pressures, and family life of the common Chinese citizen through my roommate. I came to cherish Tuesday night tai chi, and Wednesday night calligraphy painting. Both of these will be missed, and are activities I’m planning to incorporate into my daily life at home when I need a stress reliever. Furthermore, I was able to experience amazing places throughout China, both urban and rural. From lounging with friends on the tallest buildings in the world, to hiking down 11,000 ft mountains, I experienced quite a range of terrain. Exploring Shanghai itself when I wasn’t traveling was an adventure in and of itself.
As cheesy as it sounds, this semester truly allowed me to grow as a person. Before going to China, I hadn’t traveling outside of the United States. All of my previous experience with foreign cultures was pretty surface level. Despite this, I’ve always been fascinated by them and love to learn about them. But, I’ve learned that reading about a culture and actually experiencing it are two very different things. On a personal level, I’ve learned how to connect with people despite extremely different backgrounds and languages. On an academic note, I’ve learned so much about business in China and other Asian nations. My classes provided a fresh take on a lot of the concepts that I’d already learned through Pitt Business, just with a different focus. I enjoyed this a lot because not only will it be very helpful for understanding the global economy in coming years, but it also opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many different ways to look at business and how many opportunities there are out in the world. Professionally, my experiences in China will help me take on a role in the increasingly interconnected global economy. Cultural competency is a necessity for this task. After taking on one of the most different cultures to my own, I believe I will be able to tackle business proceedings in any place I set my mind to.
All of these things mentioned above are qualities that I will be bringing back with me to Pitt Business to share with my peers. Additionally, I think the biggest takeaway that I received from studying abroad in China came specifically from observing socializing practices. Adjusting to such a different culture was a difficult for nearly everyone on my program at first. The basis of that stemmed from the fact that many things that would be considered rude or unacceptable to do in public in the west are considered socially acceptable in China. One of my professors picked up on our group’s struggle to come to terms with that and shared some wisdom on the matter to help us understand Chinese social etiquette better. The way that he put it: there are so many people in China, that if one person sees you do something embarrassing or kind of weird, who cares? You’ll never see that person again in your life, so why worry? This philosophy has really stuck with me. Not so much with actual etiquette, but the overall ideal. I am much less self-conscious of the things I now do. Believing in oneself and acting without hesitation or nervousness based off of worries of others’ opinions is necessary to being a successful businessperson. I will bring this newfound confidence to Pitt Business by preaching it to classmates nervous before a presentation, to peers who have an interview lined up, to friends who are overly concerned about what others think of them.
I’m so thankful for this experience and the lessons I’ve garnered from it. I don’t know when and I don’t know whether it will be for work or play, but I do know that I’ll definitely be back to China in the future! 再见中国，后会有期！