With love, from CEIBS Zurich
I’m Sourav Panda, from the MBA 2022 batch at CEIBS. It has been one month since we arrived at the school's Zurich campus, and looking back at my journal, I realize I have filled up the pages of my journal with many anecdotes from the first fortnight here. I'm glad that I get to present here a brief snapshot of my journey so far.
Much time has passed now, many feathers have been added to our hats, and many stories have been added to my journal. However, nothing will be complete, if we don't discuss the beautiful origin of the journey. I have divided the CEIBS story into three parts: the inception, the quarantine, and the leadership journey kick-off.
Hope you enjoy and connect with some aspects. Please write back to me if you have any suggestions or comments.
Part I: The Inception
During these trying times, when MBA programmes across the world have been shaken by uncertainty regarding their future course of action, pulling off what CEIBS has pulled off is an outstanding display of bold risk-taking, meticulous planning and flawless execution. The twin-city MBA programme at CEIBS was non-existent in March. In October, 41 international students from across the globe flew to Zurich, Switzerland, ready to start their MBA journey, along with their batchmates in China, who shall begin the programme in Shanghai. Both groups shall run in parallel in a uniquely designed hybrid (online + offline) programme and shall meet in China when China’s borders are re-opened to finish off their MBA together in Shanghai.
The most gratifying part so far has been how CEIBS has maintained its communication strategy with all the admitted students. The article below highlights a few aspects that made me proud of my alma mater, even before the journey started:
The decision to postpone the start of the MBA programme from August to October came well in advance from CEIBS in February. Assessing the power of the pandemic accurately, and taking measures timely, are signs of not only a great school, but also of a true market leader.
A few months ago, the idea of a twin campus programme seemed distant and confusing. However, at no point in time did CEIBS ignore the vulnerability of their plans to the prospects of failure. It was an uphill task. But the fact that students were informed about all major developments through multiple virtual town halls, open hours and accessible MBA offices at both campuses proved that we were in the safe hands of a team who accepted their vulnerabilities and who truly care for all their stakeholders – students, staff, faculty and others.
In July, had you asked me about the twin city dream of CEIBS, even after the virtual sessions, I would have shown scepticism given how fast the logistics had to be managed, especially during the pandemic-ridden year. However, the confidence delivered by each person representing CEIBS bolstered our confidence. I could clearly see the resilience that comes with the CEIBS brand, the humongous power in the coming together of values from China and Europe, and the efficiency from one of the best business schools in the world.
All the plans were laid out impeccably. As a sign of practicality, CEIBS prepared its stakeholders not just for plan A, but also for plan B and plan C. Not everyone would have been comfortable with the plans, but taking measures to be inclusive, being considerate towards everyone, and putting in the effort to make the plan A work out was a tremendous achievement for the CEIBS family.
As a business school student, I aspire to take charge of leadership roles in large and diverse corporate set-ups. Such settings demand agility, resilience, and transformative leadership. It is a matter of pride that my school teaches me all the above and much more not just in theory but in action as well.
Part II: Quarantine with Wellness and Empathy
October 10 is World Mental Health Day. With the increasing number of cases of mental health issues in today’s youth, it is of paramount importance to deliberate about one’s mental well-being. Plus, when the added element of isolation due to COVID-19 and prevention techniques are added to our lives, life can become challenging. The following article describes how the CEIBS team in Zurich helped me beat the quarantine blues, ensuring they delivered high levels of empathy and wellness during this period.
When I entered my cosy apartment in Kloten, Switzerland, I found a delicious welcome package waiting for me. The package was thoughtfully curated to have a mix of quick meals, proper to-be-cooked dishes, and some munchies as comfort food. The effort that went into getting the campus ready for 41 international students in the shortest possible time was already much appreciated. The curated food package, and a detailed guide on surviving quarantine, made us all feel so much at home.
“We are here for you” was a constant line of support we received from all those we came across in the CEIBS team. A periodical well-being call was set-up just to check in on us, our mood, and our health. When students have left homes and families thousands of miles away to pursue a competitive MBA degree, even a virtual conversation about one’s well-being gives one comfort. In a new land, around people who speak a different language, CEIBS ensured that they supported us even in our day-to-day activities. Regular sessions were organized to ensure that all of us were equipped to order groceries online during our quarantine period, to give us a view of Switzerland and Swiss culture, and to make sure that we are conversant with all the health and safety measures required in these times.
For any CEIBS graduate, it is mandatory and recommended to learn Mandarin, so that as students and professionals, we can truly immerse ourselves in the China depth that the school has to offer. During our quarantine period, CEIBS organized virtual Mandarin classes so that we could get a head start into the intricacies of the language. Along with the gorgeous language that Mandarin is, we also enjoyed regular trivia about Zhōngguó (China) and its culture. It was fascinating for me to learn man man lai (meaning, “take it easy”) with friends from France, Spain, Romania, and India, when we discussed work cultures in our home countries!
In addition to the cultural front, through its robust quarantine day activity plans, CEIBS truly delivered for me a holistic experience! Personal development and leadership sessions from the Zurich Campus CEO, virtual networking sessions with senior alumni, and industry webinars, got us in the groove even before the real journey started.
As classes start, I realize now how CEIBS has been subtly preparing us for the journey ahead. Mental and physical wellness, professional honing, and personal pruning – all were delivered with high precision virtually to all the quarantining students of the MBA Class of 2022 at CEIBS Zurich! In these days of isolation, when one tends to miss one’s family and loved ones, I had the company of another newfound family in Switzerland – a place I had only loosely experienced in Bollywood movies, but a place I can’t wait to explore more in the coming days! The Alps, the cheese, the chocolates, and the wine – here, I come!
Part III: The Leadership Journey
On October 14, CEIBS kicked off the orientation and leadership journey for its historic twin-city MBA programme. During the week, we got a glimpse of what lies ahead of us. One may safely assume that the journey ahead will be challenging, enriching and transformational. What impressed me the most is how holistically the orientation was designed at CEIBS to transform us into leaders. The programme, divided into three parts, was scheduled for three days. The three parts are the cornerstones of leadership: team building, charisma and self-awareness.
As a top-ranked international business school, CEIBS attracts students from different geographies and diverse backgrounds. For instance, in the batch of 2022, I sit in a classroom with students from various parts of the world. A friend from Chile says ‘Hello’; another one from Lebanon talks about real estate back home; an American does fist bumps at lunch; and a German shows me the right elevator pitch. A French friend teaches me about wine, and a friend from Turkey learns a few steps of a peppy Bollywood number. In such a diverse classroom with students from over 15 countries, it becomes crucial that we respect cultural differences yet unite as a single team. CEIBS started off the leadership journey on a note to accept and appreciate differences, preparing us to be truly global business leaders capable of managing vastly diverse teams in the coming days. Through a unique hybrid classroom – remotely connecting with our peers in Shanghai – Professor Byron Lee helped us understand personality types and how complementarity can be leveraged to catapult a team’s performance to the top, making us genuinely appreciate our differences in unity.
In a popular HBR article on self-management, I read about the learning style differences amongst people. Staying true to the core values of prestigious academic institutions, CEIBS spent one full day shaping effective learning experiences. With a mix of team exercises and impactful lectures, we are getting ready to embrace the rigor of an MBA. The second day of the journey focused on making us exude charisma. Taking lessons from famous speeches, discussing the award-winning research by John Antonakis about charismatic leadership, and implementing learnings in group activities – the day was replete with reflections from the past and leaps into the future.
On the third day, we focused on deep diving into knowing ourselves better. We need to have goals that are realistic, yet aspirational and desirable. In the quest for setting goals for teams and organisations, we must not forget ourselves and our promises to ourselves. Therefore, all of us have written a letter of commitment to our goals for the MBA journey. Somewhere in the middle of the course, our note to ourselves will remind us to get back on track if we go astray. In life, there are anchors for our goals and distractions to dissuade us. CEIBS, in its lessons, is making us people with the conviction to hold on to anchors during turbulent times.
During the leadership kick-off, we looked sideways by knowing more about the team, we looked outside when we looked for inspiration, and we looked within when we looked for self-awareness. In a short span, CEIBS taught us the 360-degree view of leadership.
We are now set to march on the beautiful path of a MBA within the long journey of life. As I type this story on my way to the class, a few of my friends catch some extra sleep and a few jump into the case readings for the day. Others look outside their windows as the sun shines brightly over the breathtaking landscape of Zurich (probably, the last few days of bright sunny autumn mornings). As we head to the class, I realise that in our healthy diversity, one thing binds us all (no, not student loans!) – our intent to be changemakers and create impact either back home, or out there in the big wide world.