My Study Abroad Experience…in China!

At Jefferson, studying abroad is just one way students can experience Nexus Learning: our hands-on, interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to solving real world problems.

For our International Business majors, Nexus Learning takes place not only outside of the classroom, but outside of the country. As an International Business major, you will be challenged, and required, to study abroad in a non-English speaking country to experience a truly global business environment. Leah, a senior International Business major, reflected on her time spending a semester abroad learning and working in China.

It’s one thing when you’re going across the pond to study to Europe, but it’s a whole other thing when it’s across the world, specifically to China. I spent two months in the summer studying in China while I was interning at a local nonprofit organization.

Before I left, I had just come home from spending a semester in Paris. I was happy to be home, but at the same time I was ready to leave again. I love to travel and being an international business student has provided me with so many possibilities that I have been able to take. I spent my time researching and preparing for the many differences I would face going to China. For one, I was trying to get myself ready for the language barrier. When I went to Paris, I had four years of French under my belt from high school. When I went to China, I had nothing. As my date of departure neared, I started to become more nervous about leaving. I didn’t know what I was going to walk into, I didn’t know what was expected of me for my internship, and I had no clue if I would even be able to sit through a 14-hour flight.

When I arrived, the culture shock hit me at first because there were so many changes. I think in my entire time I spent there, I probably went through this exact culture shock twice a week. I never realized how intense the heat was there during the summer days. Immediately, the program I was studying through had us go through orientation. Everything I needed to know to survive in China was given to us. We were also tested to see what level of Chinese we would be placed in. In my program, I had to take two classes. One was a Chinese language class and the other was a career-based class that went with my internship. Majority of my time in China was spent between class, working, and trying to see as much as I could. I was lucky enough with my program that we got two long weekends that we could use for travel.

During my internship I was initially told that I was going to be an accounting intern and help with any legal disputes. This was my first realization that people tend to misstate job descriptions about jobs in China because having a higher career status means everything there. A lot of people want a business internship or want something of a high status. Many of the natives there find a Public Relations internship unappealing because it doesn’t have high status. Because of this, it was shocking when I arrived on day one to be told that I was going to be a Public Relations intern. It didn’t know Chinese when I got there, and I was enrolled in a Chinese 101 class at my university. My bosses helped walk me through my responsibilities and were always available when I needed help. I spent a lot of my time updating their website, rewriting old articles that were unclear, contacted advertisers and companies, worked one on one with their marketing department, and rewrote an entire catalog for them. Even though I was given an internship that I might have not applied for prior to my experience, I was able to learn a lot and now I have a great internship that stands out on my resume.

I was shocked that I was able to learn a little bit of Chinese. We started out slow and learned general phrases that helped us out in our everyday life. This was also the first class that I had ever taken that was completely oral. We professor focused heavily on speaking because she knew that we were immersed within their culture on a day to day basis. She wanted us to feel as welcome and comfortable in a very different society. I didn’t realize how complicated the language was until I felt like a one year old trying to make sounds. I was very fortunate that my internship class was taught in English. I only had this class on certain dates, which I was glad about. This let me have more time to explore the city.

Exploring the city led me to the see the Bund, with its glowing view at night, participate in traditional tea rituals, walk through the historical and magnificent gardens, visit Buddhist temples, go to the Yu Garden, and relax in the exotic and fun nightlife. I found my new love of Ma Po Tofu and Noodle Soup. My first trip was taken with my school and they took us to Beijing. I got to see the Summer Palace, visit the Great Wall, and had dinner at the Emperor’s chef’s house. We went to the night market and Tiananmen square. I learned that the Chinese loved Mao. He was a very inspirational and respected figure in their culture.My second trip took me and my friends to Louyang, where I experienced a more authentic China away from the city. I spent majority of my time at the Longman Grottos and Shaolin Temple. I even saw a Monk! We took an overnight train to Louyang and met a Chinese student on the train, who treated us to a traditional water banquet.

Through my time in China, I was able to experience the rich culture and extremely different way of life. I saw different aspects from traveling to very different cities. I loved getting the chance to go to a part of the world that not many travels to and I wish that any student who is presented with the opportunity to go doesn’t shy away because of the differences. I want them to go and have the great experience that my major had given me the chance to explore.