China Field School
Reasons to attend
- First time travelling outside of North America
- Learn about the culture, history, business and everything about China
- Come back with an open mind and have a better perspective on life
April 24th/April 25th Vancouver > Hong Kong
An exciting day to depart to Vancouver to Hong Kong. A 13 hour flight but was actually quite comfortable and before we knew it we arrived. This was quite an extensive travel day given we had to bus right away from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. We arrived at the hotel late and managed to go to sleep right away as we had a big day tomorrow. Which of course was going to the Canton Fair.
April 26th Guangzhou
Today we went to the Canton Fair which was spectacular. The amazing part about the Canton Fair is the fact there is such a variety of product categories and unique products. There is more than 60,000 booths. The categories for the specific time we were there contained kitchen & tableware, general ceramics, pet products & food, art ceramics, glass art ware, weaving, rattan and iron products, gardening products, gifts and premiums, festival products, home decorations, stone/iron decoration and outdoor spa equipment, furniture, household items, personal care products, toiletries, toys, clocks, watches and optical instruments.
My perspective of the Canton Fair is basically like Disney Land for business people. So much interesting things to see and the experience is amazing. Not to mention our pass meant that it lasts forever so I hope to go back there one day.
April 27th Guangzhou
Going to the Five Rams Statue Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. This was such an amazing experience today. It was a beautiful park that made me you feel relaxed immediately as you transitioned from the busy city life. Overall, I felt that not only was the history compelling but more importantly that you can always come to a place that gives you peace of mind.
April 28th Guangzhou
This day was a fantastic opportunity to see Jinan University. The University was very welcoming and it was a great chance to talk to the students. It was really fun to just chat and get to know them. Furthermore, after we left Jinan University we headed over to the Pearl River Cruise. This was an amazing experience and interesting fact that the Pearl River is the 3rd largest river in the world. The surrounding buildings lit up with LED lights and made the evening a gorgeous sight.
April 29th Huizhou
Today was a transition day from taking the train from Guangzhou to Huizhou. The great part about this day was to take in this unique city by walking around. This was a good day to recover and get ready for tomorrow.
April 30th Huizhou
A nice morning breakfast at the Vee hotel followed by meeting the students from Huizhou University in the lobby. The students were so welcoming and have a great positive energy. The students gave us a tour of Huizhou. We started walking to the Kande Hotel and got to go the 29th floor and had a great look out view of Huizhou. From there we then went and walked around West Lake and then got to see a temple. We then went downtown Huizhou to a mall to have lunch and walk around which was very interesting to see from a consumer and business perspective.
May 1st Huizhou
Today was a relaxed day to help us prepare both mentally and physically for the next several days as they are going to be very busy. This has helped all the students to also work on an assignment today about how to manage a PR crisis. After the assignment students used their own free time to do whatever they wanted. Some went and got a massage at the Kande Hotel. I noticed some shopping bags so it seemed Huizhou was the first city that shopping kind of started for everyone. Including myself I needed to get more shirts due to the humidity. You walk out the hotel and the hot humid weather hits you hard right away. At the same time it does wake you up on the bright side.
May 2nd Huizhou
Today was a very exciting day where we had the opportunity to have Dim Sum at the Kande Hotel with Lin who is a professor at the Huizhou University. The food was amazing. Later in the afternoon we went to Huizhou University. Lin showed our group around the campus. Then we got to have a nice dinner hosted by Lin’s supervisor. It was delicious and then we got to go to the English Corner. This is where each student of the China Field School was paired up with a student from Huizhou University. Everyone had such an amazing time. You could tell as you walked around the room with everyone having a big smile on their face. The great part about this was the fact that people exchanged contact information so they could keep in touch.
May 3rd Huizhou
Today was a very eventful day which we started off with a tour of the Ledman factory tour. This was very interesting to learn about their distribution of the LED product all over the world. Moreover, we learned a lot of information about the company and had a very extensive tour which helped create a better perspective in a business sense of how factories operate.
We then got the opportunity to get a quick tour of a factory called Dubon. This was a factory which makes parts for mobile phones. We got to see assembly line workers making the screens and back plates. This created a strong connection because I personally use my phone all the time and was very interesting to see behind the scenes of how this is created.
And to end off our very exciting day we had a culture presentation by the Huizhou university students who performed interesting musical instruments, taught us calligraphy and was really a great last opportunity to talk to the students and get a better understanding of their culture.
May 4th Hong Kong
Today we departed by bus to go to Hong Kong from Huizhou in the morning. Once we arrived in Hong Kong we got to go and see the Big Buddha. This was an amazing experience because for myself I have never gone on a gondola ride that provides such a unique experience. You can see all of Hong Kong from an interesting perspective from way up in the sky. It was like the gondola was taking us to a new world because once we arrived there was a major change right away. The nature around you, the air, and the relaxation you felt. It was also good that it was only a 20 minute walk to see the Big Buddha. And when looking at this beautiful structure along with the history, culture and overall strong effect it has to the residents and tourists of Hong Kong. After that we got to see the light show in downtown Hong Kong. This was a fantastic experience as we got the chance to see Hong Kong lit up with beautiful LED lights which occurs every night at 8PM. This last for several minutes and had thousands of people gazing at this attractive site.
May 5th Hong Kong
Today was a good day to explore Hong Kong more as we got the opportunity for free time in the morning and a bit of the afternoon. After that we headed to Pacbridge Partners to meet Giovanni who is an investment banker. Along the way I got to get a good photo of Hong Kong when we took a ferry ride. This was kind of like taking the seabus in Vancouver however, this boat was extremely old. They even had people who would use rope to tie the boat to the dock when we arrived at the destination.
This was a great opportunity to meet Giovanni because his company helps Capilano University with funding a portion of the trip and help with all their valuable connections they have. The office was one of the most spectacular offices I have ever seen. Such a beautiful view and contemporary look inside.
Furthermore, Giovanni had a presentation for the group in which he talked briefly about three very important elements in life. The first one is to have good communication. Often times that is what creates problems in life with lack or unclear communication. In addition to that never fill in a question with an answer. Learn to probe and let the person say what they want to say. The next point is team work. Group projects in school or work may be frustrating at times but you have to learn to enjoy and understand how valuable the experience is. You cannot operate a business by having a bunch of individuals stay separate from each other. You need to collaborate together to achieve success. And the last point is a mentor. This can be anyone in your life. The important part about a mentor is the fact that it will help provide a clear direction in your life and when you need support or help you can look to someone for advice. A lot of successful people have mentors and in that regard find someone and have a good long term relationship.
We then went to the Victoria Peak. The line ups were busy for a good reason though. This lookout was amazing from the videos and pictures that promoted this popular tourist attraction. The only issue was the fact it can get foggy at night and unfortunately we did not get the greatest view but it was a great experience. No photo but there was a good chance to take a good picture in the downtown area. The architecture is very impressive.
May 6th Shanghai
Fly out of Hong Kong to Shanghai. Walk around and explore this beautiful city. We stayed in a hostel which was an interesting experience for myself because I have never stayed in a hostel before.
May 7th Shanghai
Today we had a full day in Shanghai to get more acquainted with the city. For starters the subway system is very complicated but impressive at the same time as it has 16 different lines. Furthermore, the first activity was to see the Shanghai museum. This museum was fantastic as it displayed China’s culture and history in a very unique and organized way.
After that we had some free time and got to explore the city. In particular we went to the financial district of Shanghai to see the buildings all lit up night. This was a spectacular scenery. And in which I was very curious to see was the Shanghai Tower. The 2nd tallest building in the world. Although we could not go inside it was amazing just to see from the outside.
May 8th Shanghai
Today we went to the French district which had a lot of small shops and was a really enjoyable experience to browse and support local businesses in Shanghai. After that we headed over to the temple which was amazing. This was right in the middle of a busy area. So when you transition from the city environment to a different environment it is quite a change. After that the group got separated and did different activities. Later that night after dinner we went in separate groups to explore the financial district again. It’s so amazing at night that I could walk around it every night and always be star struck.
May 9th Shanghai
Today we had a very eventful day. We started off going to SapientNitro which actually recently has changed their name to Publicist.Sapient. For starters I am in marketing so I connected with this company right away. They also they touched on how story telling is more focused on story selling. The ability for consumers to get them to view content and have them conveniently purchase that with their phones as they desire.
The next place we went to was the Johnson & Johnson Centre of Innovation. It was very interesting learning about all the details of such a massive company. They mostly talked about innovation and how they work with so many people to get a great idea to the product stage. Not to mention of how they make a difference in the world by helping patients and consumers by providing health care products and medical imaging devices.
And the last place we went to was the Shanghai Mercure hotel for dinner. Before dinner started we got to meet Shakir Moin who is the Coca Cola CMO of Asia who gave us a very interesting presentation. It was engaging to hear about the data and research Coca Cola does to gain more loyal consumers. One major method was neurosensory marketing. In which they study the effect on the brain when it gets aroused the most so they can understand for beverages when consumers get attracted to the product at the highest level and what stage. Another part was just a good overview about what Shakir looks for in people. #1 is heart. You need to be a good person with a good EQ. #2 is smart. You need to be intelligent and able to solve problems. And #3 is guts you have to do what it takes to get things done. In my opinion that is a simple formula to be successful in life because you have to have those three principles as a core element to yourself.
The picture below is the Oriental Pearl Tower. I just thought I would add this in as it is absolutely beautiful when it’s all lit up at night time. And the fact it was the last night in Shanghai.
May 10th Shanghai Bullet Train To Beijing
Travel day. This bullet train was amazing since it went 300 km/hr and yet it was a very smooth five hour train ride from Shanghai to Beijing. Once we arrived we took the subway and then walked to our hostel. After we settled in we got ready to the British Columbia Trade and Investment Representative Office. We arrived and met a very nice lady by the name of Annie who presented to us about commerce. To tie into her presentation she just used her phone that connected to a projector. This was because she was getting at the idea of how you can use your phone for everything all the time including paying for things. In which she mentioned about you don’t need a wallet anymore just your phone and you can get by every day. She talked about popular payment portals such as WeChat, AliPay which are very popular in China. Furthermore, she talked about various apps that has really helped benefit small local business. In particular there are spa type apps that let you book a haircut for example and see all the reviews of this person. In that it is a very user friendly experience with figuring out a day and time to get this done. And once you have obtained this service you just pay with your phone and you’re done. And there are so many other apps that are making everyone life more convenient. And that was the whole idea of the presentation. And lastly Annie touched on a very interesting day in China called Singles Day on November 11th of every year. Annie was getting at how singles day is kind of like Black Friday in North America. Basically it as you might have a guessed it is a day for young Chinese people to celebrate being single. And therefore, there is a lot of money being spent on this day. It has grown exponentially every year.
May 11th Beijing/Herbei
Early departure in the morning to head to the Great Wall of China. It was really interesting hearing about how this amazing wall was built. For starters it was built in 1381 which I find amazing because it is so old and distance wise it is approximately 9,000 kilometers. We got the opportunity to go to two stops at the Great Wall. This was one of the most beautiful scenic adventures I have ever experienced in my life. It is so much more than just a wall. It symbolizes many unique aspects of China.
After this experience we traveled to Herbei University. We had a very warm welcome when we entered the lobby at Herbei University. We then went into a nice room with drinks and appetizers. We then watched a film of Herbei Institute of International Business and Economics to learn more about the university. After this there was a welcoming speech by President DING Guosheng (Interpreter: LI Yuanyuan). This then started off the night with great presentations and overall entertainment. Andrea Eby one of our instructors gave a fantastic speech about branding and tied that in with the Olympics in 2010 and delivered a valuable message of how that can relate to the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Then Michael Molson our other instructor gave a brilliant speech about how the culture is in Canada and the relationship with China has been over the years. This gave valuable information to the students of Herbei University and everyone else. Then the director Hu Bo gave a speech about the university life in general. That wrapped up the presentation side. We then had some unique entertainment including a film of foreign students’ activities, Chinese calligraphy and sand painting show, a hip hop song and dance by students who were from Cameroon, a hip hop dance by two students and a song sung by two students. And lastly we finished this night with the opportunity for people to talk to each other including the students from Capilano University, Herbei University students, and teachers. This was a great opportunity to get to know each other. We then got our assigned rooms in the Herbei University dormitory.
May 12th Herbei/Beijing
Today we had an early morning departure from Herbei University. The bus trip was several hours and before we knew it we were back in Beijing at the hotel. We had some free time to recover and explore Beijing. And from there later that night we went to see the Birds Nest which is the Olympic stadium. This was a beautiful site to see the stadium all lit up at night and the unique architecture design of the building.
May 13th Beijing
Today we went to see the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. These two sites are extremely popular in Beijing. There are a lot of people who go their everyday. Although it was a great experience I found Tiananmen Square in particular a very meaningful and sad site. The reason was when we learned about the Tiananmen Square Massacre which happened in 1989. Many student led protests were fighting for democratic reforms. However, the government striked back with martial law. Many killed, sent to prison for x amount of years and so forth. The world certainly took notice to this event.
May 14th Beijing to Vancouver
A sad but exciting day to go back to Vancouver. The trip being 21 days was the perfect amount of time because if it was less it would be too short and if it was more it would be too long. That way we managed to maximize the experience by doing as many activities as possible along with getting to become good friends with everyone in the China Field School group. And of course along the way make great connections with everyone we met in each city in China. An interesting stat by the way was tracking the kilometers walked every day. And when I looked at my health app on my iPhone I discovered we walked 250km in 21 days. That is approximately 11 km a day which created a fun physical and mental challenge every day. The picture below is just a good representation of how cities in China in particular Beijing are fast pace. There are always cars on the road getting to places.
In conclusion this trip overall has changed my life. For starters with my reasons going to China this has been very important from what I have learned. My first reason was to get out of my comfort zone. I was constantly out of my comfort zone during the trip which really helped me grow as a person. Experiencing unique food on a daily basis to being in a massive population and actually adapting to it really helped me. It was overwhelming at times especially with cities such as Shanghai who has a population of 24 million people. However, I began to especially have a love for the city at the end of the trip. When I came back from China and talked to several friends and family members they would ask me so would you go back? Or would you even live there? And I replied with I would actually love to live in Shanghai or Hong Kong one day. In addition to this prior to the trip I didn’t really care about travelling outside of North America. However, now I really want to go experience other countries outside of North America. China again, Japan, countries in Europe and also countries in South America.
The next reason was to learn about the culture, history, business and overall lifestyle of China. I was experiencing this on a daily basis and really appreciated this throughout the entire trip. The culture of China contains several key parts with the first being religion. We got see temples and other religious sites. I myself am not a religious person but really respected and appreciated this because it really has had a very deep emotional and overall connection to the people in China and the fact been a big part in their life. Moving on to the next trait would be language. There are many different languages and dialects in China besides Mandarin. Often at times there would be a language barrier but I eventually managed to understand this more. At the beginning of the trip I would become frustrated at times but I started to realize the big picture. If someone were to come to Canada and talk in a foreign language I wouldn’t understand them. But even though there is a language difference there is still a common ground you can achieve to understand some degree of communication. The first is body language because non-verbal communication really helps with this. And the second is simplifying everything. If someone spoke a minor amount of English I would eventually realize that and thus talk very slowly and use extremely simple words so they could understand me. Another key piece is about their culture in particular is their arts. Sculptures, paintings, calligraphy is something that is truly amazing about China. And the last interesting part of their culture is all the unique celebrations they have over the course of the year. One popular day in particular is singles day.
And now to learn about the history of China. There is tons of information we learned on a daily basis. Each activity we had everyday had a piece of history attached to this. But most prevalent was learning about the different dynasties and learning about the changes that happened in China including the Chinese Revolution.
The next key part was interesting to learn about business in China. Right away when we arrived at the Canton Fair it provided us all an interesting learning experience of how you can find a supplier and thus create a business or build an existing business. Furthermore, the importance of really investing in the relationship. Because in China a term used a lot is guanxi which means relationship. In China this is very important so in that business is focused this way all the time. Another term is saving face which means to have respect and never humiliate each other. Once you lose face you can never regain or fix the broken relationship. Another big learning experience was visiting the factories which were Ledman and Dubon in a city called Huizhou. This provided great insight into how quick and to the scale that these factories can operate at to provide orders in a timely manner. It’s also great to learn of how the working conditions is at a high standard. Workers are provided free accommodation, free food, and a fair wage, access to health facilities and a good health and benefits plan. That way the workers are treated well and thus there is consistency on their part of making and producing product every day. I was quite amazed when found about this because generally there is a lot of negative labels or stereotypes when you hear about a typical factory worker in China. So I was happy to see and hear this stereotype being dismissed.
The lifestyle in China. Well for starters from a perspective of just watching a high traffic road is very amazing. Cars, ebikes, cyclists and pedestrians all interact with the road in a very unique way. Driving is quite astonishing given the fact they all overtake or cut each other off and in particular sometimes when there is only two lanes on the road there is four lanes of cars. I am not sure if I could ever drive a car in China. As for ebikes or from North America seen as mopeds this is also amazing to see. People wearing ponchos when it’s raining and wearing oven mitt gloves to keep their hands warm. Another part to see is a family of people travelling together. A kid in the front of the seat followed by the parent and then someone else or two holding on in the back of the ebike. This paints a clear picture of the differences in how there is a lot of poor people. Another part to this is seeing cyclists on the roads stay to the side of the road just like you would see in Canada but a lot more of them. And finally pedestrians. Jaywalking is prevalent and quite eye opening. In a very busy street you will see someone cross the street and then stand in the middle where the painted lines on the road separate and then cross when it’s safe. A lot of these people are fearless. Also in several different cities it was so welcoming that a lot of the locals were so friendly to foreign people. That made the experience that much better because you would feel comfortable. Even if you didn’t talk to them and they just wanted to take a picture with you that still brought cheer to your day and theirs. So it was a win-win situation.
The next reason was to come back with an open mind and have a better perspective on life. We were in very developed and developing parts of China. That great combination really made me appreciate life more. Often times I take for granted what I have in my life. And from this one particular site in Huizhou it really developed a deep connection in me. That is why I captioned this picture “Appreciate the little things in life”. See image below this was actually a lookout from my hotel room at the Vee Hotel.
And the final reason was photography- It’s a beautiful place. I not only got some amazing pictures. But I improved a lot as a photographer given the fact I was taking pictures every single day and having to adapt to different environments such low light situations and so forth.
As the trip is over the friendships and connections formed have made this trip very unique. At first I just looked at this trip from the perspective of the four main reasons I wanted to go and all these exciting activities. However, I actual feel that the social aspect was the major part to this all. Being in a fantastic multicultural group of students in the China Field School has really made this the best part of the trip. Becoming friends with one another was something very special. And not to mention interacting with students from Jinan University, Huizhou University and Herbei University and all the all other people we met along the way was just amazing to say the least. All I can say to future China Field School students who are thinking about participating in this field school is go and do this. You will regret this if you don’t go. It literally is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you want your life to change for the better go and do this