The Holy Trinity (and Coming Home)

When I first stepped onto CEIBS’ Shanghai campus on August 5, 2019, I knew I had started a new chapter in my life. Although I was confident in my choice of institution, my mind was full of uncertainty. I had recently read an article about how CEIBS students only got about five hours of sleep each day, choosing to spend their time on pursuing a deeper understanding of what the courses have to offer and building social bonds, instead. Now, skimping on learning is unacceptable to me. I’m what some may call a xue ba (scholarly tyrant), because I firmly believe that any knowledge can be transferable. I also deeply value a social life, as to me, the most important thing an MBA programme can offer is connections and networks. So if what I had read proved to be true, would I have to sacrifice a full eight hours of sleep per day, something I cherish and hold very dear to my heart? As it turns out, not necessarily.


My Life Story

I have moved around a bit in my life. I was born in Beijing, went to elementary school in Shenzhen, attended middle school in Kuala Lumpur, graduated from high school in Vancouver, and obtained two undergraduate degrees in Toronto. During my time at the University of Waterloo in Canada, I took part in a co-op programme which offered students several internship opportunities between study terms, so we could graduate with two years of work experience. Since I was in the actuarial science programme and wanted to become an actuary at the time, I pursued my first internship in the actuary department at PingAn Insurance’s Shenzhen headquarters – and I absolutely hated it. As it turned out, all the dreams of glory and prestige that came with being an actuary were smashed by the hard reality of sitting in front of a computer in an office all day compiling reports. There was no variability and no excitement, just three long reports in the same format, every month, all year. So I decided to use the rest of my internships to do a little career direction searching. I worked in IT at the government-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, in Human Resources at Toyota’s largest manufacturing facility in Canada, in Project Management in Huawei Canada’s infrastructure department, and in Marketing at Huawei Canada’s device department. After all that, I decided that my career needs were centred on client-facing interactions.

After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a 3-year mathematics degree, and deciding to not spend another year to pursue an actuarial science specialisation, I enrolled myself in at Wilfrid Laurier University’s business school to pursue a degree in economics. After graduating with honours, I joined a relatively small B2B business in food ingredients as a Business Development Associate. I quickly found myself managing the Asia market, making frequent business travels to countries primarily in Southeast Asia. How frequent you ask? I filled up half my passport with entry and exit stamps in a year and a half. Then, an exciting opportunity came along. Our corporate chef, who invented new ways of cooking for a living (what a wonderful job), developed a wonderful new smoky savoury sauce. “This is not half bad!” I thought. “We should sell it!” The entrepreneur in me sprang into action, and we quickly incorporated Kappa Foods with me as the Director of Operations. A production line was soon built and shipments quickly started going out the door. But as time moved on, doubts about the stagnant Canadian economy started to fill my mind, and I started wondering whether I wanted to spend the rest of my life working in a market with such little growth. You see, after my prior business travels to China, I started to realise that the country I spent the majority of my early childhood in had tremendous growth potential and business opportunities. So I took a break from my job, embarked on a two-month-long exploration journey through China, and came back with a decision – to come back home.

My life in Canada

Business travel and client meetings for "work"



Life at CEIBS

So back to the question of studying, socialising, and sleeping – the holy trinity. Have I enjoyed the past seven months at CEIBS? Massively. Do I regret coming back to China? Absolutely not. Have I learned a plethora of fresh knowledge and made some life-long friends? Definitely. Was I sleep deprived and did I walk around campus like a zombie every day? Actually, not so much. And here’s why.



Don’t get me wrong, the course load at CEIBS is intense. Between classes, individual assignments, and group projects, life gets a bit tough at times. I still remember the time our term 1 study group stayed up until 3am to fine-tune our analysis of a Victorinox case, patting ourselves on the back on how dedicated and hardworking we were, only to discover on the next day that some groups had worked until 5 in the morning! There are lots of case readings before class and lots of analysis after. There are projects that involve hours of research and industry/company expert interviews, and there are sudden cases where you only get 24 hours from the time you were notified to when the report is due. In my case, our group had to come up with an innovative solution to pharmaceutical drug trafficking overnight, while having to take classes during the day and work on a separate case that was also due the next morning. But the key to improving efficiency, which we seemed to have figured out by term 2, was to work smart instead of working hard.



Speaking of diverse groups, one of my closest friends at CEIBS came out of my term 1 study group. In almost every class, students will take part in some form of group work. For terms 1 and 2, groups are formed by the MBA office and are the same for every core course for the entire term. They are formed specifically to diversify not only industry and function experiences, but also nationality and perhaps even personality. This means that you are forced to spend the majority of your time in term 1 and term 2 with group members who have differing views and different ways of working, but it also means that you get the opportunity to know them extremely well and really take in their opinions. Arguments break out, of course, but a lot of cross-learning also occurs. Outside of study groups, there are student clubs. Often industry or function specific, clubs such as Healthcare Club or Technology Club gives you opportunity to get together with schoolmates in your interested fields. A vast majority of the students coming to CEIBS look to switch either industry or function or both, and these clubs offer a great starting point and a platform on which you can start building connections. There will inevitably be what some may call “underground societies” that are not officially sanctioned, which in my opinion hold the most exciting forms of gatherings. But I’ll leave those for you to discover for yourself.



Since coming to CEIBS, I have adopted the habit of taking a nap at lunchtime, something I haven’t done since kindergarten. Studying and socialising takes time, sometimes more time than you realise, and soon you’re left with five hours of sleep every night. I often find myself coming back to the dorm at midnight after a social gathering, with 60 pages of cases to read and analyse before the next day’s morning class at 9am. Surprise, that article I mentioned earlier turned out to be true. So I try to catch up on sleep anytime I can. That 90 minutes of lunchtime is perfect to squeeze in a power nap. The occasional no class in the afternoon? I can stretch that power nap to a few hours. Weekends are also perfect for catching up on sleep, although in terms 1 and 2 you’ll rarely get a “true” weekend as the work always piles up and you’ll likely spend most weekends working on group projects. I still remember a time in term 2, when for an entire week our evenings were clear of assignments. Suddenly everyone started feeling a bit uncomfortable, as if something was lost from our busy lives, or that we might have missed something important. Once you’ve settled in to busy lifestyle at CEIBS you really get into a rhythm. You realise how efficient you can really be, and how having a bit of a down time all of a sudden can catch you by surprise. So what did I do during that week? I seized the opportunity to venture out of campus and enjoyed some of the great foods Shanghai has to offer. And of course, caught up on some much needed sleep.

Me at Scholarship Reception ceremony

Our own little "underground society"

What’s next?

Who knows? Having spent the majority of my life abroad, and having to come back to China to further my career, much of my future is still unknown. Fortunately, CEIBS has offered me and will continue to offer me extensive knowledge in all things business-related, connections in both classmates and the alumni network, and the career development centre’s strong support. One thing I know for sure is, I have a newfound career direction ahead of me, and I have the full support of the CEIBS community behind me. My course of discovery and self-transformation carries on with full steam ahead. And if you are considering coming to China to further your career, all I can say is, come and join me at CEIBS, there is no better option.