Seventeen Auburn College of Business students -- including 15 seeking MBAs -- visited South Korea the week of March 3 and got the opportunity to appreciate the business world and the way of life on foreign soil.
The students, led by Auburn associate professor of finance Beverly Marshall, the Executive Director of Global Initiatives, and associate professor of accounting Kimberly Key, spent time at BMW-Korea, muffler manufacturing giant Sejong Industrial Company, Dongwoo Fine-Chem Company, Busan Port Authority, the Korean Stock Exchange, the historical city of Gyeong-ju, and a number of other cultural sights in Seoul.
Students making the trip were Judith Bailey, Blake Dorris, Rachel Farneti, Matt Hersel, George Klein, Thomas Laming, Stephen Love, Griffin McNeill, Casey Mikula, Stephen Salanitri, R. Alex Stevenson, Morgan Stewart, David Thompson, Ryan Whaley, Keith White, Lucy Seigel and Courtney Mueller.
“It allowed our students the opportunity to go someplace they might not have the opportunity to travel to on their own. It gave students a chance to get outside of their own box and learn about the culture, learn about Korean food and interact with the people of Korea,” said Marshall, who was visiting the nation for the first time. Key said “The students had no fear of Seoul or getting around. They were very busy and didn’t sleep much.”
Key, who actually taught there for 12 months at the University of Ulsan, said “It’s real different for everyone seeing Korean letters all over the place instead of our own alphabet. It’s foreign, but it’s so modern at the same time.”
While in Seoul, the students visited with city officials and got a taste of the city’s sustainability and energy-efficient initiatives. They also met with U.S. Embassy officials who discussed doing business in South Korea and their efforts to help U.S. businesses enter the market. “Koreans set targets, measure things and tend to meet their goals,” Key said. “It’s a collectivism culture. Once they are committed to things, they make them happen. Koreans are very fast.”
Auburn students also spent time with representatives from Dongwoo Fine Chemical – which partners with electronics giant Samsung. Dongwoo designs chemicals used in a variety of touch-screen equipment.
South Korean auto giants KIA and Hyundai were not on the agenda. Instead, German automaker BMW was.
“We learned how they had to adapt to the Korean culture and how they were successful,” Marshall said.
One trip was not business in nature. Marshall said five students went with her on an optional tour with the USO to the DMZ, the neutral zone between rivals North and South Korea.
“It’s interesting to see what the people in Korea live with every day,” said Marshall.
Key explained the zone is a “joint security area” and that North and South Korea share conference room buildings on the border painted United Nations blue.
“There, you feel the seriousness of it,” she said. “But it’s what they do every day.”
Auburn is one of several American universities that partners in an exchange program with the University of Ulsan. Located in Ulsan, South Korea, the university hosted the Auburn students – who socialized with their South Korean student colleagues and spent time dining together.
“We have more than a dozen exchange agreements where our students can go to another university, but pay our tuition, and their students can come here and pay their tuition,” Marshall said. After her experience in South Korea, Key said “We’re trying to develop that relationship even more. The experience is rich for one person who goes, but not getting spread too far. It’s a common model at universities. There is potential to do more.”