Shahzadi Sayyid - Shanghai

*Photo courtesy of Shahzadi Sayyid

I am like most undergraduate (business) students who have no idea what to do upon graduation. There is so much uncertainty for our generation in regards to careers, and it can be scary. You truly need to set yourself apart from the herd; there are thousands of candidates that have the exact same qualifications. As a graduating student, I know I need something to make me stand out. I need to have the knowledge and insight that demonstrates to an employer that I am worth the chance and investment. Most importantly, I know I need to step out of my comfort zone as much as I possibly can while I am still in the safety blanket of student life and expose myself to an education outside the classroom, outside the university, outside the province and outside the country.

I signed up as one of the first student cohorts, and went to Shanghai, China at Shanghai Lixin University in 2014. I signed up for the trip because it was a great excuse to travel somewhere I had never been, there was a $1000 scholarship, and for the three transferable courses I would get in five weeks. I chose China because it is the largest exporter in the world with the fastest growing economy, and has a rich culture unlike anything I had been exposed to before. I was able to experience a new country, new food and new culture, and I learned in one of the largest international hubs in the world. We each had a local native Chinese/English speaking buddy assigned to us to make communicating easier, which in turn allowed us to navigate China as a foreigner. Our classes were fairly straightforward and brought about new insights in regards to International Accounting and International Negotiation.

The most fun I had was learning a new language (Mandarin) and stepping out of the classroom to use it in everyday life. We got to practice our international negotiation skills at the street level as we haggled for goods and souvenirs in the day and night markets. We experienced the incredible and bizarre nightlife of a city with an unmatched spirit and skyline. We tried foods and desserts that I had never heard of and were beyond comparison in taste. Trust me, the Chinese takeout you have is NOT real Chinese food. We learned everything from ancient Chinese calligraphy to making Chinese dumplings. We also attended networking seminars with the Canada China Business Council (Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai) as well as with BDO China partners and executives.

Overall, the experience was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, which allowed me to broaden my scope and expand my network. I was able to leverage my (very) limited Mandarin as well as my understanding of the Chinese culture to land an internship at a global consumer electronics company in Shenzhen, China in 2015. My business background paired with my international experience allowed me to successfully complete 7 months in International Marketing as a Brand and Content Manager for the North American & UK marketplace for six internal brands, in addition to working with other brands such as Huawei, Li-Ning, NextX and more.

At the end of the day, University is what you make of it, and the things you do lead to future opportunities and prospects beyond what you could imagine. As I am heading into the final semester of my degree I would encourage students to take advantage of the experiences that are rewarding for both your career and your life. I can speak volumes about how rewarding going abroad was, but you will only truly understand once you take the leap.

*Photos courtesy of Shahzadi Sayyid