An ‘international’ winter break

Over the winter break, I had the opportunity to take IB 418, which is an elective class for students in their final year of commerce in the Gustavson School of Business.

This class is unique in that it isn’t a four-month class, similar to many of the classes at UVic in the September to December term. The purpose of IB 418, International Work Study in China, is to provide students with the opportunity to gain a general understanding of business practices in China, through a six-week, in-class instruction at UVic and a two-week first-hand experience in various cities across China.

Lindsay at Google

Lindsay at Google Shanghai

Before embarking on the two-week journey to China, I didn’t know what to expect. This was the country where I was born, but I left at an early age when I was adopted by Canadian parents.

I had traveled to China in the past but I was a young grade 8 student, who was accustomed to the plush lifestyle that Canada had to offer.

My adoptive parents have always had a positive view of China but I couldn’t see past how different it was from the environment that I grew up in. I didn’t like the food, the overcrowded spaces and the confusing language; however, I went into the IB 418 class with an open mind, trying to keep my initial negative impressions concealed.

All I knew was that this adventure would be a great learning experience and an important one to learn more about the country where I was born. Now having experienced it and returned from this two-week trip, I can say that this journey was not only a great learning experience, but also a life-changing one.

I have gained a new appreciation that I never thought I would have and, for that, I am truly grateful. The two-week trip consisted of 14 company visits where we had the opportunity to meet executives and managers of different organizations in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.

One company we visited that stood out to me was Google Shanghai. We had the opportunity to step inside the doors of Google and take a tour of their HQ. Another company that stood out was Guangqi Honda where we were able to see the assembly line of hundreds of vehicles being made.

Photo Credit: Brina Martens, friend and fellow student from IB 418

Photo Credit: Brina Martens, friend and fellow student from IB 418

Upon reflection, there are three key lessons that I have gained about ‘doing business in China’:

  • It is a challenging environment for expatriates as there are many barriers to overcome and adapting to the unique culture can be difficult.
  • Having a strong relationship with the government is vital to succeed for businesses in China.
  • Despite the large population, there is a shortage of talent, which causes difficulties in acquiring the strong workforce necessary for success.

Thanks to our professor, Yan Shen, for providing this opportunity to students. I would recommend this class to anyone as it is one that cannot be comparable to any other class that you will take.

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