John P. Gardiner II is an American student who came to UIC as part of an exchange programme between UIC and his university, Concordia University-Saint Paul in Minnesota. Below, he talks about his time at UIC.

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John Gardiner (Photo taken during his internship)

Entering into Concordia University-Saint Paul as a Year-3 transfer student, I had no real expectation that I would have the opportunity to study abroad. As I was planning the last year of my bachelor’s degree in Marketing, I was required to complete a study abroad exchange as part of my International Business minor. This notice was an unsettling dynamic in arranging post-graduate plans, but it was quickly set to ease once I learned about the student exchange programme offered at UIC.

The programme was unique because it offered full course substitution, with no additional tuition fees. As a business student, it was extremely advantageous to emerge into the world’s largest market and to understand the factors affecting the national business climate deeply.

My knowledge of China, before my study abroad, was that the culture was rooted in philosophical principles. I understood the importance of respect, honour, and integrity and the role those three principles played in the shaping of the society, as well as the strong industrial sector of the business world. Unfortunately, my knowledge was narrowed due to my western education and the lack of emphasis in western education on how China has significantly contributed to the world.

Before talking about my journey and impressions of China and UIC, I would like to talk about the opportunity to grow as a business professional when studying at UIC.     

   

Why studying in China and learning at UIC is advantageous for business students:

My observations from an economic standpoint are that China has reshaped their role in the consumer manufacturing sector and they are developing an infrastructure that in the future can turn the tide from manufacture to seller with the manufacturing strength to discontinue the need for foreign product demand if national brands can strengthen recognition and create a following.

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John along with other international students of UIC

This fully makes sense when talking about the world’s largest market. Still, it is emphasised in the efforts of the government to build a strong infrastructure that fosters growing and developing industries and is directly investing in the success of local businesses as well. Being a business student and being emerged in such a fast-moving climate, it’s hard to grasp the full realm of how many opportunities are currently present in China until one sees it for themselves. What is even more motivating is the competitive classroom atmosphere and business mind-set of the UIC students, most of which, own and operate their own businesses.

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John really engaged himself into the UIC life and joined various clubs

When talking to my peers and professors, they challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to think more critically, more creatively and more abstract. In the current world, most technical jobs are threatened by automation and AI, as businesses look to optimize efficiency and accuracy, at UIC they develop the student not to do simple but to create, and I value that as I see that as the step of differentiation in the labour market.

 

Life at UIC

As I reflect on my study abroad, I find myself wishing that I could be back in China, minus the late-night studying and group projects, but as a professional or vacation. My first impression of UIC was that it is physically a lot bigger than what was described by my university and roommate. The architecture of the buildings is very appealing. The centre pond, located at the core of the university near the canteens and library, creates a nice walking path that makes it easy to get around the university. The fitness centre/gymnasium is well equipped, and there are numerous clubs and activities to join when deciding how to get involved.

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John with UIC staff

One of my favourite things about the campus is that everything is conveniently found within the campus walls, such as the supermarket and canteens. UIC has many good food options from dim sum to noodles and even serves a Cantonese favourite dish, sweetened pork over rice. My favourite dishes that consistently became my go-to meals when on the campus of UIC were sweet and sour beef noodles, sweetened pork over rice and shrimp dumplings.

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 John definitely had an appetite for Chinese cuisine

Throughout my time in China, I was able to see so many sides of the country. I was able to explore the late-night street markets of Zhuhai and taste the local street-food. As an international group, we were fortunate enough to see the beautiful palaces, which once held the emperor at the New Summer Palace.

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John sampled a lot of different Chinese cuisines during his stay

I travelled to the futuristic city Shenzhen, where lights filled the skyscrapers and brightened up the roads. What was incredibly unique to me when I was travelling through Guangdong is the way the cities can mix historical reminisce with modern architectural design. It was so captivating to look at when walking in the streets, and it seemed impossible not to look up and soak in the fact that I was in China.

What really made my stay at UIC worthwhile and enjoyable were the students and professors. I have studied at two different universities in my college career apart from UIC, one being a large research-focused institution and the other being a small private liberal arts institution, and I think that no matter the institution nor its credentials can a person be happy without an academic support network from either peers or professors.

UIC’s atmosphere was welcoming, and its student body was friendly and warm. The students genuinely cared for each other, and the common spaces were real places of healthy talk, laughter and were a safe area where students discussed the challenges of life and helped guide one another in navigating through this complex world.

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John praises the UIC staff including Visiting Assistant Professor, Dr Kiho Jun

Lastly, I want to mention the professors, who showed a genuine interest in the futures of their students and genuinely cared for their happiness. It can be hard being a university student nowadays with the pressures and expectations of succeeding in a growing competitive world. Still, it is comforting to know that there is a group of professors that are endlessly finding ways to assist in the development of their students. It is for these reasons that I will always cherish my experience at UIC and will highly encourage anyone looking at studying abroad or visiting China to do so.

Editors: Samuel Burgess, Lauren Richardson
(from MPRO)