CAPA alumna Lindsay King was the first person to study abroad in Beijing on the new José Ramon Pérez International Scholarship, an initiative set out by CAPA President and CEO John Christian who also studied in Beijing. The scholarship is available to students like Lindsay from his alma mater, SUNY Oswego. Below she reflects on her experience studying abroad with CAPA Beijing during Spring semester 2013, sharing her first impressions of this global city, detailing her internship experience at the Great Wall Club and participation in the Global Mobile Internet Conference.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself first. What US university did you attend? Which CAPA Global Cities program were you enrolled in and when?
LINDSAY KING: Hey CAPA World! My name is Lindsay King. I currently attend the State University of New York at Oswego and I recently finished up my Spring 2013 semester in Beijing, China.
CW: You are our first student to receive the CAPA Scholarship for Beijing which is CAPA President John Christian's gift to his former school, SUNY Oswego. How did you feel when you heard you had won?
LK: Being a recipient of The Jose Ramon Perez International Scholarship was the biggest honor. I always knew that I wanted to study abroad my junior year of college and CAPA’s gift made that happen for me. Although the news of winning the scholarship was amazing, what made it more special, was how much I had in common with the scholarship donor, CAPA’s CEO, John Christian. Upon meeting him, I found out we came from the same hometown, attended the same college, and had an extreme passion for traveling. Heck, now we’ve even studied at the same university in Beijing! It sounds cliché but, my semester abroad didn’t just impact me, it transformed me. I was able to live and learn in a place that was never really on my study abroad agenda. CAPA’s donation allowed me to study and see China and that is something that I will be forever grateful for.
CW: When you arrived in Beijing in February 2013, it was nearing end of Spring Festival, What were your first impressions?
LK: Spring Festival is the largest celebration that I’ve ever witnessed. I only saw about five days of the festival and that was impressive. I can’t imagine celebrating for close to 20 days! Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together. Wherever they are, people come home to celebrate the festival with their families. With this being said, you can imagine that Beijing was a ghost town. However, the people that remain in the city certainly find ways to celebrate. The entire city is covered in red; from lanterns to clothing. Spring Festival was the only time I’ve stood in one place and saw fireworks in every direction. In fact, the loud explosives would light up my entire room at night. The last night of the festival, I had a chance to try the tasty holiday cuisine at a formal Chinese dinner. The dishes ranged from dumplings, soup, fish, and meat. It was quite the experience and I was so happy to be in China to take part the most important Chinese holiday!
CW: Which courses did you take during your Spring semester in Beijing and what do you feel you got out of them?
LK: This Spring Semester, I took Elementary Mandarin, Peoples and Cultures of China, and Learning through Internships. Before coming to China, I was extremely skeptical about taking Elementary Chinese because I knew I was going to be placed in a classroom with people who were outside of my CAPA group. However, taking Chinese has been the best, if not my favorite part of studying abroad. I was able to learn the language and then immediately apply it the second I walked outside. Also, all my classmates represented a different country. This provided a learning experience not just for students but also, for teachers. Peoples and Cultures of China provided me insight into emerging trends in Chinese culture and society, against the background of centuries’ old cultural traditions. The best part about the class was being able to interact with other Chinese students. Together, we compared and contrasted different aspects of our cultures and were able to learn from each other. Lastly, throughout my Learning through Internships course, I had the opportunity to apply classroom learning to the working and social environment of Chinese culture. Each class, we would learn about the differences in business culture in China versus the West. Providing this extra component outside of the workplace enriched my internship experience.
CW: You interned at the Great Wall Club. Tell us about this organization. Who was your supervisor? What position did you hold? What were your duties?
LK: Great Wall Club (GWC) is a mobile Internet networking platform that allows members to develop trusted relationships with other industry leaders. GWC members include some of the world’s most influential executives, entrepreneurs, developers and investors in the mobile Internet industry. Examples of member companies include Tencent, Alibaba, China Unicom, Microsoft, Evernote and Flipboard. GWC's most public and influential reach is its Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC), which is held annually in both Beijing and Silicon Valley. Throughout my time at the Great Wall Club, I served as the International Marketing Intern and was supervised by International Marketing Manager and CAPA Beijing Alum, Carlos Olivieri. Since the start of the internship, my main task was to manage daily social media posts to all company and conference accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter). I also performed conference marketing research and created post-conference surveys for participant feedback.
CW: The Global Mobile Internet Conference seems a key project at GWC. How exciting was it to be involved with that?
LK: When I started my internship at GWC, we only had three short months before the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC). This meant all hands on deck to prepare for the conference. GWC is a fairly small company consisting of about 30 people in their Beijing office. However, size means nothing to this company. The large scale conference they were able to put on was unbelievable. This year, the GMIC hosted over 10,000 mobile Internet industry professionals and executives. This was the largest attendance for the conference to date. However, the venue was just as impressive as the numbers! GWC picked the famous China National Convention Center next to Beijing’s Olympic Park to house its annual conference. The 2-day event was packed with keynotes and panelists discussing the subjects and issues that matter in the industry today. Throughout the conference, I was responsible for managing the GMIC social media accounts and staying up to date on panels happening throughout the day. Considering Mobile Internet in China is such a vital resource for business development, I felt like I was taking away very valuable knowledge. It was truly an incredible experience to be a part of.
CW: If you could give one piece of advice to American students thinking of studying in China, what would that be?
LK: Prior to coming to Beijing, I held many misconceptions about China. This is a common theme throughout the US. However, China has been the best way for me to step out of my comfort zone and understand the world around me. If I could give some advice it would be to be open minded. China has different ways of doing things; from family relationships, eating, speaking, and doing business. I learned quickly that the more accepting you are of what you’re experiencing, the easier it will be to adapt to your new environment. My other bit of advice would be to learn a little bit of Chinese before coming. It will make you feel more comfortable and will give you a starting base to learn a new language. Yet, at the same time, don’t let your lack of Chinese scare you away from studying in China. From my experience, traveling to a non-speaking English country can be scary, but it also can be one of the best learning experiences you can give yourself.
CW: How do you think the CAPA Beijing program will help you for the next stage of your career development?
LK: My internship helped me for the next stage of my career development. Within the three years I’ve spent at SUNY Oswego, my internship experience was mainly focused on my Global and International Studies degree. Coming to Beijing and being placed at the Great Wall Club allowed me to experience and channel my other degree; Communication and Social Interaction. While serving as the International Marketing Intern, I learned of the different tactics and strategies of how to market products. I’ve understood that applying these marketing strategies can make a huge impact on your company, product or service. With the growing presence of social media, the skills and experience I attained at GWC will only make me more marketable in the future. Most importantly, as with any internship, I learned what a job in the field of Communication would be like. My SUNY Oswego courses had taught me the skills I needed to think critically and write, but my internship at GWC showed me what it took to be social media marketer.
However, while working in Beijing has helped, living in Beijing will benefit me the most in the future. Experiencing life in China has really helped me to grow. I saw what life outside of America was like for four whole months. It challenged me in ways that I never thought possible and forced me to put myself in other people’s shoes on a day to day basis. I experienced an unfamiliar way of life and was able to adapt to new people, thoughts, and ideas. This has allowed me to become a global thinker which I believe will help me the most in the next stage of my career development.
CW: What will you miss most about Beijing?
LK: Within my first month in Beijing, I never thought I would ever truly grow to love it. It isn’t the most gorgeous or breathtaking city. However, as my time in China came to a close, I found myself becoming a victim of the “Beijing bite”. It isn’t just the historical sites that capture you; it’s a multitude of things. There are so many things I’m going to miss. I’ll certainly miss learning and speaking Chinese. I’ll miss having the cheapest, most delicious lunch for fewer than 10 Yuan. I’ll miss visiting parks and seeing Bejingers singing, dancing, fishing, and boating. But most importantly, I’ll miss interacting with Chinese people on a daily basis. Getting to truly know the people of China has been the most eye-opening experience and it will be something that I will forever miss. Overall, Beijing was incredible and I couldn’t have picked a better study abroad destination. Although I only lived in Beijing for four months, I will forever be a Beijinger.