Students make Irish business connections

Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 00:00

Chinese students have been coming to Ireland for many years now, but what about when they go back to China?

Returned Chinese students, known as “sea turtles” in Mandarin, retain strong loyalties to the educational establishments in which they studied, and returned Chinese alumni from Irish educational institutions offer a ready-made network and a significant resource in efforts to forge closer business and social links with China.

Degrees from Ireland’s universities are seen as prestigious and an increasing number of middle-class Chinese are going abroad to study in English-speaking countries.

Australia, the US and Britain have been aggressive in marketing their degrees in China, but Irish institutions are also making headway, approaching the market in a more focused way than before.

Shanghai story

Building on these links was the focus of the Inaugural Chinese Irish Returned Alumni networking event at Shanghai’s chic URBN hotel recently.

It was hosted by the Consulate General of Ireland in Shanghai with the support of Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland, and more than 100 Chinese alumni from Irish education institutions met members of the Irish community in Shanghai.

Promoting Irish food was a big part, and Irish chef Siobhán Gough prepared a menu featuring Irish Dublin Bay Prawns, Dubliner Cheese and Kerrygold Butter, as well as Murphy’s Stout and a tipple straddling western and eastern cultures: the Jameson Irish whiskey chamomile tea. “The event provided an excellent opportunity to bring together prominent Irish people based in Shanghai with returned Chinese who call Ireland a ‘home away from home’,” said Bord Bia’s Nick McIlroy.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames delivered a keynote speech at the event.