Have you ever been so fascinated by the beauty of your surroundings, that you feel like you are having a dream you never want to wake up from? I have…for entire 14 days… in ancient, yet modern; conservative, yet liberating; far in kilometers, yet close in emotions China. A trip that took the term experiential learning to the next level!

I grew up and was shaped as an individual in a post-socialist country where, even though borders were physically open, the mentality and social acceptance for traveling the world were quite absent. Visiting Asia was never part of my dreams simply because I couldn’t even imagine it as a possibility. In my mind, challenging this subconsciously established habitus and developing myself through widening my horizons were the reason why I decided to apply for the Asia-Pacific Experiential Study (RMG917). The course is offered once every two years as part of the Retail Management program at Ted Rogers School of Management and examines market conditions, consumption patterns, retail formats, and sourcing opportunities in China through a mix of in-class learning components and a two-week study trip to the country. I have been studying retail for three years, as well as working in retail all my life…but it wasn’t until this past summer that I realized the full role China plays on the global stage of retail. It is the biggest consumer market in the world with many untapped opportunities.

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Chinese people have a saying “The further the guest comes from, the more dear they are”. We felt the full reality of these words. We were always welcomed and every institution that we visited was well prepared in advance for our Ryerson delegation. In 14 days we managed to visit over 40 leading retail and manufacturing corporations, governmental and educational institutions including VICUTU, Shoppin.net, Wensli, Mclon, NetEase, Ermenegildo Zegna, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Tongji University, and many more. For a person like me, who learns from experiencing, such study method is beyond invaluable. Witnessing and studying the progress the Chinese businesses are making, I believe that the West will benefit from treating China more as an equal partner and less as simply a manufacturing ground. China has a lot to teach North America if we are willing to listen…

However, the highlight of the trip for me was climbing The Great Wall of China. If history could be touched, it would feel like the stones of The Great Wall…if history could be smelled, it would have the scent of the air in this place… It both empowers and excites you and at the same time makes you feel small and insignificant.

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Not only did we enrich our knowledge of the Chinese retail environment and our cultural competencies during the trip, but we also had a lot of fun. We found firsthand how much Chinese people admire our looks and how much our diversity attracts and fascinates them. We were the Canadian celebrities on the streets of China. As we were taking pictures of important landmarks, they were doing the same of us…Good times!

For those of you who will be retail management students at Ted Rogers School of Management in 2016, I sincerely recommend that you apply for RMG917 for the unique opportunity to start exploring the diverse and colourful global world of retail while still in university. Speaking to anyone in the Retail Office on the third floor of Ted Rogers School of Management would be your first step towards developing a better you. Our school has a ton to offer for those willing to discover! For more information about the Retail Management program click here!

Share your experiential learning experiences with me in the comments below or where you dream destination to study would be!

Posted by Irena Radeva

Irena is a graduating award-winning retail management student with over 10 years of experience in culturally diverse retail environments. She is an outcome focused, discipline driven person, who is very passionate about Supply Chain and Corporate Social Responsibility. Believing that traveling is the best teacher, Irena has set her eyes on making her way to every single corner of the world as part of her personal and professional development.

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