Wednesday, August 1, 2018

International Relationship Development


Guardian Chinese Web Drama via BoredPanda
There is a difference between learning about a culture through a book and learning about a culture while living in a foreign country. There are no backdoors that stop time when situations become tough or unfamiliar in far away places. My experience is not from what I’ve learned from a textbook (I utilized the textbooks to explain my experiences) and I didn’t learn about the Chinese culture in the United States of America. The things I’ve learned—skills, language, customs—all come from first-hand experiences from when I was living in Beijing, China from May 21 to June 23, 2018.

Personal Leadership: A Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices

My adventure in Beijing started with a simple dream of making a difference in the lives of others. To do this, I needed to learn how to be a leader and learn leadership skills, so I could better serve the community I was in. As stated by Barbara Schaetti, Sheila Ramsey, and Gordon Watanabe—authors of Personal Leadership: A Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices— “Personal Leadership sustains us by helping us choose growth, personal development, and real professional competence.” (pg. 3)

Personal Leadership

To understand what I needed to do and learn to become a leader, I decided I would start journaling my experiences in China. Leaders can understand and manage their own experiences and share those experiences with others in a way that is informative and educational. And this is what I am doing today.

I enjoyed my adventure in China so much that I’ve created a workshop that will be presented at several libraries in the Fox Cities and surrounding areas. The skills I’ve learned about how to become a leader through the book written by Schaetti, Ramsey, and Watanabe was only the beginning. I’ve also read the book, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek wrote about how leaders inspire others to act. I aspire to encourage people, specifically Americans, to journey to third-world countries and learn about different cultures. My workshop will be addressing my time living in Beijing, China as an expat rather than a tourist.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been reflecting on my life and how different my life was in China. I had to learn how to integrate myself into a racially homogeneous country. Coming from the United States of America, a country built by immigrants and numerous cultures, I had to adjust to being one of the only white, Caucasian people in my district, Fengtai District, west Beijing.

Even though I was in China, I didn’t let my beliefs be changed because of my surroundings. As stated in the book, “What Personal Leadership shows us is that we get a whole lot better at standing up for what we believe in when we first free ourselves from our own automatic reactions.” (pg. 13) I had to learn not to be judgmental about the way Chinese people react to certain situations and how the Chinese culture worked. To be a leader I needed to learn how to adjust and to be respectful.


There’s no lie when I say, “China is completely different from the U.S.” Not many people would argue this fact. We can see that China is different from reading news articles and watching the nighttime news or informational TV shows on Netflix and YouTube. Even though this is true, China is a booming country that is growing. Right now, China is an economically burgeoning country. The housing industry has exploded in the last five years and isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. If you are an architect, China will hire you on the spot. The demand and need are evident.

I’m not a religious person. I went over to China with this philosophy. No one was going to change this, at least, that is what I thought before I met my host family. The reason why I had such a unique experience in China was that I was living with a Chinese family and taking care of my host sister, Dora, who was five-years-old at the time (she is six, now). By the time I was done with my 33 days in Beijing and I was being loaded on a plane back home, I had started following the teaching of the Buddha.

To better understand how this happened, I must reference the book by Schaetti, Ramsey, and Watanabe because as it says in the book, “Judgements are directly linked to our belief system…about what is good and what is bad.” (pg. 39) Being an atheist or a non-religious person, I came to China without any real stereotypes. I had heard some from watching TV, but I’m not much of an avid TV watcher and reading didn’t have the same feeling when it came to racially charged stereotypes.

Leaving the house—eating—going to bed—returning from a long day—these were all times when my host mom, Vera or Verade, would light an incense stick and pray to her Buddha statue in her home. When she found a dead bird in the courtyard, she would bury the bird with gifts and beautiful flowers and pray before saying goodbye. I didn’t understand this right away and I thought it was a bit weird, but after I went to one of the many Buddhist Temples in the seventh ring of Beijing, I started to learn the importance of life and the afterlife.

I’m not religious, even after learning so much about Buddhism and meeting Buddhist monks. Yet, I now considered myself spiritual. I don’t think of Buddhism as a religion. I think that Buddhism is a way of life. I wouldn’t have been able to learn all these things about Buddhism if I wasn’t able to get over my initial judgment. I gave myself time to observe and creatively engage myself in these situations. And as it was stated in the Personal Leadership book in the section about attending to judgment, “It’s all too easy to judge something unfamiliar as bad simply because it is unfamiliar, and something else as good just because we know it.” (pg. 42)


Would you believe me if I had told you that on this trip I took was my fourth attempt at traveling to a foreign country? Now, you probably won’t believe this because you do not know me, but this is the truth. Every time I failed to get on a plane or successfully book a trip to an Asian country, I capitalized on the situation. I didn’t allow my failures to control my life. Each time, I learned how to better prepare myself and schedule trips like the one I did in May and June 2018 to China.

As stated in the book on leadership, “When we craft a vision with clear detail and hold it with mindful intention, something physically tangible is activated.” (pg. 103) In the book, Start With Why I learned that to successfully learn about another culture while living in a foreign country I needed to reflect on my own values and beliefs. WHY was I traveling? WHY was I in China? Start With Why is all about helping people figure out WHY they do the things they do instead of WHAT they do because people don’t buy WHAT you do; people buy WHY you do it.

My success story is playing out on my blog, The Road Less Traveled On. I’m not just sharing my experience about the day-to-day adventures and tourist sites I visited. Many people have gone to China and have seen the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square. Many people have seen and explored China more than me.

The reason why I am different from these people is because of HOW I got to China, WHY I was in China, and WHAT I intended to learn and do while there. I successfully lived in Beijing, China, for 33 days. It was hard, and I struggled with culture shock, the 13-hour time change, and the local cuisine. Yet, I’ve come back to the states and wish I was back in hustle and bustle of China’s capital, Beijing. I went from a country girl who only ever saw corn fields to living in a megacity twice the size of New York City and with 21.5 million people.


Although China is a communist country and the United States of America is a democratic country, the two countries have similarities. In the book, Personal Leadership: A Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices, the authors gave personal examples. Instead of only researching online through newspapers, journals, online forums, and blogs, I’ve learned to love the Chinese culture and the people. There is a difference between learning about a culture through a book and learning about a culture while living in a foreign country. I suggest you take the leap of faith and see how much you can learn about any culture while immersing yourself in that culture.

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