Blogging the latest tech news from China, building a web site for a high-end food company, or doing research for a branding company, students in the Beijing Ursinus Study Abroad program are part of the country’s developing technology. At the same time they are biking the Xi’an city wall, climbing the Great Wall, walking the Forbidden City and spending the night in a yurt on the Mongolian desert.
The first Ursinus in Beijing Semester was led by Hugh Clark, professor of History and East Asian Studies and a specialist in middle period Chinese history (8th – 14th centuries). The group studied Chinese language, participated in internships, and experienced the history of the 700-year-old capital from late August to early December. The seven participants represent majors from East Asian Studies, History, Business and Economics, Exercise and Sports Science and Biology. The Beijing program is in partnership with CAPA International Education www.capa.org.
One student was awarded “The Beijing Municipal Government Scholarship,” which is awarded to outstanding students on formal courses at Beijing universities. Ursinus student Deborh Choi of Lansdale, Pa., (pictured, right) took third prize in “The Beijing Municipal Government Scholarship”, for her performance in the Mid-exam of the CNU Mandarin program. Three Ursinus students took this course in Beijing.
Most of the students had some prior experience with Chinese language either at Ursinus or elsewhere, but since arriving in China all have immersed themselves in the language and culture. Whatever their fluency, the program will make an impression, says its leader. “From the famous terracotta soldiers of the First Emperor in Xi’an to guest lecturers on art and architecture in Beijing, they have been to places and met people they will never forget,” says Clark. .
“They have learned which vendors make the best Chinese egg sandwiches (a breakfast staple, and only 50 cents!), how to navigate local buses and subways (a transportation must), and where to go to find everything from Mexican food to movies to good bargains on clothes,” says Clark, who teaches the course, “Beijing as Text.”
Students work at internships at local companies where the language is Mandarin Chinese or English. Colin Hart: from Idaho Falls, Idaho, writes that he is interning at the Great Wall Club (www.greatwallclub.com ), writing articles for its tech blog, mobisights.com <http://www.mobisights.com/author/colin>. “It involves a lot of research, since I have to understand general trends in the Chinese mobile internet market and startup market,” he writes from Beijing. “Specifically, I have to write five short articles everyday for their blog. I’m also expected to write several full articles as story ideas come up.” He adds that he recently wrote an article about the mobile application game Angry Birds for which he was able to interview two developers with the company,” which was a really great experience and fun as well.” Hart adds that he is helping to research the Korean mobile market, in addition to basic data entry and editing emails written by non-English speakers.
Craig Elliott, from New Braintree, Mass, is interning with Vandergeeten, a company which distributes high-end food and beverages products such as Belgian Beer, chocolates, water, and ice cream. He has been helping to develop the company’s website by reformatting the layout and loading products, and is looking forward to researching and presenting the products at conventions and festivals.
Also working in a tech internship is Julianna Lepore, of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., interning at Papaya Mobile which is an open mobile social network for Android focused on casual gaming and virtual currency. Papaya is based in Beijing but has an office in London and San Francisco. “They are a young and rapidly expanding company, which makes this a very cool perspective–observing a developing company,” she writes. “Besides learning about how their software works, what they offer their users, and what they plan to develop, I edit the company’s blog as well as other important documents like developer’s manuals or presentations. I also do a lot of data entry to make items such as screenshots and game descriptions readily available to other employees.” A bonus is practicing her Chinese with her co-workers.
Annie Li, of Philadelphia, Pa., is with Schwann, an advertising and branding company which assists companies with logos, web designs, icons, concepts and creative branding ideas. She is in the marketing and advertising sector. “Schwann now has more Chinese clients and potential Chinese clients,” she writes. “Currently my job is to do research for these potential clients. The research that I do can vary from finding references or formulating ideas for the clients.” She is also spending time learning how the company functions, by attending meetings and joining discussions.
Clark says the group is pleased to set the standard for future Ursinus-in-Beijing semesters. “For everyone it has been the opportunity of a lifetime.” — W.G.