This past December, the Eller MBA Class of 2014 went to China as part our first semester course, Global Business Experience, with Dr. Paul Melendez. The purpose of this trip was for our class to learn more about the way that business is conducted abroad. China is one of the foremost emerging economies in the world, and a perfect opportunity for our class to learn more about international business practices.
We arrived in Shanghai on December 12th, for the first part of our international trip.
In Shanghai, we had the opportunity to meet with four different companies: McKinsey & Co., Mattel, JP Morgan, SKF and Caterpillar.
These companies have operations worldwide. Over the past few years, however, China has become one of their most important markets.
From these meetings, we gained insight into the Chinese market. For example, Mattel’s marketing in China is very different than the approach that it takes in the United States. Mattel tends to market toys as educational tools in China due to the importance that Chinese parents place on education and the limited amount of time the average Chinese child has for playtime.
During our visit in Shanghai we toured Caterpillar’s facilities in the Suzhou Industrial Park. We had the opportunity to learn about the extensive operations that Caterpillar has in China, and see the construction of its tractors.
In addition to being able to talk to different companies with operations in China, we also had to opportunity to tour Shanghai. On December 15, our tour guides took us on a Shanghai City Tour.
Our first stop was at the Yu’an Garden which was built over 400 years ago. It as an extensive garden that is built on approximately 5 acres of land and laid out in the traditional Suzhou style.
Additionally, we participated in a traditional tea ceremony at a local restaurant located in close proximity to the Yu’an Garden.
We had an amazing time touring Shanghai and seeing some of the sights it had to offer. However, we still had the second portion of our trip to go! The next day we took the train from Shanghai to Beijing.
Upon arrival to Beijing the Class of 2014 experienced the real Chinese winter. Let me just say, it was very, very, very cold. However, it was still incredibly fun. Right after our arrival at the Beijing train station, we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
It was amazing!
Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world.
It has also been the site of some major historical events in China, such as the student protests of 1989.
Tianamen Square is located right outside the gate to the Forbidden City, our next stop during our first day in Beijing.
Personally, I thought that, besides the Great Wall of course, the Forbidden City was the most impressive place we visited (besides the Great Wall). Also, when the tour guide tells you that it is a city, it really is a city. It is massive.
As I mentioned before, it was very cold in the Forbidden City, very cold. There was also a lot of ice on the ground which resulted in the Class of 2014 slipping everywhere. To summarize, the day spent touring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City was incredible.
The next day, we met with IBM at their headquarters early in the morning. We had the opportunity to learn about their projects in China and to see the new technologies that the company is currently working on. For example, IBM has developed a camera that recognizes both gender and age. It did say that I was a male though, so it’s not completely accurate. (Really, it said I was a boy, clearly I’m a girl. Jen Bublitz did some investigating, and it turns out that I don’t have enough wrinkles for the the camera to identify my gender, really I should be flattered.)
On our final day meeting with companies, we met with Lenovo, Google and Baidu. Like with IBM, our class had the opportunity to see some really interesting technologies that Lenovo is currently working on. Half our class met with Google and the other with Baidu, I went to the Google meeting.
Out of all the company meetings that we had, my personal favorite was with Google. Our host was very candid about censorship in China and the difficulties that Google has had since it entered the Chinese market. It was excellent. They were also filming Gangnam Google-style video during our visit. It just goes to show you how amazing Google is.
Our last day in Beijing was spent at the Great Wall of China. For those of you that don’t know, the Great Wall of China, is really a series of walls. We went to the Badaling section. The Great Wall of China is the one of the most incredible things that I have ever seen. You really don’t have an idea of its scale until you see it in person.
That night we had a delicious duck dinner before we had to go back to the hotel to pack for our departure the next day.
China was amazing. I really learned a lot and had great experiences with my friends. Jen Bublitz and Dr. Melendez were great and overall, my time spent in China is going to be one of my fondest memories of the Eller MBA.