Joshua Melching, '13 Chinese language and literature and 16' political science, has established a successful career working and living in China after his time at Ohio State. After a foray into supporting WeWork's expansion in Shanghai, he has gone on to a role as client business director for JWDK, a design firm specializing in cultural and place identity in China. Melching shares more about his passion for bridging cultures, what it's like to be a part of the Buckeye family and his advice for current students.
Since my time at Ohio State, I have become quite active and vocal in the real estate industry. While studying at Ohio State, I started my first position with a student housing development firm, Homestead-U. After joining Homestead-U, I was heavily involved in segmenting the international student community and introducing the power of China’s WeChat app to support and service the international student market.
My success at Homestead-U opened the door for larger opportunities with other real estate investment management groups like Asset Living and CA Ventures. I leveraged my Chinese language skills with my knowledge of student housing and real estate development to bridge a market gap, bringing awareness and attention to the growing international student community.
After working in student housing for over five years, I wanted to expand my experience in other asset classes of the real estate industry and I ended up joining WeWork assisting with market expansion and localization in Shanghai, China. WeWork was a fruitful and rewarding journey, however, everyone knows how that story ended—the infamous IPO crash. The China arm of the business was actually sold to a local investor, and I ultimately decided to join Everbright Ashmore’s China real estate fund overseeing a commercial mixed-use development on the Yangpu riverbank in Shanghai.
During my time at Everbright, I frequently attended meetings with diverse teams of consultants, from architecture to interior design and everything in between. It was during these meetings I was introduced to the concepts of place making and place branding. I was immediately mesmerized by the “software” of real estate development, the idea that we could leverage psychology and brand strategy to create better places for people.
Fast forward to today, and I am working for the leading place branding agency in China—JWDK. I was able to find a niche consulting firm where I can combine my passion for commercial real estate and the built environment with how people actually experience places and how we can create more human-centric places.
I am proud of bridging a knowledge and culture gap between the U.S. and China. When interacting with family back home or high school friends, I realized how little is known and understood about China. In fact, most discussions are politically charged debates on trade wars, job loss, manufacturing practices, and everything in between. However, the human element is never discussed. What is the culture? Who are the people? How has history shaped the country today? We’re not critical enough of ourselves and our perceptions of the world around us. I am extremely proud I’ve been able to be a catalyst for understanding China, its culture and its people.
Growing up in rural Ohio, I had never experienced diversity and inclusion on a level that was facilitated by Ohio State. Of course, when I think back to my days on campus, I love the hot chai lattes from the library café. I laugh at the Mirror Lake jumps with my friends. I miss sun bathing on the Oval during warm summer days. But what stands out most to me is the community I built during my first year living in Morrison Tower’s I-House. Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Hindi echoed the halls of my dorm, it was this international community that really opened my mind and my heart to the world beyond my rural Ohio upbringing. I remember during the first few weeks of school, the Chinese students on my floor invited me to a hot pot dinner in the lobby of Morrison. This is has to be one of my favorite memories of my time at Ohio State—I was immersed in culture, surrounded by new friends and just embarking on a journey of learning Chinese, a language that would ultimately transform my life in ways I had yet imagined possible.
Be a child. What does that mean? I often hear of people’s travels around the world or even quick interactions with people from different parts of the globe and there is always the desire to compare, to rank and to make judgement. A child is like a sponge, constantly learning and keeping an open mind, absorbing the world and everything it has to offer. A child stays curious, asks questions, gets uncomfortable and doesn’t have any expectations for what they are about to experience.
As Buckeyes living on the other side of the world, we’re quite fortunate to have the China Gateway team in Shanghai. I still attend some of the Gateway’s orientation events and student meet ups. Additionally, as a proud Buckeye, I am always keen to attend the Ohio State football game meet ups in Shanghai with many of the China Gateway staff members and Ohio State alumni. I am always keen to speak with students interested in Ohio State or students who share the Ohio State experience.
I would encourage current students and Ohio State graduates to take advantage of Ohio State’s robust network. I frequently travel all over the world and I cannot count the number of times I run into Ohio State alumni—someone wearing an Ohio State t-shirt, a hat, someone attending an Ohio State football game or even someone sitting with me at a table during a conference or working with me on a project. These people are your family, they are willing to go out of their way to help you, to support you and to guide you, and all because you share one thing in common—you’re a Buckeye.