A three-week study tour to China is giving University of Canterbury students the chance to mix travel and study.
Between November and December every year, up to 30 students travel 10,000km from Christchurch to Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province. The study tour is open to anyone who has completed a year of study at UC and at least two commerce papers.
International Business Director Dr Laura Meriluoto, who organises the study tour, says the University “wants students to enjoy the social side of travelling overseas, as well as gain some valuable business knowledge and experience”.
“On top of that, the study tour gives students 15 credits towards a degree.”
The tour starts with an orientation week in Christchurch where students learn about business in China.
In China, UC students spend two-and-a-half weeks attending classes on management, economics and Chinese language, arts and culture at Zhejiang Gongshang University.
Students also teach conversational English to small groups of Zhejiang Gongshang University students.
“This is one of the best parts of the tour. Students get to know locals and gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. They develop important networks and establish friendships and business contacts that many of them use in the future,” she says.
Dr Meriluoto says the Chinese concept of “guanxi” – or the basic dynamic of personalised networks of influence – is central to Chinese society and something that students can explore in their new friendships.
“In the West we tend to translate this as ‘making connections’ or ‘building relationships’.”
Students go sightseeing, visit local markets and practise basic Mandarin in real-life situations together.
They have the opportunity to travel to Shanghai where they visit Western businesses such as New Zealand cheese manufacturer, Ambrosia, and global market and advertising research firm, Nielsen.
“Travelling to China and experiencing these things first hand means students come away with a much deeper understanding of the cultural and business context over there.
“Many students tell me the trip opens their eyes to the opportunities that exist in China. Some even change their course of study – taking up Mandarin studies, for example – after the experience. Others return to China for a semester-long or year-long academic exchange.
“Overall, students achieve much, much more than they would do if they’d spent the summer at home.”