Hang Nguyen '13 Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner Studies Global Business in China

Hang Nguyen is an accounting and business administration major from Hanoi, Vietnam. She applied for a Johnson Opportunity Grant to spend her summer in China with CET, studying Chinese and economics while interning at Gap China in their e-commerce division.

I am startled out of sleep by the piercing sound of the alarm clock. A new day in Shanghai! It's 6 AM and I need to wake up to prepare for my Chinese class at 8. The class is academically challenging and intensive; I have new word quiz and homework everyday. For each class, the number of new words can amount to 50 words per day, so I find myself quickly building up my Chinese vocabulary. Outside class, I spend most of the time talking with my Chinese roommate to improve my Chinese speaking. Therefore, for me the program is a complete immersion in Chinese, to such extent that now English seems a bit strange to me, and I am tempted to insert some Chinese words while speaking English.

My school, Dong Hua University, is located near the center of Shanghai, so everything is convenient. It doesn't take more than an hour for me to go anywhere. My very first impression of Shanghai is that it's a very modern city and definitely lives up to its reputation as China's New York City, with automobiles and skyscrapers everywhere. I have been to a lot of amazing places such as Nanjing Road, Century Park and Pearl of the Orient Tower. At the same time, Shanghai still preserves its own very traditional characteristics through places like Yuyan Garden, which was originally a private garden belonging to a noble official's family during Ming Dynasty. The garden has a very typical Chinese style, with traditional pavilions, lakes, ponds and caves. Yuyan Garden is definitely one of my favorite places to go to in Shanghai. Since my schedule is packed during the week, I often take advantage of weekends to go out and explore the beautiful city.

After lunch I head out to my internship. I intern for the e-commerce team at the Gap headquarters office in Shanghai. Gap China is pretty new, so I work with them in their crucial stage of developing e-commerce in this country. I am mostly in charge of building the photo gallery, which will be instrumental in presenting Gap China to its global headquarters in the U.S. I also get an Excel file of thousands of pieces of information about Gap clothes and use it to pull out the measurement charts, which will be posted on the Gap website as product details. The work requires great patience and detail-orientation. The best thing about the internship, however, is that I get to attend Gap e-commerce meetings. It's also one of many great values that I noticed in the Chinese working environment: mutual trust between colleagues. I really appreciate how my supervisor trusts me enough to let me attend the meetings, learn about how the Gap e-commerce team functions and participate in the discussion about upcoming promotions or the Gap website's content. The only challenge for me is that the meetings are conducted in Chinese, and my Chinese is not strong enough to follow everything they say. At the end of the meeting, therefore, my supervisor often explains what I didn't understand and answers whatever questions I might have. I feel truly lucky to have such a supporting supervisor. She will let me help out with any upcoming promotions and help me learn more about the Gap brand in particular and Chinese business in general.

On the days I don't intern, I will have economics class, and that's also one of the program's highlights. We learn the world economy from a very different perspective from what I have learned in the U.S. I have class with both American and Chinese students, so the viewpoints discussed are more diverse and unbiased. It comes as a surprise to me that I have acquired such a tremendous amount of knowledge about the global economy within just 2 months. The class discusses in depth how international business needs to take into account cultural, economic and political differences, as well as how important it is to have a global mind set. This is consistent with the purpose of the program: to open up to other cultures and to be a global citizen. I have to admit, the program has been challenging and intensive, but it's definitely a rewarding learning experience that I'll never forget. I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I am thankful to the Johnson Opportunity Grant for such an amazing experience.