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From 30C to -13C: Embarking on Endurance Expedition

For Malaysian student, an MBA in Berlin is like an Antarctic expedition

When you spent the last 35 years of your life basked in a sunny weather (where I came from, we have two weathers - sun and haze), winter is an experience you will never forget to share with your future grandchildren. What a timing for an MBA program. When most business schools start their MBA program around September/October, EMST chose January. Wise decision?

At the recent ESMT MBA Class 2010 Welcome Dinner, Dean Wulff Plinke quoted the now-famous 1914 advertisement “Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey” by Sir Ernest Shackleton for his trans-Antarctic expedition (aka Endurance Expedition). The advertisement read:

“Men Wanted: For Hazardous Journey.
Small wages. Bitter cold.
Long months of complete darkness.
Constant danger.  Safe return doubtful.
Honor and recognition in case of success.”

For ESMT Class 2010, this quote was timely and is a reminder to the 40 men and women who have chosen to sacrifice fledging career to take one year break and join ESMT’s Endurance Expedition at the start of a bitter cold Berlin. I was told that this year’s winter was unusual. More snow than Berlin ever experienced. The 40 of us made the decision for this “hazardous journey” and we cannot turn back. No way. The only way is forward and forward we must.

After the first month, signs of Sir Shackleton’s advertisement began to materialise. Deja vu. We told you so. For some of us, we are still in our study room with less than 4-5 hours of sleep. I am sure my other expedition mates in their respective cabin-apartment are no less lucky.

I am Jimmy Low from Malaysia. I chose to join this Endurance Expedition after working for 13 years in telecommunications industry. I reached the first phase of my career, feeling a sense of achievement. The goals I set in 1998 was met. I am more than happy. After spending two years planning and soul-searching, I made a decision to do my MBA at ESMT in Berlin, Germany. Many people questioned my wisdom in choosing Germany for MBA. Well, my friends, this is my “Antarctic”. And, I am not alone. There are other 39 others who chose Germany as their “Antarctic”.

Success awaits all of us at the next winter. I am sure we will persevere. This is a journey not for individuals. This is a journey for teams. There is no hero in this expedition as for us to survive this journey we need to support each other psychologically and in any way we can. I hope my fellow expedition mates who share the same mission with me also share the same philosophy - we start as a team, we end as a team.

Join me, as I journal our expedition across the “bitter cold, long months of darkness, constant challenges and no turning back” landscape. Pray for our safe turn on 17 December 2010.

God Bless, Class 2010.


P/S: For the real Endurance Expedition, click.


Sunday 28th February 2010, 20.44 (UTC)


Jimmy - had you been to Berlin before applying? Brave move! You'd be just as cold in Boston, Chicago, Stockholm etc... Some of the world's best b-schools have freezing winters... did you know MIT give their MBAs the month of Jan off just to travel somewhere warmer!

Sunday 28th February 2010, 20.58 (UTC)


Jen - this is my first time to Berlin and staying outside Malaysia for a long period. It's an amazing place and so far the experience has been enriching. I am glad I made the right choice to study overseas. I read that many places had heavier snowfall this year. I guess this just adds to the rollercoast-experience of an MBA and live to tell the story.

Tuesday 2nd March 2010, 01.31 (UTC)


Hi Jimmy, what do you find the core differences are between doing business in Malaysia and doing it in Germany? Obviously apart from the fact that business is done in two different climate... JT

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