The advice to “try something different” that school counselors, parents and advisors dole out couldn’t be more true when it comes to 2007 Stevenson High School graduate Lindsay Hirsch.
As a senior, Lindsay decided to take Mandarin Chinese as a creative alternative to taking Spanish 5 and translating Don Quixote. Instead, she liked the idea of “drawing pretty characters.” That one class choice led her to a dual degree and a triple major in international business, marketing and Mandarin Chinese from Washington University.
Now, the craziest thing about all those majors is that she went in to Washington University in St. Louis as a pre-med major! Lindsay shared however, that during orientantion she got the “weed out” speech by the dean who basically told the pre-med students that they wouldn’t have a life except for studying. Sure enough, that scared Lindsay off as she also danced on the Wash U Jive dance team.
“I decided to take a bunch of random classes about the Holocaust, Shakespeare and Chinese, along with some standard prerequisites, and I realized my passion was Chinese. Usually with Mandarin you can go two routes — you do business or you teach it — and I didn't want to be a teacher. I was always interested in marketing because it's creative and fun, so I tacked on the international business (degree) with the Chinese and marketing so that I would have a well-rounded education of overall world business.”
Lindsay now lives and works in Dongguan, a city in the province of Guangdong, about two hours west of Hong Kong. She loves her life there and can’t stress enough the simplicity of life there. She does however miss a clear sky and seeing the stars at night as there is a quite a bit of factory pollution in her city. “It’s a luxury we have (in the states) and something I think we definitely take for granted.”
The basics, American food and American toilets, are something Lindsay definitely misses. Luckily, however, she is still able to get a Starbucks every morning, but because there is no Halloween in China, there are no pumpkin flavors.
She says, “Work is stressful here but the dynamic in the office is completely different. All of the American and Chinese employees at my company speak both English and Chinese. We are able to laugh at a lot of little things: language differences and various cultural differences. I still can't believe that the Chinese employees in my office don't like pizza. I asked my grandma to send me graham crackers and marshmallows and I introduced my Chinese coworkers to s'mores. They loved it! They were posting pictures on QQ, the Chinese equivalent to Facebook.”
Some other interesting cultural differences Lindsay learned to adapt to are the following:
It’s a 15-minute cab ride to the closest gym and she is the only woman there who lifts weights. Women there walk slowly on the treadmill for hours. White skin is highly looked upon and dark skin is a sign of the poor. Tanning is not considered pretty there, but Lindsay has found the ONE tanning bed in the whole city! No microwaves. Use a regular oven or bust. The computer is her answer to American TV and her friends send her new music via Dropbox.
Speaking of friends, I wondered how that is over there and if she gets lonely. To this she replied, “I'm lucky that my two American coworkers have been in China longer than I, and they have introduced me to their group of friends from all over the world. We live in a small city, so we have a nice community. We see each other every weekend and have so much fun going out to the bars!”
Lindsay eventually hopes to return home and hopefully her company, 5 Horizons, will offer her an opportunity, as they have offices both in the U.S. and China.
As a final note, I suggest she send her co-workers a Lou Malnati’s pizza and turn her coworkers on to Chicago-style pizza!
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