International enrollment at DePaul University has steadily increased over the last five years. Nearly 2,500 international students from 110 countries now study at the university. Of this population, 40 percent are enrolled in the Driehaus College of Business, primarily in graduate accountancy and finance programs.
To help these international business students become better acclimated to their academic life and future careers, the school has introduced an innovative course, "Language and Business Culture."
Instructor Christina Gamiño
, who teaches the required class, says it has been instrumental in helping DePaul's international business students gain a greater understanding of how to be successful in the United States, both academically and professionally.
"These are wonderful, hardworking, smart, ambitious students, but they are being thrown into an academic culture that is completely different from what they are used to," says Gamiño. "When you go to a different culture, it requires a whole different set of expectations, and it is part of our responsibility to educate the students on how to best succeed in the classroom and in their careers."
An Immersion into U.S. Academic and Business Culture
The course covers concepts, methods and tools necessary to face the challenges of studying and working in the United States. Students work to improve their skills in oral communication including small talk, as well as practical business writing and delivering concise presentations. Students also learn about the career search process, including how to write an effective résumé and interview successfully for jobs and internships.
"Throughout the course we have cultural immersion assignments, presentations on customs and values, and career planning exercises on topics such as writing resumes or creating elevator pitches," says Gamiño. "Students gain an intercultural competence so that when they go to a new culture, they recognize and respect cultural differences."
Gamiño joined the business school four years ago and developed the course in collaboration with a colleague from her previous role as an instructor from DePaul's International Student Success Program at the English Language Academy (ELA). Drawing inspiration from her ELA and corporate human resources experience, as well as her master's degree in international management, Gamiño's course has proved to be a successful way for students to gain a combination of business acumen and cultural immersion.
Teaching the Language of Success
One of Gamiño's greatest success stories is Fangfang Li, a Master in Accountancy degree candidate who will graduate from DePaul this spring. Li, who came to DePaul from China with a background in law, took Gamiño's course during her first quarter. "I did not have any accounting experience and coming to study in the United States was scary at first," Li says. "I also didn't realize that I was raised in a different culture until I had something to compare it to."
Li settled into her American life and applied for a winter internship during her first quarter at DePaul, but she says her initial interview did not go well. "The first interview with the human resources manager was supposed to be easy," Li recalls. "He was trying to be nice and ask me how I was doing and how my week was, but I wanted to show him I was a professional. I was beyond nervous and every muscle was tense. With every word out of my mouth, I wanted to show I was a good candidate instead of just being myself."
Li did not get that internship, but she learned from her experience and subsequently gained interview expertise through the "Language and Business Culture" course. She took Gamiño's advice and volunteered at several local non-profits, where she practiced small talk. She joined an accounting student group and was elected president.
Career and Alumni Support for International Students
Li also took advantage of the Kellstadt Career Management Center's services to learn more about networking, and she tapped into DePaul's extensive alumni network by connecting with a mentor from DePaul's Alumni Sharing Knowledge program. But, it was Gamiño's class that she credits the most for her future success.
In her second year at DePaul, Li interviewed and was hired for an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago. They extended an offer for full-time employment upon graduation.
Li says she is thankful for the professional communication skills and cultural immersion she experienced in Gamiño's class. "Everything you learn in that class is important because it teaches you how to communicate with people, and communication is key."
The "Language and Business Culture," course is offered in the spring, fall and winter quarters and is available to all international students.
Click here to find out more about international business student admission to DePaul's Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.