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LInC Introduces First-Year Students to a World of Best Practices for International Commerce

LInC Introduces First-Year Students to a World of Best Practices for International Commerce

The immersive education experience placed cultural understanding at the forefront as students met with business leaders overseas.

LInC students meets with a Japanese business executive at Kikkoman headquarters in Tokyo

In Tokyo, LInC students met with business executives and experienced Japanese culture.
[USC Photo / Ella Russo]

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A transformative experience makes a world of difference —especially if you’re traversing time zones and continents on an educational adventure.

Rising sophomore Ella Russo ’27 had not yet considered international business as a career choice, but her experience in LInC, LEARNING ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COMMERCE (BUAD 104), has opened her eyes to new possibilities.

“As someone who is unsure about what specific fields of business I’m interested in, I thought it would be a good class for me to expand my knowledge and still learn more about the many different aspects of business,” Russo said.

Housed within Marshall’s Global Programs and Partnerships, the LInC course provides first-year students experiential learning (classroom instruction followed by field study) to broaden their global competence and appreciation for how business is conducted overseas.

Students learn major themes within international business while also taking a deep dive into a single country’s history and economics to prepare them for the centerpiece of the course: a nine-day jam-packed tour providing students the opportunity to apply and witness what they studied about the country’s business and cultural environment.

Russo was excited to learn about any of the five destinations offered during the spring semester (Dubai, Madrid, Seoul, Singapore, and Toyko), but she ranked Japan high on her list. “I didn’t know anything about Tokyo, but I felt very prepared by the time I got there,” she added.

Between May 11–21, 2024, Russo and her classmates met with business leaders at some of Japan’s most successful global brands including Nissan, Kikkoman, and Panasonic. They also visited Sophia University and new ventures like Leaf Factory, which is pioneering vertical hydroponics.

Understanding the culture of the industry has a direct impact on how businesses operate. 

— Courtney Brunious

Assistant Professor of Clinical Management and Organization / LInC Instructor

“Actually getting on the trip and interacting with the executives is such a valuable piece of educational experience,” remarked COURTNEY BRUNIOUS, assistant professor of clinical management and organization. “I just think it’s interesting to see how various countries approach business differently.”

Brunious led the BUAD 104 class and its trip to Tokyo, a major global hub of business and finance. During class sessions, students learned how business context and country culture impacts practices, functions, industries, and innovation.

“Ultimately, it’s about understanding how business doesn’t just operate the way you see it here in the U.S.,” Brunious explained. “Business in Europe, business in the Middle East, business in Asia — there are different things that you need to understand in order to be successful.”

Focusing on international business, the course stresses cultural immersion and global business insights as well as learning acceptable behaviors and business etiquette. For Japan, students learned the significance of bowing (and how to bow!), as well as the critical role respect plays in the culture and its relation to conducting business.

“My biggest takeaway that I’ll implement going forward was that respect and politeness goes a long way,” Russo reflected. “In my experiences in Tokyo, the people were very polite and respectful to me, so I’ll continue to show others throughout my time in Marshall and my future career the same courtesy that they showed me.”

From fashion to government to sports entertainment, students studied insights into local customs, such as not talking on the subway to respect other’s quiet time and pronouncing common phrases such as arigatou gozaimasu (thank you).

As part of their research, students created briefing reports on each company they met with, so each student could be well-versed prior to the meetings.

The business meetings in Tokyo generally focused on marketing strategies and operational efficiency at the companies. LInC students gained a clearer perspective on Japan’s role in global business innovation, challenging their preconceptions.

Brunious, Russo, and the rest of the participants also recognized quickly that the needs of the consumer informs how businesses operate in Japan.

“It was very interesting to be able to witness it throughout the trip, when on company visits, and also out and about to see it first-hand,” explained Russo. “Everything was marketed in ‘kawai’ (cute) culture, which is just one of their marketing strategies as well as the scarcity business model, which is very focused on limited-edition things.”

Brunious and his class gained another valuable perspective by identifying the different strategies employed by Japanese businesses versus American companies.

“American companies are focused on ‘What is your specialty? Where can you separate yourself out from your competition?” Brunious explained. “In Japan, you’ll see businesses that operate in multiple different verticals and multiple different industries, despite there not really being a nexus between one or the other.”

Japanese leaders see new business ventures as an opportunity for them to expand into a new industry, according to the professor.

“Companies understand that it’s going to take some time for them to learn how it works, but they have trust in their ability to get up to speed over time,” Brunious added.

Throughout an experience filled with new discoveries and selfie moments, Russo walked away with an enlightened perspective about her future self and career interests, as well as a deeper appreciation of our global differences.