Beyond Program STAP Wrap Up, Shanghai, China

Brandi Cook, MBA, Class of 2019

While wrapping-up this short-term program to Shanghai, the main thing I learned was that two weeks is not enough time to truly appreciate China. The magnitude of the country certainly did not fail to impress me; every time I thought I was accomplishing a lot of “must see’s,” I was reminded how small of a corner of the country I was in.

Over two weeks, I took the bullet train to Beijing, hiked the Great Wall outside of the village of Shixia, made it to Nanluoguxiang Market for a cultural experience and shopping, went to the stunning Summer Palace on the Lake, visited the Bund and downtown Shanghai, saw Yuyuan Garden, Market, and the City of God Temple, experienced the tech hub of Hangzhou and its famous West Lake, and saw the canals in the water city of Suzhou. All of this on top of going to class every day! I know it sounds like a lot, but I just keep thinking of all the things I didn’t get to see! I found China to be so rich in diversity, history, and culture, that it is somewhere you must experience more than once.

Now that it’s over, I can sheepishly admit that I was fairly nervous about going to China, even though I’ve never felt nervous to travel before. And I can also say that visiting China turned out to be very challenging at times (way more than I expected it to be), but also incredibly rewarding (full of adventures!), and I’m so very glad that I went. The Beyond program was really well structured and the staff and content were great, which left a solid foundation for me to sightsee and experience the culture. I will never negate the value of hearing about Chinese business, innovation, and economy from the experts, but in my life I have found that the best way to gain a new perspective is to go out, have some crazy adventures, and just live differently.

Coming home from extended travel is always bittersweet. I am so glad to see my family and sleep in my own bed, but it is certainly hard to go back to the office, attend meetings, and sit in a cube. While the cultural perspective and change of mindset bestowed by traveling internationally is invaluable, I am definitely taking away more than just a new worldview. The most important thing about having unique experiences is learning how to integrate them into your life once you’re done. Both of the STAPs I did this summer- Italy and China- left me with some valuable practice synthesizing information, refining ideas, and creating presentations that give the “so what,” and these are the skills I’m applying in my professional environment. It’s only been a few days, but I am energized to identify what certifications I need to attain to take my career to the next level, and very excited to graduate from the MBA program this winter so that I can get started on the next phase of my life.