Yale Student Visits China
By Jacob Sonenshine
Although economic experts today question China’s economic dominance, despite a reported 6.9% GDP growth rate, American universities send students to the country for academic and work experience.
Yale undergraduate student, Larry Milstein, originally from Scarsdale, New York, returned to America with a different perspective on China than that of those experts.
The university funded Milstein’s two-month fellowship to China in the summer of 2014, after receiving a donation. The global affairs major went to study Mandarin, which he had studied prior to the trip. After developing a “passion for China,” he went back to China in 2015 to work for Alibaba, a media giant. The classes he took were run through Duke University.
However, before speaking about his observations of the Chinese economics and education, the bilingual Milstein quickly noted a major difference between America and China: language tonalities. “Depending on the inflection of your words,” one sentence could have two completely different meanings,” said Milstein. “You have to be really conscious of the tonality of how you pronounce it (a word).” The Chinese language has 4 different tones, each possessing “entirely different meanings.” Milstein initially went to China to study Mandarin before he knew he wanted to return for other purposes. He called the experience “a challenge.”
Of course, Milstein had other interests in learning about the country. The opinions editor of The Yale Daily News has covered finance and technology for the paper. He took a particular interest in covering the rise of Chinese philanthropy- and indeed- Alibaba’s CEO, Jack Ma, has led a an effort for more philanthropy by setting up charity funds. Milstein said one of his main objectives included “evaluating the rise of philanthropy in China.” He spoke to top Chinese business leaders, Chinese university educators and Yale Professors, regarding the matter.
Although he says he may not stay in journalism, he noted his ambition in learning about the field. After noting his experience doing research for a Chinese journalist who wrote for The New Yorker, he called the experience “a great process” for “earning my stripes” as a reporter.
After learning about “the different environments” in the Chinese workplace, Milstein said “I love reporting and writing” but, “going back to China to do journalism I don’t think is in my cards.”
Milstein’s focus shifted to business during his trip to China in the summer of 2015. Although he studied at the University for International Business Economics in Beijing in 2014, he went to China, specifically, to intern for Alibaba in 2015. He framed the work environment in the Chinese firm as “technocratic,” and mentioned that he observed “innovation” and entrepreneurialism. He continued saying that there are “very creative people,” which “marks a new chapter in Chinese business.” Milstein said that Chinese firms frequently use data analytics and quantitative analysis, which technology supports well. He also mentioned that there is a rising focus on computer science.
He underscored that “technology is very central for any endeavor.” After saying that “having an understanding of different media platforms is important,” he noted the importance of Twitter and blogging in identifying professionals. Social media is “very much the key in distinguishing many people in these different sectors,” he says.
On his overall experience in China, Milstein simply says, “I will be going back.”#