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    Posted March 15, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    Seeing Shanghai Through My Own Eyes & How It Paid Off

    Thanks to the Gilman Scholarship, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai, China during spring 2012 at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE).

    My goal to study abroad was to become fluent in Mandarin, Chinese and learn the business culture, the negotiation process, and the ins and outs of interacting with Chinese businesspeople.

    Today, I work in a commercial real estate development and property management company in Boston, MA. My ability to break through the language barrier and communicate with tenants in Mandarin, Chinese proved to be an invaluable asset to both my work team and my company. Communicating with tenants in their native language of Mandarin, Chinese allows me to understand their needs and communicate them to my company so that we can better serve them.

    Studying and living in Shanghai, I gained a well-rounded view of life in this bustling city. The first night there, I came face to face with how Shanghai dwellers lived. Slowly, I learned the other half of China not mentioned in western newspapers. I realized the importance of seeing a city through one’s own eyes and questioning what I read. This then became a common practice when I took economic and political courses focusing on economic transformation and business challenges in China. The very first class, the professor challenged our superficial knowledge and understanding of Shanghai. He brought in local graduate students to help my classmates and I understand the different layers of the city and of China. In essence, living and studying in Shanghai gave me insights about China’s economic growth and inside knowledge that one does not readily hear about beyond China’s border. In addition, I also benefited from living with an assigned Chinese roommate. I learned about China’s educational system and also encouraged her to study in the United States.

    The best part was the ability to apply what I learned from my courses to my internship. I interned at an IT outsourcing company called VanceInfo. Immediately, I engaged in the hiring process. I created interview questions, graded exams, interviewed potential candidates, and contributed to the final decisions. I also had the opportunity to brainstorm different ways to effectively communicate and collaborate in the workplace.

    Furthermore, it was exciting to apply my learning to everyday life in Shanghai. I became proficient in negotiating for goods at several Shanghai flea markets. Interacting with cab drivers and ordering food became second nature.

    During the weekend, I visited many manufacturing and trading companies where I saw first-hand the manufacturing process and learned creative marketing techniques. Curiosity brought me to Guangzhou, China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Every corner I turned, it was evident that trade and globalization were a powerful force. Studying abroad allowed me to see this for myself.

    When I returned to Mt. Holyoke College in fall 2012, I shared my study abroad experiences with more than a hundred students at the international fair. I encouraged them to look into the Gilman Scholarship if they need financial assistance and apply!
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