How China Altered My Life Path
posted on May 17th, 2017 921 views
One of the greatest gifts in my life thus far is having the honor and privilege of studying in China as a student in the Sanberg International Leadership Program established by Servite High School and Harvard alum Joseph Sanberg. This past year, I had the great fortune of being one of eleven students selected by Mr. Sanberg to spend a month in China being immersed in the language and culture of the country. What was offered to me could have easily been taken for granted, but the first of my two summers in China has had a profound impact on me that I cannot overstate. My participation in this program is more than just another acronym to put on a college application and it is far from just a free summer vacation.
Through my three years of intensive studies in Mandarin and leadership I have learned and experienced first hand why and how the Chinese emphasize the importance of guanxi, which quite simply means “connections.” These connections are considered some of the most important elements to live a happy and philanthropic life. Thanks to Mr. Sanberg, this modern Chinese ideal most certainly did not fly over my head. If anything, it smacked me square in the face. Whether these connections I experienced be with Chinese high school students or with the CEO of a titanic social media platform, they will play an invaluable role in my life much larger than my condensed high school head can comprehend at the moment. Although, what I do know is that these connections are the tools and lessons that I must utilize, implement, and refine in my future behavior.
After two years of preparation, I arrived in China. The Chinese Language Institute in Guilin blessed me with opportunities to attend daily language classes, visit host families, and go on regular excursions to monasteries, mountains, markets, and villages. I got to know and love this breathtaking, mountainous, heavenly town even after my “optional excursion” of being hospitalized there for three days! The three weeks of experiences gave me an open mind, ready to take on the diversity and unpredictability of the future.
In Beijing, I did get to see the historical sites, but the most valuable of our opportunities were provided by the “guanxi” connections between Mr. Sanberg and his business counterparts. My cohort met with corporate leaders, small business owners, and educators. Now that I can look back on my first experience in China, it’s quite evident that these relationships have broadened the spectrum of my future. The global essence of guanxi, the gift of living with and learning from a variety of people from local merchants to world leaders in business, was both enlightening and humbling. My experiences in China made me embrace and value the significance of community and diversity while working towards global improvement. The richness of what I have learned from my studies in China will directly affect not only my future, but most importantly the lives of those around me by drawing from the richness of cultural diversity.
As the provider of this important bridge between my studies in the Sanberg International Leadership Program and the world, Mr. Sanberg embodies what I see as the fulfillment of the Chinese idea of guanxi. Even though he’s honorary Chinese, Mr. Sanberg is Jewish, and one of his favorite Hebrew sayings is “Tikkun Olam” which are the Hebrew words for “heal the world.” In order for us to truly live the life that we are called to live, we must use our “guanxi” networks to build a sense of unity in the world around us; only then, can we truly “heal the world.” The only way that I can repay Mr. Sanberg for the gift he has given me is to promise that I will pay it forward, and in doing so I will make contributions to heal the world — not just by fixing brokenness, but by promoting healthy international relationships.
As I embark on my next month of studies in China, it’s difficult to even begin to imagine what adventures await. But, what I do know is that this transformative experience will empower me to live by both principles of guanxi and Tikkun Olam so that I can find my own way to make a difference in the world.