INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
Study abroad trips look at life in China, India
By : Greg Norman
When Binghamton University students and faculty returned from study abroad trips during winter break, they brought back a gift not available anywhere else.
On excursions to India, China, Austria and the Czech Republic, first-hand knowledge was gained on foreign business practices and culture.
Vishal Gupta, assistant professor of the School of Management and creator of the course “Doing Business in Emerging Markets: India,” and assistant professor Danielle Dunne led 27 students on an 11-day trip to the country to familiarize themselves with what Gupta believes will be one of the 21st century’s largest economies.
The class attended presentations from information technology companies ACL and Infosys, energy company DSCL and professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“We got to hear what senior people at PricewaterhouseCoopers think about the different industrial business sectors in India — automotives, information and technology, retailing and higher education,” Gupta said.
Students also participated in question-and-answer sessions with employees from each of the companies to learn more about their daily operations.
While in Delhi, the class attended the 2010 Auto Expo, an international showcase of car models by manufacturers hoping to sell them in India.
“The cars there are much cheaper and smaller, as they’re gearing toward a certain demographic,” said Dan Brault, a student who took part in the trip.
Each student in the class was paired with an “e-buddy” — a student from India’s Lovely Professional University, to exchange information on culture and business in each country throughout the fall semester.
After months of communicating through the Internet, the students finally met in person during the trip.
“At first it was really awkward — we came off the bus and everyone introduced themselves one at a time in front of everybody,” Brault said.
But later that night, the groups bonded at a campfire, where they socialized, listened to music and exchanged dance moves from their respective cultures.
The Binghamton University students also spent a night in LPU’s dorms, where according to Brault, showering was done with buckets of water and rooms were ventilated by screen doors.
“They got to see campus life in a different country and compare it to campus life here,” Gupta said.
The class also visited the Taj Mahal and attended a special reception held by School of Management Dean Upinder Dhillon and his family.
In Europe, 27 Binghamton PricewaterhouseCoopers honors students traveled to Prague to visit the company’s offices and spent 10 days touring the city and visiting Vienna.
At a company presentation, employees told students about the examination differences to become a certified public accountant in the Czech Republic compared to the United States, the culture of the country and their experiences working internationally.
The class then visited the chief financial officer of Sinep, a Prague-based residential real estate developer, to learn how the economic downturn has affected his operations.
“We’re trying to make the idea of global business more real (to students) by showing them how individuals are making it global,” said Elliot Kamlet, a lecturer in the School of Management who led the trip.
Kamlet said the students also participated in a self-guided tour of Prague, where they had to report on a historical site in the city and explain its significance to Czech culture.
“One of the advantages of Prague is that it wasn’t destroyed during the world wars, so things built back in the 1400s are still sitting there,” he said.
Laura Vollmer, a student who participated in the trip, said the class visited Prague Castle, the Jewish quarter and saw a Vienna Boys Choir performance before returning home.
Also, students from around the SUNY system, including eight from Binghamton University, spent two weeks in the Sichuan province of China.
According to Suronda Gonzalez, director of Binghamton’s Languages Across the Curriculum program, the trip was organized as a “thank you” gesture from the Chinese government to the SUNY system, which invited 150 Chinese students to the United States after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit the region in May 2008.
Pamela Peterson, a student who went on the trip, said they spent the first week in Beijing visiting such landmarks as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square.
The students then visited universities in Chengdu for classes on Chinese culture, language, dance and music. They also attended a conference with Liu Yandong — the highest politically ranked woman in China — as a guest speaker.
Another Chinese visit included Binghamton students in Public Administration Associate Professor Thomas Sinclair’s “Understanding Contemporary China” class spending three weeks in the country. They learned Chinese culture from the students and faculty at Shenzhen University.
The class was taught lessons in Chinese language, calligraphy and painting. They also visited the local stock exchange and Shanghai.
“Getting to know the students at Shenzhen directly and personally and talking to them about … what life is like and what kinds of things they like to do is an opportunity not available in a classroom environment,” Sinclair said.