Friday, 19 August 2016

Why Diversity at Fuqua Gives Me Hope for Tomorrow

A version of this post was originally published on the Duke Cross Continent MBA Student Blog from the Fuqua School of Business. 

It’s 3:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. This happens from time to time as the 80% humidity in New England makes a summer heat wave unbearable. But perhaps, the world has finally caught up with me.
As a content writer and an MBA student studying international business, I spend a significant amount of my time reading current events. In terms of seeing theory put into practice, there’s no better time to study global business than now.
As a part of Fuqua’s program, my classmates and I travel to five different regions of the world and examine macroeconomic trends and political institutions in our core course Global Markets and Institutions. While in Latin America, we analyzed the spiraling economic indicators of the Brazilian recession. We’re currently studying the elements of government structures in the Middle East and watched with great interest the coup attempt in Turkey.
We’ve seen firsthand, the incredibly tough and chaotic times in the world. It hurts that by the time I finish writing this piece, there will likely be another mass shooting—one that could have been prevented. It hurts that we need a movement asking for lives to matter, because it’s a given that lives should matter in the first place.
But I know this brokenness isn’t all of the world, nor is it how the world has to be.
Through the Cross Continent MBA, the world I’ve experienced is one where an American-born Syrian, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, and a bi-racial mom can travel together for a shared dream of visiting the Taj Mahal, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”
four classmates standing in front of the Taj Mahal provide a great representation of diversity at Fuqua
The world I know is one where days later, my classmates and I would celebrate our own version of Holi, known as the “Festival of Colors”, as colored water and powders are playfully thrown around family and friends. It’s a celebration of colors and love. How appropriate I get to celebrate with my friends who identify as black, Jewish, Colombian, brown, Nigerian, white, Indian, and more?
students celebrating Holi symbolizes the diversity at Fuqua
The world I know is where individuals originally from Pakistan and India, two countries with a long history of tension, can stand as friends in front of the remnants of the Berlin Wall, a symbolic paradigm of a city once divided and now united. And where two Americans, one raised Buddhist, one raised Muslim, can share in their interests and similarities while celebrating their differences.
students posing in front of the Berlin Wall, diversity at FuquaIn another core course, Culture, Civilizations, and Leadership, we study cultural frameworks to apply as we work through business situations.  What I love is that we’re able to have tough conversations in and out of the classroom. On separate occasions after nearly 12-hour days of classes and activities, 70-plus of my classmates gathered to honestly ask one another questions and discuss our personal experiences around race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, and more. We listened to each other’s perspectives without judgment.
Though I’m proud to be a part of this community and proud to have a dean that encourages empathy amongst disagreeing perspectives, I know as a business school and as individual leaders of consequence, there’s more we can do around diversity and inclusion systematically as a school and personally with our biases. But when I look at these photos, the diversity at Fuqua and celebration of it, it gives me hope for the future and reminds me that even in the toughest times #LoveAlwaysWins.

Monday, 9 May 2016

How My MBA Training Saved Me on a 6,500-Foot Cliff

A version of this post was originally published on the Duke Cross Continent MBA Student Blog from the Fuqua School of Business. 

My MBA training came in handy on this mountaintop
My travel mates designated as “Team Xi’an”

MBA lessons can prove practical in unlikely places.
I’m hanging off the side of Mount Huashan in China, dubbed “one of the most dangerous and terrifying hikes in the world.” Attached to the mountain by a questionable 4-foot harness, I have to walk across a 1-foot wide wooden plank. Looking down more than a mile to the ground, I’m remembering that I’m deathly afraid of heights.
Of course, this was my idea to begin with.
This past summer, my 114 classmates and I began our MBA journey as a part of the Class of 2016 in the Fuqua School of Business Cross Continent MBA Program. Living and working in various parts of the world, we enrolled in the working professional program to allow ourselves to earn an MBA while keeping our full-time jobs. A core part of the program is to attend international class residencies and essentially travel the world studying, going on corporate visits, and immersing ourselves into various cultures.
Krystina - MBA Lessons plank walk
Hiking the “Plank Walk” at Mount Huashan…smiles cover up our fear of heights!

Our first international residency was to the powerhouse of China, whom the IMF deemed the world’s largest economy just a few months prior. A handful of us decided to arrive one week early to explore Xi’an before classes began. During my travel research, every web site stated that we couldn’t miss out on the infamous “Plank Walk” at Mount Huashan, a sacred Taoist mountain located in the Shaanxi Province.
The route is a complicated one. After about 2.5 hours of climbing up steep, vertical staircases (and we took one of the easier routes), the trail leads to the edge of a cliff. Before reaching the “Plank Walk,” there are steel rods about 2 inches long and holes in the rocks to climb down. The wooden plank is only a foot wide and to top it all off, there is only one exit. So as you attempt to walk or climb one way, there are other people attempting to walk or climb the other way around you. Carpe diem!
Flashing back to day 2 of our MBA orientation during the first residency at Duke, every student went through a team-building ropes course in small groups at the Triangle Training Center. The goal was to practice our teamwork and communication skills, capitalizing on each other’s strengths while identifying and improving upon our weaknesses. As I was hiking in China, I couldn’t have imagined that the same skill sets we worked on during the ropes course (and the entire class term) would come into play.
Krystina - MBA Lessons blue devilThe Blue Devil was a crucial member of the hiking team!

While climbing down the cliff, I couldn’t see directly below me, so I depended on my classmate to tell me exactly where to put my feet. Afterwards, I had to direct my other classmate where to go and predict the upcoming path for her. As people attempted to walk around us (and often we didn’t speak the same languages), split-second decisions had to be made to stay on the safest route. More importantly, given somehow that we all were afraid of heights (no one wanted to admit it until the few days leading up to the hike of course), we had to support each other so we could face our fears and encourage each other to push through the exhaustion from the long day.
When I first researched Duke, I knew of the emphasis placed around teamwork—which is not necessarily the case at other business schools. However “Team Fuqua” was simply a phrase I had heard before starting the Cross Continent program. As this experience has shown me and as every day passes, I’ve found that the spirit of “Team Fuqua” goes beyond a methodology. It’s a community of trust that has taught me to be a better leader, teammate, and communicator that can take on a boardroom or a 6,500-foot cliff.
Watch the video to see Krystina and her team’s treacherous route

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

3 Things Managers Can Do for Gender Equality (Leading to Better Teams and More Profits)

This post was co-written by Robin Moriarty, PhD.
Early on in my career, I interviewed for an Analyst position with the Managing Director of a Wall Street bank, a fifty-something-year-old male. After the typical interview questions, the conversation took an unforeseen turn as he took a keen an interest in my background — nonprofit work on social issues — as it was atypical from other interviewees. After discussing some of the topics I had worked on in the past, he inquired, “Tell me. As a manager, what can I do for gender equality?”
Study after study shows that diverse teams produce better results. We know that companies with women in leadership positions are also more profitable. Though we have data and have built general consensus that gender equality is yes, a good thing for successful business outcomes, what concrete actions can we actually take?
While it must be recognized that there are systematic barriers and HR policies that formally contribute (or don’t contribute) to gender equality, here are three practical tips that managers can employ if they want to start removing gender bias from their organizations:
1. Evaluate performance reviews based on performance metrics rather than primarily on an employee’s personality characteristics

A 2014 study by Kieran Snyder demonstrated that regardless of the manager’s gender, women are more likely to be given negative feedback surrounding personality rather than performance. Even when critical feedback was provided to men, it offered constructive suggestions around work.

Language was key: often, negative words associated with personality characteristics such as “bossy, abrasive, emotional, aggressive, and irrational” were used to judge female behavior, while only the use of “aggressive” to describe personality — which can often be perceived as a positive trait depending on the organization and industry — could be found in men’s reviews.

2016-03-08-1457453888-2931282-performancereviewsgraphic1.jpg

One solution that Business Insider suggests is “to be clear and consistent about the criteria on which employees are evaluated.” Stating this criteria up front, and including both business metrics and behavior expectations, is critical for laying the groundwork for fair performance reviews.

Additionally, when reviewing behaviors, which are important to business and organizational success, try flipping the script. Ask, “How would we judge a man for doing the same thing?” as Frank Bruni suggested in his latest New York Times editorial "If Donald Trump Changed Genders." Flipping the script can help a manager to reveal when perceptions of behavior are related to gender and then decide how to handle accordingly.

Considering that performance evaluations lead to promotions and pay increases, it is important to recognize and correct for our biases to ensure that staff are evaluated on the quality of their performance and not on unintentional gender biases.

2. Ask employees what they can/can’t do rather than make assumptions about their personal lives

A rising star’s name was recently brought up during a meeting for a new project lead. Another colleague had mentioned that she was pregnant and unfortunately the position would require international travel. Instead of leaving the discussion there and assuming that she would not be interested in traveling or taking the lead, one of her sponsors made the smart move of actually consulting her. The result? She was more than willing to take on the role, travel included, and the project was a success.

Alternatively, I’ve also seen situations in the reverse: one of my single, male friends was assumed to be fully capable of travel because he didn’t have commitments to “tie him down.” He eventually left the company because of fatigue from jetting around the country all the time. The company lost a valuable employee because of assumptions about his personal life.

Through implicit assumptions, a manager could mistakenly believe that they know enough about an employee’s situation to make decisions for them. Therefore, as a good rule of thumb, regardless if the employee is a man, woman, young, old, married, or single, it’s important to talk to the individual to see if they can and want to do the special project or take on the bigger role. Don’t let your own assumptions about someone else’s personal life drive decisions about their future.

3. Facilitate meetings so all voices are heard

As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have pointed out, there is often an unfortunate bias that can occur during meetings. They observe, “When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea.” I’ve also seen this happen with senior vs. junior members, older vs. younger colleagues, experts vs. generalists, and certain nationalities vs. other nationalities. When interruptions occur or one team member’s comments are overlooked, it takes great employees to notice this and call it out as well as a great leader to facilitate the meeting in a more inclusive direction.

Project Aristotle at Google had researchers examine what made successful (and therefore profitable) teams. They found that “on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘’equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.” Thus, it’s in the manager interest and team’s benefit that all team members are heard and heard well. As research shows that women’s comments are dismissed and even punished compared to men’s comments, facilitating inclusive meetings can help address gender bias that occurs on a routine basis.

Gender equality and open, diverse environments are a must in today’s businesses. By being intentional in these practical approaches, managers can contribute to reducing gender bias and having more successful teams.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Are Millennials Redefining the American Dream?

An original version of this blog can be found on The Huffington Post here.

This post was co-written by Robin Moriarty, PhD.

Daily articles are written about Millennials, but are they really that different from their Baby Boomer parents?

Get a cubicle job, a perfect marriage, two large cars, and a white-picket fence in the suburbs. Though these symbols are often associated as key to the “American Dream,” they are based on a post-WWII1950s world, a world that looks much different sixty years later.

When the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 to 1964) came-of-age, the core beliefs in working hard for success, prosperity, and social mobility existed, but Boomers added the ideas of self-realization and self-fulfillment — so much that they were dubbed the “Me Generation” (which only a few seemed to remember after Time Magazine published a cover naming Millennials as the “Me Me Me Generation”).

Now Boomers are hurling the stereotypes of narcissism and entitlement to a whole generation made up of their own Millennial offspring (generally defined as born 1980 and after). But are the Millennials actually that different from the Boomers? After all, the core, capitalistic American value of achievement and success is alive and well across both generations. Perhaps the younger generation isn’t having a shift in fundamental values, but rather Millennials are simply defining the symbols of success differently and in a way that makes sense given the economic and technological realities of their generation.

(Note: According to Pew Research, a nonpartisan fact tank, the often overlooked Generation X (born 1965-1979) experiences the left out "middle child" syndrome in these debates particularly as they only represent 65 million vs. the 75+ million each of the Baby Boomers and Gen Y/Millennials.).

After the post-war economy of the mid-20th century, corporations were profitable, consumer goods were plentiful, and opportunity was ripe. Thus, for the Boomers, “success” has typically meant focusing on financial stability (the bigger the salary the better!), a high-achieving career, living a suburban lifestyle, and owning assets from big houses to fancy cars.

The Millennials grew up in quite different times in the world. Many graduated at the height of the recession with tuition skyrocketing over 1,120 percent since 1978, saw their parents struggling to keep a work/life balance, experienced their formative years hyper-connected and more global than ever, and had years of dealing with increasing severity of issues from climate change to gun violence. Thus, “success” seems to mean an abundance of experiences rather than an abundance of things, a career that provides a basic level of financial enjoyment as well as one that's fulfilling a passion, a lifestyle that promotes health, and social media accounts that depict all these achievements (whether for better or for worse).

Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and author of You Raised Us, Now Work with Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams, writes:
Millennials reject the notion that success is measured by income and long hours... They see success as including the opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their families. And they are not embarrassed to include among their key priorities the need to exercise and maintain friendships. Further, they will seek workplaces where the growth and development of employees are a strategic focus and where a culture of inclusion and respect is a priority.
The real question is whether the Millennials’ current definition of success will change. Are these simply characteristics of a life phase and Millennials will eventually become like their Baby Boomer counterparts seeking material symbols to show off their success? Or is it going to be a long-term, sustained difference of focus on experiences rather than things? After all, once upon a time, the Boomers themselves were hippies who also demanded social change through the human rights movement and questioned authority before settling in to the pursuit of happiness via the pursuit of things.
Until then, let’s end the back-and-forth between the two generations. After all, the mid-90s born teenagers of Generation Z are set to overtake us all.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Find Your Passion, but More Importantly, Find Your People

An original version of this blog can be found on The Huffington Post here.

According to the Conference Board, a New York-based research nonprofit group, only 48.7% of American employees are satisfied with their job. Career articles advise working-age adults to “Find Your Passion,” but the issue is...it’s still difficult to figure out how. The reality is that there’s no guidebook out there as our lives are so diversely unique.

If you are in the predicament of figuring out your passion, it is recognized that you are ultimately a part of a privileged group. How lucky are we to have the time, stability, and choice to figure what we want? Unfortunately, choices and expectations themselves can be unknown and overwhelming. I fear; however, that we too often get stuck in our day-to-day routines and miss out on what we truly need...that perhaps we get so blinded by what we’ve always done that we can’t identify and lose track of what we actually want. But most importantly, because of this pursuit of a higher meaning, we often forget the people around us.

Throughout the years, I’ve become convinced that more important than trying to figure out a passion is building a foundation of good people, those of whom may ultimately lead you to unexpected paths and unpredictable careers. And simply enough, when you’re surrounded by good people, life just gets better.

There are certain transformative experiences that demonstrated to me that relationship-building trumps any individual pursuit.
  • Collective activism is more empowering than your own journey - In 2006, the United Nations Secretary-General estimated that 2.7 billion people lived on less than $2.00 a day. I felt a calling to do whatever I could and set out to serve for 27 months with the US Peace Corps in West Africa. The Cameroonian community members I lived and worked with; however, taught me more than any technical skills I taught them. We may have lacked electricity and a budget, but we were able to create a community market for 8,000 residents based on the power of bringing people together and a strong a sense of community.

  • A good network can alleviate doubts and encourage action - StartingBloc is a 5-day institute that has brought to date 2,000 Fellows together to cultivate social impact ideas. In August 2014, Kat Alexander came in with a small website called Report, It Girl that serves as a safe and moderated space for survivors of sexual assault to heal. It had zero user-submitted stories and though a survivor herself, she didn’t know if it was worth pursuing. Her pitch was voted first place, another Fellow soon joined her team, and the community even kept her accountable to pursuing her idea. One year later, Report It, Girl has grown to 3,000+ users globally, is fiscally sponsored by Sexual Health Innovations, and was featured on Fast Forward’s tech-nonprofits list. Her next step as CEO beyond scale and funding? She plans to connect to other social entrepreneurs to continuously grow her network of good people.

  • Supporting others on their paths can be humbling and motivating - If you dare stereotype Millennials as lazy, visit one of the residencies of Duke Fuqua’s Cross Continent MBA. Each year, 100+ students enroll to complete an MBA in 1.5 years while working full-time jobs. The students are professionally successful and individually ambitious, but we’ve a built a “we’re-all-in-this-together” mentality. Need an accounting help at 11pm? Want 100 people to cheer you on after a triathlon? Contact a fellow CCMBA classmate...or even all of them. Academically, this program is teaching me how little I know. Personally, after meeting each other at our first two-week residency, I’ve feel like I may be at home within the network based around the world.

I have a friend who's a fighter pilot for the Marines Corps and flies and F-35, the newest stealth fighter plane in the world. He's the toughest guy I know with bucket list items checked off form running 50-mile races to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Even fighter pilots; however, must always fly with 2-4 other jets in formation serving as wingmen. Their mantra is built on system of mutual support to always look out for one another. The last time we spoke, I asked him about what retired fighter pilots miss the most. Was it the covert missions? Flying jet planes? The most common answer was simply "brotherhood."

You don’t necessarily need to sacrifice large amounts time or money for transformational experiences or to find good people. Building and cultivating a network could be in the form a Lean in Circle or simply appreciating your family and friends.

At the end of the day, find your passion, but more importantly find your people. They may just get you to your passion after all.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

5 Must-Dos for Preparing for the Cross Continent MBA Program at Duke University

A version of this post was originally published on the Duke Cross Continent MBA Student Blog from the Fuqua School of Business. 

The wait is finally over and I’m here on campus at Fuqua for Cross Continent MBA (CCMBA) orientation. As excited as I am, I can’t help but reflect back a few weeks to my thoughts as this MBA journey was about to begin.

It was two weeks before the course materials arrived for our reading period, and just one month before orientation and our first residency. I felt like an 18-year-old undergraduate again, getting ready for the first day of college. How challenging is it going to be? What will my classmates be like? Will the food really be as good as everyone makes it out to be?

This time around, however, I’ll have a little over six years of work experience under my belt, continue a full-time job on top of being a student, run a career consultancy on the side, have significant bills and responsibilities including these new student loans on top of my current student loans—did I mention I chose to put myself through this?

Alas, the academics, travel, cultural experiences and Team Fuqua network makes choosing the CCMBA a winning choice for me. As I’ve received a ton of advice from others, I’d like to pass on my 5 must-dos for MBA preparation in Fuqua’s Cross Continent program.

 My classmates during our Fuqua scavenger hunt on the first day of orientation  

Get started early on the preparatory work.

I can’t emphasize this one enough! Our class had to work through 20 to 40 hours of MBA Math.com, turn in an accounting quiz after watching and reading accounting lectures, and fill out tons of paperwork on the Incoming Student Website (ISW).

I applied during Round 2 to increase my chances of a scholarship and then started doing the early assignments for incoming students consistently in April. By the time the middle of June rolled around, I was essentially done with them and didn’t have to deal with stressing to make any deadlines. Plus, you can help out your future CCMBA friends and classmates with advice on how to best navigate the process for which they’ll be truly grateful! (Note: for MBAMath.com, my strategy was to skip the pre-quizzes as it will save you time, especially in the subjects where you’re more proficient, but make sure you ace the post-quizzes!).

Connect with classmates on social media and start networking as soon as possible.

Filling out my student bio on the ISW and joining the CCMBA ’16 LinkedIn and Facebook groups were the first things I did. This allowed a slew of streaming requests and personal messages to and from fellow classmates. I also attended a Fuqua Around the World event.
What were the results of getting connected before class started? I was able to have study sessions with other Boston-based students, commiserate immediately when receiving emails about the amount of things to do, and even collaborate on ventures (I had a LinkedIn exchange encouraging another student to start her own career consultancy and we’ll be giving each other future referrals in the areas of our expertise—the power of Duke!). One student created a WhatsApp group that 50 of us have joined, so it’s a lot of texts, but you’ll get everything useful from soccer results to when new action items go up on the ISW that require your attention.

quote that relates to MBA preparation 

 

 Cut out the fat.

This is my new mantra in life in general. With limited hours in the day for everything, I’ve decided to only do the things that absolutely must get done or I really want to do. Doctor checkup? Crucial for my health. Read that pile of magazines that I’ve been meaning to get to? Sorry, they get thrown in the trash. I don’t apply this rule to my cooking though, especially as I love bacon.:)

 

Accept that life is not going to stop for you.

Hanging out with this little guy in Panama was the perfect pre-MBA vacation!

I told my friends and family that my life for the next 1.5 years would be working, studying, and working out. Beyond prepping for CCMBA in the last few weeks, I’ve torn an ankle tendon and started physical therapy, underwent the joys of apartment hunting, and was asked to take on a new position at work. Life’s a ride no matter the choices we make, so hang on tight!


Relax!

It’s summertime in North America, so hit the beach. Travel, binge on Netflix, spend time with your favorite people, and even reach out to ones that you haven’t seen in a while. They’ll be excited for the next chapter of your life too!

These are things that I’ve realized while jumping into the journey of full-time professional and part-time student. If you have any questions about your own must-dos before starting the admissions process and CCMBA journey, reach out to Admissions. They can help and even put you in touch with current students who can share their unique insights.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Gi2C Guide: Must-Try Restaurants in Downtown Beijing

This post comes from my friends over at the Gi2C Group, an internship provider in China. Careful reading this post as you might get hungry enough to jump on a plane to do some great eating in Beijing!

Beijing is a superb place to live if you are a foodie. Not only is the authentic Chinese food in the Jing delicious and extremely diverse, but you also have a plethora of international delights that will whet your appetite. Don’t waste your time cooking at home in Beijing. Even if you ate out every day, it would take you several years to try all of Beijing’s fabulous restaurants. Save yourself time by avoiding the multiple trips way out to IKEA to stock up on kitchen supplies and instead focus on finding a good job to pay for your soon-to-be crazy high food budget. You’ll also want to invest in several pairs of pants with quality elastic waistbands.

Almost all of our Gi2C interns are new to China and Beijing, which is exactly why we wrote this guide.We want to help Beijing interns and everyone else enjoy the great China capital of Beijing to the fullest. Literally. You will get very full living here. If you live close to the Second and Third Ring roads on the east side of downtown Beijing, you will want to get out and experience the following five eateries for yourself:


 
Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide


1. Makye Ame Tibetan Restaurant 玛  吉阿米
11A Xiushui Nanjie, Jianguomenwai Chaoyang District
朝阳区建国门外秀水南街甲 11号
Hours: 10am – Midnight

Makye Ame has excellent Tibetan food as well as dinner entertainment.  The restaurant is extremely hard to find but think of it as your own secret location and enjoy the hunt to discover this delicious treasure. Food is not cheap at Makye. Dinner for two may cost you around 500rmb (US$80) for four dishes depending on which dishes you choose and how much Tibetan butter tea you drink. If you are looking for an internship in Tibetan dancing (a competitive industry for internships), this is the place for you. Dust off your business cards and get ready to network. The Tibetan dancing and singing begins at 8pm.


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide

2. Bazha Tongga Tibetan Restaurant 巴扎童嘎藏餐吧
Southwest corner of Dongzhimenwai Dajie and Xindong Lu Chaoyang District
朝阳区东直门外大街新东路十字路口西南角
Hours: 10am – Midnight

As you walk up the stairs of this restaurant on the busy corner of Dongzhimenwai, you walk into a whole new world, magic carpets and all. Tibetan relics and adornments surround you as you take your place at a wood table. The menu boasts a great deal of dishes; however, when we were there, some were unavailable. The wait staff are extremely entertaining and are more than happy to break out in song if you ask them. They also provide good recommendations if you have no idea what to order.  Dishes are mid-priced which means dinner for two might run at most 300rmb ($50). 


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide


3. Middle 8th Yunnan Restaurant中八楼
Zhongba Lou, Sanlitun Zhongjie Chaoyang District
朝阳区三里屯中街中八楼饭馆
Hours: 11am – 11.30pm

You might not expect to find such a classy restaurant serving Yunnan style food hidden away in a tiny,dirty hutong, but that’s what we love about China: the surprises and new discoveries.  The food can get a little spicy so if you are sensitive, be sure to ask the wait staff to keep it mild for you. One item to absolutely order from the menu is their rice wine, which is served in a giant piece of bamboo. It has a relatively low alcohol content and tastes simply divine. If you’re in a rush, it is advisable to make reservations ahead of time as Middle 8 is often quite busy. However, they provide great snacks shipped all the way from Yunnan in the waiting area which makes having to wait not so bad. 


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide


4. Haidilao Hot Pot 海底捞火锅
2A Baijiazhuang Lu (next to No. 80 Middle School) Chaoyang District
朝阳区白家庄路甲 2  号 (八十中学西侧)
Hours: 24/7

One simply cannot leave China without having hotpot. Hot pot comes in all shapes and flavors in China but a foreigner favorite hotpot destination is Haidilao. The customer service is superb (which is extremely rare in China), there’s a variety of food to make any picky eater happy and you are able to play games, eat snacks, or even have a manicure while you wait to be seated. They also provide a play area for small children. What’s not to love? Be sure to make a reservation well in advance as this place is almost always packed. Eating hotpot is something to do with a big group of friends, but if there are only two of you expect the bill to be around 200-300rmb ($50). If this Chaoyang location isn’t convenient for you, they have multiple locations around Beijing. In advance of your first visit, you’re welcome.  


Photo courtesy of Gi2C Guide

5. Xiaodiao Litang 小吊梨汤
14 Baijiazhuang Dongli, Chaoyang District
朝阳区白家庄东里甲 14号
Hours: 11am-9:30pm

Xiao Diao Li Tang is off the radar of most foreigners. However, they have several locations around the city, and oh my, do they have yummy, home-style food. This particular location can be a little tricky to find as it’s down a small alleyway but once in the general area, simply show the locals the address and they will point you in the right direction. If you’re craving Chinese comfort food, look no further. Prices are also quite reasonable so don’t be shy about ordering too much. Two people ordering four dishes might end up with a bill slightly over 100rmb ($15). If you’re a Gi2C intern on a tight budget, this is the place for you.

Let us know what you think of our five favorite east Beijing restaurants in the heart of downtown! You can read more info about life in Beijing and other delicious restaurants at the Gi2C blog.

This Beijing restaurant guide is brought to you by Gi2C Group. Gi2C has been an internship provider in China since 2008 and has become a leader in the China internship industry. Gi2C’s goal is to help students and young professionals not only gain China work experience but also to help them understand China and Chinese business culture. Gi2C provides tailor-made opportunities for interns to work for a variety companies in multiple industries based in China. Gi2C also provides daily support for Gi2C interns as needed for the duration of their stay in China.

This has been a sponsored post with our partner HelpGoAbroad. Note that I would not post content that I would not agree with.

Monday, 4 May 2015

8 Do’s and Don’ts of Volunteering Abroad

This post comes from Alex Bradbeer, the creator and author of Finding The Freedom, an adventure travel blog focused on adventure and crazy off the beaten path destinations.

Perhaps you have a ‘gap’ year to fill before university? Maybe you want a break from the 9-5-work treadmill? Or you might be someone who has taken ‘early retirement’ and now wants a new direction in life.

Volunteering abroad is a great way to see new countries, learn about different cultures and grow as a person. Is it for you? Well, here are 8 ‘do’s and don’t’s to help you decide.

 

Do think about why you are doing it

 

Be clear about what you expect to get out – and give to – the experience. Is it mostly about philanthropy, training, self-development or one big adventure? It’s fine for it to be a mixture of those things but try to analyze which is the most important to you, as this will help you pick the right project.

Do think about where you want to go



Could you cope with the humidity of a city like Singapore? Copyright CC User Khánh Hmoong on Flickr

Location is always a major decision for those thinking about living abroad and volunteering abroad. Lots of factors will affect your decision – climate, language, culture, distance from home.

Interrogate yourself: Can I cope with a very humid climate? Will I survive in a quiet rural location with a patchy electricity supply and unreliable Internet? Do I feel comfortable in very conservative societies where women might be expected to cover up and behave modestly?


Do ask lots of questions 


 Teaching is a popular volunteer activity, Copyright CC User Rex Pe on Flickr

If you’re paying a fee to an agency to secure you a volunteer placement, get clear answers about what it covers. Will medical insurance, for example, be included if you get ill?

You will also need to know how many hours a day you will be expected to work and what support there will be when you are ‘in country’.


Don’t be afraid to do some serious vetting


Whether you are planning to apply directly to a charity or NGO or use an agency that specializes in placements, make sure you check them out thoroughly. Find out how long they have been in business and scour the Internet for online information and reviews by past volunteers.


Look for transparency. Reputable organizations should publish their accounts or be happy to share them with you. It’s totally acceptable for organizations to have a margin of profit for overheads and paying permanent staff, but they shouldn’t be exploiting volunteers and communities for profit.

 

Don’t make assumptions


Researching a country like Cambodia’s history is crucial for volunteers, Copyright CC User Bryn Jones on Flickr

Read as much as you can about the history and culture of the country you plan to visit. It may turn out to be very different from your initial thoughts. Not only will locals appreciate the interest you have taken when you arrive, but it will also enable you to pack the correct clothes for visits to mosques and temples – and indeed people’s homes.

Do prepare for leaving


Think about taking out medical insurance, even if you are covered by the organization you will be volunteering for. You may want to take part in sports or activities not included in their plan.

Do you need any vaccinations or Malaria tablets? Make sure you have an ample supply of any prescription drugs that you will need while you’re abroad. It’s also a good idea to take basic medications like painkillers, antibiotics and anti-histamines in case they are hard to come by.

Make photocopies of your passport and credit cards. Take one set with you and leave one at home. This is useful if the documents and cards get lost or stolen. Compile a list of emergency numbers – both of people you can call if something happens and that can be called on your behalf in the unfortunate event that you are injured.

Do try to be enthusiastic

Volunteering with a smile in Peru, Copyright CC User VISIONS Service Adventures on Flickr

When you finally arrive abroad, try to be upbeat. There’s nothing worse than a grumpy volunteer, except perhaps 2 grumpy volunteers! Accept that some of the things you might be asked to do will be dull and tedious and undertake them with a good heart. You will only get out what you put in - and no one wants to be remembered as a whiner.

Do support local businesses


Everyone loves a McDonald’s burger when they have been eating goat curry everyday for a month, but don’t routinely eat in western food outlets. Your custom is incredibly important to local restaurants, hotels and businesses. It ensures that money stays in the community and it will also help support entrepreneurship.

Embrace the fact that you will be leaving your comfort zone and be prepared to go with the flow. After all, there’s no point in volunteering abroad if you just want to duplicate your life at home
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This has been a sponsored post with our partner HelpGoAbroad. Note that I would not post content that I would not agree with.