In today's globalized society, nearly every organization conducts business internationally. Employers increasingly expect potential employees to demonstrate exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. The Rawls Business Leadership Program (RBLP) recognizes that in order for students to succeed they must not only have strong academic values, but also have real-world experience as an innovative and ethical leader. As part of their efforts to develop a "complete student," RBLP embeds an international element in to their program, taking their students on a faculty-led learning experience each summer. This summer, 12 RBLP students visited China, where they were completely immersed in the Chinese culture.
From touring temples, to peaceful walks through a river town called WuZhen, students learned about cultural differences and international business customs. The trip included highlights of Beijing and Shanghai, and visits to businesses like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and BaoSteel.
"About half the students on this trip had never been out of North America," states William Pasewark Ph.D, Webster Professor of Business in the Rawls College. Accompanying the students in China, Pasewark describes the trip as a "crash course" in cultures outside of the United States. "The focus was on understanding international business and relating to other cultures, but our students also learned how to travel internationally: obtain passports and visas, communicate with those who do not speak English, and ride in large city subways."
Curiosity being a common quality of the RBLP students, Pasewark said he did not have to worry about silence when the speakers asked for questions. "Each student wanted to know more about how business was done in China."
Senior RBLP student, Taylor Presley, says the most valuable lesson she learned was how different cultures affect the way business is conducted. "Seeing the similarities and differences between their country and ours helped me gain a broader perspective of how other countries are affected by business markets."
While abroad, RBLP students had to adjust to a new culture and even found themselves facing a language barrier, driving the students to adapt and use teamwork to accomplish their goals. "The hardest part of the trip was adapting to the culture and different food," shared Presley. Students stepped out of their comfort zone, learning some basic Mandarin and how to use their currency. "We were able to learn and grow so much from those around us," Presley said. "Almost everywhere we went, we were embraced with love and the people had such pride in showing us their businesses, restaurants, stores, and culture. It was easy to learn from people who were so passionate about what they do and were so willing to teach."
Another RBLP student, Hunter LoCascio, found the trip to be a great way to develop connections, and learn international business skills. "Everyone was very mature and our ability to work as a team made this trip successful," said LoCascio.
LoCascio also received a very special cultural lesson. While on the trip he celebrated his 21st birthday. A tour guide recognized the occasion by sharing information about the ox, the Chinese zodiac animal sign for the year LoCascio was born.
Established in 2013, RBLP offers interactive personal development, professional mentoring, living and learning opportunities, and real-world applications, working on projects through the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business. For more information about Rawls Business Leadership Program, you can visit their website here. To read past international travel blogs about the students experiences, click here.