Trip to Greater China offers lessons in international business

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
April 13, 2009

For 12 business students at Indiana State University, the world is now a much smaller place.

The group traveled to Taiwan and Hong Kong during Spring Break (March 7-14) as part of a management seminar course focusing on doing business in Greater China. The course is taught by management professor Wei He and the trip was designed to reinforce what the students have been studying all semester. For most of the students, this was their first time to travel abroad.

"One of the biggest things this trip taught me was that if you want to succeed you have to go into international business," said Jeremy Firster, junior finance major from Elizabeth.

The trip was mostly funded by Paul Lo, a 1970 ISU alumnus of the Master of Business Administration program and a recipient of the university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002 and an honorary doctorate in 2008. He was the chairman of Bank SinoPac in Taiwan. Students toured SinoPac, attended two presentations by corporate executives, and met with Lo in his new consulting firm for a seminar on career success in business.

Internationally recognized for his work in support of economic growth and international trade between China and the U.S., Lo told students that he was still working toward success and always striving to do more, even in his 60s.

"You never stop working," he told the students. "When you work, you enjoy life and you have fun."

Lo also took the group on a tour of Taipei and pointed out areas from his personal life, including a park where he often took his son. For Erik Andersen, senior finance major from Crown Point, the tour made Lo's success in the business world more relatable on a personal level.

"When we saw the personal aspects of his life, it became real that he was an ISU alum like we're going to be soon. If he can achieve the much, so can we. That day more than any other made what we were experiencing seem real," Andersen said.

The trip also included a discussion with business professors and students at National Chengchi and Shih Chien universities in Taipei and with corporate executives at SinoPac Holdings, Taiwan Stock Exchange Market and Bloomberg Hong Kong.

"Schooling is a lot different there," said Kali Diethrich, sophomore insurance and risk management and business administration major from Terre Haute. "They're more focused on learning and less on sports or other extracurricular activities."

A visit to the Taiwan Stock Exchange Market, followed later in the week by a presentation at SinoPac Holdings Hong Kong on the regional economy and a tour of Bloomberg's Hong Kong offices, revealed just how connected the world's economy has become.

"China has such strong ties with us. I didn't realize how much our economy in the U.S. affects the entire world," Diethrich said.

"We don't always think about the ripple effect," Firster added.

Their schedule was packed with tours and seminars, but the students still managed to find time to sample the unique cultural offerings in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Many quickly discovered that the local cuisine, which included duck tongue and snake blood, was unlike anything they had tasted in America.

"Chinese food in America is nothing like authentic Chinese food," said Terri Ketzner, sophomore insurance and risk management major from Ferdinand.

While some students were successful at using chopsticks, others never quite mastered the technique.

"There was not a fork in sight," said Tony Askins, junior finance major from Shelbyville.

While many of their peers spent Spring Break lounging on the beach, Dr. He's students used the week away from campus to take their lessons from the classroom to a whole new level.

"When most people think of Spring Break they think of Florida," said Madison Kirchner, sophomore accounting major from Brazil. "But I would never trade this trip for Panama City."

The course and the study trip also received support from a Promising Scholar grant from the Lilly Endowment and the ISU Office of the President and Provost.

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Contact: Wei He, associate professor of management, Indiana State University College of Business, 812-237-2373 or wei.he@indstate.edu 

Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu 

Photos: Business students (top) listen to a seminar on success given by Paul Lo. The group (bottom) poses for a photo at Paul Lo's consulting firm in Taipei. (Photos provided by Dr. Wei He and students)