Student exchange brings global business to life

Updated: 2013-08-09 12:15

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

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 Student exchange brings global business to life

Students from Connecticut and Shanghai participating in a new Junior Achievement business education exchange took a tour of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning. Caroline Berg / China Daily

A visit to the New York Stock Exchange, lunch at the Mercantile Grill in Manhattan's Financial District and then a tour of the Museum of American Finance.

That was the field trip yesterday for a group of 20 Chinese and 20 American students from Shanghai and Connecticut who were on their fourth of five days participating in the Junior Achievement (JA) Southwest New England chapter's first-ever Global Exchange Program.

The program was organized by Beijing-based JA China and Connecticut-based JA of Southwest New England. JA is the world's largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to plan their futures to help them achieve economic success.

"Junior Achievement is an organization that believes young people need to be prepared for the future," said Louis Golden, president of JA of Southwest New England. "What could be more real than bringing students from around the globe to learn about the global economy?"

The program started when students gathered at 8:30 am on Monday at the Yale University campus to commence a weeklong series of lectures, seminars and workshops focused on American and Chinese business, innovation, entrepreneurism, ethics and leadership.

Students listened to Yale faculty and business leaders, as well as guest speakers from the program's sponsor - United Technologies Corporation (UTC). The program also included a visit to a Connecticut farm, a tour of cable sports channel ESPN's corporate headquarters and a team-building exercise in which students created structures in small groups using a marshmallow, uncooked spaghetti, tape and string.

"These students are learning by doing, which is what educators call 'authentic learning,'" Golden said. "We like to say that we inspire and prepare young people to be successful in the global economy, and that's very theoretical until you truly do activities that make it real for students."

The JA programs are delivered by corporate and community volunteers to provide relevant, hands-on experiences to help students from kindergarten to high school gain knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.

JA reaches 4.2 million students per year in more than 120 markets across the US, with an additional 6.5 million students served by operations in 117 other countries worldwide.

"This week has been great," 16-year-old Suda Xu told China Daily. "The American students have been so enthusiastic and friendly."

Xu said a highlight of the week was listening to the array of presentations, particularly one given by the Honest Tea beverage company.

"I think some of their marketing ideas and methods are very appealing," Xu said. "This type of work is something I would like to study more."

One of the American students found out about the program through a speaker who visited her school. Kate Sabo said she was excited by the opportunity to do an exchange with China and was also interested in learning more about business.

"I've just never really gotten any type of experience like this before and I thought it would be a cool thing to try," the Connecticut-based 15-year-old student said. "I do have an interest in China, so this is great."

Sabo said the program inspired her to take Mandarin language classes, which she has been practicing on her new friends from Shanghai.

As of midday Thursday, she said her favorite experience had been visiting the stock exchange.

"I don't know what I want to do in college yet," said the young student. "But with this type of experience, it's something that could change my mind about things."

Although the program ends today, the students will use what they have learned to propose a business idea, which they will work on during the next year. The venture they decide upon will be launched and operated in both the US and China. Then, the 20 Connecticut students will visit Shanghai next summer for 10 days.

(China Daily USA 08/09/2013 page11)