Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our trip to China: Where to begin? I’ve never experienced anything like this in my entire life. To be honest, I was nervous to go to a country so far away and so different from the United States. The 13.5 hour flight, the huge population, not knowing the language, the stories about what to avoid, the advice on what precautionary items to bring, and the unfamiliar city and food were only some of the factors that made this trip intimidating. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I truly believe that the one thing that made this trip so successful and amazing was the fact that we were all in it together – roughly 30 classmates, professors and faculty who have grown to be good friends. They were brave, they were familiar, they were supportive, they were extremely fun and they were what made this trip outstanding.

On July 9th we arrived at the SUNY Albany campus to meet our bus waiting patiently to drive us under blue skies to the airport. These two things, the driving and the blue skies, were where I noticed an immediate difference between the United States and China. I was looking out the window of our plane, anxiously waiting for us to break through the clouds so that I could get my first glimpse of Beijing, but the clouds didn’t seem to break during our descent. The combination of overcast and pollution created a fog like atmosphere that surrounded us the entire trip. This was my first realization of actually how populated China is and brought the related challenges into perspective.

Our fantastic tour guides, Isabel and Grace, led us to our bus where we met, who I consider, the most talented bus driver in the world! It takes sheer skill and nerves of steel to drive a car, let alone a bus, through the populated streets of Beijing. It’s everybody’s right-of-way. Pedestrians, cyclists, cars, buses and trucks all own the road. On one of our trips an elderly woman bravely walked out in front of our giant bus, put her hand up – as if stopping the bus all on her own, and walked calmly across the busy intersection. One of our driver’s most impressive moments was turning the massive bus around in the jam-packed parking lot of B&Q (the business our group introduced). B&Q was very similar to a Home Depot here in the states, except the cultural differences create challenges that Home Depot doesn’t necessarily have to deal with. The home improvement and construction mindset for most Americans is “do it yourself”, which is much different than in China. The Chinese would most likely hire a builder to take care of home improvement items. This obviously changes their marketing strategy, product sales, etc.

One of my favorite presenters was Jack Perkowski, founder of JFP Holdings. Mr. Perkowski had great success on Wall Street, but then saw an opportunity and made the move to China. His vision and entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring and truly made the world seem a lot smaller in my eyes. I thought of China as this far off land and never expected to have theopportunity to travel there. Mr. Perkowski, on the other hand, saw a business need and made it happen. Possibilities are endless if you truly put your mind to it. His presentation made me think of my own capabilities. Am I looking at things from every angle? Am I living up to my full potential? What are my ultimate goals and how do I make them happen?

Our trip to China was extremely educational and motivating. It helped me better understand both the Chinese and American cultures. I have a stronger appreciation for the United States, and I have a newly found appreciation for what the World has to offer. We climbed the Great Wall, toured the Forbidden City, visited the Temple of Heaven, negotiated at the silk market, met with inspirational business professionals, had a ton of fun, and much more. Amazing trip – I’ll remember it always, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to travel with.

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