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July 29, 2015

Malik Hall: An Open Mind

 July 29, 2015

Malik Hall, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a junior majoring in applied engineering sciences concentrating in technical sales and minoring in international business. Last summer he went to China on a scholarship funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation as part of the U.S. State Department’s 100,000 Strong Initiative.

My study abroad program was “Marketing in China.” This three-week trip exposed me to the local culture in five different cities and gave me the chance to learn about different global companies and their operations in China.

As I grew up, I enjoyed learning how different China was from other countries. From architectural details to the red dragon they often display, I loved the style and wanted to see it with my own eyes. Plus, many businesses are trying to enter the market because of opportunities in China. Europe is often the first choice of American students; I wanted to explore somewhere that many students do not go.

Adapting to the culture in China is not difficult when you keep an open mind. I noticed people tended to stand closer to talk face-to-face than people do in America. This was uncomfortable at first because it seemed aggressive, but after a while I realized it showed that the person had their full attention on you.

At dinner, we ordered many different dishes. Sitting at large tables with a spinning top, we could share the food. I enjoyed exploring different tastes without taking ownership of a single dish like we do in America. This cultural experience was a new way for me to dine with friends and encouraged conversation at the table. There was often laughter when the table spun away just as someone was reaching for a dish.

My experience in China expanded my view and influenced me to study international business. It taught me about the importance of the relationship a business has when dealing with other companies or with the government. This study abroad opened up a passion within me to interact with those from different backgrounds – even people within my own neighborhood.

I started a new campus job last fall with responsibilities for making a healthier, inclusive learning experience in the residential halls and promoting activities to help students feel more sociable and comfortable around others. We have a strong emphasis on historically underrepresented groups and international students. My study abroad experience makes it easier for me to interact with students from another culture and help them feel comfortable engaging in activities with students on campus.

If I had not received a scholarship from the Coca-Cola Foundation, I would not have been able to experience China. I thank both Coca-Cola and the Office of Study Abroad for allowing me to participate. I spent years selling chocolate in high school and now finally to study abroad is a dream come true. I was fortunate to get a scholarship. I’m truly grateful for the experience.

Reprinted with permission from Empower Extraordinary: The Campaign for Michigan State University