After 20 hours of flying, the excitement of landing on the other side of the world hit as I exchanged my money for Yuan and walked into the crowded Shanghai airport. My time in China was an amazing experience of culture and business through my STEM Path to the MBA Program. While there was a lot of culture shock including language barriers and eating habits, my time in China was at all times an exciting and enjoyable adventure. One thing I came to love about China was the food. Most meals in China are eaten family style with numerous courses, sometimes up to 20-30, set in the middle of the table on a lazy susan to be shared. There were always soup courses as well as tea, sides, and entrees. We ate whole fish and chickens as well as many new types of fruits and vegetables, including my personal new favorites chinese cabbage and dragon fruit. Tea, dumplings, and noodles became foundations of my diet while studying abroad in China. My favorite meal was a hole in the wall tea shop in Hong Kong where we pointed at dumplings on carts going by and managed to get by without any English. My proficiency with chopsticks greatly improved through many delicious buffets scarfed down after a long day of field visits.
Besides food and business visits, we also went on many incredible cultural tours. One such visit was to the Confucian Temple in Shanghai. While most ancient temples and architecture in Shanghai was destroyed to make way for the quickly growing city, some treasures such as this one still remain. This temple celebrated the ideals of the famous philosopher and politician Confucius. Confucius preached about morality and social relationships, including his idea of heaven’s mandate. This mandate states that the heavens are expansive and the earth is merely a tiny part and it is the emperor who has knowledge of the heavens and can help lead the people on earth. This way of thinking is still strong in Chinese culture. There is a huge respect for hierarchy and a willingness to wait for one’s turn to rise up the chain. This first-hand observation of the Chinese people and culture was a once in a lifetime experience for me that I will never forget!