A group of 28 students from Cal Poly’s graduate program in business took a 14-day educational trip to China in June, including stops in the massive cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing.
“The only way for American students to truly begin to understand and appreciate what’s happening in countries like India and China, and their business impacts on the U.S., is to get on a plane and see and experience it for themselves,” professor Chris Carr, who led the trip, said in a phone interview.
Students spent months in preparation for the trip and about $5,000 each for expenses.
They received course credit for their participation and work, which included an essay about the trip. Cal Poly students have taken trips to learn about how business is conducted in China and India for several years.
“I see places like China, India and other emerging markets as the future of business,” Carr said. He called China the “factory of the world” and a “burgeoning market for U.S. products.”
The professor set up visits to factories, companies, government agencies and retail stores.
Sometimes, the Cal Poly group used a translator; other times, hosts spoke English well. Carr said he also allowed encounters with people who speak in broken English so students would get used to coping with communication challenges they may face in the working world.
Carr said that two key differences in how the Chinese do business is that it’s more personal there than in the U.S., and Chinese companies are extremely price-conscious compared with American corporations.
A deal may involve spending 20 minutes conversing on topics such as family and personal welfare before any negotiation begins, Carr said.
And, he added, because of China’s massive population of poor people, companies there are constantly thinking about how to market products at affordable, low prices.
The trip has changed how some Cal Poly students have thought about their career paths. Some students who took the trip previously are now working in China, Carr said.
Student Omar Pradhan, who was on the June trip, wrote in a blog that he was impressed with how “hungry” people are in China to pitch products and compete in the business world, saying it was eye-opening how driven people are to “improve their lot in life.”
“I believe many people in the U.S. would benefit from a similar China experience,” Pradhan said. “If our nation doesn’t redouble efforts to compete, I have no doubts that hard-working individuals in China and elsewhere will be more than happy to overtake whatever opportunities we forfeit.”
Pradhan wrote that he believes China’s environmental stewardship, often heavily criticized, will become a bigger priority as people there who want to provide a better future for their children become more affluent and knowledgeable about consumption decisions.
Classmate David Hart said he likes the fact that “many in the Chinese culture like to get to know the other parties involved in business deals.”
“This could lead to friendships that go beyond just business dealings,” Hart said.
Carr said the students were “great ambassadors of the U.S” who took in all they could.
“I believe in business and think it can make positive changes in society,” Carr said. “I think the students really got this trip and rose to the challenge of learning by doing and conducted themselves beautifully.”