Day 2: Central University of Finance and Economics

Today we visited the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE) to learn about the smartphone industry and interact with the local students. Our day started with a lecture from Professor Yao about the smartphone industry in China and the role smartphones play in people’s daily lives. In China, laptops and home computers are too expensive for most consumers, so smartphones must serve a wider range of purposes. For instance, smartphones and the WeChat app have been utilized as a payment service, so many Chinese people do not carry credit cards or cash. Also, things like online shopping and grocery delivery services have taken hold in China. The traffic is so congested that it’s more efficient to order things online and have them shipped to you, so you don’t have to waste time sitting in traffic. Another industry that smartphones have given rise to is bike-sharing. Companies like Ofo and Mobike have revolutionized city travel by providing an affordable transport option that has been seemingly omnipresent in the streets of Beijing. Overall, my impression from the lecture was that the smartphone has become ingrained in Chinese society because of its convenience and utilitarianism.

After the lecture, we headed to lunch with some CUFE students. I wasn’t sure what to expect. On one hand, they seemed very serious and studious, and on the other they’re still college kids that I should be able to relate too. In many ways, they lived up to both sides of my expectations. The students I talked to said they would study for several hours every day, and that they had very little free time. But, it still was easy to find common ground with them by talking about the college lifestyle or the NBA.

It was also fascinating to learn about the Chinese education system, and how different it is than the United States. For one, entrance to Chinese universities is solely based on student’s performance on one standardized test. This is much more high-pressure than the United States where most universities consider many factors rather than just test scores. Chinese universities also are much more streamlined, with less flexibility than American universities. The CUFE student I talked to told me that he will live in the same dorm and take the same courses with the same people for all of college. However, he did have required PE classes such as tennis or basketball which looked like fun. The university experience in China certainly has a lot of differences, but at the end of that day I got the feel that many of students were going through the same highs and lows that any college student goes through. Despite our cultural differences, human nature remains largely unchanged.

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