Recently, Stephen F. Austin State University students in the Rusche College of Business traveled more than 8,000 miles to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, for an international study abroad experience through the university’s Wall-to-Wall Business travel program.
For 11 days, 25 SFA students enrolled in MGT 470: Hong Kong Business and Culture: Where East Meets West, visited various companies, historical landmarks and dined like the locals.
Drs. Mikhail Kouliavtsev, chair of SFA’s Department of Economics and Finance, and Matt Lindsey, associate professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and International Business, facilitated the trip.
“International experiences are very important for our students. Experiences like this often reshape the student’s view of the world,” Lindsey said.
The group visited many Hong Kong markets where capitalism is on full display such as the Sham Shum Po District Golden Computer Center and electronics markets, clothing markets and many street markets, including Stanley Market and the Temple Street Night Market.
Students also attended a presentation by Dr. Forrest Yang, a marketing professor at the City University of Hong Kong, who highlighted the importance of building relationships to conduct business, as well as the tax-free port and low-tax structure, which made Hong Kong a key business location for multiple companies.
“Going to Hong Kong made it clear the key to doing business in that region is understanding the culture. In our view of the world, laws shape how we do business. In China, the relationships you have with your business partners trump everything,” Lindsey said. “We also realized our world is much larger than the region we grew up in and that it is possible to work internationally in a location like Hong Kong.”
For many SFA students like Johnathan Liker, a senior management major from Center, this was their first time visiting a country outside the United States.
“What surprised me the most was being a foreigner and learning how to navigate in a different country,” Liker said.
Likewise, Samuel Johnson, an SFA graduate student in the Master of Business Administration program, said this trip opened his eyes to new career opportunities.
“It was an eye-opening experience and made me look at my options,” Johnson said. “I feel more comfortable with the idea of working abroad or venturing out to other places I didn’t consider before.”
Students toured the first microbrewery in Hong Kong, Young Master Microbrewery, and witnessed the production process and discussed product marketing. Additionally, students visited the Tse Sui Luen Jewelry factory, where they watched skilled craftsmen construct custom jewelry.
“I learned there was more behind-the-scenes work for a product than what I thought,” said Braxton Berthot, junior general business major from Douglass. “To see the jewelers cleaning and cutting the stones to perfection so they could be sold was very cool.”
In a backstage tour of the Cantonese Opera, students met with the owner and music director who promotes and preserves the ancient art form.
The group also visited Victoria Peak, which has the highest property values in the world, rode the historic Star Ferry, ate a traditional Chinese dinner at the Jumbo floating restaurant in the Aberdeen Harbor, saw Giant Buddha and visited many temples.
“We were exposed to a more diverse culture than we typically would be in East Texas,” Liker said. “Experiencing this diversity and interacting with a variety of people allowed me to understand how this experience could relate in an international business environment. Knowledge of cultural differences will allow me to establish a connection with a client while meeting organizational goals.”
To help gain a firsthand example of a U.S. company adapting to a different market, the students visited Disney Hong Kong.
“It was interesting to see key attractions like the Haunted Mansion rebranded as the Mystic Manor due to cultural issues about ghosts,” Lindsey said. “Other than seeing squid jerky at concession stands and a variety of different foods, it was easy to forget we were in Hong Kong while at the park.”
Another stop during the trip was Macau, a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong. Here, students went to the top of the 1,109-foot Macau Tower.
“Macau is the Las Vegas of the Far East and caters to the very wealthy in China,” Lindsey said. “It became obvious that even the top 1 percent of a country of 1.3 billion can provide a huge target market.”
Outside Hong Kong, SFA students traveled to Tai O Fishing Village on the Lantau Island, where people live in stilt houses, and then to Shenzhen, China — one of China’s largest cities.