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Journalism students gain global career experience in China

This summer, a group of students from the P.I. Reed School of Journalism set out for adventure halfway around the globe. They prepared throughout the spring semester with language classes and lessons on culture. But after almost a month abroad, the consensus was you can never truly be prepared for everything China has to offer.

A group of students from the P.I. Reed School of Journalism set out for adventure halfway around the globe

In short, “It was amazing!” according to Chelsea Sams, an advertising senior from Parkersburg, W.Va.

Harrison/Omnicom Visiting Professor Jim Ebel led the exchange trip, which was part of an expanding relationship between the School of Journalism (SOJ) and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.

The month-long trip gave SOJ students the opportunity to study alongside Chinese students in a course entitled, “Frame, Fracture, Focus, Create, Campaign: Five steps to building a brand,” taught by Ebel at GDUFS. They also participated in internships at Chinese corporations where they learned about marketing and branding practices in Asia.Frame, Fracture, Focus, Create, Campaign: Five steps to building a brand

Sams says the opportunity to be part of the trip was initially offered to a select group of Ebel’s students in fall 2012. Although she was hesitant at first, she asked herself, “When am I ever going to have this chance again?”

During the spring semester, the students took preparatory language and culture classes taught by Chinese graduate students at WVU.

“They told us, ‘Remember, China is a completely different place from the U.S.,’ and they were right,” said Sams.

While in China, Sams interned with four other IMC students for a company called Writing & Reading, which provides advertisements for a Chinese company similar to Amazon.com. The WVU team was tasked with attracting traffic to the website by using a popular Chinese online card game in which players could earn points to redeem for products.

Jordan O’Brian, an advertising junior from Damascus, Md., worked with another WVU team for Bawell Health, an alternative medicine supplier. Bawell executives were interested in American students’ insights on how to market their products to the United States.

Ebel says this type of educational experience gives students a new perspective, which can have tremendous benefits.

“These students now have a real advantage over their peers when entering the market upon graduation,” he said. “The integrated marketing communications world is global, and emerging markets are where many IMC organizations expect to generate growth and expand. The next generation of IMC leaders will be ones who are globally focused. The students who participated in this exchange have a head start.”

In addition to learning first-hand about Chinese corporate culture, students were fully immersed in everyday living in China. This, too, makes them stronger and more experienced, says Ebel.

“From navigating the cultural nuances of Chinese business and getting to work on time on a public transit system to collaborating with their Chinese peers and experiencing new sights, sounds and unusual foods, they all were profoundly changed,” said Ebel.

Sams and O’Brian

The group also managed to squeeze in some sightseeing before heading back to the United States. After completing their short internships, they took a bullet train to Beijing and, from there, trekked to the Great Wall.

“It was awe-inspiring,” O’Brian said. “I was amazed.”

But, Ebel says, this part of the trip was about more than sightseeing.

“Their personal brand narrative has more depth and breadth because they didn’t just see China, they experienced life and business there,” said Ebel. “That translates to greater confidence, and it will help insure that they become leaders – with great jobs – upon graduation.”

The faculty-led summer program is an expansion of the original memorandum of understanding between WVU and GDUFS signed in 2011. The agreement also includes a student-exchange program, giving SOJ students the opportunity to study alongside their Chinese peers at Guangdong University’s School of Journalism and Communication. In exchange, students from China can study at WVU’s School of Journalism.

SOJ participantsIn addition to Sams and O’Brian, other SOJ participants included Josh Bryant-Gainer of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.; Jihyung Lee of Morgantown, W.Va.; Yijia Wang of Beijing, China; Scott Claggett of Salisbury, Md.; Julia Swindells of Rockville, Md.; Lindsey Lambert of Bluefield, W.Va.; and Lauren Nickle of Elkton, Md. Two other WVU students also participated: marketing student Kelsey Purcell from Spotsylvania, Va., and art student Jenna Britton of Flushing, Ohio.

You can view the official release at WVU Today.