At the beginning of my final semester of the full-time MBA program at the Carlson School of Management I find myself jet-lagged, coughing (up remnants of air pollution), and somewhat enlightened. Having recently returned from China as a part of Carlson's required Global Discovery Program I am able to reflect back this experience and realize how incredible it truly was. I won't go as far as saying that this way a "life changing" experience, but I will say that I walked away from this trip with new perceptions of China and its market and new found appreciation of the benefits of cultural immersion.
Prior to the trip I had a number of ideas in my head about many aspects of the Chinese culture, government, economy, and lifestyle. I had been filled with media stories about China that in my interpretation painted negative picture of many aspects of China. I had only been to one country outside of the US prior to my trip to China and with this less than ideal picture in mind I was admittedly nervous when I exited the plane after arriving in the Beijing Airport. What immediately followed did not help calm my nerves.
While visiting the airport ATM after making it through customers I turned to see a man running down the airport walkway with two police officers in hot pursuit. The man was roughly tackled to the ground and forcefully interrogated; perpetuating some of the ideas I had about Chinese law and order. I next made my way out of the airport into smog filled air that seemed barely breathable at the time, confirming what I had heard about the pollution in China. It took a while, but I finally made it to my hotel the first evening, but not before paying almost six times to the going rate for my taxi ride and at that moment believed that all of negative information that I had been fed about China was correct.
Fortunately my first evening was worst of my China experience and the negative images faded. While China is in no way perfect and the pollution is as bad if not worse than what we hear about domestically, it is a beautiful and misrepresented country. My perception of the culture, role of the government, and the economic conditions were completely altered through my Global Discovery experience in China. This change would not have been possible without being immersed and present in China as the only way to understand a culture is to experience it. I feel so fortunate to have visited and will actively search for future "ex pat" employment opportunities in the country.