This is a guest Blog by my good friends Nick Moeder, senior in accounting and finance and Brett Seidl, junior in communication studies
If you had asked either one of us a year ago what we would be doing during the 2013 winter break, one of the last things we would have said would have been going on a 25 day journey through China. But on December 27th around 1:30 in the afternoon, we found ourselves boarding a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong, where the adventure began. Traveling with us were Dr. Bill Meredith, Associate Dean of the College of Human Ecology; Ryan Wilkerson, internal auditor with ConocoPhillips and 2011 graduate of K-State; and Eric Haun, junior in finance.
Our trip was designed to be a mixture of fun, adventure, a unique cultural experience, and learning more about business, communications, and the world we live in. We spent our first few days in Hong Kong, where we had an amazing view from our hotel rooftop as we watched the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display. We also visited the Bain Capital office in Hong Kong, courtesy of Nick’s Executive Mentor in the College of Business, Paul Edgerley, a 1978 K-State grad.
Everywhere we went throughout the country, we constantly connected with other K-Staters. In Xiamen, our group was hosted by Nick Piper, a 2008 K-State graduate. Nick is the founder and CEO of Phoria Energy Solutions, a China-based company that promotes clean and efficient energy use in developing countries. We spent some time learning about what Phoria does and the global economy. Nick will actually be back at K-State this February to receive K-State’s Distinguished Young Alumni award. You can read here about the award Nick received through the K-State Alumni Association.
After our time in Xiamen, Dr. Meredith and Ryan headed back to the states (something about needing to go to work), and the three of us continued our trek North for the remaining 14 days of our excursion. Our next stop was Jiande, hometown of Bin Yang who is a senior in business management at K-State. Bin was visiting home for winter break, and his entire extended family was ecstatic to host us for a week in their cold, mountainous town. By the way, when we say we moved North, we mean it — temperatures hovered around zero degrees Celsius (about 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and due to Chinese government regulations, homes are not heated – brr!
Bin and his family were great hosts. They kept us busy with things to do around Jiande and the surrounding towns, including tours of their bed sheet and screwdriver factories. Seeing the Chinese factory conditions was an eye-opening experience for us and incredibly different than what we would see in America. Bin also took us out on a boat ride around “thousand islands” lake, through a tour of the first Chinese-constructed dam, picking strawberries in a greenhouse for dinner, and even a visit to his little sister’s junior high where all of the 7th & 8th grade girls were obsessed with the three tall Americans that were visiting.
From there, we traveled through Shanghai and Beijing to see city and cultural sites such as the Shanghai Bund, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China. The great wall was impressive; it’s hard to imagine the structure being built hundreds of years ago! Also in Beijing, we were able to meet up our fraternity brother, Glen Jarrett’s uncle, Alan Beebe, who runs a green energy consulting company in the city. Alan and his wife invited us to dinner at their home, where we enjoyed a fantastic meal and learning about his business and Chinese politics. It was also our first meal of the entire trip with forks and knives instead of chopsticks!
It’s amazing the opportunities that K-State has made possible for us, and this experience in China is right at the top of the list. We learned so much about China, the world, and ourselves through all of the extraordinary things we were able to do. A huge thanks to all K-Staters who made our trip so memorable.
To read more about our experiences, check out Brett’s blog he wrote while we were there as a part of an independent study at bseidl.tumblr.com.