In This Issue: Intercultural Business Communication, International Students, and Experiential Learning. (Focus on Intercultural Communication)

By Cheney, Rebecca S. | Business Communication Quarterly, December 2001 | Go to article overview

In This Issue: Intercultural Business Communication, International Students, and Experiential Learning. (Focus on Intercultural Communication)


Cheney, Rebecca S., Business Communication Quarterly


INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS are essential for businesspersons in today's market. Indeed, because almost all business, whether domestic or international, involves communication with people from different cultural backgrounds, business schools have a responsibility to prepare their students to be effective intercultural communicators. Many business schools have begun to incorporate intercultural communication into their curricula through individual lectures, research projects, semester-long courses, study abroad programs, and other methods (Chaney & Martin, 2000; Davis & Redmann, 1991; Gentry, 1990b; Tung,

Author's Note: I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Donald L. Rubin, University of Georgia, for his assistance with the conceptualization of this article and for his continued support and encouragement. I would like to thank Andre Liebenberg, University of Georgia, for his editorial assistance and for providing additional insight as an international student in the US. I would also like to thank Deborah Valentine, Emory University, Carol Roever, Missouri Western State College, and Lillian H. Chaney, University of Memphis, for their valuable suggestions during the review process.

1997; Wolfe & Keys, 1997; Varner, 2001). Varner (2001) points out that what and how we teach intercultural business communication will depend partly on the resources available to us. One resource for teaching this subject that is often overlooked is the number of international students on campus. Structured interaction between US and international students provides an excellent opportunity for professors to incorporate experiential learning into their instruction, benefiting US business students, international students, and the school as a whole. This article provides a discussion of the relationship between experiential learning and intercultural business communication, a description of structured interaction between US and international students as a type of experiential learning, examples of structured interaction, and the benefits of structured interaction to students and schools.

International Students in the United States

According to the Institute of International Education (IIE) (2000), there were 475,169 international students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs in United States colleges and universities for the 1999/2000 academic year. Over one-fifth of all international students in the US study business and management, making it the most popular field of study for international students by a wide margin (IIE, 2001). Approximately 45 percent of international students on US campuses come from the top ten countries with which the US trades--China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, France, and Singapore (in descending order of enrollment). More than half of these students come from the top five countries with which we trade (IIE, 2000; United States Bureau of the Census Foreign Trade Division, 2001). Given these statistics, it is likely that a number of international students are enrolled in the business school on your campus, perhaps in your own class, from whom US students could learn a great deal. Regardless of international students' field of study or national origin, however, structured interaction offers a valuable opportunity to gain insight into aspects of intercultural business communication.

Intercultural Business Communication and Experiential Learning

Business schools have long included experiential learning in various forms into their curricula (Chaney & Martin, 2000; Gentry, 1990a; Wolfe & Keys, 1997). Gentry (1990a; 1990b) provides a good overview of experiential learning in business education. Although an in-depth discussion of the field of experiential learning is beyond the scope of this column, I would like to provide a brief explanation of the relevance of experiential learning to the teaching of intercultural business communication.

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