Laura Pattison (M.S. in Commerce ’15) and 23 of her classmates visited Beijing and Shanghai as part of the East Asia Global Immersion Experience. Below, she chronicles ten days of company visits and cultural excursions in China.
Beijing, Day 1 Today we flew from Seoul to Beijing (apparently just in time, with all this MERS talk). As soon as we landed, I realized Beijing is quite different from other cities we’ve visited so far, like Tokyo and Seoul. Upon arrival, we joined a swarm of people to get in a line for immigration. Because we were running behind, and traffic is insane, we went straight from the airport to an acrobatic show. It was fantastic, and had everything from a ballerina doing pointe on a guy’s extended arm to eight motorcycles in a sphere driving around at one time. We unfortunately were unable to take pictures or video during the show. Finally, we arrived at our hotel. I grabbed a bite to eat and then crashed. I can’t explain to you how many people are constantly out and about in Beijing, how many cars there are on the streets, or how surprised I am that there aren’t more collisions with pedestrians or bicycles. Bicycles literally have their own stoplight here, though neither cyclists or pedestrians seem to pay any attention to traffic rules. Yet, they somehow make it across eight (optional) designated lanes of traffic unharmed.
Beijing, Day 2 We spent a majority of the day at Guanghua School of Management at Peking University. We had two sessions on “Doing Business in China” taught by Guanghua faculty. The first session focused on what has led to China’s rapid growth over the last 30 years and how the Chinese must proceed in the future. The second session instructed us on how to do business on an individual level with Chinese professionals. School representatives took us on a tour of the school’s beautiful grounds, which were once royal gardens during the Ming and Xing dynasties. On the way home from Peking University, instead of waiting in traffic for a few hours, we stopped for dinner at a Peking duck restaurant. (Photo: Peking restaurant’s mascot. He looks pretty happy, considering.)
Beijing, Day 3 We’re halfway through GIE! We started the day early in order to have more time for amazing cultural events. We started by visiting Tiananmen Square and then walked to the Forbidden City. In Tiananmen Square, there are peddlers ready to spring on tourists. These guys and girls were very persistent but also willing to negotiate. The Forbidden City is so much bigger than I thought. Every time we passed through or by a palace, there was a gateway to another area of the city. It was quite impressive. We then headed out of the city for lunch and then on to the GREAT WALL, something I have been excitedly waiting on for a long time. Unfortunately, the moment we got up there, it started to rain, and by rain, I mean pour. We still walked along the wall a little bit, but I definitely didn’t get to soak in the wall (no pun intended) nearly as much as I would have liked. Still, it was an awesome and humbling experience, especially as the rain poured and lightning cracked all around me. The views were spectacular, and overall, the Great Wall is at the top of my list of favorites on the trip. After a long trek back to the hotel, I attended a small group dinner with the two UVA staff members leading the trip and five other students. We had an amazing dinner of dim sum, dumplings, small buns, and cucumbers in sesame and chili oil. Quite a day for the books! (Photos: Tiananmen Square and view from the Great Wall)
Beijing, Day 4 Since today was a free day for us, many of us decided to explore the Silk Market. We browsed through pearls, silk, sunglasses, electronics, clothing, and much more. After spending the morning shopping, we headed to a more traditional area of the city where we wandered through street shops and ate a delicious lunch. I had shrimp in chili sauce with cashews over rice; it was the best meal I’ve had since having sushi in Tokyo. After a late lunch, our group made it back to the hotel, where I took the rest of the evening to relax and prepare for our travels to Shanghai!
Shanghai, Day 1 Today we left Beijing and traveled to Shanghai by a high-speed train that reached 303 km/hour, or about 186 mph. After arriving in Shanghai, I settled into our hotel, which we’ll be in for almost a whole week (hooray!), and then went out to dinner with friends. The group wanted dim sum, so we found a place relatively nearby (but still took forever to get to by cab). We then returned to the hotel to enjoy a quiet evening in preparation for a full week of company visits.
Shanghai, Day 2 We had two company visits scheduled, so we started early. The first visit was to Baosteel, the largest steel producer in China and one of the more environmentally friendly steel producers in the country. It was very interesting (and warm) to see steel being made. Next, we stopped for lunch before heading to Allergan, the second company visit. Allergan is best known in China and the United States for Botox and breast implants, but the company also makes eye-care products, including Latisse. Its office is on the 56th floor, so the views of Shanghai were impressive, despite the fog and smog of that day. After returning to the hotel, I walked to the river to see the skyline and back to the hotel, only to return to the river to see the skyline views at night.
Shanghai, Day 3 Today we visited Shanghai Media United Group (SUMG), the largest media group in China, which produces two major newspapers, magazines, and many weekly newspapers. It was very interesting to hear about media (and where print media is headed) from a state-owned enterprise in China, and the president of the company generously took the time to speak with us. After an authentic Chinese lunch at the company cafeteria, we traveled to the printing facility, where we saw how the templates are sent over from the main office and the newspapers then printed. After the company visit, we went on a cultural tour and walked around Yu Garden. After returning to the hotel, a group of fellow students and I headed to the French concession to have Thai food (yes, we went to the French concession in China to have Thai food). Afterward, we walked around the French concession, and after dinner I returned to the hotel for some rest before another day of visits. (Photos: Newspapers ready to be delivered and Yu Garden)
Shanghai, Day 4 We visited Yangshan Port, the largest port in the world. It felt like I was right back in Norfolk! After learning about the port, and the construction of all the facilities, we went to lunch as a group. After lunch, we went to the Yangshan Free Trade Zone. After heading back to the hotel—and it was a long trek—I went shopping with a couple of friends on the walking street by the hotel and grabbed some dinner at Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut in China is almost like Olive Garden, more of a sit-down restaurant. After dinner, a few of us went to the hotel pool deck to enjoy the evening.
Shanghai, Day 5 Today we visited Nike. It was interesting to hear how Nike’s approaches in China are different from its approach in the United States because of the culture, which is far less focused on sports and exercise. We asked many questions as we toured the facilities, and then shopped at the employee store. After the Nike visit, we had a short break for lunch before heading to an alumni panel. It is always informative to hear what business is like in China and how it differs from business in the United States. After the alumni reception, I took a quick dip in the hot tub at the hotel to relax before heading to bed. I’m really getting spoiled by these nice hotels.
Shanghai, Day 6 Today we had a free day, and most everyone took advantage of it as a lazy day. I decided to walk around some side streets and found myself at the river. After walking back to the hotel, I met up with some friends, and we headed to Yuyuan Bazaar, where we did a little light shopping. We returned to the hotel area and grabbed a late lunch at a local cafe. I then took some time to pack for our next stop, Hong Kong. To round out the week in Shanghai, a large group of us went to dinner at an Italian restaurant by the river, and I spent one last evening enjoying the lights of the city.