WWU Students Tackle International Business Hands-on

I wanted to experience being out of my comfort zone, and I wanted to learn more about another culture, so I decided to go to China."

These are the words of Chris Maravilla, Walla Walla University junior business administration major. He, along with 12 other business students, accompanied JoAnn Wiggins, dean of the School of Business, and Sam Chuah, a business professor from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., on a study tour to China this summer.

The four-week trip took the group to Hong Kong, where they spent three weeks studying at Hong Kong Adventist College, and then to Beijing. Their mornings were filled with classroom lectures and their afternoons spent taking trips around the city and doing homework. Fieldtrips offered the opportunity to learn about the Chinese way of doing business and the challenges of Americans doing business in China.

"I learned a lot about Asian culture, such as their indirect way of communication," says Kelsi Williams, sophomore accounting major. "I also gained a lot of insight about international business in general."

One trip took the students to a factory in Shenzhen, where WWU alumnus Ron Wilkinson is producing an invention. He gave the students a tour of the factory and talked with them about conducting business abroad.

"As we visited the various places, I began to understand that the Chinese really care about other people," says Maravilla. "Americans are very direct and always want things done quickly. The Chinese take their time and are patient about making decisions."

The students enjoyed being in an environment where they learned by experience and guest lecture.

Some of the most memorable lessons learned, however, were not business specific, but do have an impact on how business in China is conducted.

"Guanxi is a deep connection the Chinese have with each other," says Maravilla. "It defines the way the Chinese are willing to do anything for a friend, and it is extremely important when doing business there."

As a result of the trip, he is considering going into international business. Learning what it means to conduct business outside of your own country has inspired Maravilla and he is excited about the possibilities. First, though, he plans to return to his home in California and work as an accountant while studying for his master's degree in finance.

"This trip really broadened my perspective," says Maravilla. "My experience in China was priceless, and I can't wait to go back."

To keep tabs on what the School of Business is up to, search Facebook for "School of Business."

September 01, 2010 / Walla Walla University
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Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent