Putting the “G” in GLP: Spring Break in China

April 07, 2016
• by
Jack Strauss
This spring break, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Beijing and Shanghai as part of the capstone trip for the Global Leadership Program. Our time in China struck the perfect balance between business and pleasure, as our days were filled with company visits, factory tours, and meetings with executives, while our afternoons and evenings were dedicated to sightseeing, leisure, and enjoying the Chinese nightlife. Our first stop was in Shanghai, one of the world’s most modern cities, and an important financial hub in Asia. During our four days there, we visited 10 vastly different companies from every sector and field you can imagine. Among those we toured were an air conditioning manufacturer, a fast-fashion designer, a digital animation studio, and a construction equipment factory. My personal favorite, though, was our visit to AEG—a large international entertainment company. Around the world they manage a handful of massive arenas and sports teams, including the Staples Center just down the road from USC! In Shanghai, their main holding is the Mercedes Benz Arena, which serves primarily as a large-scale concert and event space. During our visit, we had an inside look at the behind the scenes functionality of a large arena. We had the opportunity to see how the event space is retrofitted to fit the needs of each artist during their performance. Having hosted many of the artists we love today, such as Beyonce and Elton John, AEG was strikingly relevant to us college freshmen—despite being located halfway around the world.   IMG_0670   On the leisure/sightseeing side of Shanghai, we certainly made the most of our free time, seeing the majority of the city’s best-known landmarks. Some of my favorite spots included the Royal Gardens, late-night viewing of Pudong (pictured below), and the copy market. In addition, we were fortunate that our hotel was situated directly on Nanjing Road, one of the most famous and active (albeit touristy) streets in all of Shanghai. Right outside of our hotel door was high-end shopping, great dining options, and the famous Bund. In addition, Professor Voigt arranged  for a tailor to come take our measurements for custom suits that cost about $80 and were ready in two days! It was a great way to expand all of our professional wardrobes.   IMG_0659 On day four, we hopped on a short flight to Beijing where we spent the remaining five days of our trip. Beijing, like Shanghai, featured an incredible range of companies and executives that we had the opportunity to learn about and hear from. On the factory side, we had the opportunity to visit companies such as Lenovo, GE Healthcare, and Walmart, and hear from a handful of accomplished entrepreneurs. For me, the most impactful was our tour of the Hyundai factory. As we walked all throughout the factory floor, it was incredible for me to see the level of automation that they had achieved for a task as intricate as building a car. Robots took all the pieces, painted them, and brought them where they needed to go. All the humans had to do was pull the trigger on a drill gun. Often times China is painted in a very stereotypical ‘production-mania’ light, yet here, it was calm, clean, and very simple. The assembly line method was very much in use, and the employees’ work was not intensive by any means.   cwvDm9asA_Lw9YsGTQNy8vWrdsA-3   Outside of the professional scope, Beijing also gave us the opportunity to visit and gawk at a number of world famous landmarks. Our group toured Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, as well as the world-famous Pearl Market. We even enjoyed a tradition Peking duck dinner! I think many of my classmates would agree, though, the most incredible sight was the Great Wall. On Saturday we took a bus to a mountainous region about an hour outside of Beijing up to the base of the wall, where we had the chance to walk along it and explore its guard towers. Our trek to the Wall ended with a high-speed toboggan ride down to the base of the mountain. On Sunday, we enjoyed our morning and afternoon by shopping and seeing the downtown Beijing area. Then, on Sunday evening, we made the drive out to the Beijing International Airport and headed home to LA. IMG_0752   All in all, our week in China felt more like a month. In just a short amount of time, we were able to see a lot, do a lot, and experience a lot of China. I think every member of GLP would tell you that they came away from the trip with a new perspective on business, China, and themselves. It’s rare for a university to give freshman the opportunity to go abroad, let alone send them on a business trip to China over spring break. I feel very fortunate to go to a school where international experience is so prioritized, and so much effort is put into preparing Marshall students to take on the increasingly globalized world of business. To prospective students—if you are given this opportunity, do not pass it up.