A Shuford Summer in Shanghai- with Avery Wiggs
Junior year— a long-awaited season of comradery, a graduation from the term underclassman, and from a personal standpoint, a dreaded major/minor declaration that I had been pushing off for years. As a current Psychology major with double minors in Business and Entrepreneurship, my journey to the Shuford program started in a rather unconventional way.
January of my sophomore year, a group of friends and I made the decision to apply for the Shuford program in Shanghai, China, for the upcoming summer. Granted, we all made this choice well aware that it would put us outside of our comfort zone, but the end result of the trip was something I could have never anticipated. We submitted our applications, and over the course of the next few months, we prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
In addition to the introduction to a new continent, this trip was my first exposure to the Entrepreneurship program. Having switched my major three times prior, I had always found narrowing in on my academic interests challenging. The first day of our Econ 393 class in China, taught by Bernard Bell, was enriching, applicable, and an immediate wake up from the twelve-hour jet lag. As we went through the next few weeks, my cohort of 14 students learned to shake hands, to network, to write, and to present ourselves with confidence. Unlike a lot of college classes I had taken up to this point, this course and professor made me feel like his lessons were aimed to help every individual in a customized way. My classmates and I grew to be a tight knit clan, with the room itself becoming a temporary home away from home. Towards the end of the course, we even got to practice our newfound entrepreneurial skills on UNC alumni that lived in Shanghai. This experience has gone on to help me in interviews, coursework, and even day to day interactions with my peers.
As I continue to reflect on my time in the city, my Econ 393 class was followed by an internship at a Global PR firm, co-headquartered in both New York and Shanghai. As I was one of two native English speakers in the office, each day brought new challenges. I was given a sense of responsibility similar to that of a full-time employee, as I spearheaded a global expansion initiative within the HR department. I strategized innovative ways to aid communication all throughout the company—whether it be within the Shanghai office, the headquarter offices, or the business as a whole. Learning to problem-solve in this international environment helped me gain a deeper understanding of my career interests and highlighted a skillset within myself that I would feel confident applying to any future position.
After a typical day of work, my fellow UNC students and I would explore the city. We saw historical sites, ate traditional Chinese cuisine, and even learned some Mandarin from our Chinese roommates. We travelled, laughed, and were constantly overcoming obstacles. By the time we left Shanghai in May, we could order our meals with confidence, and hop on and off the subway like locals.
With all things considered, this trip abroad put on by the Shuford program encouraged more self-growth than all of my previous college semesters combined. The Entrepreneurship minor gave me a chance to be a part of an academic community that didn’t make me sacrifice my urge to explore, but rather to utilize it simultaneously alongside my coursework and internship. As I returned to Chapel Hill in the Fall, I adopted the E minor with confidence, and I have continued to further my individualized education within the program.