During the spring semester of 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in a student exchange to Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. As one of the most challenging and enjoyable experiences of my undergraduate career thus far, my semester abroad was filled with thought-provoking academic classes, new friends, and exciting experiences around Beijing and greater China.
While completing my semester exchange at Peking University, I noticed that many of my views and assumptions were challenged and transformed throughout the experience. As I had previously traveled to China and studied Mandarin for the last several years, I was already accustomed to many of the significant cultural differences between China and the US. However, traveling through and living in a country have innate differences. For example, while living in China during the semester, I learned how to use digital applications like Taobao (a consumer goods delivery network), order food off of E le ma (a food delivery platform), and how to pay for my apartment utilities over Alipay (a digital money transfer application). I found that learning about and adapting to these processes provided me with a deeper perspective into daily life in China – an insight that I had studied in class or read about in articles, but had never experience first-hand. I found struggling through these processes and other challenges in China to be personally rewarding. I enjoyed working through the adaption process and seeing how many of China’s methods can be adapted to impact other parts of the world.
Towards the end of my semester at Peking University, I participated in a Global Solutions Festival. This competition was open to university students and young professionals, and the focus of the festival was to create a business model that would further the UN Sustainable Development Goals. My group decided to focus on finding a solution related to energy and environmental issues, and we spent the weekend designing a system to utilize predictive technology to better understand and optimize energy usage within a residential setting. At this event, there were a number of industry mentors present. I met several different mentors throughout the event, I was continuously impressed by their experience and knowledgeability. This event opened my eyes to Beijing in terms of professional opportunities and China’s growing innovative role in the world.
My weekend participating in the Global Solutions Festival and, more broadly, my semester at Peking University has served as a significant transformation point in my undergraduate career. On a personal level, my semester abroad pushed me to grow in many new and unfamiliar ways. My peers challenged my ideas, my Chinese language skills were put to use daily, and I gained many life lessons along the way by encountering new and unfamiliar scenarios.
As a rising senior at OSU, I am beginning to consider my next steps after graduation. Living in Beijing for six months expanded my understanding of Chinese society. However, I also gained a new perspective on paths for me to engage with China in the future. I have a personal interest in impacting the world’s most pressing environmental issues, specifically working within the energy industry to create collaborative low-carbon energy solutions. On a professional level, my semester in China provided me with the opportunity to meet many experts working within this scope, both at Peking University and across Beijing. In the future, I have full confidence that I will leverage my experience gained during my semester at Peking University.