Mon 31 Mar 2008
A professor and his former students explore what it means to be an expatriate in modern-day China
In late January, Michael Fratantuono, associate professor of international business & management (IB&M), traveled to China to do research on a Chinese pharmaceuticals-supply company. While there, he caught up with two of his former students—Andrew Keller ’06 and Peter Wing ’06—who live and work in Beijing. Wing and Keller, IB&M majors who studied abroad in China and took Mandarin classes on campus, returned to China three months after graduation. According to Keller, they came back because they “invested time and energy in learning the language and recognized there were opportunities here. Pete and I decided we had a great time here and wanted to come back and relive the experience. We signed up for more language courses, which served a practical function—it gave us a visa and a structure to our lives.”
Partially due to their ability to speak English and Chinese fluently, both found jobs. Keller works for Ogilvy Public Relations in the investor relations area. His clients are Chinese companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He tries to get publicity for his clients by arranging interviews with media outlets such as Bloomberg TV or The Wall St. Journal and works to convey a positive image as his clients go public. Keller also is a part-time translator for a Chinese magazine that is similar to The Economist. He says it is “China’s most independent and respected business publication.” Wing works for Global Sources, a business-to-business media company, similar to Alibaba.com, a Chinese company that connects businesses selling products with buyers of the products. Wing promotes Chinese factories and trade companies overseas—trying to convince buyers to place orders with the factories. He writes advertising copy and conducts interviews in Chinese on site to gather statistics on a company. His fluent Chinese skills make him an anomaly—as he converses without a middleman interpreting for him. “It’s cool to be able to talk to a factory manager on my own,” he says.
During dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Beijing, Fratantuono talked with Keller and Wing about what it’s like to be young American expatriates living in China. An edited version of their hourlong conversation appears below:
Michael Fratantuono introduces his guests.
Having Chinese skills helps expatriates find work.
Wing and Keller talk about their social life as Americans in China and discuss some cultural differences between the Chinese and expatriate communities.
The alumni discuss changes in China between the time Keller and Wing studied abroad in 2004 and 2005 and now.
Why Live in China?
Are Keller and Wing in China for the long haul? Peter Wing talks about his family’s opinion of his decision to live in China.
The Dickinson Advantage
Wing explains why he chose Dickinson and what a Dickinson education provides its graduates.
Dickinson Students in China Today
Do Wing and Keller interact with current Dickinson students in China?
What is the hardest part about living in China?
Comparing Expatriate Experiences
Do other young expatriates have experiences similar to Wing’s and Keller’s, which were informed by Dickinson?
The Benefit of Dickinson’s Program
What is the advantage of being in Dickinson’s Beijing program?
Coping with Pollution
“Blue sky days”—the problem of pollution in China.
Air Quality or Lack Thereof
Is there hope for improving the air quality in China permanently, or will it just improve for the Olympics and then revert?
After the Olympics
The Olympics will provide a benchmark for expatriates. Will they stay in China or return to the United States after August?
Human Rights and Censorship
The former students and their professor discuss human rights and Internet censorship in China. Are there different standards for the foreign, versus the domestic, press? Have human rights improved? Do most Chinese care about the blockage to Internet access?
The Dickinson Difference
Wing and Keller compare Dickinson’s Beijing program to other colleges’ programs in China. The Dickinson difference: students are exposed to the real China. The excellent site director makes it a rich and personal experience.
Full Edited Interview
Early this year, Andrew Keller ’06 (center) and friend Peter Wing ’06 posed in front of Beijing’s new central business district with Devi Bengfort (left), girlfriend of Keller. All three live and work in Beijing.
Shortly after conducting the interview with Keller and Wing, Professor Michael Fratantuono and Zhouran Li ’08 visited with employees of Peace Medical Corp., a pharmaceuticals-supply company in Chongqing. Fratantuono and Li are preparing a case study of the business.