The last time I was in Beijing was in 2005 when I was doing a study abroad program in college. It’s been 6 years and the city has changed dramatically since I was last here! Many of my friends who had been to Beijing more recently had warned me that the city was much different, especially after the Olympics, but it was still unbelievable to see the changes with my own eyes.
The first weekend in Beijing, I made a special trip out to a shopping center that I used to visit once a week when I was a student. Amazingly, it was still there! The cool thing was that I was able to take the metro from our hotel, located in the newer business district of the city, all the way over to the university district where the shopping center is. Back in the day, the metro only extended out to the 2nd Ring Road and I would have definitely had to cab it out there. While I was leaving the shopping area, I noticed some kids sitting in a circle on the sidewalk, enthusiastically throwing things on the ground. When I got closer, I realized they were playing an intense game of Pogs!
And yet, despite all the changes, some things have stayed exactly the same though some things have changed for the better. For one, cabbies in Beijing still have no idea where they’re going because most of them aren’t from the city. On the plus side, most cabs in the city have now been upgraded to be VWs or Hyundais, so they ever so much roomier than the Chinese xinli taxis that used to monopolize the city.
Our IBD team attended a Berkeley-Haas Alumni gathering in Beijing, which was a great way to see just how far our MBA network extends. There were alums that went back as far as 10 years ago to just 1 year ago. And (just to be a little cheesy) our Haas core principle of “beyond yourself” definitely showed itself during the dinner. While I was chatting with my seatmates about what my team had been up to so far in Beijing, I mentioned that we had tried to eat at Quan Ju De, a popular Peking duck restaurant, the night before, but went too late and the restaurant was fully booked. The alums actually recommended that we go to another restaurant, Da Dong, for duck and started filling me in on the Chinese version of 411 / Opentable. As I was about to start taking notes, one alum stopped mid-sentence, whipped out his phone, and made the reservation for us! The next night, our IBD team sat down to our most delicious meal yet – Peking Duck!
—Stephanie Tsai, IBD Team China and Finland