Russell Hardin

Major: Economics

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Study Abroad Program: CEI in Beijing Summer

This past summer I spent two months in Beijing studying at Peking University and interning at a company called IQAir. I was a part of the CEI Beijing program, the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, which is a program run through the Entrepreneurship Minor here at Carolina. Each summer the minor sends about fifteen students to Beijing to complete both an internship and a study abroad class. During my time abroad I stayed in dorms with foreign students at Peking University and got to experience all different aspects of campus life.

During the first month of the program, I worked at IQAir during the week, and went sightseeing on the weekends. IQAir-China was founded by CEO Mike Murphy. Seven years ago Mike saw the opportunity to sell high-quality air purifiers in China. IQAir is an international business with headquarters and factories in Switzerland. IQAir-China has a contract and license for the rights to sell these products in China. Every two months Murhpy imports a container of products from Switzerland and resells them in China. His business started in Beijing but has now spread to a few other major cities in China including Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. My internship was focused mainly on sales. I was given the title of Junior Sales Consultant. I made phone calls and emails to businesses in Beijing explaining IQAir products and stirring up interest for the company. I attended meetings and demonstrations the products with sales representatives and potential customers. I also spent time with the CEO learning about his start-up process and about the trials and tribulations of doing business in China.

During the second month of my stay in Beijing, I took a class at Peking University summer school called “Communication, Culture, and Society: The Chinese Way,” and also continued working part-time at my internship. The class covered many topics about Chinese culture including a brief overview of Chinese history and how the communist government came to be today. We studied government censorship and looked at how the government shapes the public opinion of its people. We also learned about differences between Chinese and American societies today. Our professor, Professor Gong, brought invaluable experience to the classroom. He has spent time teaching at the University of Cal-Berkeley and also at Peking University, so he was fully apt to work with students from different cultures and discuss cultural differences. Our class was made up of Chinese, American, Japanese, Chinese-American, and Singaporean students that combined to produce many fascinating discussions about culture.

As a part of the Peking University summer school program I also had the opportunity to visit many of the famous tourist attractions around Beijing. I visited the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and the National Museum of China. Also, during a weekend in June, our UNC group took a train to Xian, the old capital of China, and spent the weekend touring the city and seeing sights that included the Terracotta Warriors Museum.

In today’s world, China is a powerful force that is still emerging and has yet to reach its full potential. For students like myself, it is very important to understand China, what it is, where it came from, and what it can do in the future. Chinese culture is so incredibly foreign that it can’t be grasped in a classroom in the United States. It is something that must be experienced to be understood. My time in China this summer has given me a greater understanding of Chinese culture, how business is done in China, and has better prepared me for the rest of my collegiate and professional careers.