Dean in China

Dean is a University Scholar and a senior accounting major in the Cox School of Business. In summer 2011, he is traveling to Hong Kong with the SMU-in-China Business program to get a firsthand look at modern China’s unique culture and business practices. He says he also plans to do some touring (and attempt to get by without knowing a single word of Chinese …)

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Last days in Hong Kong

After our return from Beijing, we found ourselves staring down the barrel of our final week of the study abroad program. The week really flew by – here’s how it all went down as we finished up our work and tried to make the most of the time we had left.

Shenzhen

Luckily we still had one more day off before classes resumed, so we took the opportunity to head out into the mainland for a day, taking the Hong Kong subway all the way out, to the last stop inside the Chinese mainland at the city of Shenzhen. We had passed by Shenzhen on our train ride to Guangzhou, and a couple of students in our group had already come here; and our group’s Chinese student is from Shenzhen, so she’d been coming back here almost every weekend to see her family. For me, however, it was my first time seeing it.

We spent most of the afternoon in a big mall that was like an amalgamation of a mall you’d see in the United States (and China does have plenty of malls in that style) and one of the many flea markets here. It was extremely unorganized, with each massive floor being a total labyrinth of stores selling a random array of items. With no indication of where in the place to find any particular items, we found that to be a good excuse to really take our time and explore the whole thing. Aside from the stores selling all sorts of things, around the fringes of each floor are lots of little boutiques that had people outside trying to get us to come in for a manicure, pedicure, or massage. We also found stores that had extensive selections of electronics (the outdoor markets had some too, but only a few small gadgets), seemingly endless choices of fabrics and silks, big gemstones and pretty rocks (some were nearly as tall as a person), designer handbags that may or may not have been the real deal (again, a far bigger collection than any outdoor market)… it just went on and on.

After spending the day shopping, we went into town a little ways and had dinner at a delicious seafood place – by the front door they had out in full view the aquatic life that they use in the food once you order it! After eating, we wandered around for a while searching for a cab, and as we walked I noticed how bustling Shenzhen is. We had heard about it several times before on the trip, even at some of our company visits. Apparently, it was as early as a decade ago a mid-sized town that had lots of factories and smog and not much else. This was always followed with a comment that it had changed so much since then. And they weren’t kidding at all. Shenzhen is a bustling city, with a neat skyline thanks to some interesting architecture like Guangzhou (China seems to have a thing for that). And while there are still lots of factories in the area outside Shenzhen, the sky was pretty clear – Beijing could take a lesson from this city!

Wrapping Up

The next day we actually had to go back to class. Having not had a class at CUHK in over a week (we had class in Guangzhou, but that was kinda different, and then we had our long weekend in Beijing), we all agreed it felt odd to be going to class after seemingly so long, but also because we knew it was one of our last.

Our penultimate class was about human resources management in China. Our teacher told us that one reason the Communist Party is so deliberate with the ways they use their power is because while they have millions of members, they are still vastly outnumbered in a country of over a billion people. Managing such an enormous population must be quite a logistical headache. Further, we learned that Chinese managers are extremely reluctant to fire employees. The Chinese are very careful when seeking someone to hire, and if they select you, they feel you’re capable enough to work for them. If it turns out you aren’t doing well in your job, rather than fire you, they’ll attempt to see if you work better in a different part of the company. Additionally, Chinese citizens want their jobs to feel secure, and if someone gets fired, other employees often quit and seek other jobs because their co-worker’s firing makes them worry that they could be fired next.

After class, we took a group photo in front of the main sign for the Chinese University of Hong Kong and had lunch. The rest of the afternoon was essentially a race to wrap up our business in Hong Kong and do whatever else we wanted to do – some people went back to a tailor for their final fitting for suits they were getting made (at high quality and low prices, too – and the clothes turned out nice), others went back to the street markets to procure a few last souvenirs they still wanted. That evening we went back to Soho and scared up what was probably one of the only Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong to eat at before going to Ozone, a cool bar waaaay up at the top of the Ritz-Carlton, over 100 stories up. The bar had an incredible view of the city, and just like our early visit to Victoria Peak, we got to see the Symphony of Lights, but this time from the other side of town, which made for a different view. It felt like a nice bookend to our time in Hong Kong.

The next day was spent entirely working as fast as we could to complete our big final projects, where we were split into groups and assigned a company, and had to analyze how that company was performing in the markets for the US, China, and Hong Kong, and compare the nature of the markets and the company’s approach to each. Despite spending all week on it, it still required a massive push to get done on the next to last day of the program. The last day of class we presented, and everyone had found some really interesting information. Then I got a belated birthday fruitcake, and we all got framed copies of our group photo from the day before. In return, we gave gifts to the people at CUHK who had spent the trip working with us.

After packing and dealing with the realization that our time in Hong Kong was actually about to end (it felt unreal), we celebrated as a group one more time by returning to Soho for one last group dinner and some drinks in a trendy area of bars. It was bittersweet to be saying goodbye to everyone I’d been with nearly every waking moment for the past month – we had all really bonded. But the goodbyes were tempered with promises that we’d all get together again back in Dallas in the fall.

So, the study abroad has ended. However, stick around, dear readers – I’m not quite done yet! Stick with me a little longer as I spend another week and a half touring more of China to see some sights and delve further into the culture!

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