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Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 4; February 2, 2011

The Playing Field

Don’t be a ‘fluent fool’. Learn the language of Business.

Abroad Perspectives

Indian university rekindles country’s old East African links.

Over The Counter

Breaking laws and new ground in China

Globe Tipping

Lose the guilt – just practice responsible tourism

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Don’t be a ‘fluent fool’. Learn the language of Business.
According to the New York-based Institute of International Education, business is the most popular program of choice for international students at American colleges and universities – at last count, 20% were studying under business and management programs.

Predictably, one of the most important requirements for such students is a strong grasp of the English language. But according to the University of Richmond’s marketing and business professor Thomas Cossé, it’s not just international students who are in need of new English skills.

Particularly for any students hoping to work with foreign or multi-national companies in future, Cossé says extra consideration must be taken to communicate most effectively with whatever audience or partner is in question – and therefore makes sure to incorporate such training into his class curriculum.

“My students have to write [reports] in such a way that [they] can be understood by someone who is an English speaker but not a native English speaker,” he explains. Although their reports are written in English, he says his students are instructed to avoid jargon and other specialized terms that might not be used in other languages.

But the most effective communication, says director of the University of Oregon’s international business communication program, involves more than just words.

“If you just have the language awareness or the skills without the culture, you can easily be a fluent fool,” she says, adding that something as seemingly simple as carrying out introductory handshakes can be a major hit or miss scenario – no matter how strong the person’s language skills.

Source: “Business English Speakers Can Still Be Divided by a Common Language”., January 20, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES ? Indian university rekindles country’s old East African links
India’s Xavier Institute of Management and Research (XIMR) has recently launched a Uganda-based observatory to study emerging markets on the African continent. This ‘Centre for African Studies’, set alongside the local Makarere University Business School, will help students develop case studies and engage in such topics as African consumer behaviour, anthropological considerations, and regional finance and banking,

With strong historic ties to India – and more than 12,000 people of Indian origin currently living in-country (Wikipedia) – Uganda is well-suited for the Indian business school to base its studies. With regular faculty exchanges between XIMR and the centre, XIMR director general Paul Vaz hopes to generate greater understanding and benefits on both sides of the project.

Although the Centre is currently only set up for students, it will soon be open to companies wishing to better understand business in Africa – who will, hopes Vaz, take special interest in the students’ experience levels as well.

“We feel that our students can get absorbed in the international divisions of companies which are looking Africa-wards,” he explains.

In addition to the Uganda centre, the B-School plans to inaugurate a second one in Latin America later this year. Along with Africa, it feels the two economies are set to take a greater lead in world business, and that it is therefore essential for students to gain a greater understanding of the two markets.

Source: “XIMR to study African markets”. The Times of India, January 21, 2011.
3) OVER THE COUNTER ? Breaking laws and new ground in China.
It appears that a new era of higher education in China is dawning. New, exciting – and illegal.

Chinese physical chemist Zhu Qinshi knew he was breaking with China’s academic traditions when he first began setting up the country’s only ‘autonomous university’. But it soon became clear that if he wanted to free his students and staff from what he considers the innovation-stifling bureaucracy present within the rest of the nation’s universities, he would also have to break the law. Specifically, opening as a university without going through the mandatory legal processes – which includes first operating successfully as a junior colleague, and then gaining official Ministry of Education (or MOE) approval before upgrading to university-level. However, Zhu was not completely without government support.

Handpicked by the local Shenzhen authorities, Zhu was chosen to develop a feasible new operating system to better tap the potential of the Chinese youth. Bordering Hong Kong, the city of Shenzhen is considered one of the forerunners of China’s economic reform – a reputation that it’s Deputy Mayor, Yan Xiaopei, wants to further support with the creation of a world-class university.

The result, ‘SUST’ (or the South University of Science and Technology’), is a pioneering institute for many reasons. In addition to the fact that it began taking its first enrollment before obtaining any official approval from the country’s Ministry of Education, its unique style of entrance exams (testing academic achievement as well as imagination, understanding, and innovation), non-bureaucratic faculty model, and method of allowing students to delay choosing their majors until two years into their undergraduate program, sets the university apart in China. In fact, largely based off Zhu’s own experiences as a guest scientist or visiting researcher at various institutions around the world – including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Paris, the National Research Council of Canada, and the UK’s Cambridge and Oxford universities – many potential students consider the university to be an exciting, ‘Western-esque’ opportunity.

Sixteen-year-old student Chen Jiawei, for one, was impressed by Zhu’s speech at the school’s recent recruitment orientation: “My sister is studying in the United States,” she says. “I am excited because Zhu’s description of the SUST sounds so much like my sister’s university. I will be back with an application.”

Although Zhu says he suffered many sleepless nights waiting for the official endorsements, the MOE finally conferred its approval of the project on January 10th – only seven weeks ahead of its planned opening on March 1stÿ the date when China will finally unveil its first ‘autonomous university’.

Source: “China’s First “Autonomous University” Ventures into Uncharted Territory”., January 21, 2010.

4) GLOBE TIPPING ? Lose the guilt – just practice responsible tourism
For those living in a developed country, the first exposure to the developing world is often a shock. Although in theory, one can be aware that there are many major differences that exist in standards of living, access to clean water and sanitation, etc – in reality, seeing it firsthand is very different. And often, the first, gut reaction ÿ is guilt.

However, rather than mentally beat yourself up about ‘taking things for granted’, or resort to literally throwing your money or belongings out indiscriminately to ‘those less fortunate’, here are a few basic rules of thumb – to help lose the guilt, but also, to help practice responsible (and sustainable) tourism instead.

  • Above all, always be considerate. Remember, you are a guest in someone else’s home [country], and as such, should respect their space. This includes not pointing a camera in someone’s face without asking their permission, and also, abiding by local norms and customs – particularly when it comes to dressing ‘appropriately’ for where you are.
  • Avoid giving to beggars whom you can see are specifically targeting tourists. Also, to children – many of whom are sent by parents or older ‘guardians’ who often take the money from them, and send them back out on the street to make more. Giving indiscriminately to children who are not begging (sweets or money, for example) also tends to set a bad example – often encouraging children to beg from future tourists when they would not have done so before.
  • Use water and electricity carefully – don’t waste.
  • Don’t buy souvenirs that are made from endangered wildlife, or are in fact local antiquities. Respect the laws of the country you are in – whether they are being actively enforced or not.
  • Have a sense of humour – and try to deal with minor irritations in as light a way as possible, rather than with assertiveness or aggression. Remember, it’s all a part of the ‘adventure’.
  • And finally, try to support local businesses whenever you can. Spend money on locally produced (rather than imported) goods, and use common sense when bargaining – your few bucks saved could be a day’s income or more for the vendor in question. Consider staying in local accommodation rather than foreign-owned hotels, and give non-guide book-mentioned restaurants a chance to impress you as well. You never know when you’ll find an actual ‘undiscovered’ gem.
  • Source: “Guilt, Giving and Responsible tourism”. On the Road – Budget travel backpacking advice, guide and help.


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