Guangzhou, like many tropical cities, looks to be constantly on the verge of being reclaimed by the lush green vegetation growing everywhere. The ride to the campus is beautiful, and only surpassed by the beauty of the campus itself, which combines century old red brick buildings with occasional flashes of modern buildings.
Students and visitors roam everywhere, walking, biking, or on funky one-wheeled electric bikes. I wasn’t the only one taking pictures, and it seemed that the campus was a prime destination for its aesthetics.
The Master in Global Strategic Management classes are held in the ‘MBA Building’, and that’s where I met some of the
students. They had a lot of input about their experience so far – and plenty of questions about what they could expect in ESADE starting in April.
I asked many questions about their life in Virginia and now in China. “In the US we looked to the American students to set things up.”They mentioned that some of the American students hosted a Thanksgiving celebration, and helped in other ways in Virginia…whereas before they came to China:
“Our Chinese classmates gave us a crash course on ‘How to China’ to help cushion our arrival.”
They said that they had a very ‘soft landing’ in China, thanks to their Chinese classmates, who (with typical Chinese hospitality) tried to help them with language and cultural issues – and especially with finding great food!
The students said that for many of them (especially those whose university studies involved large classes with few chances to actively participate), the experience in Virginia was an eye-opener, with an overall focus on soft-skills and class participation. They expected more culture shock in the Chinese classes, which are traditionally very one-sided, but they acknowledged that the Chinese lecturers were putting in a lot of effort to make the classes as participative as possible – but that this, coupled with the two-month stint in China (versus three months in Virginia), meant that they had an intensive and work-filled experience at Lingnan.
“No other programme would have given me the opportunity to host people I barely know at my home.”
Of all the comments, what sticks in my mind was their conviction that the MGSM is the only programme which enables them to spend this year in close quarters with a global cohort – not only during classes, but sharing dorms, walking to and from classes together, and spending holidays in ‘real’ environments with classmates.
‘Rather than “living like a tourist” we are staying with people in their environment’.
By this, they meant that they did not travel together as tourists, but rather stayed with classmates in their hometowns, and took part in local holidays as if they were locals. There was a consensus that this bonding was unique to the programme, and was the best part of the programme. I loved the comment from one of the students, who said that even if classroom participation is encouraged, he felt that ‘out of classroom’ participation (talking about coursework while walking to and from classes and in the dorm) was constant and really added to the experience. Students loved the fact that when they needed something they could just open their doors and knock on a classmate’s door and get some help or company.
The coolest part of the trip was that it just so happened that there was a ‘cultural experience’ planned in which the participants learnt the fundamentals of calligraphy; I was told that there were four such activities planned during their stay at Lingnan, including two food-related events (Chinese food event and a dumpling-making activity). I was impressed how seriously they took the classes – although at first the juxtaposition of teaching a traditional Chinese art to big guys in baseball caps looked like a recipe for goofiness. Pride in the results led to a bit of friendly competition as to whose characters were better – and one satisfied participant put aside his ‘best’ character to give to his mum. The organisers put on traditional Chinese music about halfway through the class, and this seemed to get everyone even more involved!
As I took my leave of the campus, the participants were planning a trip to Shenzhen (the heart of Chinese manufacturing) the next day, and I heard a lot of talk about upcoming visits to Toyota or Honda (half of the class to each factory) for the Operations course.