Student group in China
At the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai.

GATE By the Numbers:

27 Students
16 Days
5 Plane rides
7 Company visits
4 Different cities in China and Taiwan
1 Night in Beijing with roughly 80 Fuquans

GATE — Global Academic Travel Experience — was something that I was looking forward to all year, and it’s one of the reasons I initially chose to come to Fuqua. In weekly classes during Spring Term 2, we learned about the history of China, participated in a Q&A with Fuquans from China and Taiwan, and heard presentations on various topics including Chinese female entrepreneurs, internet restrictions, the one-child policy, and media and entertainment in China. Finally, after the term ended and exams were over, we were ready to go and see Asia for ourselves!

Great Wall of China
At the Great Wall with some of my classmates.

This year, due to high demand, Fuqua offered three GATE trips to China. The groups all visited Shanghai, Beijing, and Taipei, plus each group visited a unique fourth city. My group went to Chongqing, which is the largest city in China and in my opinion, is very representative of real China (it’s not just a tourist trap). China has been on my bucket list of places to visit for some time and because of its growing importance in the business world, I thought that it’d be perfect to visit during my time in business school. Corporate visits are a big part of GATE, and we covered a wide range of companies, from a venture capital firm to a specialized cancer center — therefore everybody on the trip found something that catered to their interests.

Shanghai: Shanghai was the first stop, and I was excited to visit it because the Pudong Skyline emerged only in the last 20 years and transformed the city. Our fellow Fuquans arranged our company visits and we saw a real estate company and a maritime tourism company. These visits were extremely interesting because the companies mostly cater to the local Chinese market, and not the multinational perspective that we often learn about in business school. In addition, we visited the French Concession, Shanghai Museum, Jade Buddha Temple, Yuyuan Garden, Nanjing Road, and enjoyed the nightlife along the Bund.

Chongqing: The second stop was the most populous city in China with over 28 million people. This city gave me a picture of authentic China. Chongqing is known for its hot pot and spicy food and introduced me to non-western toilets (you have to learn somewhere!). We visited attractions including the Dazu Rock Carvings, Chongqing Zoo, and Ciqikou Old Town and an automotive company that has production agreements with American manufacturers.

Beijing: Here we visited the Great Wall of China (and alpine slided to the bottom), saw Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Olympic Stadium (from afar) and the Summer Palace. We shopped at the Silk Market, lunched with a local family, visited the R&D center of a multinational consumer products company, and visited a venture capital firm. In addition, all 3 China GATE groups were in Beijing for one night, so in true Fuqua style, we all went out in Houhai.

Taipei: At our last stop we enjoyed dumplings at the original Din Tai Fung, ate at a Night Market, watched a changing of the guards, and explored the National Taiwan Museum. As part of the corporate visits, we went to a cancer hospital, and the COO studied at Duke Medicine and co-wrote a business case with the famed Michael Porter. We also visited an electronic component manufacturer.

During my 2 weeks in China, I was able to see places and do things that I never imagined, and got to know some of my fellow classmates better! Also, this trip was a huge step outside of my comfort zone, since I obviously looked like a foreigner and I could not read, speak, or understand the language. Things that I often take for granted, like ordering food, and asking for “napkins” or “no ice,” suddenly seemed like impossible feats. However, these struggles made the trip more valuable and made me more appreciative of certain things in the US.