Pittenger and the students spent more than six weeks at Providence University in the Wu Chi district of Taichung. The students participating in this trip were Kelly Cadman, a junior hospitality management major from Tallmadge, Ohio; Mary Demerest, a senior marketing major from Sagamore Hills, Ohio; Gustavo Miranda, a senior marketing major from Glendora, Calif.; Candice McAfee, a junior finance major from Mansfield, Ohio; and Dan Tuleta, a business management major from North Olmsted, who graduated from Ashland University in May.
“A key objective of the program is to provide meaningful exposure to an Asian market and culture for Ashland University’s business students,” Pittenger said. “It is a unique opportunity as not many students are likely to travel to Asia on their own and there are no other Ashland University travel abroad programs that focus heavily on Asia.”
Pittenger said Asia has some of fastest growing economies in the world and such international experiences bring to life what students read in textbooks and newspapers.
Pittenger explained that the program involved visiting Taiwanese local enterprises such as Gold-Joint Industry Co., Central Taiwan Technology Park, Windsor Hotel and DSKH – an international distributor of consumer products, including J.M. Smucker Company’s products.
In addition, the students were enrolled in two Providence University classes – Mandarin language and Cross Cultural Business and Management Seminar. Providence University paired the five students with learning partners who were Providence University students interested in improving their English and knowledge of the American Culture.
“The learning partners were the best part of the program. I have made life-long friends and I will travel again next summer to Taiwan to see my learning partner and his friends graduate,” Cadman said. “My learning partner and his friends helped us practice Chinese and took us around town on motorcycles to show places that only locals know about.”
Demerest also was impressed with this part of the program. “They gave me a surprise birthday party with cake and all, and it was one of the best birthday gifts I could have hoped to get,” she said.
During their weekend visits, the students visited Hakka culture, an ethnic group located in Hsin-Chu. “I enjoyed visiting a Hakka house and making the traditional tea from scratch myself,” Miranda said.
He explained that Taiwan has more than a dozen aboriginal tribes and many different ethnic groups, and that “learning about the hunting traditions of the Nantou Tribe and their adaptation to the modern world through sustainable vegetable and fruit gardens was definitely an interesting and unique experience.”
“Night markets were my favorite,” Tuleta said. “The streets come to life from 6 p.m. to mid night and there is hardly room to maneuver. The variety of food is mind boggling and I even tried chicken feet and ice-cream with raw egg in the middle. It was not too bad,” he noted.
Dr. Jeffrey Russell, dean of the Dauch College of Business and Economics, said this program was a great opportunity for Ashland University students to experience urban attractions of the third-largest city in Taiwan, which has a population of one million plus. “Any international experience significantly improves students’ visibility with prospective employers,” he said.
In addition to Taichung, the students visited Taipei, the capital of Taiwan; Kenting National Park and Tainan, a city in the south known for its temples and Dutch fort.
Pittenger said it was very rewarding to witness the students’ individual growth. “If the purpose of college education is to open minds, broaden perspectives and show possibilities that students can’t even imagine, then this trip achieved its objectives beautifully,” she said.
“These students showed significant growth in just six weeks. Some of them were afraid to leave their families behind and travel half way across the world. Now, they can’t wait to go back. They have developed the confidence to travel almost anywhere in the world,” Pittenger continued. “They want to continue learning Mandarin and plan to enroll in the class being offered in the spring on Ashland campus. A few are networking to find jobs with businesses that have offices in Taiwan.”
Pittenger said she hopes that more students will take advantage of this opportunity in summer 2012. She and the students expressed sincerest thanks to Alan and Julie Roth, member of the University Board as well as the Business Advisory Council, who provided generous scholarships to the students to make the six-week trip affordable.
“Dr. Nate Myers, director of International Programs, was my partner in designing this program,” Pittenger said. “Without the logistical support of Global Education Office, especially Rebecca Parillo, such trips can’t take place.”
Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.