Reflection: Not as in Mulan

It has been a couple of weeks since Plus3 has ended, yet I am still on the other side of the world from home in Hong Kong. While I have been here, I realized that Plus3 will be one of my most memorable experiences traveling abroad. In two weeks, I have immersed myself in China’s rich history and culture and viewed China in a professional work perspective. Being able to witness all these aspects in person is an opportunity that does not come around too often. As I write my final blog post, I highly recommended Plus3 China for anyone who is even a tiny bit interested. It may be life-changing.

As a person with Chinese heritage, I have grown up knowing bits and parts of my ancestors’ culture. It was not until I took AP World History in high school when I first looked at the 5,000 years of Chinese history. Going on Plus3 China allowed me to apply what I have learned in my American upbringing. These two weeks served as an ultimate test of how well I knew my own heritage at this point in my life. I believe that I have been well equipped with enough knowledge to been able to expect aspects that directly impacted us in our time in China, but certainly living in its current culture for two straight weeks is something I cannot simply just anticipate. For example, eating dinner was the first thing we did when we arrived in Beijing. In Chinese culture, this “family style” way of eating was common throughout history. In my family reunions in the U.S., we also ate lunches and dinners at restaurants that serve in this “family style,” but eating this way almost every day of the trip is something I am not used to.

Each city we visited during Plus3 had its unique and different lifestyle that we had to adapt to. Beijing was dry, smoggy on most days, and vast; it is bigger than the state of Connecticut. Xi’an had a much more rural feel. Shanghai was the most modern yet did not feel like a concrete jungle. However, all the cities were bustling with people. I still cannot imagine how the transit in Beijing works out the way it does. The roads and highways were constantly filled with people, cars, trucks, buses, taxis, and most importantly mopeds. When crossing an eight-lane highway, cars would continue to move forward even when we were walking; we had to weave around the vehicles, which was a rather scary task to do. Also, I was surprised by how many people did not know English very well in Beijing and Shanghai outside the marketplaces. As one of the people in one of our companies said, I felt a little like a chameleon. With only a very basic knowledge of Mandarin, I expected that I would have difficulties communicating with locals, but I did not expect to feel as frustrated as I was knowing what to ask in Cantonese but not in Mandarin. It was better when I started to pick up on bartering lingo and being able to help my friends get better deals on souvenirs.

Out of all the cultural visits, the Terracotta Army was probably my favorite. Ten years ago, I visited Beijing with my family and being able to climb the Great Wall then was like a dream come true. However, I really loved being in Xi’an and witnessing the thousands of impressive terracotta warriors and horses commissioned by Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi himself. Each soldier is a work of art, but once you look out into the pit, seeing them all arranged in their ancient military formation, it is breathtaking. It felt almost intimidating, confronting an army of around 8,000 soldiers ready for battle. Xi’an is not a city that tourists typically go to visit, but if anyone ends up there, the Terracotta Army cannot be missed.

As an engineering student, I learned a lot regarding Chinese business culture, the business side of industry in general, and U.S. and China relations that I never really considered. During the two weeks, I was given a new perspective on how Chinese companies work and their roles on a global scale. During our Xiaomi visit, I learned that they really want to have a strong relationship with their suppliers. They build a trust with their partners first before doing any business with them. I also discovered that the concept of “face” does truly exist. People of lower positions in a company have to respect those of higher position and, in general, make sure they do not do anything to decrease their reputation. In regard to U.S. and China relations, I did not really follow the news on the “trade war” between China and the U.S. However, I have learned that both countries need and depend on each other. People in China are not too concerned about this “trade war,” and business seems to be resuming as usual.

I think the most interesting thing I learned about during Plus3 is about China’s Five-Year Plans. President Xi Jinping and his government have plans to improve the state and condition of China by implementing “Beautiful China,” “Healthy China,” and the One Belt One Road Initiative. Many of the companies we have visited seem to be connected to China’s plan for its nation to progress further. This includes developing fully electric cars to help reduce pollution and creating technological advances to the health insurance system in hope to ensure health equity across the nation. After discussions about the controversial abolishment of the term limit by President Xi, I want to see how everything will play out.

Plus3 China was an unforgettable experience that allowed me to become more aware of our increasingly globalized world. Immersing myself in China for two weeks, I was able to appreciate my ancestors’ culture and history much more while learning about the roles of business and engineering on a global scale. With new friends made and valuable knowledge to be shared, I will cherish forever the moments made in China this summer. I hope I will have more opportunities in the future to experience different cultures and gain new perspectives and friendships in order to become a better world citizen.

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