Traveling Home to Atlanta

Only through experience can you envision change

By Kimberly Griffin and Paulina Guzman
October 24, 2016

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been one week since we kicked off the Young Leaders China Fellowship program in Shanghai. The hour-by-hour itinerary complete with company visits, cultural excursions, long bus rides, colorful conversations with our tour guide and hosts, and trying local Chinese cuisines, filled our days with new experiences, local insight, and a fresh outlook on China.

China is experiencing an explosive period of change. What better time than now to expose Atlanta’s young professionals to this transformation. The purpose of this trip was to enhance the knowledge of Atlanta’s rising stars through an immersion of cross-cultural exposure to Chinese business, media, and culture.

So who are these Atlanta young professionals? The fellows represent a variety of industries including, banking, automotive, food supply, logistics, private equity, hospitality, and much more. The diversity of industries and professional backgrounds truly added to the abundance of conversation with Chinese business leaders and counterparts. Additionally, the fact that the travelers had never been to mainland China also added to the novelty and uniqueness of the experience.

During our last excursion at the 798 Art District in Beijing, I caught up with a few of the travelers to share their most memorable experiences of the past several days.

“Definitely having a chance to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World–the Great Wall”, said Shana Basnight, contractor at Accept U. “Getting to visit the “Netflix of China”, iQiyi, was eye-opening to see how quickly the company was able to grow in a matter of five years. The experience opened my eyes to how China is a very high-tech, innovative, and progressive country, and that was a great lesson for me to take away.”

Sarah Ford, Senior Executive Assistant to the Chairman, President, CEO and Board of Directors at AGCO Corporation, met with AGCO’s company outpost in Changzhou to deepen her internal business relationship. She also enjoyed exploring the richness and cosmopolitan atmosphere downtown Shanghai had to offer.

“I don’t even know where to start because everything has been memorable in its own right. The Bund in downtown Shanghai and having drinks on the rooftop of The Peninsula. Having that vantage point of the city was incredible.”

The lecture on urban planning and Shanghai’s development also caught her attention.

“I loved the 2040 planning lecture we received. It was just so impressive to hear the innovations in urban development concepts. Any time I feel like things couldn’t get any more impressive, China has a way of really outdoing themselves.”

The rising middle-class and consumer culture in China captured Hicham Jaddoud’s attention. Hicham Jaddoud is the Senior Operations Director for Marriott Hotels and is a student at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business’s Executive Doctorate in Business program.

“I think the most memorable takeaway from this trip is being exposed to the Chinese people and finding out what their expectations and needs are as far as the products they buy and which consumer trends they are interested in. Overall, the people here have been very genuine, kind, and open-hearted people.”

The Young Leaders China Fellowship program was an unmatched opportunity to acquire a general grasp of the social and economic systems of the country while still bringing attention to its rich cultural traditions and history. From visiting the Shanghai Free Trade Zone to trying our hands at Chinese calligraphy, this trip was filled with new and enlightening experiences.

As Dr. Jun Liu, former Associate Provost for International Initiatives and Director of the Confucius Institute at Georgia State University and currently the Vice Provost for Global Affairs at Stony Brook said so eloquently, “Through connection with people you build trust and become more mindful and more reflective of other cultures. Only through experience can you envision change.”

Kimberly Griffin, YLFPChina Program Co-Director
Kimberly Griffin, YLFPChina Program Co-Director

Kimberly Griffin serves as Deputy Director of the Confucius Institute at Georgia State University. Her interests are in foreign language teaching, learning methodologies, cultural edification, and collaborative intercultural communication. Understanding the importance of language, she studies and can speak English, French, Mandarin, and American Sign Language.

She holds a Master of Arts degree in International Studies with an emphasis in Education, and a Bachelor of Science degree in International Affairs.  Kimberly has been certified twice to teach English as a foreign language to both adults and children, and was certified by the Walt Disney Company to be an official Disney Trainer.

Previously, Kimberly worked in Shanghai and Beijing, China developing, launching, and promoting The Walt Disney Company’s English training school for children, Disney English.  She has also been the Academic Director for an intensive English program for teens and adults at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Paulina Guzman, YLFPChina Program Co-Director

Paulina Guzman serves as the Membership Manager at the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, where she is responsible for membership development, expanding the Council’s presence among Atlanta’s business and international community, and ensuring the satisfaction of its contributing members. She first joined the World Affairs Council in 2012 as an intern to assist with social media expansion and membership related projects, and now oversees a membership constituency of over 1,200 individual members and 50 corporate and non-profit members.

Ms. Guzman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs and minor in Economics from Georgia State University. She was a member of the Latino Student Services and Outreach program, and co-founded the Young Americans for Liberty Chapter at Georgia State. In 2007, Paulina was a recipient of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Paulina’s interest in global affairs stems from her extensive travels abroad as well as her ethic background. Although a native of Atlanta, she has Cuban, Venezuelan, and Colombian descent and is fluent in Spanish.

Instagram: @pauguz29

YLFPChina Web

Homma Rafi | YLFPChina Media Contact
Office of International Initiatives, Georgia State University

Paulina Guzman | YLFPChina Co-Director
World Affairs Council of Atlanta

Kimberly Griffin | YLFPChina Co-Director
Confucius Institute, Georgia State University

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