September 13, 2007
Krannert students learn from internships in ChinaWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
The experience was part of an internship program arranged by Kwei Tang, Krannert School of Management associate dean for programs and student services and the Allison and Nancy Schleicher Chair in Management.
"Top managers in these companies wanted to create a cultural exchange but also wanted to learn more about how Americans conduct business," Tang said. "This kind of experiential learning goes beyond the classroom setup and is invaluable to our students."
During June and July, Douglas Shaw, a senior in management from Terre Haute, Ind.; Mike Stoffregen, a senior in industrial management and ecology from Munster, Ind.; and Antonia Wang, senior in economics from Carmel, Ind., worked at Chiwan Container Terminal Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, located in southern China. Alex Arnold, a senior in Industrial Management from Washington, Ind., worked at Acme Alliance Asia for six weeks in May and June, also in Shenzhen.
The students also went hiking and sightseeing, and had many opportunities to eat dim sum and perform karaoke with their bosses.
Shaw, Stoffregen and Wang lived in studio apartments near the terminal company where they worked 8-hour days, five days a week. At the beginning of the internship, they were given individual projects that required extensive interactions with other employees in the company.
"I thought everything was going to be so different, but once we connected on a personal level, we found it wasn't really different after all," Shaw said.
But Stoffregen found the internship to be different from other internships he completed at U.S. companies.
"One of the most important things they did was give us a lot of face time with managers, which I never found in other internships," Stoffregen said. "Every day, my boss spent time talking to me. Often it was about the shipping industry, but sometimes it was about recreation and restaurants. Upper-level management was always attentive and treated me with respect."
The students said it was important to note that the residents of Shenzhen consider the jobs at Chiwan to be good opportunities, even though by American standards, the pay is low and the hours are long. Many of the employees are in their 20s and consider it to be a temporary way to make money to send home. Many spoke English and wanted to practice their language skills with the students, even though Wang, who was born in China, can speak Chinese fluently.
"You get a sense how people interact in this kind of experience," Wang said. "These are things you can't get out of a text book."
Arnold agreed that he learned a lot, but he had a wholly different experience at his job, living onsite at a diecast metals manufacturer. He had his own room, but the other 60 employees lived eight to a room. All meals were at a cafeteria on the property. The other employees were made up of people from rural parts of China, many who had never seen Caucasians before. The experience was tough, he said, but made him appreciate coming home.
"People are people in a lot of ways, but there are differences and the more you begin to understand, the more you don't understand," Arnold said. "It is fascinating to watch how our two countries are going to collide in the near future. You realize that a lot of cultural learning needs to be done."
Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Kwei Tang, (765) 494-4464, email@example.com
Tim Newton, Krannert School director of external relations and communications, (765) 496-7271, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
Note to Journalists: The students may be available for interviews. Contact Maggie Morris, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2432, firstname.lastname@example.org
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