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“Funny how life goes around in circles sometimes,” said my friend Isha, who smiled when she learned I was looking to rent a place in London with our mutual friend Mariana. In September 2005, Mariana and I were on a similar path in London. I was working toward an MSc degree, and now I am pursing an MBA from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). Mariana was starting her PhD and is now about to finish it.
Studying abroad this semester at London Business School (LBS) has me back in the U.K. and once again in touch with Mariana and Isha. Wishing rent prices had stayed the same, I am again adapting to a new school and apartment.
Since I am busy with house hunting, summer already feels like a distant memory. I was at CEIBS, where I studied full time, into mid-July, and then I started the first block of electives at LBS—my exchange host—in late August. This left me with barely six weeks of summer and a reluctance to take on an internship. Instead, I traveled in China, Taiwan, and Laos while taking two summer courses, which will give me more free time at the end of the year. Coincidentally, most of my nine fellow Spanish students at CEIBS chose to postpone the internship in favor of travel, holiday, or family plans. In our last lunch together, we were laughing about how stereotypes are sometimes a bit true. We simply can’t give up our leisure time.
Summer courses at CEIBS, particularly the ones I took, are intense in delivery (crammed into four full-day sessions) but light on pressure. There are lots of assignments but generally no final exam. Because many students are busy with internship commitments outside Shanghai, these courses are entirely optional and are attended by a smaller number of students. This creates a cozier atmosphere and allows for better class discussion. Often taught by visiting professors and attended by the first arriving exchange students, these courses also have a distinct international flavor. Nevertheless, I don’t want anyone to think they are a walk in the park. The coursework does require time. Those with demanding internships, who participate in these courses too, have reported problems managing the workload.
At the same time that second-year students were attending summer courses, CEIBS management was occupied with welcoming the new cohort of MBA students to campus. Non-Chinese students started early in July with an intensive and useful Mandarin course. By August, the entire first-year class had arrived. Soon, both first- and second-year students will be, respectively, attending Term 1 and Term 4 of the program simultaneously. CEIBS is a 15- to 18-month program; therefore autumn is the time when most students are on campus and most of the parties take place. I cannot believe I am missing all the fun in China.
While my classmates in Shanghai are living it up, I will be taking in my fair share of celebrations and events in London. LBS’s MBA office has done an excellent job of welcoming us. We will start attending all the club kick-off sessions and new-student events in the following weeks. Electives are getting underway and students are slowly coming back to campus from their summer commitments. I have attended only one course so far, Project Management, and I found it to be thought-provoking. Still, as the professor himself joked in the class, I didn’t even have to come to London for this one. The prof will be traveling to CEIBS in the fall to impart a similar course to my classmates. I will be attending other specific courses, however, that I sincerely hope are as fantastic as the first one I had.
I’m happy to report that LBS lives up to its reputation as a first-class business school. The campus is beautifully set in Regent’s Park in central London. Its staff seems knowledgeable, international, and professional. My first contact with faculty has been, as I said, very positive, and the students all seem bright, interesting, and diverse. Despite the high rankings, everyone seems down to earth, and the atmosphere in the school is lively and enjoyable.
In the following weeks I am eager to discover the student-club scene and especially the power of career services, because the recruitment season is just around the corner. This reminds me again of 2005, when I was seeking my first corporate job and tried to enjoy all the things London has to offer. Just as it happened in Shanghai with the World Expo in 2010, now everything in London is happening with the 2012 Olympic Games in mind. When I look at the large clock in Trafalgar Square that’s counting down the days until the Olympics begin, I can’t help but think it’s also counting the days until I return to working life and close another one of those circles in life. Many say the second is the best year of an MBA. That’s why I hope to make the most out of every day.
In between journal entries, you can keep track of Isaac’s business school adventures at the Business Schools Facebook page.
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