By Albert Leung, Staff Writer

For many college students, summer vacation is a time to drop all the books and enjoy some fun in the sun. But for one Peking University undergrad, this summer took her across the globe from her native China to the small city of Lake Elmo, Minn.

Through an exchange program offered by the International Exchange of North America (IENA), 23-year-old college student Aygul Jilil spent eight weeks in Minnesota where she helped two local companies expand into the Chinese market.

Once learning of this opportunity from the U.S.-China Business Connection Group (UCBC) a year ago while at Peking University, Jilil was immediately excited of the prospect of gaining worldly and professional experience at an American company. She submitted her application in the spring of 2008 but thought she was not accepted because she received no response. Unexpectedly, she received a phone call this past May from local business owner Patrick Dean with an offer to come to Minnesota for the summer.

“At first I didn't know he was asking for me so I asked him to describe to me who he was looking for and I'd help him locate that individual,” Jilil said. “Then I realized that he was reading off of my resume and finally realized that it was referring to the program I applied for last year.”

The college undergraduate was offered the chance to work in Minnesota for companies Trench N' Edge, a manufacturer of irrigation and landscape trenchers, and retaining wall producer and installer Stonewall Select. Both companies are owned by Patrick and his wife Debbie. A few weeks after receiving the offer, Jilil was packed and bound for the Midwest for the first time where she was to work for and stay with Patrick Dean and his family.

“I had never been to or heard of Minnesota before this opportunity,” Jilil said. “My supervisor at Daimler Chrysler, where I was interning, had attended the U of M, though. She told me what to expect and described what Minnesota is like.”

Jilil, who is majoring in advertising and economics, used her degree teachings and language skills to translate installation manuals, brochures and Web sites for both companies. She also researched potential partner companies in China for Trench N' Edge and Stonewall Select, as well as uploaded company instructional videos onto Chinese sites similar to YouTube.

“I've enjoyed my life here,” Jilil said. “I am lucky to be in Minnesota where it is beautiful and where I can help [Trench N' Edge and Stonewall Select] go into Chinese markets.”

“It has been a quick eight weeks since she arrived. She has helped us gain a lot of headway into the Chinese market through her hard work,” Patrick Dean said.

Minnesota is Jilil's second international internship experience. In the summer of 2008, she interned in New Zealand for three months. Before returning to China from Minnesota, Jilil is visiting a number of colleges on the east coast while weighing her options after graduation. She hopes to either find full-time employment or to attend graduate school.

Trench N' Edge and Stonewall Select have been selling their solutions to countries including Taiwan and Japan as early as 1994.

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