I see a need for U.S. students and professionals to better understand China for U.S.- China relations to evolve. I want to use my experience to encourage future exchanges and opportunities.
Nearly a decade ago, Michael Popp ’08 looked to China’s burgeoning economy to chart his future. “I went to China to get a piece of the prosperity I learned about in economics classes,” he says. “I love the country and am a huge proponent of China.”
Popp secured a tourist visa, then a work visa to teach English at Chenggong College in east-central China. Shortly after arriving, Popp met a businessman who directed him to jobs at wood-veneer and hardwood-flooring companies.
“It’s not unusual to transition from studying Chinese to finding a job, and from teaching English to finding a job in another industry,” says Popp.
Being from Pennsylvania, which Popp claims has some of the best hardwood in the world, “I connected with Pennsylvania business owners to source wood,” he says.
Popp relocated to Nachu, in southeast China, home to more than 200 hardwoodflooring companies, to become an independent lumber contractor.
He returned to the United States in 2015 to work at a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. In January, he leveraged his China connections to launch Pacific Compass LLC, a Lewisburg-based education and cross-cultural consulting company that arranges exchanges among high school and college students, as well as businesspeople in the U.S. and China.
His goal is to further cultural awareness by offering international travel and the opportunity to network, he says.
Popp cites the increasing number of Chinese students who come to the U.S. every year and the need for varied experiences. He recently organized a trip for agricultural professionals from the U.S. to southeastern China, which included a tour of the tea and silk industry in Northern Zhejiang province, a meeting with government officials to better understand the nature of local agriculture, and tours of Shanghai and Hangzhou.
This summer, he’s establishing a training center in China to provide international language and cultural training for the growing number of American students and businesspeople who venture to China.
“I see a need for U.S. students and professionals to better understand China for U.S.- China relations to evolve,” says Popp. “I want to use my experience to encourage future exchanges and opportunities.”