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The wall is totally slanted…or we’re in a scene from “Inception”…hard to tell…

First and foremost, many apologies for the horrific pun above. I couldn’t resist.

One of the milestones of many a Kellogg student experience is the Global Initiatives in Management (GIM) trip over spring break. This year, groups of 25-35 Kellogg students ventured to China, Southeast Asia, South America, South Africa, and India, among others.

I was one of the 32 students who had been hearing the words, “China is the future of business and commerce” and finally headed halfway across the world in an attempt to prove that very fact.

We started our “journey” way back in November 2011, with an introductory course with our faulty advisor, John Rogers, JD-MBA. We then participated in a 10-week course in Winter Quarter where we listened to prominent guest speakers, conducted cultural research and presentations, and laid the framework for our in-country team research projects.

The trip, which was entirely planned by our elected student leadership team, brought us to Beijing, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Shanghai. We had meetings with Intel, Baidu (the Chinese Google), an animation studio, the Chongqing government, an auto manufacturer, a dairy processing plant and many more. Outside of the group activities, we conducted our own research (in teams of 4-6 students) about a chosen topic. My team investigated the dairy industry and had meetings with Unilever China, General Mils and major Chinese dairy companies. We got A LOT of free ice cream out of the deal, so it wasn’t too shabby.

Outside of business, we saw the Great Wall, ate tons of spicy Sichuan hot pot, held some baby pandas, learned that every city in China is quoted as being “the largest city in China”, almost every business is the “largest tax payer in China”, and saw an acrobatic show that makes Cirque du Soleil look like an amateur gymnastic recital. We came home tired, intrigued, and enlightened, with suitcases full of stuffed panda hats, fake purses and bootleg Rosetta Stone (we all PROMISE to learn Mandarin…).

There are pros and cons to every GIM trip. This was not a relaxing Spring Break. We were up at 7 AM every morning and had to conduct research on a daily basis for our meetings. The weather was not great and the pollution of Beijing lived up to its reputation. However, we got to be in rooms with some of Chinese largest business power players, ran along the Great Wall of China, and gained insight that we would have NEVER understood without direct experience. Plus, we held baby pandas. Did I mention that?