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Friday, July 1, 2005

From the Eastern Shoreto East Asia

class=""MsoNormal"" style=""margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0"">By Gwenn Garland

class=""MsoNormal"" style=""margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0"">Delmarva Business Weekley Editor

class=""MsoNormal"" style=""margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0""> 

class=""MsoNormal"" style=""margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0"">"Reprinted with permission from The Daily Times)

class=""MsoNormal"">SALISBURY---Here’s what you can learn on a trip to China:  Walking on the Great Wall of China really strains your calves.  Pizza Hut in China serves escargot.  How to use chopsticks until it’s second nature.

class=""MsoNormal"">But for a group of students from the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University, the best lesson was that half a world away, students aren’t all that different.

class=""MsoNormal"">The business school sponsored a three-week program of study from May 23 to June 14 at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China.  Six SU students attended class alongside 31 Chinese students in a three-credit course on international management taught by SU professor Dick Hoffman.  It marked the first time Salisbury University has undertaken such a program in China.

class=""MsoNormal"" align=""center"">Changing Perceptions

class=""MsoNormal"">At the beginning of the trip, the Americans had a bit of trepidation about what to expect.

class=""MsoNormal"">“The typical stereotype is of more serious, uptight students,” said Luke Jones, who just graduated from SU.

class=""MsoNormal"">Hoffman said he also thought they would be more closed – “for language reasons if nothing else,” he said.  But the Chinese students spoke excellent English, and even adopted Western names to make it easier. 

class=""MsoNormal"">Most of the names were traditional, except for one notable exception.

class=""MsoNormal"">“I was looking over the class list, and it jumped out at me – Biscuit,” Hoffman said.  “I asked her why she had named herself that and she told me, ‘I like biscuits.’” "She was referring to the British word for cookies, not the American alternative to rolls.)

class=""MsoNormal"">That was one example of what Hoffman liked most about the Chinese students.  “They had a naivet?, an innocence that I found refreshing,” he said, adding that they were among the best students he has taught.

class=""MsoNormal"">The Chinese students’ perceptions of Americans changed, too, according to David Clark, an international business major from Salisbury. 

class=""MsoNormal"">“Toward the end of the trip, one student came up to me and said, ‘You have changed how I think about Americans.’  We were taught about the ‘ugly American’ stereotype, so it was great that we presented ourselves well and were able to correct this misperception on their part.” 

class=""MsoNormal"">The students’ discovery of common ground is a major reason for study abroad, Hoffman said.

class=""MsoNormal"">“We need more of this personal contact, because both sides have misconceptions, and both sides can benefit from more cooperation.”

class=""MsoNormal"" align=""center"">Learning Differences

class=""MsoNormal"">At the outset, there were differences in the classroom. 

class=""MsoNormal"">“The Chinese students obviously has far less experience interacting,” said Erik Hanson, a senior originally from Frederick, Md., who is studying economics and finance.  “We had to do group projects and presentations, and that was new to them.”

class=""MsoNormal"">“Lecture is the traditional setup in the Chinese classroom,” Hoffman said.

class=""MsoNormal"">But before long, the students had gotten used to the American style of learning through interacting with peers and professors.

class=""MsoNormal"">Hong Yao, an economics professor at SU, said it might even have farther-reaching consequences than the 31 Chinese students in Hoffman’s class, “Through that experience, they might be conditioned to want a new methodology…we introduced them to a new way of learning.”

class=""MsoNormal"">Students noticed a few differences in what the future held for their Chinese counterparts.

class=""MsoNormal"">“I was talking to a lot of students who were seniors, and so many of them were looking for jobs – not even in business, just any job they could get,” Jones said.  “They were such good students, I was surprised none of them were looking to continue on in their education.” Jones is heading to a University of Tennessee doctoral program in economics.

class=""MsoNormal"">Hanson said the Chinese students he talked to said the same thing.  “Entering the job market was really a concern for them, because it’s so competitive over there.”

class=""MsoNormal"">There were even differences in places you might not expect – such a restaurants.

class=""MsoNormal"">“If I walk into a Chinese restaurant here, it won’t have any of the same food we had there,” Jones said.  “Except for maybe kung pao chicken.”

class=""MsoNormal"">The food, sometimes exotic, was a major highlight.  Hoffman reports that jellyfish – pickled – is crunchier than you might expect, and dog is like a cross between chicken and pork. 

class=""MsoNormal"">Dalian’s port location gives it abundant seafood, which helped impress Clark – and that’s saying a lot, since he’s lived on the Eastern Shore since 1989.

class=""MsoNormal"">“I never have taken a liking to seafood, but I liked it there,” said Clark.  “They have fish tanks in the restaurants with live fish swimming around that you can pick out for your meal – it’s fresh.”

class=""MsoNormal"" align=""center"">China and Capitalism

class=""MsoNormal"">None of the SU students were fluent in any Chinese dialects, but they found there was one universal language:  money. 

class=""MsoNormal"">“It seems the ubiquity of commerce is behind everything,” said Clark.  “Everywhere you went, someone was trying to sell you something.  If that’s not capitalism brewing, I don’t know what it is.”

class=""MsoNormal"">Clark also noticed how inexpensive everything was.  “You can get a whole meal and a drink for less than a dollar,” he said.

class=""MsoNormal"">Hoffman said he noticed the same thing.  When he took a very large group of people out to celebrate his daughter’s 23rd birthday, the total came to $80 for all the meals and drinks – much less than he’d been expecting.

class=""MsoNormal"">“If I had known it would be so cheap, I would have taken all the students,” he said.

class=""MsoNormal"">China’s favorable exchange rate is an item of political contention; it has an 11-year-old rule that keeps the value of the yuan steady against the dollar, so it does not appreciate.  Its inexpensive rates are what draw companies to move factories there; it also has drawn fire from politicians, who want China to let its currency appreciate.

class=""MsoNormal"">But the controversy is also a sign of how much China has opened up its borders in the past decade, and gone from a closed, Communist society to one experimenting in capitalism.

class=""MsoNormal"">Dalian, a port city of about 2.5 million, is in China’s northeast.  It is one of China’s few “open door cities” that allows foreign investors.

class=""MsoNormal"">Clark said he foresees China experiencing even more change.  “As the more traditional leaders, who are older, state to die, the younger generation comes in and with that comes reform,” he said.  “Already trading has opened up, other airlines are allowed to fly in.  There’s still only one bank – the Bank of China – but I think you will start to see even that change.”

class=""MsoNormal"">With international business becoming the trend, the trip might serve the students well in the future.

class=""MsoNormal"">“With the Internet, there is more globalization, and students who have participated in these programs will be more competitive, more in demand,” Yao said.

class=""MsoNormal"" align=""center"">Establishing Relationships

class=""MsoNormal"">“There will always be competition between our countries in trade,” said William Moore, dean of the Perdue School of Business.  “But there can also be cooperation.  Programs like this one can be a good foundation for cooperation and bring around good relationships.”

class=""MsoNormal"">For the students, relationships were what they took away most from the trip.

class=""MsoNormal"">“As soon as I got back, I had three e-mails waiting for me in my inbox” from Chinese students he had met on the trip, Hanson said.

class=""MsoNormal"">According to faculty members involved in the trip, the American students’ friendly, open-minded demeanor served the school well.

class=""MsoNormal"">“They were good ambassadors,” said Moore.

class=""MsoNormal"">Both Moore and Yao said that the administrators at the Dalian school told them the SU students were the best they had had – “And they have 40 foreign university collaborations,” Yao said.

class=""MsoNormal"">One thing Hanson said all the Chinese students wanted:  “They all shared a common desire to go abroad, especially to the United States.”

class=""MsoNormal"">Such a trip might be possible for them if Salisbury University is able to orchestrate an exchange.

class=""MsoNormal"">“Hopefully we will have some of them come here,” Moore said.

class=""MsoNormal"">And at least on the American side, the exchange will most likely continue.

class=""MsoNormal"">“Based on the feedback I’ve received, Dalian wants to go further.  These students have established an entr?e for us there,” Moore said.

class=""MsoNormal"">SU’s Seidel School of Education is also looking to set up an exchange program in Dalian, so the program may expand beyond the Perdue School in the future.

class=""MsoNormal"" align=""center"">Journey’s End

class=""MsoNormal"">Besides attending class at the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, the students also visited Beijing to see sights such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City and tour universities and companies through the capital city’s Global Exchange Education Center.

class=""MsoNormal"">The students found Beijing impressive and modern, but leaving Dalian was bittersweet.  Nearly all the Chinese students came to see the Americans off as they departed Dalian via bus.

class=""MsoNormal"">“You probably won’t see most of them ever again,” Jones said.  “We managed to become close friends in that short time despite the barriers that could have existed.”

class=""MsoNormal"">Clark said in some ways the students had bonded because of, rather than despite, the language barrier.  “They were almost like our parents – we couldn’t have read signs or anything without them.  We would have been lost without them.”

class=""MsoNormal"">For Clark, the experience might have opened up a new career.  “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate, but one thing I had been considering was going to South Korea for a year to teach English.  After this, it’s a much stronger possibility.” "


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