Will Etheridge at his internship with ClimateAction in 2010
Each summer, 15-20 students in the Minor in Entrepreneurship travel to the other side of the world to learn first-hand about entrepreneurship in Beijing. The students gain an invaluable life experience while living with Chinese roommates, studying Mandarin and Chinese culture and history, braving the hectic public transportation system and learning the intricacies of starting a business in China.
Below is an excerpt from Will Miller’s journal in which he reflects on his experience in Beijing during the summer of 2008.
Learning entrepreneurship in Beijing has well surpassed my expectations. I will come back to U.S. soil feeling that I could achieve starting a business of my own and having it succeed. This summer, I was able to test my social skills, with both staff and customers, as well as see the inner workings of a successful business. My education in the minor was substantiated by on the job experience and observation every single day. I feel so lucky to have been able to see all my knowledge be played out in real life right before my eyes. Sometimes what Alan (my internship supervisor) had to say seemed to quote things we read and discussed in class, so much so that I asked if he had read books about starting a business. I have also been able to discover Beijing and the opportunities this city and China have to offer. We were once asked about what it takes to start a business and succeed in China. After this summer, having met the people I did and seen how business can be done, I think it only takes two major things; perseverance, for all the government bureaucracy and setbacks with people you think you can trust, and ability to speak Chinese, for the communication aspect of business (you will work with some people who only speak Chinese) and for an aspect of respect and willingness to cooperate that the knowledge of this language brings. I will study Chinese this year and study opportunities in China and return next summer, first to travel and if the opportunity to stay arises, possibly to stay longer and discover all China has to offer. If I end up in China, it is not just for the money, but for the people I have come to love and the beauty of country that, especially in the rural areas, is not yet spoiled. I am just now realizing that I really can do whatever I want to in life right now and that is a very exciting prospect. I will certainly use what I have learned in the minor and during my internship for the minor. I truly do believe this is some of the best and most important education I have learned at Chapel Hill and hope that programs like this one can be sustained. I know it will pay off, not only in later years, but now. I ran into people who would say, “Wow, another Carolina intern. You guys are everywhere.” Beijing now knows Carolina and Carolina is connected to Beijing.