A Summer in Beijing
Sophomore Kevin Jang participated in the Minor in Entrepreneurship's Beijing Program with the support of UNC's Phillips Ambassador Scholarship. A group of UNC students attended classes at Peking University and completed immersive internships. Kevin interned at The Wine Republic.
It may not seem obvious at first, but the wine business in China is one of the most entrepreneurial ventures in the world. In order to penetrate the market, the first entrepreneurs had to overcome cultural, financial, and geographical barriers to establish a wine culture in the Chinese marketplace. They saw an opportunity in the country for a thriving wine market during China's huge economic growth, jumped right in, and are now reaping the profits. Winecompanies are constantly looking for new markets to enter and ways to innovate their products. To me, this is the true spirit of entrepreneurship, which is the ability to revolutionize a market that has existed for thousands of years. I can say without a doubt that my time interning at The Wine Republic in Beijing has given me a treasure trove of information about entrepreneurship that I could never learn by reading a textbook.
After 12 hours, my plane touched down in the hazy city of Beijing. It was the foggiest weather I had ever seen, almost as if the clouds had come down with us during the descent. Not the best introduction to one of Asia's most prominent cities, but I told myself to just deal with it for the next two months as I strapped on my face mask. I had been accepted to the UNC-Peking Entrepreneurship Summer program, and would be studying at Peking University as well as interning at a company. I still remember being extremely excited in the airport terminal as I walked towards the sign saying "UNC Chapel Hill," and would have never guessed that the next two months would be the best two months of my life.
The internships that we were assigned for the program ranged from sports marketing companies to working at companies dedicated to helping Chinese students apply for business programs abroad. Personally, I was assigned to The Wine Republic; which imports premium foreign wines to sell domestically in mainland China. They distribute only premium wines from France, New Zealand, Austria, Australia and elsewhere. They pride themselves on having a very large repertoire of wine selections that can be used as gifts or for celebratory occasions.
Not only was I able to learn a ton about the wine business, but I was also able to practice my Mandarin Chinese daily by conversing with co-workers. It was very inspirational watching the people on the sales team interact with clients because they always exuded a passion for their jobs. I have never before met people so zealous and knowledgeable about a single topic. I could list off the names of any wine in our company's inventory and anyone could tell me the wine's code number, where it was made, vintage, and the type of food that it would go well with. I was assigned to the marketing team to help out with promotional ads and flyers; however, I gradually found myself being lent out to anyone in the company that needed an extra hand. This was probably the best part about my job, because I got to experience every aspect of working at a wine importer rather than just marketing.
During the first month of the program, we were working full-time at our internships. In the second months, classes started at Peking University (PKU) but we were still working part-time at our companies. I really appreciated the changing of pace because going to the classes at PKU allowed me to meet new friends as well as practice my Chinese. I had a blast visiting historical landmarks such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City, and even got to travel to Xi’an with everyone on the program.
I was quite apprehensive before going on the program because two months by myself all the way across the world seemed intimidating. However, any worries quickly disappeared because the other UNC students on the program became a tight knit group that I could depend on. The biggest lesson that I learned during my time there is that you have to go out and explore whenever you have free time. The biggest mistake that anyone can make when they go to a foreign city is to be scared of their surroundings and lock themselves in their room. Explore, make new friends, and gradually the city will feel like home. Even now, I miss Beijing all the time. It is something that cannot be described fully in words and must be experienced firsthand. There is still so much to learn and explore in that great city, and I cannot wait to go back one day.