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Bentley College Undergraduates Thrive as Business Consultants in Innovative Study Abroad Program at China's Xiamen University

September 19, 2007

Bentley College undergraduates worked as global business consultants in a distinctive four-week summer study abroad program in Xiamen, China, at Xiamen University. Twelve students pioneered the new Bentley summer program, Advanced Chinese: Business Consulting in China, which offers students a combination of language, business, culture, and international work experience.

"In the face of globalization, more and more college students want to acquire this international work experience to gain an understanding of different business cultures," says Yuan Li, director of the Bentley Center for Languages and International Collaboration (CLIC). Li designed and implemented the new summer course with Wilder Teaching Professor of Management and Psychology Aaron Nurick.

While international study experiences are typically either short (about 10 days) and taught through learning tours; or semester-based, consisting of courses instructed in a foreign country, this innovative Bentley summer program in China spans a full month and combines coursework and cultural programs with business consulting for three top companies in China.

The Bentley undergraduate students applied their language and professional skills as consultants on three Chinese corporate projects working with Coca Cola Asia Pacific Division; the Chinese Government's Gulang Island Management Committee; and with King Long United Automotive Industry Co. Ltd., the largest bus and coach manufacturer in China. Typically, this kind of business consulting is performed by graduate level business students, according to Li and Nurick.

At Xiamen University - whose accountancy and MBA programs are ranked among the best in China - the Bentley students also studied Chinese for Business and participated in cultural activities such as calligraphy, music appreciation, martial arts, and Chinese medicine.

The student teams translated proposals into Chinese and presented them in both English and Chinese to company representatives. "For each company, these students had to first determine what the firm's needs were," says Nurick. "It was a brilliant process of discovery through interaction with company executives - often through interpreters."

The feedback from the participating companies was overwhelmingly positive. According to Li and Nurick, the companies were impressed by the Bentley students and their recommendations, which they plan to implement.

"The students (were) splendid," says Qiao Jun, a representative of KingLong Company. "We were surprised by the quality of their project results on such a short-term basis," says Mr. Jun. "Their research results were very valuable to our company and we hope it can continue."

While consulting for Coca-Cola Asia Division, Bentley student Alexandra Hauck '09 Finance was intrigued that her team's research findings revealed cultural differences that affect the marketing of consumer products.

"We conducted a survey of more than 400 Xiamen University students to gauge their interests in preferred drink flavors, cost factors, purchasing trends, and other influential factors when purchasing drink products," Hauck says, "and found vast contrasts between the mindset of Chinese and American consumers."

Working on a team project for the Gulang Island Management Committee, Jarrod Charbonneau '07 Marketing was charged with attracting tourists to the island for longer stays, similar to the way tourists spend time on Cape Cod. He researched Martha's Vineyard tourism to cultivate ideas. In addition to using established research techniques, applying marketing practices and developing a business proposal, Charbonneau "learned how to apply life experience to this project," he says.

The cultural agenda of the trip included tours of scenic points in and around Xiamen - an island surrounded by ocean and hills - and a stay in the metropolitan city of Shanghai. There, the students completed daily language activities including setting up a Chinese bank account, exchanging currency, checking into the hotel, placing orders in restaurants, and purchasing a set of required products to utilize public transportation.

Overall, students said they were impressed by the extensive role culture plays in everything from business practices to language to food. They also noted that the information they learned previously in Bentley global business courses about Chinese business practices and culture was invaluable in easing the transition from the U.S. to China. Living in the country for a month gave them even more unexpected insights and a sense of accomplishment as they successfully made the cultural transitions.

"I would definitely recommend this trip to other students interested in learning about this powerful global marketplace," says Hauck. "It was a great experience and what I learned will be invaluable in my future.

"Go on this trip and bring an open mind," says Hauck. "There is a great amount of work involved in this six-credit, month-long program, but the experience is so rewarding it's worth every moment."

According to Nurick, "These Bentley undergrads did a very professional job for each company. They worked well together and they took care of each other. It was an extraordinary experience for everyone involved, from students and professors to Chinese management teams and tour guides."

For more information on the summer program, please click here.

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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