UAB students to gain first-hand knowledge of an economic giant

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A dozen UAB students are packing their bags as they prepare to head for China next month. It's part of an ongoing effort giving Alabama companies an advantage in the world's fastest-growing economy.

China does $1 billion dollars worth of business with the state of Alabama every year.

In a tough job market, students with experience of the Chinese marketplace makes a valuable commodity.

Beyond learning how to spot counterfeit Chinese money and safe nightlife spots, the students are learning how doing business in China can be much different than in the states.

"In China, we like to say we become friends first, and then we do business," said K.C. Pang, the UAB business professor leading the trip. "Here, it's the other way around. We are a little bit more short-term, we want to make money tomorrow. Our system is "let's do business first, then we become friends later."

Pang leads a trip every summer that's aimed at giving these students valuable experience in what Chinese companies are looking for when they do business in Alabama. This experience be handy when they return to a tough job market.

"Just to have this on my resume that I lived in China for 30 days is extremely marketable, especially in the world today, the economy's going across borders, and just to have this experience will be extremely marketable for me," said Meredith Edmonds, one of the students going on the trip.

"Makes me extremely more marketable because I can say I've got international experience," said fellow traveler John Kier. "This is not something that everybody has."

For Pang, it's not just a resume-stuffer. This trip is also about staying competitive with an economic giant.

"They know so much about the U.S. They know our political system, they know our economy, they know how our culture is, they know our business environment, on the other hand our students don't know that much about China. And China is our biggest competitor in terms of economy. And think about that...they know about us, but we don't know about them. How are we going to compete with them in the global economy?"

The UAB party leaves for China on Thursday and as part of their visit they'll tour the McWane Cast Iron Pipe factory in China.

The students will blog and post pictures while in China.

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