This last week may have been one of the most remarkable in the history of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, where I am about to complete the first year of my MBA. In this short period of time, two major events took place. First, we had a high-profile visitor on campus: Herman Van Rompuy, former Prime Minister of Belgium and current president of the European Council. Since this university is a joint venture between the government of China and the European Commission, Van Rompuy generated massive attention in both the CEIBS community and the local media. Van Rompuy took time from his tight agenda to address CEIBS faculty, staff, and students on Sino-European economic challenges and opportunities. I regret that he had the chance to stay only an hour with us. As a fellow European utterly worried about the current climate on the Old Continent, I found his talk extremely appealing.
Two days after Van Rompuy’s stopover, CEIBS officially inaugurated the expansion project of its flagship campus in Shanghai, which will nearly double its capacity. An unequivocal sign of the success of the academic institution, this development will, in principle, be destined for hosting executive MBA students. Full-time MBA students will stay in the old facilities. The management is promising that the disruption brought on by construction will be minimal. In a country such as this one, where construction is constant, such a statement must be a relief to prospective students. I haven’t been so lucky, though. I’ve been here less than a year, and I have personally endured more than a dozen lovely construction projects nearby, with their corresponding banging and drilling.
As the icing on the cake, we recently took in the final lecture of the China Economic Reform course, taught by veteran Professor Wu Jinglian. This much-revered, affable man has not only witnessed the history of the opening of the economy of his country, but has also played a very active part in writing it. As an adviser to the government, a reformist, and an advocate of market economy and social justice, he is an idol to the immense majority of the local students—and has, through his books and lectures, also gained the admiration of the international students. I was initially unsure about taking his course, but I have to say now that its contents and the way they were delivered far exceeded my expectations. We were offered a clear, interesting, and multifaceted picture of the past five decades of Chinese history.
PLANNING ONE’S SUMMER
As far as campus life is concerned, things are different in Term Three. A group consulting assignment called the Integrated Strategy Project consumes most of our working time. Students spend half their time on the project and the two courses this term, and follow their own agenda in the other half. Some students have taken on part-time jobs or internships already. Some are focusing on socializing, networking, traveling, and other leisure activities now that they have more time on their hands. Others are busy with the two major student-led events coming up this month at CEIBS: a corporate social responsibility symposium, called the "Being Globally Responsible Conference," and a student competition called INNOVATEChina. Still, one activity is a common denominator among students at the moment: planning our summers.
In my case, summer will be short. Term Three extends into the second week of July, and I will probably start my exchange with London Business School around the last week of August. During those six or seven weeks in between, I intend to take two courses at CEIBS. I hope that knocking out some course credits will allow me to graduate in January after only 16 months. It will also lighten the course load for the London portion of my studies. That way, if I manage to get my LBS courses scheduled during evenings and weekends, I will have spare time for an internship in the U.K. in the fall.
Since summer courses in CEIBS are taught only on Saturdays and Sundays, I will be free Monday to Friday. I want to use that time to study Mandarin and practice while traveling around Greater China—one of the targets of my MBA year after all. Finally, between moving from Shanghai to London, and time permitting, I would like to stop by for a week in my native Spain. The political and economic situation seems to be becoming disastrous there lately, and I am finding it hard to be away from my homeland.
It was in London, however, and not Spain that I lived from 2005 to 2010, before I went to volunteer in Africa for four months and later embarked on this Chinese MBA adventure; and it is in London that I will be closing the cycle as an exchange student. I now have a clearer picture of what my professional strengths and weaknesses are. I enrolled at CEIBS to get a clearer idea of what I wanted to do with my future. One year in, I feel my options have multiplied by 10. I have absorbed a great deal of knowledge and experience, but I have not had the chance to step out and see the big picture. When I write my next post in September, the construction of the new campus will be well underway at CEIBS, and new students will be flocking in. I will be writing from London, and certainly I will be starting to see this dizzying year in perspective.