[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Students abroad are acting ambassadorsOver the past few years, an increasing number of companies have developed PR programs that focus on value creation for customers, especially future customers such as college students. Such programs fully or partly sponsor college students on experiential trips and overseas research programs during the school break. With a general trend toward globalization, such PR programs that can act as a gateway to globalization for college students have not only enhanced sponsoring companies’ images but have also been very popular among students.
However, students should bear in mind that, although the trips are free, they still must responsibly behave as “student ambassadors” who represent the company they are sponsored by, the school they attend and the country they live in. As one of several hundred college students who went on an experiential trip this summer to Mongolia, hosted by one of Korea’s newspaper companies and sponsored by several other companies, here are some of the behavior I felt that “student ambassadors” should avoid.
These days, there is no question about the fact that a digital camera is a must-have item and the greatest tool for recalling our emotional experiences as we travel. However, focusing too much on taking photos will make us look like mindless people who have no respect for other cultures. Mongols stared angrily as a few Korean students in my group talked loudly and tried to find the best poses for their pictures at sacred places, such as on top of an altar and near a historic stone tower.
Moreover, even if the accommodation, food or weather at our destination does not suit us, it does not benefit us to complain. As a matter of fact, there should be no complaints at all because experiencing new and different environments is the purpose of these experiential trips. We should not try to change the environment we are in but let the new environment change us.
Last but not least, for “student ambassadors,” a well-informed and professional standard of behavior and manners is necessary if official meetings with local people produce good results in the future. The people we meet through the program could be our future business partners, clients or even long-term friends. Therefore, before we meet them, we should get to know about them in advance by doing some research.
During the actual meeting, we should be able to present ourselves as confident, flexible and proactive people who are or will be assets to the company, the school and the country we are representing.
To maintain these relationships, we should not just stop at exchanging contact addresses but also keep in touch. Also, a small gift that shows where we are from, or that can make these people retain good memories of us, is always helpful to make ourselves remembered a little longer.
* The writer is the editor of The Ewha Voice, the English newspaper of Ewha Womans University.
by Kim Na-hyun