Why it´s smarter to travel in groups
When I first thought about coming to China to experience the culture and people a few years ago, I was not sure when that would be possible for me. Last year, during my semester abroad at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington one of my professors told us about short-term study abroad options offered by International Business Seminars. This is already a difference in comparison to my normal travel planning. I decide where I want to go, save money, pick a hotel, pick a flight, see if anyone wants to come with, and go. This time, my professor was so happy about this experience that he inspired my interest in this program. From the time I heard that it is possible for me to be part of the program even as an international student I was really looking forward to being part of a group for this trip. One of my biggest goals for this trip was to get to know new people and share this experience with them. Learn from each other and improve my own perspective and get a broader mindset.
More people ask more questions
What I learned in the company’s presentations taught me a great lesson about how business is done in China. Still, the discussions the group shared with the companies representative after the official presentation often gave an even deeper insight into this field. We learned how living with a family in Shanghai can be managed. We met so many people telling us about what to look out for, giving us personal examples of why relationships are key to everything in China. Being with the group gave me the possibility to be part of this conversation and the possibility to learn so much more than I would have on my own.
People are interesting
Everyone on the trip has a different story. For me, this was really interesting. Getting to know all the others and making friends. I learn more about myself with every person I get to know. Every person I meet gives me a little piece of their experience. We talked about so many different things and everyone has their own perspective on things. It is also really helpful to talk to everyone about the things happening in China. Together we discovered so much more than just what one person would have found. Like many places to go to eat or to go shopping that I would have not visited on my own.
Some moments are worth sharing
I found that the free time we spent together was also worth it so much. It was so much fun all the time to try new food and eating with chopsticks or at least trying to for the most part. But the moment I am thinking of here was on our free day, which I spent in Disneyland Shanghai with a few friends I met on this trip. We all decided to stay for the fireworks despite the rain. This moment for me was the best moment for me on the whole trip. And this is because so many different cultures came together at Disney and we all may not know the language the others were speaking but we sure did know the melodies of the songs. So during the fireworks and the light show on the Disney castle, people all around us were singing the Disney songs in their own language, but we were all singing together. And that was just special.
Experience can help
We often thought about where to get food or how to get money out of a working ATM machine. How to use the subway or how to buy stuff at a small store if you don´t have WeChat Pay. The thing is everyone has a little experience with something and together we were always able to come up with some solution. I am not sure I could have fixed all these problems on my own. And it would have been less fun for sure.
Communication is key
If you can´t find any solution within the group, you can always ask. This gets a little complicated if nearly no one speaks English. So if you get lucky and you have someone with you who speaks Chinese, great! If not, it is really helpful to have many people in your group with translator apps. Half of the people have internet access, half of those who have internet have the app and half of the apps actually work. This gives an amazing number of possibilities of what to say even before you´re trying to pronounce it right.
Overall, I think I experienced this trip so much differently than I would have on my own. We had so much fun together and learned so many different things. This is why I think traveling with a group for this trip was definitely worth it!