Prior to departing for China, expectations and excitement across the FT MBA class were extremely high to say the least. However, it is safe to say that each and every one of these expectations were surpassed. Our week long trip took place from May 28 to June 04 and, as an opportunity to bond with classmates alone, it was going to be something special. The cultural and experiential nature of visiting somewhere so different to Ireland and indeed the west in general, combined with the bonding experience, resulted in a week none of us will ever forget.
We began our journey in Xiamen, a port city on the south-east of China around 1 hour’s flight from Hong Kong. This ‘small’ city, home to some 2 million people, had an interesting mix of western style hotels strewn across an authentic Chinese city. Just a short stroll from our hotel lead us to market streets where you could buy street food, fish –alive or dead- and of course a beer or two. Trying to hold a conversation with the locals was difficult as Chinese is generally the only language spoken and as such the language barrier was quite severe. It must be said though that this only served to add to the authenticity of the experience and people were exceptionally nice to us and did their best to understand our charade-like descriptions of what we were looking for.
During our stay in Xiamen we received exceptionally informative instruction on preparation for our Capstone projects from UCD Smurfit lecturer Professor Pat Gibbons. In addition, while operating out of the beautiful Xiamen University, we were fortunate enough to receive talks on the Chinese business and macroeconomic environment from two eminent professors; Prof Lei Ming and Prof Chen Yan. The value they both added to our understanding and appreciation of China was immense. The few hours they spent talking with us was the equivalent of reading for weeks on China and the level of knowledge transfer was something to be very grateful for. Our time in Xiamen wasn’t all work however, we received a tour of the Xiamen university campus, visited the famous Nanputuo Buddhist temple and also had a guided tour around Gulangyu island, a famous tourist resort known for its beaches, off-beat colonial architecture and a somewhat out-of-place amazing piano museum.
Following our stay in Xiamen we took a short flight to Hong Kong. It is difficult to describe in words just how awesome Hong Kong is. On approaching Hong Kong Island from the airport one could be forgiven for wrongly thinking that the skyscrapers around us were the city centre itself, when in fact they were just the fringes. The sheer depth and width of buildings all around is incredible and the container port alone is jaw dropping. It is safe to say that the scale of this place has dwarfed anywhere else I’ve ever seen. While in Hong Kong we made a number of company visits and received highly interesting and informative talks from Invest HK, Memorigin, CBRE, Heidrick and Struggles, Snapask, Hack Horizon and even Huawei. These talks provided a wide breadth of understanding for everyone on various aspects of doing business in HK and China. We received valuable insight into such areas as the wildly volatile HK property market, entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, and the challenges that the Huawei brand faces internationally as a rapidly growing technology firm from China. In the evening, students were free to explore the city at their leisure and some of the highlights were the laser show that takes place each night over the city which can be observed from the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui, the bustling night markets on Kowloon, Lan Kwai Fong (the ‘temple bar’ of Hong Kong), and last but certainly not least the spectacular views high up on the Peak lookout.
The Full Time MBA Programme is undoubtedly an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey. Having the opportunity to visit China and experience all the great things we did this week as well as the bonding we were able achieve as a class just cements the sheer magnitude of this life experience. This week really brought home to me the value of doing an MBA beyond what you learn in the classroom. It really is a life-changing experience and memories like those we have from China will forever remind us of just how amazing the entire experience has been.
John Ryan ~ Full-Time MBA