Maymester trip to China an eye-opening experience
November 23, 2009
Sierra Smith has interned in Australia and taken a study-abroad tour of Greece and Germany. But those experiences were nothing like traveling to a country where she couldn’t easily decipher the written language.
“In China, there was no way to look at a symbol and guess what it meant,” says the communication major, who visited China last May with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. “When we went out at night without our professors, we had our hotel address written out in Chinese, and we would give it to the cab driver and hope he could get us there.”
Smith was one of 16 Purdue students who steeped herself in Asian culture for two weeks last spring, learning about entrepreneurship, innovation, and product development in Beijing and Shanghai. Participants interacted with students and faculty from prestigious educational institutions and also visited companies and business-related government organizations.
During their educational tour, the group explored modern wonders like the Olympic Park along with the time-honored Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Tian’anmen Square. They also visited companies operating in China and learned about the Chinese economy and business and cultural practices through lectures at Tsinghua.
For Smith, an important lesson was how well some countries like China are thriving at a time when the United States and Europe are struggling. “Cummins is relying more on its international business to get through the economic crisis,” says Smith, who observed that the more companies worked with local suppliers, the more successful they were likely to be in Asia.
Selling and sales management major Bo Dietrick was intrigued by the differences between Asian and American business etiquette. “It’s very formal, how you greet them and give them a business card,” says Deitrick, who enjoyed his experiences so much that he’s planning an internship in Australia for next summer. “You can tell by the body language, just their overall behavior, what kind of respect they have toward you.”
Smith doesn’t know yet if her career will lead her overseas. But, she says, “This kind of experience makes me aware that everything is going global in the world. Having a preview of that, I’ll be less afraid of that in the future. I would be completely fine now with hopping on a plane and doing international work.”
- Sascha Harrell