It was a cool, calm morning. I had an early start. To add to this early triumph, I had a members’ bulletin in my email inbox.
I won’t go so far as to say BusinessBecause makes my day, but I will say it does grab my attention every now and then, and on this particular morning, it contained a small piece on a Boot Camp at CEIBS; one of the top-20 business schools in the world.
My interest in academic and professional options urged me to apply for this opportunity. Little did I know that after this one busy week, I would end up making dozens of global connections, learn more in class than I had learnt at work in a year, and most importantly, fall head over heels in love with a very strange city and a very surprising country.
After an essay submission and an interview some weeks later, I had not only managed to get in but would also get a sizeable sponsorship, which would cover the majority of my expenses at the camp.
I set off on a five-hour drive to the Nation’s Capital to arrange for a Chinese visa on a passport that is, according to Henley & Partners, ranked amongst the bottom-three passports in the world in terms of visa restrictions; right next to Afghani, Iraqi and Somali passports.
The diplomatic enclave in Islamabad where almost all embassies are located is a city within a city with a very strict border control and long lines that make you feel like an immigrant.
I was frisked twice and led off in a shuttle service to the heart of global Embassies and High Commissions – each one resembling a tiny but intimidating fort. I would probably have given up to the bureaucratic red tapes had I not had the complete support of the CEIBS organization committee, especially the marketing executive responsible for coordination.
One domestic flight, two international flights, a fast train, a subway train and a taxi ride later, I was standing at the doors of a slightly formidable looking entrance that reminds one of the Fort Knox bullion deposit.
After a swift check-in into Residence No. Six, I ran off to grab a welcome cocktail (red orange juice for me) at Cantina Agave – a well-known Mexican tequila bar located within walking distance from campus. This ice breaking session really helped everyone settle in and warm up to the other 59 participants that had all flown in to attend the Boot Camp from 22 different countries.
The camp was overwhelming. We would wake up every day at around 8am, grab a buffet breakfast at the commons building, and then run off to attend class. The teachers were from Mainland China, France, the USA, South Korea and Sweden. Needless to say, every one of them had a PhD from the best universities in the world.
Each of the classes were a great learning experience. I had barely handled the epiphanies I felt during Professor Sampler’s class on how great strategists are born in great universities when Prof. Cronqvist swept us off our feet with his passion for finance.
Prof. Xiang let us in on countless surprises about the Chinese market and how its evolution outpaced many before us. Prof. Gosset’s class on global mega-trends ended up giving us goose bumps.
I felt I made a personal connection with Prof. Kim as he tutored us on managing cross-cultural and other conflicts between people. He made me realize the potential that I had, and what I could make of it. To say Prof. Kim made me rethink my own self-image would not be an overstatement.
The experience, however, was far from over. We never got a break during this camp. My days ended at midnight when I would drop shattered onto my bed.
We had a session with MBA directors, an evening dedicated to cracking the GMAT, cultural activities (including traditional Chinese mask painting; mine was based on the Joker from Batman), a career opportunities session, and finally an alumni sharing session.
We had three afternoons dedicated to company visits, including AT Kearney where a senior partner gave us a presentation on innovation in China. We also visited JD.com, the Shanghai Port Authority and Morningside VC – a Shanghai based venture capital firm.
Every visit brought us closer to business in China, evolving strategies in the Chinese market, and the global impact of the Chinese economy and politics.
It wasn’t all business. We dedicated our nights to visiting Shanghai and ended up eating crab-fish that we helped pick out of a live aquarium, went to the most exclusive bar, and had walking tours. We laughed, we bonded and we shared the magic.
An MBA is nothing without networking – neither was the boot camp. We had people studying in universities, fresh into their careers and mid-careers, executives and even some young CEOs. They made lasting connections with me and with each other.
When I missed my flight, they offered to get me a new one. From splitting cab fares to paying for each other’s food, from intellectual discussions on business and politics to life sharing, I feel we bonded very strongly. We’re all still in touch with each other.
This is the kind of platform that CEIBS provides. I’m still in touch with an alumnus from the sharing session with whom I share common business interests. We might even send each other some business in the coming months. The pool of connections CEIBS offers is hard to find, if not impossible.
The Great Wall of China is famous and CEIBS is known for its “China depth, Global Breadth” vision. CEIBS shattered many walls of misconceptions that we had about China. This Boot Camp experience helped us understand how an MBA can help us grow professionally and personally, and offered us an advance on the amazing experience that is to come for some of us.
I’m glad I went for it, and I hope I return to CEIBS soon.