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Lessons from the Chinese Market

Business students intern in the immense Yiwu Market

In June, three Drake University students traveled across the globe to China to study business practices in one of the most complex emerging economies in the world.

“As business continues to globalize, it will be vitally important for students to experience industries abroad,” says Michael Riebel, a junior accounting and finance double major. “This trip has been an incredibly valuable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Drake students assisted shop owners in the Yiwu International Commodities Markets in China.

While abroad, the Drake students had the opportunity to serve as business interns. For one week, they assisted shop owners in the Yiwu International Commodities Markets.

New experiences

The Yiwu market was unlike anything the students had seen before. The facility is the largest wholesale market in the world; if you were to visit all of the shops for three minutes each, eight hours every day, it would take a year to visit every one.

The next phase of their internship took place at Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College, where they aided Chinese undergraduates with online business operations, including editing the English content of their websites.

“At the college level, Chinese business students seem to be focused on their online businesses as well as school performance,” says J.T. Cattle, a junior marketing and management double major.

Finding a common language

The language barrier was the most difficult aspect of the trip for the Drake students, as they spoke no Chinese. To help them communicate, they were paired with Chinese student translators.

“We resorted to basic forms of communication,” Riebel says. “When bargaining with street vendors, we used calculators to exchange prices and quantities. In the market, we used a lot of hand gestures.”

Cattle and Nate Bleadorn, a fellow junior marketing and management double major, also interned at Langsha, a company that has six factories in China. The company’s promotional packet was translated directly from Chinese to English, and the Drake students edited it for coherency.

“This was the coolest thing we did during our internships,” Bleadorn says. “We would first figure out what they were trying to say, then we would find the best word to fit that meaning.”

Students studying in China felt their experience in Drake classrooms helped prepare them as leaders in their study abroad group.

The Drake students encountered business styles in China that were different from the practices they were familiar with in the United States.

Through their internship experiences, the students gained an understanding of the Chinese negotiation process, as well as the cultural norms that accompany the successful completion of a business deal.

“Tea is always made fresh to welcome someone and going out to eat is a big part of the negotiation process as well,” Bleadorn says.

Calling on lessons from Drake

Even though the students weren’t extensively familiar with Chinese business practices, they were able to utilize knowledge gained from taking economics, accounting and marketing classes at Drake.

Though they traveled with students from other colleges, the Drake students say they quickly became group leaders, contributing to class discussions.

“We owe our leadership ability in part to Drake,” Bleadorn says. “Thanks to the skills we learned in our business classes, we were able to get the most out of our time in China.”

These internships are among many similar opportunities available through Drake’s Study Abroad Office.

— Nicki Mittelbrun, Class of 2013