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A Long Road to CEIBS

Meeting CEIBS

It was a cool and crisp autumn afternoon in the autumn of 2017. Leaves fell from the trees, grazed by the first hints of the winter wind. I remember the day so well, sitting in the only Starbucks in a small town somewhere in the central US when a quick click on Google sparked my life-changing journey with CEIBS. If you told me then that in less than two years I would be half way around the world, living a new life in China, pursuing a new job in a new industry, I would have been nervous, excited, and above all curious as to the circumstances that could have possibly led me there.

For me, in the autumn of 2017, Asia seemed only a fleeting dream of the past. My career in its totality, had been with the US government, serving in a variety of capacities as far back as 2009. I had been posted in South Korea for two years, where I led a team of 80 Americans in a foreign country. In the year since returning to the US, life seemed to have lost some of its colour. The excitement and adventure I felt every time I stepped out my front door into a foreign world simply did not exist in small town USA. The problems I had solved, and the responsibility of leading American’s abroad had left me with a feeling of fulfilment the likes of which I had never felt working in the United States.

I felt that I also still had unfinished business in Asia. I had studied Korean very casually for the two years I had lived there. Additionally, I had studied French and Spanish – however was nowhere near fluent. Learning a foreign language was a life goal that I had only developed once living abroad and it continued to hang over my head as an unfulfilled one.

In that coffee shop, the idea had been planted in my head that I would go back to Asia. I would leave my posting with the US government, at least for the time being, giving myself the flexibility to study and develop a career in whichever industry and location that I saw fit.

The sun was now growing low in the sky, long shadows cast across the cafe. Ordinarily this would mark the near end of another gruelling 12-hour day of studying for the GMAT and preparing business school applications. The past couple hours had not been spent studying or preparing applications. Instead, I had crawled over every inch of the CEIBS website, watched all of their social media content, and had even gone so far as to add a fellow American who had happened to have attended the same undergraduate university on LinkedIn, to ask for his thoughts and input on the school. The idea had been planted in my head, and the very prospect of going back to Asia filled me with excitement.

On Chinese

When I was younger, sitting in high school French class, I had decided that memorizing the digits of pi to 182 places was a more worthwhile endeavour than learning French. To this day, after 3 years of French class, I can barely recall how to say “hello.” Sitting in Starbucks that night, the thoughts of a life in China had crashed like wave over my head. The year before, in Korea, I had studied Korean, albeit very casually, for two years. I was still very much a beginner. Fluency in a foreign language was an aspect of life that I truly felt was missing. It was that night, with the help of a few online videos, that I found for the first time what has become one of the great passions in my life – the Chinese language. I was lucky enough to be living with a Chinese roommate at the time, someone who was always happy to talk and comment on my poor utilisation of tones during our dinners and time off work. The Chinese language for me has since developed into a passion and a major source of enjoyment in my life. The first semester of the CEIBS MBA programme is undoubtedly busy, however, my two hours of Chinese class each day give me balance, and I usually consider it the best part of my day.

The Decision

Over the next couple weeks, I continued with my GMAT preparations and pondered my options. The excitement I felt the first time I learned about CEIBS never diminished and it remained the solid top choice in my head. After hundreds of hours of studying and two test attempts, I finally achieved my GMAT goal and turned my focus to business school applications. Over the next couple of months, I was granted interviews with four business schools. Of course, I was the most excited for the CEIBS interview. It was early February when I woke up one morning and my heart skipped a beat as I learned that I had been accepted into the CEIBS Class of 2020. I didn’t really consider the other subsequent offers I received – my mind had already been made up. In five short months I would be going back to Asia, where I would join the top business minds in Asia-Pacific.

CEIBS seemed in every way the logical decision for me. The emphasis CEIBS places on Chinese language learning for foreign students, and the manner in which they facilitate language education is unparalleled. Additionally, the benefit of an 18-month programme would give me time to truly learn the Chinese language and at the same time understand business in China and the world. CEIBS is reputed not only in China, but also globally, attracting top talent from every industry. If I wanted to do business in Asia and live on this side of the world, then CEIBS is where I knew I needed to be.

Bad News

In February 2018 I travelled to Shanghai to meet the CEIBS team and learn more about the school. I was excited to meet the MBA admissions team and I would have the opportunity to accept my spot in the 2020 class in person. The day before I left America, I saw a doctor about some mild pain in the side of face. By the time I returned to the US one week later, my face was swollen. The next day I went in for the first of four surgeries I would ultimately go through. I was diagnosed with a rare and complicated bone infection in my jawbone that was caused by an earlier surgery I had had months before. As winter turned into spring, it became apparent that going to China in July as planned would not be safe or feasible. I was crushed. Sitting in the hospital, I turned to studying Chinese and continuing my financial accounting and data analytics classes to console myself and pass the time. I continued this way for months, but I never lost sight of CEIBS, and I reminded myself that I would be beyond lucky if this turned out to be the greatest set back I would experience in my life. CEIBS, and my dreams of coming to China, were not going anywhere.

A Blessing in Disguise

By September of 2018, my doctors were finally confidant that I was well enough to travel. The risks of my condition growing more complicated had diminished sufficiently – enough for me to start thinking about the feasibility of travel again. It had been a long and painful few months of recovery. I had gone through four surgeries and lived for two months with a permeant IV attached to my arm. I had two options, I could continue working until the MBA 2021 class started in the autumn of 2019, or I could leave my job now, and pursue whatever endeavours I so chose to do in the meantime. I chose the latter of the two options. Three weeks after getting the green light from my doctors I was on a plane to Taipei, where I would spend the next 10 months as a full-time language student. My ten months in Taipei were amongst the fastest in my life. The benefit of beginning my CEIBS MBA with an upper-intermediate level of proficiency in Chinese, in my mind, far outweighed the extra ten months I was forced to spend away from the workforce. As I came to the end of my time as a full-time language student, I found myself sad to leave Taipei, but excited or the continuation of my adventure in China. It had been a long road to CEIBS and I was almost home.

Lujiazui

In late-summer of 2019, as I stepped out of my Didi into the glitzy business district of Lujiazui, I was overcome with a feeling and emotion which I will never forget. Towers of sparking steel seemingly hung from the sky. Light and steel blended seamlessly into clouds that danced and played across the warm Shanghai night. I stood there, eyes fixed on the sky, reflecting on the two-year journey that had brought me here. I thought of the uncertainty and obstacles that I had overcome. I thought of the years ahead and the impact I hoped to make. I thought of the people in America who had worked tirelessly to get me well enough to embark on this journey, and of my friends working at CEIBS who constantly supported me and encouraged me throughout the process. I took my first steps into Shanghai and haven’t stopped walking since.


Finally home