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May 6, 2013

When In China

Larissa (3)     Nihao! (Hello!) I can’t tell you how excited I am to share my Global Leadership Program (GLP) experience in China with you!

     To give you a brief summary on GLP, it is an invitational year-long class for freshman Marshall business students that incorporates guest lectures from notable business professionals who graduated from USC, as well as Chinese culture and history lessons to prepare students for a week-long trip to Shanghai and/or Beijing for spring break. Aside from sightseeing and bonding with classmates, students have the opportunity to get the inside look at various thriving companies in China and learn more about what it takes to be successful in business as the world rapidly globalizes.

     To put it simply: everyday in Shanghai was a completely different experience. From eating a lollipop the size of my head to karaoke-ing the night away, I truly made the most of my experience. I remember hearing before I came to Shanghai that it was a “port importing diversity” and that is exactly what I found to be true! Although we were smack-dab-in-the-middle of a Chinese city, I constantly saw people of all different ethnicities and cultures.

     As far as personal space goes, though, I’m not sure if the concept exists in Shanghai. Whether it is on the subway or on Nanjing Road in front of my hotel, Shanghai was teeming with people no matter what time of day! On one rare occasion when my friends and I explored a park in Shanghai, it was almost completely empty, except for a random stranger who followed us around until he had the chance to stop us and ask why we were in China….

     As for Beijing, I honestly didn’t think it could top the Shanghai experience, but, surprisingly I found Beijing to be just as fast-paced and energetic.

     First of all, the buildings are architecturally magnificent! Like Shanghai, there are a ton of tall skyscrapers, but many of the skyscrapers here are colorful and unconventionally shaped. Perfect examples fitting this description are the Olympic Village buildings we visited, the Birds Nest and the Swimming Cube. Walking on the grounds of the Olympic Village was both thrilling and nostalgic – thrilling because I walked the grounds that record-breaking athletes competed on and nostalgic because five years ago, this scenery was constantly on my TV as I watched the Olympic Games with my family at home.

     Second of all, the people I met are not only diverse like the city-dwellers in Shanghai, but they love their culture. The workers at Walmart were enthusiastic to say the least! They greeted us with the most vibrant opening chant and helped us have, what I believe to be,the best supermarket experience. The atmosphere at Happy Latte, a mobile interactive gaming company, definitely illustrated what you would expect to be associated with the name “Happy Latte” – hipster, energetic, and simply pleasant. After taking a tour and listening to the founder, Bjorn, speak about Happy Latte, I wanted to apply for a job there on the spot!

     I’ve had the opportunity to talk with friends and family about the awesome experience I had in China and the main thing I emphasize is my misconception of how companies choose to operate in China for cheap labor.  Almost all of the companies we visited were actually there to sell their products and services to the Chinese market.

     Aside from the business experience, I also had time to enjoy tobogganing down the Great Wall as well as eating at a delicious Indian/Chinese Fusion Restaurant.

     Honestly, I wouldn’t have traded my spring break experience for anything, but I must admit that I am quite exhausted coming back to projects and midterms. Thankfully, I am coming back with a whole new group of friends, and will never forget the amazing experience I had with my fellow GLP-ers.

Blessings and Smiles,

Larissa Purnell

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