June 04, 2018
The course was about professional communication strategies, but students walked away with a complete cultural immersion.
This May, after studying seven weeks in the classroom, one UT Speech for Business class headed to China for 14 days.
“This was a trip of a lifetime,” said Kristen Foltz, assistant professor of speech, who co-lead the trip. The students, all international business majors, toured General Motors, Coca-Cola, social media marketing firm Mailman China, and met a Chinese artist who designs ceramics for Williams-Sonoma.
“This was a trip of a lifetime,” said Kristen Foltz, assistant professor of speech, who lead the trip with Michael Staczar, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Letters and chair of the speech, theatre and dance department. The students, all international business majors, toured General Motors, Coca-Cola, social media marketing firm Mailman China, and met a Chinese artist who designs ceramics for Williams-Sonoma.
“Learning about American companies doing business in China and how Chinese business people mass produce goods to sell to American consumers just further supported everything they've been learning in their classes at UT,” Foltz said. “Plus, these students will be better equipped to go into China and communicate across cultures, which was the ultimate goal for the trip.”
In addition to the academic work, the students hiked the Great Wall of China at sunrise, had a lesson in tai chi from a tai chi master and saw an acrobat show.
In their classroom at UT, the students learned the basic principles all speech courses cover: how to organize and give professional presentations, how to use mediated software like PowerPoint to support their presentations and communicating at work. However, more emphasis was given to understanding how cultural differences impact communication.
Once in China, they attended several lectures by professors at Shanghai’s Fudan University, covering topics like conducting business in China, Chinese business etiquette, economics, history and government censorship, and also interacted with Fudan University students.
The group attended several lectures by professors at Shanghai’s Fudan University and also interacted with current students.
“This trip has completely changed my perspective on the way of life so many of us take for granted. I have been humbled by this trip and all I was able to experience. I have made relationships and friendships that I would have never thought possible,” said Craig Trapani ’20, an international business and economics major with a minor in pre-law from Naples, FL. “From a professional perspective, I believe that by learning how to better conduct business in a county with as much probity as China, I will be better able to apply those skills to the classroom and a potential business, legal and political career in the future.”
"The trip was the most rewarding and culturally enriching experience I have ever had in my entire life," said said Craig Trapani ’20. "Not only did it exceed all my expectations and some, but it also formulated a bond with the other students and staff that I will cherish for a lifetime."
Staczar said it was surprising for some of the students to see the mix of cultural and historic elements side by side with incredible modern architecture and technological achievements.
"Even though China is a communist country, it is apparent that they understand the importance of capitalism and the need for economic growth. It seems they are adapting to a changing global market rapidly," Staczar said. "Our students became very aware of China’s advancement and its potential for continued economic opportunity."
In addition to the academic work, the students hiked the Great Wall of China at sunrise, had a lesson in tai chi from a tai chi master, saw an acrobat show, attended the Peking Opera, toured the financial district of Shanghai and walked through the Temple of Heaven and Yonghe Temple, Buddhist temples that left an impression on Sofia Stack.
“The pure spirituality and sacredness of these places were one of a kind,” said Stack ’20, an international business and marketing major with a minor in advertising from St. Louis, MO. “The tourists and locals shared a feeling of respect when inside these temples. The architecture and the authenticity make it a personal favorite and highlight of mine.”
Stack said she signed up to fulfill the study abroad portion of her degree and to gain real-world experience. “Ideally, I would like to work abroad or find a job that allows me to travel. This course to China will put me ahead of the rest when it comes to real-world business exchanges abroad.”
While this speech course has been offered as a travel course in the past to European destinations, Foltz said she’d like to return to China again.
“The takeaway is that they’ll be better armed to do business on a global level,” Foltz said. “This is a really unique program and a big gold star on a student’s resume when they are applying for positions all across the world.”
Learn more about UT travel courses.
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