My first day at HKUST. August 2, 2018. The temperature was 32° C, humidity over 75%. Just slightly more tropical than I was used from home in Switzerland. For four years, I had knotted my tie every morning. How good to suddenly wear casual on a Thursday. Sitting in the penthouse lounge of the Business School’s Lee Shau Kee building, my eyes were wandering over the glazing water of Clear Water Bay and the forest in which the HKUST campus is embedded. With me were my 84 classmates from all over Asia and the world. Consultants, bankers, traders, engineers, sales, accountants, scientists, entrepreneurs, almost all professions were represented. Oh yes, and one M&A-lawyer: me. I felt the jetlag from my flight the day before, so I was glad to see that also some of my fellow students looked already a bit worn out. From the heavy traffic on the Whatsapp chat of our class to which I was invited to earlier, I understood that this was not only caused by their intensive Mandarin pre-course…
The MBA journey kicked-off with the immersion program. Three weeks packed with outdoor activities, role-plays and other experimental learning experiences, in-class teaching, social events and a first crash-course-case-study. Everything designed to help us to learn more about ourselves and our classmates and to bring us up to speed for the main courses. My most important lesson, however, I got from Japanese Night, one of many mixers and cultural events we had during immersion: If you are invited to a Japanese’s party, be there on time. Because if a Japanese tells you that the party starts at 7pm, they really start to party at 7pm, by 8pm there will likely be already a complete mess - and by 9pm everything will be neatly cleaned up and the hosts safely in bed.
The immersion was just the start. Since then, we have been travelling in two cohorts through the business cosmos like a Chinese tourist group that tries to see Europe in only two weeks. It is an intensive journey with sometimes only little time to digest all impressions, but our experienced guides keep us entertained and make sure that we do not miss any highlight on our academic trip. Take Prof. Steven Nason who, as I assume, already as a child dreamed of becoming a teacher for the management class and who obtained in his psychology studies the ideal tool set. Prof. Larry Franklin, a teaching phenomenon who is as entertaining as meaningful. Prof. Milind Rao who gives us our weekly aha-moment when he explains what binds the world’s innermost core together – at least economically. Or Prof. Xinyu Hua who managed to teach us so much about microeconomics in so little time, so that I am still wondering how he did it.
There we are now. Just passed the first exam session, nailed the internal case competition and explored Singapore and Shanghai on our career treks. Learning and growing, collecting unforgettable memories and making friends for a lifetime. While some of my classmates are already signing their employment and internship agreements, I enjoy the amazing city we are in and look forward to the Fall 2 term with the challenges it will bring.