UNI students develop global skills in China

Eight University of Northern Iowa students learned the personal and professional skills needed to be successful in the new global marketplace during a three-week trip to China this June.

The UNI group, led by program coordinator and UNI marketing professor Chris Schrage, joined students from the University of Economics in Katowice, Poland, Dalian Nationalities University in China and EAFIT University in Colombia to learn about each other's cultures and business.

Global Skills participants

The students were participating in a Global Skills program held on the Dalian Nationalities University campus in China. The program is in its second year and fulfills the Global Skills capstone course for UNI students. The program's objective is to create a better understanding of various cultures to prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed to work in a globalizing world.

"It showed us firsthand that everyone is different and values different things," said Emily Althoff, a senior supply chain and operations management major. "It helped us respect others and their values and helped us become more open-minded."

Tony Rouse, a senior accounting and economics double major, said he learned a great deal about students from other cultures on the trip.

"I learned there are so many different views on different issues," he said. "Each country will view something different, whether it is a social aspect, business aspect or a political aspect. I will take away the fact that I am just one person. In this ever-increasing globalized world, it is necessary to be able to understand different cultures. The United States is only one nation; there are 195 countries in the world. Our minds cannot be limited to only our experiences."

Exploring business

One aspect of the program required students to visit companies and organizations to learn how business and economics is run in China.

Companies visited included San Te Clothing (New Zealand), INTEL (United States), Gala Candles (Germany), JagFlo (Canada), Mabuchi Motors (Japan) and a speaker from Dalian Lianmei Machinery Company (China).  Other sites of economic and trade importance were Dalian Free Trade Zone Administration, the Port Authority, Xiaoyao Bay Exhibition Center and the Dalian Development Area Exhibition.

"The tours were educational because most of us on the trip were business students and it helped us get a better look at what it would be like to operate a business in China," Althoff said.

Visiting Chinese sites

The students also explored a number of interesting sites while in China. At the beginning of the trip, UNI students visited the Great Wall at Badajing, the Ming Tomb, the Sacred Way, a Cloisent factory and a Jade factory. They also attended a Chinese dinner theater and saw a variety of Chinese performances while enjoying traditional Chinese food, including frog. The group also toured Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and a pearl factory.

Other activities during the trip included visits to the Pole Aquarium, Xinghai Square, a wax museum, Golden Rock Park and a hike up Big Black Mountain.

Experiencing culture

CalligraphyThe students participated in a wide range of Chinese cultural activities such as traditional Chinese folk dancing, Chinese painting, Chinese paper cutting, calligraphy and a Chinese birthday celebration. Students visited classes at the Dalian Nationalities University to view how education is different or similar to their home country.  Each student also adopted a Chinese name and received Chinese language lessons.

Alan Huynh, a senior movement and exercise science major, said one unique thing the group did was eat at a traditional Chinese "Hot Pot" restaurant.

"You have a big soup like pot of boiling liquid and raw meat and veggies all around you. It's neat because you get to dip it in and eat it," he said.

Also during the program, each student was required to prepare a 10-minute presentation on one aspect of his or her home country. The DLNU president, vice president, provost and high-level administrators attended some of the presentations.

"These presentations allowed students to learn not only about each other but also about their own homeland as they prepared the information," Schrage said.

To help other students learn about their culture, the Colombian students showcased a typical Colombian festival. The UNI students showcased their culture by providing an Iowan barbeque complete with burgers and S'mores. Each activity allowed the students to learn more about one another's lifestyle.

"It was amazing to get to know all of these people and learn about their countries and culture," Althoff said. "It was interesting to compare the United States to these other countries. After this trip, Columbia and Poland are definitely on my list of places to travel to next."

Rouse recommends that students study abroad to experience something new.

"I would recommend this to anyone, whether you are a business major, science major or education major," he said. "It was one of the best experiences I could have ever done. I would not have changed it for the world."

UNI students participating in the program (with their adopted Chinese name in parentheses): Alan Huynh (Wang Ying Xiong), Tony Rouse (Yuan Bo), Emily Althoff (Bai He), Nick Canby (Hai Bin), Pernell Cezar, Jr. (Xiao Yao), Theresa Rochford (Mo Li), Angela Ross (Meng Yan) and Tim Steffensmeier (Chang Cheng).

The 2011 Global Skills program is set to take place June 1-22, 2011, and will expand to six universities from various continents.