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University of Canterbury grows China business connections

Profile

Chinese business and culture is increasingly accessible to University of Canterbury (UC) students through an annual study tour to China, reciprocal exchange visits, and other on-campus initiatives.

No other university in New Zealand offers the same unique experience as UC’s School of Business and Economics MGMT228 Chinese Business Practices and Culture study tour. The four-week summer study tour to China gives students first-hand insight into Chinese business practices and culture.

Following a week’s orientation at UC in November, which includes a workshop on biculturalism, this year’s select group of 30 students will spend three weeks at Zhejiang Gongshang University attending lectures on Chinese culture and business practices and participating in activities to help Chinese students hone their English language skills. Experiences are recorded in reflective learning journals.

UC Senior Lecturer in Economics Dr Laura Meriluoto says students learn a great deal while they are away, reflecting on what they are seeing and learning and beginning to understand how people’s values and norms can be different to theirs.

“In order to understand how to do business in China, you need to understand the basics of the culture and you need to experience it,” she says.

Leading the Shanghai leg of the upcoming summer’s MGMT228 study tour will be Russell Wordsworth, UC Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management. Primary sector organisations – such as Zespri, Westland Milk Products and Fonterra – form the bulk of companies students will visit. Also on the itinerary is an umbrella group set up by Primary Collaboration NZ Ltd that includes Sealord, Synlait Milk and Villa Maria Estate.

“We also visit The Warehouse, to see how their goods are made, and New Zealand Central, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. Often, UC alumni are among those addressing the students. It is very encouraging for our students to see how their degree can take them some way internationally,” he says.

In January, 15 students from Zhejiang Gongshang University visited the University of Canterbury for the first time on a reciprocal exchange. MGMT228 student volunteers assisted and took part in many of the shared activities.

Dr Meriluoto, who started MGMT228 in 2010 when she was the director of UC’s International Business major, says the exchange includes teaching the Chinese students about Aotearoa New Zealand’s history and our nation’s way of thinking. “We go to Canterbury Museum and visit Akaroa, play backyard cricket and give them a taste of the Kiwi lifestyle.”

Also on campus is Global China Connection, a UC student-run, non-profit body that is further strengthening New Zealand-China relations. It runs a China Talk Series, informal Mandarin language workshops (Lingoswap), and offers internship opportunities in Shanghai (Shanghai Shout).

“At the University of Canterbury we encourage global awareness: it is phenomenally important – China is our biggest export trading partner,” says Mr Wordsworth.

For the past two years, the MGMT228 study tour has been supported with funding from Education New Zealand through Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia (PMSA). An application for funding has also been made for this year.