When picking up and moving across the globe, it’s always a good idea to ease into your new environment, meet as many new friends as possible, learn from others experiences, and start to make new stories of your own. On June 28th, GLF’s first fellowship class touch downed in China. The Fellows had no idea what to expect to find—other than a driver holding a sign with their name on it. Prepared for anything, they made it through the bustling Shanghai Pudong airport and to their hotel in downtown Shanghai with relative ease. Over the next 7 days, GLF hosted the fellows in a jam-packed orientation schedule. Here is a breakdown of their schedule from fresh off the plane to leaving for their host cities of Chengdu, Beijing and Zhuhai:
After letting the globetrotters settle into their 3-bedroom pad—Vlad having finally accepted his fate of taking the twin bed as the last to arrive— the Fellows were met by GLF directors and staff Chris McLaurin, Zach Brown, and Jennifer Sun. A not too harsh Hunan meal ensued followed by a stroll along the Bund, a major tourist attraction in China for the view of the Huangpu River and the symbolic Shanghai Pudong skyline, which the Fellows would learn had consisted of only farmland just 30 years prior. At every corner, the sights, smells and taste of their first encounters in China provoked a sense of curiosity of what would lie ahead.
The morning of the first full day was a special one as the foundation arranged a tour of the China Executive Leadership Academy (CELAP), one of just three officially recognized academies of the Communist Party of China. A tour and presentation conducted by the Director of International Programming, Mr. Harry Liu, was followed by lunch at the academy catered by Jin Jiang Hotels, China’s top hotel and travel group. The afternoon was a change of pace with the Fellows sitting down with President of GLF, Chris McLaurin, to talk about culture shock, culture understandings, and communication of values in China. Dinner on night two took it up a notch with spicy hot pot at Hai Di Lao, a restaurant known internationally for their innovative customer service and blazing Sichuan peppercorns.
Day 3 of orientation began with a visit to the US consulate for a safety briefing and registration with various programs available for US citizens. The Fellows also learned about the activities and initiatives the consulate is currently active in developing across the country. After a quick lunch in the area, it was the moment the fellows will remember forever: their first Chinese lesson! Taught by owner Kasey Wong, BRIC Language provided an introductory class for the fellows that prepared them for the challenge of learning a language that many say is the hardest task they have ever undertaken. After a short debriefing by Zach Brown, Vice-President of GLF, the Fellows attended their first international sports competition between Real Madrid and AC Milan at Shanghai Stadium followed by BBQ at the happening Yong Kang Bar and Restaurant Street.
Friday the group was finally able to cool down for the day, and the NFL China offices is not a bad place to settle. In the morning, Fellows heard from Richard Young, Managing Director of NFL China, on the role of sports in China. They spent the afternoon soaking in what Richard had observed frommore than 20 years experience working in the sports and media industry in Asia. In the afternoon, GLF Board Member and Partner at Shearman and Sterling Law Firm, Lee Edwards, took on the impossible task of covering 5,000 years of China history in a 90-minute time block. With many first person accounts of some of the more recent historic events, it was truly an enlightened account of Chinese history that spanned from China’s warring states period to the unification of China under several dynastic rulers to the present communist-led government. In the evening, it was time to loosen up a bit as the Big-10 alumni group hosted a welcome party for the Fellows. Friendly trash-talk and cocktails filled the air.
There is, of course, only one thing to do rolling into the weekend… Football! Saturday morning the group headed to Nike’s Shanghai Campus for a tour of the facility. Following the tour, UR Games (有的玩), a local Shanghai non-profit invited the Fellows to join in on their weekly meet-up and coaches training to teach new volunteers parent about how to help kids and parents the basics of being active and healthy. The organization chooses to use american football as the tool to help parents and kids be more active together. Later that evening, Fellows were joined at their hotel by Chris Beam, a staff reporter for The New Republic Magazine in Beijing. Chris shared his thoughts and experiences as it relates to Chinese media, censorship, as well as some of his favorite China stories.
On Sunday, the football continued and this time with the local teams padded up for a GLF Passing Clinic. The afternoon clinic would serve as the first chance for fellows to interact with local players in a player-coach relationship. The sun was strong, but local players would need more than that to stop them from the opportunity to be coached by former NCAA student-athletes. In the evening, the Fellows headed for a good ol’ rabbit dinner and to meet and greet other local Shanghai team coaches and players about the status and future of America’s favorite game in China.
Monday started with a Leadership workshop led by Zach Brown. The Fellows went through activities that would give them tools and assessments to maintain throughout their time in China. That afternoon the group went sky-high to the 119th surveillance floor of the yet-to-be completed Shanghai Tower in Pudong. Overlooking the metropolitan Shanghai area, Fellows had a chance to discuss the historic rise of the Chinese economy and how planning and urbanization in China has defined this growth.
Heading to the northern edge of the city, the fellows met Teacher Cheng, a local calligraphy master who taught them a bit about the ancient art and unveiled some of the deeper meaning of Chinese characters. The afternoon was filled with even more thrilling journalist stories from Frank Langfitt, Shanghai Correspondent for NPR. The group learned about the Frank’s approach to cultural immersion and discovering local insight and stories in China: freelance taxi driving. In the evening the group joined for a closing dinner before heading off to 3-weeks of intensive language training prior to their departure to each of their new host cities of Beijing, Chengdu, and Zhuhai.
For more orientation please visit the international football reviews article: HERE