My name is Greer Roberts, and I am an International
Business major at Howard University. From February-‐July 2017 I participated in an exchange program betweenHoward and the Central University of Finance and Economics. This was the first year of the exchange program, and I was the only student from my university who came to CUFE. For five months, I experienced an entirely different culture that pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me so much about China and myself.
Central University of Finance and Economic (July 2016)
Over the course of the semester, I took four classes: Supply Chain Management, Sales Management, Corporate Strategy Development, and Chinese Reading and Writing. Each of these classes helped me to become a better businesswoman in some way, shape, or form. In most of my classes I was the only foreigner, so I felt like my classmates and I were constantly learning from each other. The language barrier seemed quite intimidating when I first arrived, but Isoon realized that a smile and laugh could cross international borders.
Although I learned so much from all of my courses, my favorite course was Corporate Strategy Development taught by Dr. Julia Sloan. This MBA level course was extremely rigorous, but because my thought process was consistently challenged, I began to think about issues from entirely new viewpoints. For example, I learned thatIbringacertainsetof“frames”, orperspectives, to every situation I encounter. Furthermore, by becoming aware of these frames I hold, I can make sure that I include those with a diverse set of frames if I am looking to create innovative and sustainable solutions to real strategic problems. Dr. Sloan always ensured the learning process was both practical and engaging. By working in teams and having thought-‐provoking discussions with my classmates, I gained so much from this class.
Another course I enjoyed was my Sales Management class taught by Professor Qu. At the beginning of the class our professor gave us a 500 RMB investment, and my classmates and I had to come up with a product or service to sell. Throughout the semester, we ran a business selling plants, presenting a weekly report on our progress. Our teacher gave us article sand lectures to help us improve our selling and managing techniques. I appreciated the hands-‐on method that our teacher used because it helped me to learn the practical application of what we were studying. My overall favorite part of the class was the fact that I made some really great friends. Our class
consisted of only 10 people, and we all were on the same team. We had to ensure that our communication and teamwork skills were flawless if we wanted to succeed each week.
Another significant part of my learning experience was simply observing my Chinese classmates and their study habits. I remember walking past the library at 7:45 am one day and seeing a line of students just waiting outside. I was so confused as to why they were there and why the library wouldn’t allow them inside. Then someone told me that they were waiting in line for the library to open. I could not believe it. Even during finals week, I don’t know anyone at my school who would wait in line outside of the library, anticipating its opening.
I also noticed that the students seemed to be very intentional about the amount of time they would spend studying. Every night for a few hours, students would usually individually study in the main classroom building.
Corporate Strategy Development class ( May 2016 )
There are few things stranger than walking into a supermarket and seeingrows of unidentified meat, some encased and some not. This practice is definitely not something you normally see in the UnitedStates; however, it seems quite commonplace in China. Although I was initially shocked by this practice, I eventually grew accustomed to it and even became curious about it. This essentially explains how I felt about food in China overall.
Whether I was dining at the on-‐campus cafeteria or the local restaurants, there was always at least one thing that caught me off guard, but then intrigued me. Some of the most memorable menu items include baked turtle, duck blood, and stuffed fish.
While I generally ate Chinese cuisine, I did get to try foods from different parts of the world as well. One of the great things about China is that it attracts people from all over the world due to its high business potential and many opportunities for foreigners. So not only did I get to experience Chinese culture, but also many other cultures as well. Most of these cultural exchanges included eating. Over the semester, I tasted British cucumber sandwiches, Russian chocolate, and an entire South Korean lunch. Regardless of what I was eating, I enjoyed being able to learn about other cultures through food.
Fish at Inner Mongolia restaurant (April 2016)
While in China, I got the chance to go bungee jumping, visit Inner Mongolia, and volunteer at Sun Village Orphanage with Beijing International Christian Fellowship. All of these were unforgettable experiences.
I also participated in the Business School’s International Business Negotiation Competition. I was very nervous at first because I had heard of Mock Trial and Debate competitions, but I’d never heard of a negotiation competition. However, my fears soon subsided once I met my teammates. They were from France, Kazakhstan, and Barbados; even if we failed miserably, I was so excited that I got to interact with people from such significantly different cultures in a team setting. My teammates and I had only one week to prepare for the semifinals, and we soon realized that it was a lot of work. After several meetings andcountlesshours of research, the competition had arrived. There was one other international team, while all of the other teams were composed of Chinese students. There ended up being a huge miscommunication, which caused our team and our competitors to prepare the case from the same perspective (instead of opposing ones). So instead of actually negotiating, both teams simply presented the case. To our surprise, our team made it to the final round. However, competition was much steeper there. And at this point, we still didn’t have any actual experience negotiating so we were quite unsure of what to expect. While we did not end up winning the overall competition, we all learned so much about working under pressure, being flexible, and of course, negotiating.
Another extracurricular activity that I thoroughly enjoyed was participating in CUFE’s Cultural Fair. Being the only student from the United States, I knew that I had to represent my country well. For weeks, I struggled trying to figure out what I could have at my booth that represented the United States well and encouraged shy students to participate. I finally decided on two main things: U.S. trivia and basketball. The U.S. trivia was divided into sports, college/businesses, and general information. Students could choose a question, which was written in both English and a poor attempt at a Chinese translation. Many students knew the answers to the sports questions, but they had some trouble with the others.
As a result, they learned more about the United States in a fun way. However, the basketball and hoop were definitely the most popular. Students had three chances to try to shoot the ball into the basket, and there was a superlong line full of hopeful students.
When I wasn’t studying or sleeping, I made sure to stay active by participating in different activities outside of class. One of the most common ways I would spend my weekends was by hiking. There are so many scenic areas in China, and I got the chance to see many of them while simultaneously getting in some good exercise. I wasn’t the only one wholikedto visit these areas; the hiking sites were always packed with people. It was so interesting seeing people of all ages spending their Saturdays or Sundays in such an active way.
Inner Mongolia (April 2016)
This semester has opened my eyes to endless possibilities for my future, and it has allowed me to grow in so many different ways. I have met people from all around the world whom I hope to keep as lifelong friends, and I have learned about Chinese culture in a much more personal and intimate way than I could ever learn from a textbook.