Two Weeks in America

Spring 2015

If you are taking a crash course in American culture, deconstructing “have a nice day” is not a bad place to start. For three graduate students from China, anyway, the expression was puzzling and funny, and ultimately rendered a tiny glimpse into the American psyche.

“People in China don’t say this,” said Dai (Jimmy) Fengnian. “The first time I heard this, I said, ‘Thank you.’ Then I realized that wasn’t right, and gradually I found out that you’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, you, too. Have a nice day.’”

Fengnian and classmates Sun (Lorraine) Menghan and Xu (Yoyo) Tianyue laughed over both the expression and their reaction. This was the first time they had visited the U.S., and they were finding a lot of things puzzling, which was the point of their visit.

They and 32 classmates had arrived on campus on Jan. 28 from Tsinghua University PBC School of Finance, a top-ranked school in Beijing. They participated in a new two-week program offered by the Mendoza College of Business in coordination with Notre Dame International (NDI) that was intended to give them insight into American business practices and capital markets.

The PBC School of Finance was founded in 2012 as a joint venture between Tsinghua University and the People’s Bank of China. Its mission is to promote excellence in the finance indus- try through academic excellence and cutting-edge research. The school offers three master’s degree programs, as well as a Ph.D. in Finance and Executive Education. Tsinghua University is one of the top two universities in China and is currently ranked No. 49 worldwide by Times Higher Education.

The students spent long days in classrooms in the Stayer Center for Executive Education, learning from Mendoza instructors about markets and trading, entrepreneurship and human rights. They also had the opportunity to experience a bit of student life — shopping, touring Chicago and attending basketball and hockey games.

Beyond their remarks about some of the idiosyncrasies of American life — the casual dress, the intense interest in working out, the general openness and friendliness of students, the food — the students had a lively intelligence about China’s emergence as an economic power. All three planned careers in finance, and were thoughtfully comparing the differences between the U.S. and Chinese business climates.

Entrepreneurship, for example, is likely to take the form of improving on an existing idea or venture, said Fengnian, like Uber. American entrepreneurs are more likely to create something entirely new.

While they were optimistic about China’s economic future and the potential for increasing partnerships with the U.S., they were also realistic about the challenges ahead for two such disparate world powers.

“Our partnership with Tsinghua provides a great opportunity to mutually expand our understanding of each other’s culture and busi- ness knowledge,” said Mendoza Dean Roger D. Huang, who visited Tsinghua in March 2013. “As we all know, business is global. As a college of business, it’s a vital part of our mission to not only educate our students to understand this perspective, but also to facilitate the sharing of knowledge with students from other countries.”

Jonathan Noble, NDI’s assistant provost for international- ization and director of Notre Dame’s Beijing Global Gateway, facilitated the agreement and has fostered the growing relationship between the universities for a number of years.

“The Beijing Global Gateway continues to develop a portfolio of academic programs in China in partnership with important universities like Tsinghua,” Noble said. “These programs aim to enhance opportunities for academic exchange and mutual understanding for Notre Dame students in China, as well as for Tsinghua students on the Notre Dame campus — and with the Notre Dame community.”