Study Abroad is a Life-changing Experience



Ashley Copple


Senior Marketing Major


Ashley Copple is a senior Marketing Major at Eastern Illinois University. She currently works as a senior tele-counselor and has otherwise been involved as a residence hall desk assistant and campus tour guide. In the summer of 2012, Ashley was allowed to take a tour of her own throughout China by completing a study abroad course at EIU.

Ashley wanted to visit a country that was far different from the United States, so she decided to enroll in the School of Business faculty-led trip to China, led by Dr. Marko Grünhagen, Lumpkin Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship.  On the trip, the students traveled to Beijing, Zhuhai, Macau, and Hong Kong. Ashley and the other students visited both Chinese and American companies, attended lectures, and experienced cultures very different from their own. Other highlights of the trip included dinner with ADM executives, a meeting with representatives from Caterpillar, and visits to a fashion clothing company and to a fish farm. These experiences provided a look into the various companies and industries operating in China. Lectures presented by Chinese professors also provided insight into the cultural differences in education.

Ashley says, “China presented me with experiences that I could never fully understand by simply reading a textbook.” She also notes that the currency rate made things very inexpensive, which appealed to her cost-conscious side. Ashley also finds it interesting that while Americans are sleeping, the Chinese are up and working and vice versa. In essence, “the world can be productive at all times.” She speaks of the cultural differences in the business setting such as the way the Chinese greet each other and how business cards are used. For instance, in China when presented with a business card one must immediately take time to examine it and perhaps ask questions before putting it away, Ashley says.

In addition to the learning, Ashley says the trip was extremely fun, since there were many opportunities for seeing the sights. She visited The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Buddha Statue.  Ashley says, “My favorite part of the trip was taking the jump of a lifetime, bungee jumping off of the tallest tower in the world in Macau.”

Overall, Ashley says the trip transformed her. She was humbled by seeing how some people lived, and it made her feel more appreciative of what she has as an American: freedom of religion and speech, fresh food, and other things that many take for granted. The experience has also expanded her cultural knowledge and desire to travel the world and see other countries. Lastly, the bonds that she made with the students she traveled with remain strong to this day as she refers to them as “a new family.”

Ashley’s advice to other students points to a quote from Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” She says that students should "keep an open mind to new cultures and their teachings. Document your experiences and reflect on them as you move forward. Don’t miss out, it’s worth every penny. You cannot put a price tag on such experiences."