An oft overlooked part of traveling is, well, the traveling. Getting to the airport, picking up magazines or books to read along the way, the flight itself – it’s all part of it. And it’s an obviously integral part, because we do actually need to get where we’re going. And while it’s often the part we grumble about, dread even, I truly feel that it is part of the journey itself. Spending a day and half circling the globe lends gravitas to the act of going to China.
This is my first trip to China, and on my way over, though it was long and tiring, I was happy to be able to take a little break from my usual life at Tuck, and learn more about China. I took the time (when I wasn’t sleeping and trying to avoid jet lag) to read up about this global power, absorb information about China’s history, culture, and businesses, and start making note of things to see and questions to ask.
And what were my first impressions of China? So many aspects of Beijing are a mix of present and past. From the tiny courtyard houses in the hutongs (neighborhoods) that are hundreds of years old to the gravity-defying skyscrapers that dare the future to arrive faster, my first day in Beijing has made me appreciate both the past and the future.
In fact, our first day perfectly straddled this divide. In the morning, we visited the Temple of Heaven, one of four temples built around Beijing, which were places for the emperor to come and perform ritual sacrifices, calling on the gods for good fortune. Though the original temple burned down in a fire, it was rebuilt in the late 19th century; the current structure is remarkably well preserved. It’s a beautiful building, made entirely of wood and painted with vibrant red, blue, green, and gold colors. It was a great morning spent learning about a piece of China’s rich history.
Then, donning our suits, we visited an investment bank in the afternoon. There, we learned about the rapidly evolving financial services industry in China. Meeting with a director at the firm, we learned about the company’s structure and business units. He also spoke about his expectations for capital markets in China, how international investments will be important for Chinese investors in years to come, and how the development of knowledge and experience of Chinese professionals in areas such as private equity will be critical to success.
Echoing themes we’ve heard in school all year, the banker we met with today spoke about the importance in creating professional relationships, fostering an open dialogue with business partners (including government regulators!), and maintaining high standards for the work you are producing. While the economies, politics, and cultures may be different, the fundamentals are so similar.
I love that on this trip, in addition to experiencing the culture, history, and food, we’re learning about how China will so key to business in the future. Understanding what is happening on the international stage will be important in no matter what industry we go into after Tuck. It’s exciting to be in China right now, I can’t wait to continue the trip in Tianjin and Shanghai.