This summer, I spent a week in Beijing, China as part of a student exchange conference. While exploring beautiful areas and making new friends, I discovered a lot. Sure, I learned about China and globalization, but I also realized how much I don’t know. Beforehand, I panicked over flying all the way to China, knowing nobody, and being one of the youngest people involved. However, my experience was very positive and rewarding in many ways.
For seven days, I learned about a variety of aspects of Chinese life and culture (no I never really mastered chopsticks) while building relationships and working on a research project. We went to seminars given by professors and business people in various industries including scientists and entrepreneurs. We even visited a local village and talked to government officials and villagers about village life.
Participating in this program, I learned about fast paced changes that alter the way people live today. I was fascinated by technological applications used to make life easier in China. Millions of people share bikes by scanning QR codes, and 3-hour online shopping delivery exists! By visiting a local newspaper, a large energy company, and other organizations, I realized how little I know about the wide ranges of business opportunities in the states.
Photo: Kathryn Kuhar
As a rising sophomore, I still have so much to learn. My trip to China highlighted the importance of seeking out opportunities to meet more experienced people and to learn from them. I will not pretend to be an expert on any of these sectors after spending a day learning and meeting with industry insiders. At least now I’ve been exposed to more fields of work and new ideas. On top of giving me career insights, this trip also made me more comfortable working with older students and people from very different backgrounds. Building personal relationships and learning to feel comfortable as an outsider are also very important to being successful.
I applied to this program after receiving rejections from several other summer programs and did not expect to get in. When I did, I almost turned it down. The prospect of going to a professional conference in China intimidated me. Thankfully. I decided to go despite of my misgivings.
Especially as a young college student unsure of what career I want to pursue, the chance to learn about a variety of career. options are extremely important. My advice to anyone nervous about applying for something because they don’t think they’re qualified enough or it’s far from their comfort zone is: DO IT!
Sign up for as many things as you can (within reason), and you’ll gain experience. Maybe you’ll find what you want to do, maybe you’ll find what you don’t want to do. It’s a learning process, and you’ll probably stumble across some cool places and people.