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Our Motley Crew in China and Hong Kong

I'm still recovering from our International Experience trip to China and Hong Kong. It was a truly intense cultural, educational, social, and emotional experience - one of those events that you ponder and process long after it is done and that continues developing how you think about things. I met new people and made new friends, explored parts of the world that were abstract and dreamlike in my mind, learned about organizations and people that were previously a mystery, and grappled with some difficult philosophical questions. I'll be able to write a cohesive post about the trip once I figure out what it all means* but in the meantime, I thought I would share some of it as it is in my mind right now, as a series of thoughts and events. (that will also allow me to add to it more easily).* In addition, our professors asked that we do not publicly disclose who we met. We had meetings with some pretty senior officials and by keeping these meetings confidential, we ensure future trips benefit from candid discussions too.

1. Look Guys: It’s Roach. After one of our meetings, some of us were riding an elevator down with Prof. Roach, one of the two professors leading the trip. There was a TV in the elevator tuned to Bloomberg and Prof. Roach was being interviewed about his trip… surreal. I knew that the professors leading our trip were renowned authorities on China but I had no idea how networked they were within the country. Several high-ranking officials we met prefaced answers to our questions by “Well, you should be asking your professor that question – he knows more than me…”.

2. iPhone Soup. One of our TAs who is a Beijing native took us to a hot pot restaurant that is a local favorite. As our food cooked, I handed my phone across to someone on the other side of the table to take a photograph. Intoxicated by the delicious smells coming from the bubbling broth, I gasped and lost my grip on my phone – and watched it plunge into the soup. How many Yale students does it take to fish a phone out of a hot pot? At least five. Our waitress brought us a hair drier and a bag of rice but really, what are the chances when a phone has spent over a minute or two in a boiling hot, water, oil, and spice mixture? Justin, our TA, is organizing a dinner at a local hot pot restaurant this weekend. I will not take my phone.

3. Wow. I’m tired. Our trip was pretty intense. THIS IS NOT SPRING BREAK. We were pushed hard but our professors and TAs (and some alumni who met with us at 7am) were in it with us and in the end I think it was worth it; I was skeptical at points – when I was at the Hong Kong airport at 2am with an 8am meeting downtown the next morning; when I was in the fifth meeting of the day after a short night’s sleep – but I think the exposure to so many different viewpoints helped me understand some of the subtleties of economics and business in China. Anyone can read a book and learn about the country. Our trip took us further. We left with some answers but also many questions. I think that is right. And in the end, we had a lot of fun too.