Acing the Interview
Yan Yu '12's cross-cultural communications skills serve her well in the global marketplace
by MaryAlice Bitts Jackson
January 23, 2012
Yan Yu '12 spent a semester in Nagoya, Japan, as part of Dickinson's study-abroad program. The experience not only introduced her to friends from around the world, but also taught her invaluable lessons about effective cross-cultural communication--a skill that helped her find the launch-job of her dreams. "Everyone is looking for good communications skills," she said.
International student Yan Yu ’12 was studying in Nagoya, Japan, when an escalating dispute put her communication skills to the test.
It was fall 2010, and a Chinese fishing boat had collided into two Japanese patrol vessels in the East China sea. Both China and Japan had long claimed the territory as their own, and for several weeks, the nations’ governments locked horns in a standoff. It was a diplomatic minefield, and both governments had trouble navigating it. So imagine the challenges it posed to a young, Chinese guest in a Japanese home.
Fortunately, Yu was up to the task.
Small victory, big gains
Yu, who hails from northeast China, was enrolled in Dickinson’s Nagoya study-abroad program. Every night after dinner, she and her host parents watched news coverage of the unfolding dispute.
From the broadcast, they learned that protests had erupted on the streets in both countries, and that Chinese citizens, it was reported, had set fire to Japanese restaurants. “My host parents [mentioned it], but they didn’t speak about it directly, so I didn’t know exactly what they were thinking,” Yu recalls. She decided to ease the tension by sparking an open, constructive dialogue. Her challenge: to hold this delicate conversation in a foreign language, taking care to speak in a way that was not only clear, but also observed Japan’s intricate rules of etiquette.
It was only a brief conversation. But it was an important victory for Yu, an international business & management major who appreciates the depth of intercultural savvy required to be successful in a global business environment.
The best of both worlds
Yu’s interest in international business developed early. A recipient of the Benjamin Rush Academic Scholarship who holds a double minor in East Asian studies and mathematics, Yu studied English and Chinese in high school and wasn’t sure if she wanted to attend college in Japan or the United States. When she learned about Dickinson’s study-abroad program in Nagoya, she realized she didn’t have to limit her options. “It was the best of both worlds,” she recalls.
At Dickinson, Yu worked as an admissions volunteer and serving as marketing chair for the Asia Social Interest Association. She also devoured coursework in economics, calculus, organizational behavior and global marketing. But it was the cross-cultural dynamic of her education that intrigued her most, and she relished the chance to combine the communications skills she honed each day as an international student with the financial knowledge she gathered in class.
Last year, Yu encountered two prime opportunities to do just that: in the fall, while studying in Japan, and in the spring, while enrolled in the Dickinson in New York program.
Acing the test
Yu assimilated quickly in New York. She took business classes and interned for a wealth-management firm, performing quantitative analysis on 500 stocks. A summer internship at an international financial-services company followed.
“Internships are important, because you [develop] useful skills at a real company,” Yu observes. “No one tells you exactly how to do everything. You have to problem-solve for yourself.”
That self-reliance—and the confidence it yields—served her well when she returned to Carlisle last fall and launched her senior-year job search. On Thanksgiving Day, Yu accepted a financial-analytics position at an international company in Hong Kong—a perfect starting point for a young professional who dreams of someday working on both hemispheres.
According to Yu, it was the intersection of learning experiences—gathered in Carlisle, Nagoya and New York—that have provided her with the skills she needs to succeed in the competitive, international-business arena.
“Everyone is looking for someone with experience who can communicate, and if you have experience abroad and also are an international student in the U.S., it’s really saying something,” Yu explains. “A lot of interviewers asked about the kinds of communications problems I solved in Japan. I had a lot to say.”