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Why I Swapped China For France For My MBA

Shanghai born and raised, Lishi Chen was keen to travel to Europe, study an MBA, and start a career


Mon Sep 30 2019

The skyline of the world’s biggest city, Shanghai, is a far cry from the traditional architecture of France. 

Despite the 5000 miles between them, China and France are remarkably close. The European Union, with France and President Macron at its center, is still China’s biggest trade partner, and France still remains the number one destination for Chinese tourists. 

As a talented pianist in her spare time, Lishi Chen experienced the rich cultural history of Europe, in particular France, through the music she was playing. She knew, one day, she'd end up there. 

When the decision came to leave China for her MBA, it was the prospect of diversity, of a new business environment, and of undiscovered culture that made France so appealing to Lishi as a place to study.

“What France offered was a melting pot which broadened my horizons in terms of culture, heritage, lifestyle, and mindset,” Lishi notes.

With a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and three years under her belt at General Electric in Shanghai, Lishi was keen for a fresh challenge. 

She knew exactly what she wanted— a multicultural environment, a work-life balance, and access to the European job market.

In the end, the MBA at EMLYON Business School in France offered a combination of all these. But what stood out most for her was the entrepreneurial emphasis, giving her a chance to explore new business ventures that she hadn’t previously explored in China. 

The Early Maker Hub set EMLYON aside from other programs in France, which looks to link business school students with communities and change-makers in various fields of science, technology, humanities, and arts. 

“It’s like a Google-style open space, which enables each initial idea into reality,” Lishi remembers.

“It gave me the skills necessary to launch projects within one day, then design a prototype from scratch within a week.”

Lishi was exposed to new, cutting edge technologies which she hadn’t explored before, such as 3D printers and laser-cutting machines, which allowed her to grasp modeling principles for new products. 

Beyond the entrepreneurial focus, EMLYON offered much that she would have struggled to find in China. 

Multiculturalism in the class was a particular highlight. While many top Chinese MBA programs have less than 50% international students, EMLYON’s class is 85% international. 

Aside from meeting people from around the world, this exposed her to an entirely new way—or several new ways—of thinking in a business scenario. Such was the diversity that it took Lishi some time to get to grips with this new way of working. 

“The international mix in group work was not easy at the beginning, because each culture shows their own special way of communicating.”

“Compared to what I knew as the Chinese listening learning model, my international cohort always spoke their ideas aloud, making others understand the points and putting themselves into others’ shoes.”

As an admirer of French culture and lifestyle, Lishi was keen to nail the work-life balance, something which isn’t always easy to find on a high pressure MBA. 

Given Lyon’s renowned status as a capital of gastronomy, food played a big part in this.

As well as sampling the exquisite local cuisine, LIshi took a culinary course taught by a Michelin-starred restaurant as part of her MBA, something which brought up her cooking knowledge from scratch. 

Food also played a big part of building connections and networks. Daily morning croissant breaks after class allowed Lishi to bond with her classmates and other alumni. 

“It was far more relaxed compared to formal networking in China. I had a chance to interact with everyone and discover their stories much more deeply,” she notes. 

In between croissant networking and gourmet cuisine, Lishi was still determined to focus on her initial aim—to kick-start a career in Europe. 

With little experience living or working in Europe before her MBA, EMLYON turned out to be the ideal stepping stone into a dynamic market, where Lishi quickly found employment. 

EMLYON’s smaller cohort on the MBA meant that Lishi had a dedicated career mentor to give her specific advice and resources on finding a job after graduation. 

There were also frequent alumni events at the career center, where Lishi and her classmates had the chance to meet professionals working a range of different industries. Thanks to this, Lishi landed a role as a project manager at Schneider Electric in Budapest, Hungary.

Her ambitions are global, propelled by her own fast-moving career. 

"I never thought I'd rotate at General Electric, and I never thought I'd end up in Budapest. What I've learnt is to cherish every moment and take every chance to improve my skills."

Europe, it seems, is the first of many steps on Lishi's global career. 

Student Reviews

emlyon business school




On Campus

Intense courses, helpful professors

I am an international student in my 3rd year and I love going to this school and do not regret chosing it for my BBA. The classes are helpful, professors are always there to help as well and we have a very understanding administration.




On Campus

Leadership in an amazing city

I decided to do my exchange in Emlyon because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and I found a space with very capable People.. participatory, empathetic and full of leadership. I will never forget Lyon, apart from giving me an unforgettable experience, he gave me great friends




On Campus

A lot of opportunities professionally and socially. A unique program in France.

You can choose your courses and do your internship, exchange whenever you want. It's flexible and adapted to the needs of each student. A great program and a great city! Professionally, it opens a lot of doors for you to find internships or jobs in France or abroad thanks to the network and career events.




MSc in Digital Marketing

Combining both worlds into one, this course gave me all the on-demand technical skills in data science while maintaining a business-oriented approach. Thanks to the strong academic profile of this university I was able to secure an internship and full-time job at Amazon.




Top Business School fostering innovative entrepreneurs

EMLyon is one of the best business schools. The campuses, associations and courses offered provide the students with the best options to build the future they have chosen. The various opportunities to study and work abroad also offer a deeper understanding of the world, not only economy-wise but social, which helps the student become as well a better individual and not only a pre-formated business school student.




Emlyon campus in Paris

It has a great international community and you have access to many international tools, courses and professors. I had many networking events and workshops for students. Campus and some details of the program could have been improved or need to be bigger in order to have a better student life.




On Campus


Overall good content and good activities. Lack of administration but still ok. Good flexibility and liberty offered to the students. Finally, the amount of internship is also a good way to improve qualifications.




Good Reputation and International Business School

The course was not well adapted but it was up to the mark. The professors are very well experienced and their experience comes in handy while working on assignments. The facilities on the campus are top class. Truly professional. I really like spending time in the learning hub and using all the available resources. Lyon is an amazing city. You will never get bored.