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Lessons from Peking University

Ava Lee | Monday, November 5, 2012

Every time I tell people that I was in China over fall break, I get the same surprised response: “Why in the world did you go all the way to China?” I’m not sure if it’s the fact that a group of us went abroad for a school trip, or simply the fact that we went to China leads to such a response, but it truly was one of the most rewarding experiences I, and everyone else on the trip, have had at Notre Dame. I am so glad that this project has come to fruition in a very short amount of time, and hopefully will be a start to greater initiatives and continued relationships between schools in different countries.

This trip to Peking University was such a memorable week. We climbed the Great Wall of China, ate Peking Duck at the Forbidden City, prepared for our case projects with Chinese students at internet cafes off campus, visited well-known Chinese companies and bargained for Chinese souvenirs (and street food). It was also challenging because it was many of the students’ first time in China and, beyond the language barriers, there were the various degrees of cultural differences. While this was a big part of the challenge, it was also the single factor that made this trip so rewarding.

Most of us agreed that the best part of the trip was the opportunity to meet and make new friends with students from Peking University. Junior Bobby Weltner said, “It was extremely interesting to learn about the similarities and differences between our two cultures and to discuss the different ways that the American and Chinese students viewed the issues that were presented to us in the case competition.” Sophomore Alisha Anderson said in her group, they had to explain that “gambler” cannot be used interchangeably for “investor” and that there really is a difference between “supply chain” and “value chain.” We all learned so much from conversations like these, and we hope they will lead to a stronger long-term relationship with Peking University students.

Overall, it was gratifying to see how delegates from both teams were willing to work together and accept differences in thinking and presenting, and, in the process, learn more about each other. Beyond the research everyone did on the industry and case topic, I would say the time spent working with the Chinese students was very informative and valuable. Sophomore John Reising said, “The time spent in Beijing opened a different perspective on viewing the world. Traveling abroad and leaving the enclosed bubble surrounding the United States and especially Notre Dame is a valuable asset to have.”

At a time when there is so much global attention directed towards China and its rapid economic growth, the combination of case competition, city excursions and company visits provided a great opportunity for everyone on the trip to witness this phenomenon first-hand and learn more about the crucial role China plays in the international economy.

The SIBC is the largest student-run organization on campus with over 400 active members. We seek to promote “Peace through Commerce” by partnering with leading companies across all areas of business and providing international internships for our members. We can be reached at sibc@nd.edu or at sibc.nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.