International Business Concentration: Class Reflection

To provide some context: I studied Business Administration at Laurier during my undergrad. I specialized in marketing and international business. However, the international business concentration was unique — only 36 students had the opportunity to learn from amazing BBA and MBA professors, and all five courses were integrated. A key component was the two-week trip we took to Asia.  Here is part one of my year-end reflection. Enjoy!

The international business concentration was most definitely the best way to end off my experience in the BBA program. The “learning by doing” types of assignments were most enjoyable. Although the abundance of group projects was a little overwhelming at times in terms of similar deadlines, it was a great experience. Looking back on it, having 3 assignments due in one week only motivated us to budget our time wisely, start earlier, and practice working under a time pressure. The amount of group assignments we had allowed our class to bond really quickly, making the classroom environment more enjoyable. I can honestly say that the most valuable thing I gained from being in the international business concentration was expanding my network within the BBA Class of 2016, making 35 new lifelong friends.

The integrated method of teaching our five courses was very different than anything else I’ve experienced so far at Laurier. I think that it’s a great concept and I definitely benefited from this. I learned a lot about the global markets, entry modes into various countries, and targeting cities as a target market rather than countries because each region has a unique culture of itself. I think the most important takeaway from these classes was learning about culture and how we should not ever make assumptions. It was a really interesting to learn about how various cultures react to situations than how we as Canadians may react normally. The one class that resonates with me most is the conflict styles lecture we had with guest lecturer, Nadine LeGros. Although we had all learned about the Hofstede workplace factors previously in organizational behaviour courses, there were still so many more details to learn about. The “Feedback Sandwich” really put into perspective that what we may believe to be a helpful action could actually be offensive in a culture that we are not used to. The international business concentration in a sense made me more hyper-aware of cross-cultural differences in our daily lives too, on the trip and at home.

In fact, I witnessed this cultural difference personally quite recently. I was the president of the Chinese Student Association at Laurier this year. Due to the fact that it is the end of the year and I am handing the club off to the next president, I gave her the task of meeting up with a potential sponsor while I was gone for the trip in March. This potential sponsor is a business-owner who came from China. When the president-elect arrived at the “meeting” that she set up with the business-owner, she was prepared with a contract in hand, hoping to solidify some details of the partnership. However, when she arrived at the meeting venue, she realized that the owner had invited her to a hotpot-style party with a lot of his friends. As she was not expecting this and had not allocated enough time to sit down for a nice meal and to chat, she left after telling him that they should set up another meeting later on to discuss setting up a contract. To her, the owner smiled and said that it was fine. However, we later found out that he was actually very upset because he had wanted to become acquainted first (as per Chinese business norms) by having a meal and introducing the president-elect to his friends. By her leaving without staying, he felt disrespected and he lost “face”. This is exactly the type of difference in business practices that we have been learning in the international business concentration. it just goes to show that you need to have an international mindset at all timeseven when you have not left the country. The business owner did not communicate his intensions clearly as having a business meeting “party” is not something Canadians are used to and the president-elect could have handled the situation better to help him not lose face.

Ultimately it was a lack of knowledge of one another’s cultural norms that caused this misunderstanding; I am glad to have been able to learn about this in our class as it helped in diffusing the anger the owner had towards us as we explained our position later on.

(originally written in April 2016)

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