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8/10/2017 12:18:00 PM
Chinese radio ads a touch of home for international students at IU Bloomington

Kurt Christian, Herald-Times

There's no abnormal weather phenomenon, mis-directed satellite or pirate radio station that recently popped up in Bloomington. If you're suddenly hearing Chinese over Bloomington's airwaves, it's probably just Flat Steve selling furniture.

Steve Birch, co-owner of the Furniture Exchange, debuted his first in a series of bilingual radio advertisements on Monday to coincide with the last two weeks before students return to Indiana University. The commercial, which features both English and Chinese orators, is set to run five times a day, five days a week until classes at Indiana University begin on Aug. 21. Birch considered a line of bilingual billboards in the past, but this year, he decided to target a growing population with the help of local radio station, B97.

"My marketing ideas are sometimes ... not conventional," said Birch, who is also known for his "Flat Steve" ads. "We have been catering to the student population for the past 20 years, and in the last few years, we noticed the Chinese students are a big part of what we do in the last few weeks before school."

After Birch pitched the idea, an employee at B97 called on a friend to see if she would translate the radio promotion into Mandarin, the standard language of China.

Amanda Zhao, a past international student at Indiana University, came to Bloomington to get her master's degree in counseling and counselor education. Zhao has had experience as both an international student in a new country and as a resource for Chinese students. She has worked at IU as an assistant director of the Career Development Center and taught Chinese at the university while acting as a Chinese mentor and international student orientation leader.

"When I first arrived here, I didn’t know anyone," Zhao said. "I didn’t know how to purchase in the store and what the product ingredients were."

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