July 2nd has been circled on my calendar for quite some time. Why you ask? Not because it is the day after my last day of finals for Term 4, but it’s because I will be off to China for my GATE program (Global Academic Travel Experience) for 12 days. I always wanted to study abroad during undergrad, but “things” always got in the way, and to this day I have regretted it. It seemed this time was no different as “things” — Term 4 finals, Term 5 preparation, and taking time away from work and family — were determined to get in the way. Fortunately, I planned ahead, getting the time off from work, promising my wife a future vacation, and developing my study plan prior to finals week. One thing I have learned over the past year is the importance of prioritization, and that trying to do everything is impossible.

So why is traveling to China important to me? Well, for one thing I have never visited the country. And through all the business cases that we’ve studies, involving businesses in China, I want to see first-hand what business is like there. One of the exciting aspects of the GATE program is you get to visit corporations and listen to business leaders share their experiences. The program includes corporate visits to startup Yek Mobile and to established corporations — Baidu and John Deere — to name a few.

After a year of having business case after business case and applying the principles, I have learned how important it is to understand globalization and international business. Many Chinese-based companies are either investing in or buying American companies. While working at IBM, I experienced and witnessed the corporate restructuring when Lenovo purchased the PC division from IBM. Now, with my MBA experience, I have a different lens through which to understand the process. It is evident that to be a business leader today, you are more likely than not to create partnerships with other businesses that operate internationally. You must understand the consumer cultures when doing business globally. Chinese businesses are influencing America more and more each day, and it’s important to understand their culture so in the future we can work together effectively.

The aspect of the trip I am most excited about is getting to experience it with my fellow classmates. After a year of sweating deadlines, stressing exams, and celebrating milestones, we will experience this program as a group. Listening to past alumni talk about their GATE experiences, I heard the excitement in their voices, even three years later. The group they traveled with and the bonds they formed left a lasting impression on them, and I hope to experience that as well.

There are only a couple short weeks to go, with the stress of finals hanging over my head. It is going to be hard to concentrate on finals, because I’m so excited to head to China with my classmates. You will be sure to hear of my experience upon my return.