American University of Beirut student Rami spent the first 13 years of his life in Saudi Arabia. University of Michigan student Janavi, the daughter of Indian immigrants, grew up in Tennessee and Michigan before moving across the world with her family to Shanghai, China. As a result of their international upbringings, they both thought they would be comfortable in a course like this. However, both Rami and Janavi experienced some welcome surprises when participating in William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan’s (WDI) Business & Culture (B&C).
In the latest cohort of the B&C program, Rami and Janavi shared a similar experience: living in a different country for many years, immersed in different cultures, and thinking they’d be comfortable in a program like this. Janavi lived in China from 2009-2013, completing fourth through eighth grades in Shanghai. While living there, she attended an international school during fourth grade — where she interacted with students from around the world — and a national school during fifth through eighth grade where she had the opportunity to learn Mandarin and about Chinese culture. During his time in Saudi Arabia, Rami met a lot of people from different countries and was immersed in an international academic environment. Afterwards, he and his family moved to Lebanon where they currently reside.
Despite spending years in various international education settings, Rami and Janavi found B&C to be unlike any of their previous experiences. “I thought the course would be like being back in school in Saudi Arabia. But it was not entirely like that. There’s active team building efforts and you have to actively interpret each other’s cultures. Beforehand, I did not know this would be the case. We had to integrate culture into how we work,” said Rami, who is majoring in business with a concentration in business information and decision systems.
The B&C program focuses on how culture influences a community, society, and business, as well as increasing participants’ cultural intelligence. The program has attracted students from diverse backgrounds who come to the program with their own distinct views about culture. Rami and Janavi both joined the B&C program this past spring semester where they connected virtually with students from Egypt, Lebanon, Libya and the U.S., working on cross-cultural teams and on an international consulting project.