The first Huntsman students to go on the summer study abroad trip to Asia were in Xi’an, China, when several members of the group decided they wanted to experience some Central American culture by going to a Mexican restaurant.
The students, who boasted they had sampled octopus, scorpion, shark-fin soup, chicken feet and duck brains on the trip, may have just been seeking something more familiar. Earlier, someone had spotted the restaurant so they filled several taxi cabs and went back in search of a familiar meal. When they arrived and went inside, however, they discovered the restaurant was really a leather goods shop. The sign on the building of a man in a sombrero was misleading. They were discovering that even getting dinner in China can prove challenging when you can’t read the signs.
Before one feels too sorry for the group, however, it would be important to point out that just the day before their dinner experience had been much more rewarding. They were invited to a formal dinner hosted by the vice governor of the Shan’xi Province, Zhang Wei. And the Monday after the Mexican expedition, the group was officially greeted at the south gate of the city by the mayor of Xi’an, Chen BaoGen, in a rare official welcoming ceremony usually reserved for visiting dignitaries. It was the same reception former President Bill Clinton received when he visited the city. The draw bridge was lowered and more than two dozen soldiers dressed in traditional warrior garb stood at attention as the mayor welcomed the students.
The welcome and the dinner were set up by Manor Sun, president of xbResearch. Sun visited the Huntsman School of Business earlier in the year. David Herrmann, the faculty member who led the trip, said that building relationships abroad is key to setting up the type of visits that make the experience worthwhile to the students.
For example, they were able to visit the Kiswire facility in Pohang, South Korea, thanks to alum, Dr. Young-Chul Hong, the CEO of that company. Hong, ’73, MBA, was given an honorary doctorate at USU in 2007. Kiswire is a major producer of specialty steel wire.
Lia Inoa samples South Korean Cuisine.
While in Xi’an, the students also spent a day volunteering at the Starfish Foster Home, an orphanage that takes care of children with special needs. Students also spent a day with high school students in Shangri-la (eastern Tibet) speaking with them in English and discussing American culture.
“One of our overarching goals was that we wanted to expose students to opportunities overseas on a global basis that they have not, or may not have been, exposed to before,” Herrmann said.
Trevor Nelson, a senior majoring in Management and economics, said that the three weeks of study before he went on the road, coupled with the five-weeks of travel, made the experience one of “the most grilling semesters” he’d had. And yet, he, like others who participated, describe the experience in glowing terms.
Jacob Cook poses with Terracotta Warrior Replicas.
“It’s definitely not time or money wasted,” Nelson said. “This opportunity will not only look good on a resume, but it will forever stand as one of the highlights of my collegiate and educational career.”