SHANGHAI, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With ties between the United States and China becoming ever more co-dependent, more Americans than ever before are furthering their education in China. Casey Drillette, David Schuessler, and Evan Chang are three first-year students in Fudan University School of Management's International MBA (IMBA) program. The program is a joint collaboration between Fudan and the MIT Sloan School of Management and has been developed in the name of facilitating further cooperation and trade between the two nations in the future.
Casey Drillette is from Dallas, Texas and has worked as a Business English professor in China and as host of a Henan television station. In the IMBA program, she saw an opportunity for an education that would not only be recognized and respected both in China and America but would also support her long-term career goals of working for a multinational corporation in China.
David Schuessler is a 25-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida aiming to work with a multinational corporation with offices in China. He told us, "I chose to study at Fudan because I heard from friends who had studied abroad here that it was one of the best universities in China. In addition to its reputation, I chose Fudan because it is in Shanghai, which is certainly the epicenter of international commerce in mainland China. Shanghai has amazing food, rich culture, and a fascinating history."
Evan Chang, from Detroit, Michigan, first heard about the IMBA program unintentionally a few years back while he was in his final year in college. "At the time, I was fairly unsure of what I wanted to pursue, of where I wanted to be, but I saw that almost every analysis I could find about future trends in the world seemed to revolve around a set of seemingly absurd statistics about Chinese growth. So I was thinking about spending the summer in Shanghai to finally get around to learning Chinese, and see if I could find a way in. And while looking for somewhere to learn Chinese, I somehow stumbled upon our program website," he said. "The thing is, I have actually long wanted to come to China. There's something deep and ancient about this place, both culturally and in the abstract sense. It's lived through some things. At the same time, though, China manages to be young; it's hip, and the energy here is infectious."
The Fudan University School of Management has achieved national recognition for its academic accomplishments, and its faculty consists of top researchers and educators in their field. Studying and learning in Shanghai, the financial capital of China, allows international students to learn not only the MBA curriculum from experts in the Chinese economy and its business developments, but it also allows them to immerse themselves into the Chinese culture at the same time. It has been notoriously difficult to do business effectively in China, and it has become well known there are certain cultural elements that must be understood to do so. By being here, for their studies, international students can get the full treatment.
Casey has appreciated the opportunity to participate in classes, forums and lectures with high-caliber international faculty and inspirational business professionals. Although this semester has been incredibly busy, with five full-time classes, two half-semester classes, weekly lectures, and constantly assigned group work, she tells us it has also been incredibly rewarding.
The curriculum focuses on learning through case study and teamwork, making every class interactive, informative and extremely engaging. "One thing that I used to say during my undergraduate education was, 'How does the material I am learning apply to the real world?'" David said. "Each of my courses at Fudan uses case studies to introduce and apply the content we are learning to real life business situations." He especially enjoyed the cases in their Strategic Management course, believing they had taught him to pinpoint how Chinese and multinational businesses struggle or thrive in a various industries, especially relative to their competitors.
At the beginning of the semester, students were assigned groups for each class with a substantial amount of their grades based on group work. As an international student, Casey said, "I have found that working with a group of Chinese and international students has really helped to develop the skills I will need to work in an international setting. It's highlighted many cultural differences, that when managed the right way can provide a unique synergy necessary for success in this program." David has also appreciated the fact that group work has allowed him to gain experience working with young Chinese professionals and improve his understanding of how to work effectively and efficiently with his Chinese classmates.
Evan has been impressed with his classmates and sees in them the essence of China's success. "All my classmates are smart, young, well-to-do professionals who have given up good jobs to come back to school, in hopes of finding something more. There is optimism flowing through China these days that I am told is a relatively new thing, and my classmates embody that spirit. They are kind, they help one another. They are very ambitious." He went on, "Being in this environment in China right now feels vaguely like that distant, soaring flash of euphoria and exhilaration that came right at the end of high school: you have no idea what exactly is about to come next, but it's going to be something big, and you desperately want to be ready for it when it does."
Students in Fudan School of Management are encouraged to involve themselves in a variety of professional and leisure activities. High-level business forums are offered throughout the year by Fudan's Career Development Office that allow students to learn from local entrepreneurs and senior business executives. The school currently has several clubs with a business focus, including but not limited to its Investment Club, HR Club, Logistics Club, Marketing Club, Entrepreneurship Club, and so on. The International Students' Office also provides an orientation program as well as things like an assigned buddy for international students studying at Fudan. Evan and his assigned buddy, Lemon, have hit it off well, he says. "She is intense, but she has been very helpful, and I am glad the International Student's Office went through the efforts to pair people up."
David Schuessler has been involved with as many student activities as he thought that he could handle along with his course load. He performed in the International Student's Gala, represented Fudan in the Shanghai MBA basketball competition, attended social events such as the school's New Year's Extravaganza and an informal MBA gathering hosted by the Dean of the Yale School of Management. "Through these events and activities, I have made connections with other MBA students and professionals working in Shanghai. One of these connections was the head of an organization representing students from every MBA program in Shanghai; I recently served as the host of the organization's popular annual Christmas party."
As for Casey, she has personally enjoyed the MBA sports competition. As a former D-III basketball player in the states she was excited to try out for the team. "Although there was some initial resistance to having a girl try out, since it is not really common here for girls to be good at basketball, I made the team and was the starting point guard for the whole competition. Our team made it to the semi-finals, with our first win over the team that knocked us out last year, and I was the only girl in the entire basketball tournament," said Casey.
Casey said her second favorite event was the New Year's Extravaganza. For this event, the school rented out a beautiful ballroom in a 5-star hotel and then hosted an evening of dinner, red carpet walks, and performances. Students worked for weeks to organize the program and developed their class performances. As the leader of her class's Brazilian dance, she and her classmates rehearsed for three weeks during their lunch breaks and put on a very well-received show. Casey was also the host of the party. "It was a great honor to be invited to host the program along with the other Chinese students. As the only international host, I had to really work on my lines in order to fit with the majority Chinese program. As a host, a performer, and a student at Fudan University, the New Year's Extravaganza is a night I will never forget," she said.
Life in China
None of this is to say these American students have not felt any cultural differences. For most westerners, living in China takes some getting used to. In their first days in China, the big ones stood out, things like food, personal space and manners.
Evan says, "The inclination here, especially among the strangers one encounters in daily life, to refuse to line up, or to hawk and spit two feet in front of you, is a bit high. And the cars don't stop, and the buses definitely don't stop. Commutes or any attempt otherwise to ride public transportation during rush hour will lead inevitably to your being packed moistly against the vehicle door, wondering if that faintly malodorous scent is, in fact, coming from you. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't."
David tries to keep a positive attitude. He feels China can be summed up in one word: "Stimulating." "I find that every day in China is new, with different challenges and new experiences. Living here has definitely changed me in a positive way," he said.
For Casey, aside from having an open mind, she feels there is little one can do to prepare for life in China. All the research and reading aside, the reality is never what one has imagined. However, one perk of living here is the general peacefulness and welcoming attitudes of the culture. Chinese people are incredibly friendly to foreigners. "I have had old women walk me home when I was lost, people invite me to lunch and dinner after just meeting on the street, and had my personal belongings returned to me after leaving them on a bench," said Casey. "In my experience, China is one of the safest places in the world. Undoubtedly every country has their issues, but in terms of personal safety I have never felt threatened regardless of the company I am with or the time of day."
Needless to say, they have enjoyed the food in China. Evan found it surprising to see how skinny most people in China are, when there is such a prevalence of delicious and cheap food. "A block away from the business school campus at Fudan is a row of street food vendors that sells things like braised pulled-pork sandwiches, where instead of the typical stringy pulled-pork, they are filled with pure, still-dripping bacon cuts. A few blocks away you can find fried tofu, French fries, barbequed lamb, pork, and squid shish kebabs -- anything you can put on a stick, they'll barbeque for you -- and a number of other tasty snacks." Beyond the food stands near campus, Shanghai also has an incredible number of restaurants that the Fudan students tend to explore together. "Many of our Chinese classmates, even, are not from Shanghai, so to some extent they're in the same boat as us," he said. And as for their love of food, Evan feels he fits right in. "By American definitions, just about everyone here is a foodie. China is the only place I have ever been where the majority of people will correct you when mistaking an orange for a tangerine, or mixing up various types of grapes. The more you like food -- particularly, the more you like Chinese food -- the easier it will be."
When we asked our American friends to tell us their overall impressions about their time here so far, about their decisions to move and their experiences during their MBA life so far, they told us they have had no regrets. "There is just something alluring and charismatic about Shanghai. You walk around town and see the juxtaposition of growth and chaos, of east and west, of change and stagnancy, of yin and yang, and you realize that you're in the very middle of it. Things will improve, and if you're lucky, maybe later you can have played a part." They may be right. The wave of optimism and excitement they have observed seems to become more and more tangible every day, and the Chinese economy is only looking to get better in the future. There is, perhaps, no better time to be in China than right now.
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SOURCE Fudan University School of Management’s International MBA Program