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It is day 4 since I came back from Mumbai Global Business Experience(GBE).

I am still sinking in how much I’ve learned in a week. There were many moments when I thought that GBE was the highlight of my 2-year MBA. I got to know so many classmates in such a short time and their amazing stories. I got to work with them and to learn from them, be it observing how they handled pressure, how they convinced the team to accept new ideas, or how they approached projects. I realized what a smart yet empathic group of people they are and how lucky I am to work with them.

I also got to know an India so different from what I learned before. I thought India would be very much like China, for both being the two most populous countries in the world, and both having fast economic growth as emerging economies. Therefore I was expecting to see a Shanghai in Mumbai.

But soon I realized that was not true.

On my way from the airport to the hotel, I saw so many temples on the street. I later learned that 90% of Indians are religious. I know this number of people in China may be atheism. I also saw most of Indians on street were wearing Sari proudly. Now when you are in China, unless it is a holiday or a big occasion, it will be weird to wear Tang Clothes, which is equivalent to Sari.

The biggest difference comes from the poverty level in both countries. I don’t know if it is because I was not exposed to similar situation in China before or because India indeed has deeper poverty level. I was surprised to learn people still having to live in darkness at night due to lack of electricity and I was shocked to see a whole family had to squeeze in a tiny and dirty place in the slum.

But I was not overtaken by these. On the contrary, I was struck by Indians’ resilience and optimism, when I learned that villagers are becoming entrepreneurs to sell solar light lamp to their community, when I saw that top talents gave up their high-paid jobs in London and returned to the country to help those people, and when I learned that people living in the slum work very hard hoping that one day they or their children will leave slum and move to the tall building next to it.

At the end of my visit, I realize what Mumbai presented to me may not be the metropolitan city as I imagined; but it gave me something much more memorable, be it the joy of working with my classmates, the hospitality from every Indian we met and the smiles on their face regardless of where they live, and the enthusiasm of social entrepreneurs who believe that they can make a difference in their country.

I believe that this experience will live with me for a very long time. So while I am still recovering from it physically, imagining getting up at 3am to catch a flight to visit the village and preparing presentation until mid-night for most of the week, emotionally and intellectually I have gained so much and it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Mumbai GBE is just a miniature of my whole MBA life/work. The past two-year has been a growing and stretching experience for me. I’ve constantly challenged myself to come out of my comfort zone, be it learning/enjoying a technically challenging course, working hard to balance between academic and work, or staying open-minded and inquisitive to the world. While sometimes I felt that the challenge was beyond what I could take, but as a proverb says “life will never will give you more than you can take”, in the end I always conquered the challenges and I did it with pride. So if this is not enough from my MBA experience, what else could I ask for?

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One year reflection

Posted by: Maggie

Times flies! It’s been over a year since I started my MBA last August. Everytime when I look back, I can’t help thinking what an intensive yet rewarding year that I’ve had.

If you ask me a year ago why I came to LBS? I would say it is because I want to progress my career, I want to get to know great people, and I want to indulge myself in learning. It may be too early to tick all the boxes now. But one thing that I am more than ever clear is that the true value of a MBA is to use this experience to get to know yourself, to know who you are, who you were, and who you want to be.

At the start of my MBA, I attended a career coach session hosted by a former senior exective in P&G, Mohan Mohan. I have forgotten all the career advice that he gave. But one thing that I remember cristal clear until today surprisingly is something irrelanvet to career but related to our marriage! He said lots of us didn’t get married because we haven’t found the right one. He yelled that it was the wrong strategy. He went on saying that the right strategy should be that we become the right person and we will be found! At the time, I felt it was very refreshing yet inprising to hear that.

Today I still think so.

What Mohan said is not just true about our marriage, but also about our career and our life. The person who we choose to be determins what kind of career will follow us and what kind of life we will have.

During the past year, there were moments when I felt so challenging to cope that I would ask myself why I signed up for this experience in the first place? Be it sleeping just for under 6 hours to juggle among different academic assignments, be it trying exhausting ways to come up impressive cover letters for our internship recruitment, be it working extremely hard to prove ourselves at internship, and be it sorting out bizzare things about living abroad. They all seemed painful to go through at the time.

But now when I am looking back,they were the most cherished memories that I am valuing. It is from those experience that I am becoming stronger yet more empathetic, if I can also say wiser!

This is what MBA brings to me. This is why I am here. This is worth of it.

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It is half way of my third term, and half way of my whole MBA journey……

So what have I learned over the past year? Is it the courses that taught me how to evaluate returns on various financial investment? Is it the experience of getting to know my classmates and LBS alumni? Or is it the experience of living abroad?

When I first started my MBA last August, I was overwhelmed with those lengthy and deep HBS cases and tight-deadline study assignments. On top of that, I had to learn to adjust myself into a new living environment. It was very tough, but looking back, I realized that I went through it just fine.

The second term began with intensive recruitment. The stress of finding an internship was unprecedented for most of us. But that was not all of it. There were still courses to study……As challenging as it could get, I went through it in a complete piece.

While I thought the third term would be much lighter, as most of us expected; it turned out to be otherwise. There are many papers to be done and lots of finance cases to be cracked……

With all of those challenges that I coped, I am not surprised to see that I am more at ease now. I am more at ease when seeing a challenge coming up. I am more at ease when handling the challenge.

So what I have learned?

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…… quoted from Steve Job’s speech.

I could not be more appreciative of this insight than this moment when I got my dream internship offers. All this time, the frustration and disappointment I experienced during my spring recruitment made me doubt, doubting my previous career choice and my choice for life.

But now looking backwards, the journey of connecting the dots is so clear.

Steve Jobs said that he dropped out of college, because he didn’t see the value of it. On the contrary to him, I am lucky, because I am seeing the value of my MBA in LBS everyday.

If not coming to LBS, I would not have discovered finance/investment is such a fascinating topic; I would not have had the excitement of being able to identify a business problem and to address it; I would not get to know so many amazing classmates and alumni who selflessly guided me through whenever I reach out for advice or guidance.

Steve Jobs also said that believing the dots will connect will give you the confidence to follow your heart. Eight months ago, when I came to LBS; I didn’t know exactly where my true career passion is. But now, I think I found it; as I know that’s where my heart is.

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Happy new year

Posted by: Maggie
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…… to my friends in China, in LBS, and wherever you are. Wish you good health and all the best in year of snake!

This is the first year that I am celebrating Chinese lunar new year in London, with my LBS classmates. Some of us gathered together last night – New Year eve, to watch our traditional CCTV Spring Festival Gala and eat hot pot. We had a great time, even though 14 of us surrounded in front of a 13 inch laptop screen and watched the blurred Gala performance due to unstable internet signal; even though some of us had to stand while eating the hotpot due to limited space; even though one of the pots was not functioning well and a few us had to literally cook the ingredients in the kitchen first and then put them into the hotpot….

We had a great time; because we enjoyed mouth-watering Chinese food, enjoyed strong alcoholics for some of us, enjoyed a good laugh, and most of all enjoyed our friendship. No matter what setbacks we may have experienced in the past year, we put all of them behind, and just enjoy this moment, enjoy this moment of having each other to cherish as friends and as classmates.

So, again, happy new year, my dear friends, wish you all a very good and prosperous new year!

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Good morning, London & Beijing

Posted by: Maggie
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I took a walk in Regent’s Park this morning, which is right next to LBS. It was a very beautiful morning, with big sunshine; although it was still chilly and windy in the morning.

I’ve been in London for half a year since the start of my MBA. I experienced sunny, windy, rainy, and snowy days. I appreciate London in any weather. I am probably one of the few who like London even when associating it to the weather. But I guess you have to understand where I came from……

Beijing has been suffering from heavy fog and haze, over the past couple of weeks; as I learned from one of my favorite Talk Show in Phoenix TV. The visibility was very low and people had to wear mask to protect themselves from air and dust pollution. It’s sad to say that this problem was not new at all……But don’t get me wrong. I am not saying Beijing is not a good place. There is great but cheap food; there are lots of job opportunities as the world is eyeing China and Asia; and there are my friends. But still……

As China is trying to catch up the economic pace of developed counties; we’ve paid big price on environment along the way. We built many modern skyscrapers. They make Beijing look like New York, but we are hardly as happy as those in NY because we don’t even have a decent park just for a relaxing walk. We manufacture and buy more cars – we are the world’s largest car manufacturer and consumer now; but cars can’t take us anywhere fast as they are supposed to, because of heavy traffic congestion. We attracted lots of foreign investors to set up factories here and achieved fast GDP growth, but our own people rushed to immigrate to foreign countries.

Surely it is difficult to reach a balance between economic development and environment. London, which I think now has blue sky and clean air, once suffered from pollution too. I used to know London as a city of fog. Dicken’s Oliver Twist was translated literally to Chinese as An Orphan in a Fog City……

At the occasion of upcoming Chinese New Year, I’d like to make a wish – I wish China will come through this pollution problem one day and I wish this day is not far away……

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This is the subject that we discussed at Marketing class today. It was about how company should position their products in marketplace and how customers perceive their products in reality.

I can’t help thinking of the current recruitment process that I am going through, from this discussion. It is one thing how I position myself in front of potential recruiters; it is another thing how recruiters perceive me. Perception could come from positioning, if it is a successful positioning.

But how to achieve a successful positioning? It’s far from being enough just to show what I did and how successfully I did; but to distinguish myself with few unique features from the MBA crowd. It’s the same with products. The products may have lots of fantastic functions, but to make customer remember it is those 2-3 features.

What a company can do to bridge the gap between its product positioning and customer’s perception is to do a market research, using tools such as focus group to figure out where the gap is and come up solutions to bridge it.

It’s almost the same token with positioning ourselves in front of recruiters. While this digging process is far from being fun, it is rewarding nevertheless, in a sense that it helps us to figure out better who we are.

This journey of acquiring knowledge and understanding ourselves never stops. We heavily focused on studying finance and accounting last term, understanding how a company operates financially. Entering this term, the courses shifted our focus to areas of marketing, operation, and organizational behavior. It’s been a very interesting exploratory process, exploring knowledge, exploring what excites us, and exploring who we are.

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My new term will officially be unveiled next week; I am taking a moment to look back the journey which gets me where I am – the place I want to be.

Why MBA?
It was never an easy decision to do an MBA. I mean, just think of the time and financial investment that I need to commit. But why do I still want to do it? Every time when I ask myself this question, I always come to the same answer – because I want to see more, learn more, and challenge myself more. There is no better choice than an MBA that can help me to achieve this goal – to open my eyes and my mind.

Why LBS?
I always know I want to go to the best business school. As I said, the investment on a MBA is high, it’s natural to expect a good return. Equally importantly, I want to make sure I have a quality time of two years during MBA.

In addition, I want to do a MBA in the UK. That has to do with my work experience prior to my MBA – I was a trade & investment manager in UK Trade & Investment for four years. I truly enjoyed working with British companies at my work and loved the culture here.

So then the choice is obvious. So far, LBS proved again and again to be a very good fit for me. I enjoy my time here every day, even though study could be challenging and recruitment could be stressful. But there is such a good structure provided by LBS to support us along this journey. It is those challenges that I am taking every day that gives me such a rewarding experience. Did I open my eyes? Yes! Did I open my mind? Yes!

GMAT
Once I decided to go for an MBA in LBS, I started to prepare for GMAT. It has been the toughest exam that I’ve ever experienced. I took three weeks off work just to focus on it. As you all can appreciate, the preparation is hard and it’s therefore difficult to keep your energy up for a long period. So I still believe the best strategy is to concentrate on it for a few weeks and get it done. Luckily, I did not need to re-take it.

GMAT is an important part of your application package, but not all of it.

Essay & References
It takes a whole package to get into a top business school. We need good GMAT, we need sensible motivation for MBA and for our dream school, and we need references who are willing to help us to achieve our ambition.

Think hard why you want to do an MBA and why now, figure it out, and state it logically and clearly in your essay. We may have different stories, but our stories must come across naturally. I spent lots of time to figure out the answers, but only a few hours to put them down on paper.

I was very fortunate to have my line managers who take my ambition for MBA very seriously. They spent lots of time to answer those reference questions, even though they were extremely busy. So choose people who want to help you and who understand you and who can talk about you in great details.

Interview
My interview notice came about two months after I made my application. It was an unsettling process, all you need to do is just to be patient. It doesn’t feel good when you are waiting around anxiously, but we’ve all gone through it. You’ll be fine, too.

The interview turned out to be a very pleasant experience. Other than sharing my motivation for MBA with my interviewer, what’s more beneficial for me was to understand why my interviewer went for a MBA in LBS. What she said to me still stays with me today. I asked her whether or not she could achieve what she achieved today without a MBA. She said no. She said MBA is like a door which opens lots of opportunities in your life.

With this, I would like to encourage those of you who want to challenge yourself, who are curious about the world, and who dare to come out of your comfort zone, to apply for MBA in LBS. You will never regret it!

Find out more about London Business School’s MBA Programme

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To be continued……

Posted by: Maggie

Finally, we finished the last exam – financial accounting, before we could embrace our well deserved Christmas break. It has not been easy for most of us over the past couple of weeks, because of final exams.

Before coming to MBA, everyone told me how much fun I would have in business school, how many treks I could do, how many parties I should attend, and how many drinks I would have. They never warned me how hard I need to study.

I can’t recall a day, over the past four months, when I can just tell myself of not doing anything but relax. The experience is exhausting and challenging.

It is exhausting, when I went to bed at 12:00am, and yet reminded myself of getting up at 6:00am the next day. At those moments I asked myself, what was driving me move forward? why did I choose to come here for so much hard work, while I could’ve stayed comfortably where I was before MBA?

Every time when I asked myself this question, I would come to the same conclusion. It is the desire for challenge, the desire to challenge myself to think wider, deeper and wiser, the desire to challenge myself to get to know and learn from many more wonderful people, and the desire to challenge myself to become a better person. It is for this simple reason that I made the move of coming to business school, and gave up what I could have at home.

Even in the most challenging and difficult moments, I’ve never regretted my choice of coming here for the slightest. Because I feel the challenge and take on the challenge every day. I know all of these challenges are well paid off, when I finally understood financial articles on FT, understood how to read a company’s financial statements, and understood how to build a model to solve questions. These challenges are paid off when I got to know wonderful professors here who make lectures so enjoyable and yet challenge us to think all the time. These challenges are also well paid off when I met amazing classmates whose experience and ideas always opened my mind.

Times flies. In a blink, the most overwhelming first term came to an end. Yet, the story of my MBA is to be continued……

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I was so stressed last week that I got sick. While being sick is far from being nice, it taught me a few things.

MBAs are known for our multi-tasking. Even when we cross the road, we don’t want to waste those few seconds. Instead, for example, we try to use that time to check emails on our smart-phones. Luckily I am in London now, where drivers stop when seeing people, most of the time.

With the spring recruitment coming, I think I should start to stretch myself further to see if I can do even more than before. I started to intentionally reduce my sleeping hours last week. And I stayed longer in library for study, booked myself in more events to network, and started to look for summer internship. Finally, the enormous amount of workload and tons of anxiety pushed me to a point where my body can’t stand. I had to stay at home for resting for two days just to get well, to be able to sit through the Strategy Exam that took place over the past weekend.

When resting at home, I realized how silly the idea of pushing myself was. My parents already said to me that health should always be the number one priority in your life. But it’s so easy to forget that, and forget that health is not always on your side, as well as forget that there is something more important than your career/study.

While my mind is crystal clear, I rarely forget those. But in this fast-paced environment, your anxiety of not being able to do as much things as you want and your anxiety of not being able to land a good summer internship sometimes easily overtook your clear mind.

It is this sick-break that reminded me these very basic stuff in our lives.

With the upcoming spring recruitment season, there is little doubt that I’ll not miss stress for too long. But now, at least I know that getting stressed doesn’t help at all. Just take it easy. Everything is going to be fine. After all, MBA is a journey as life is. As important as it is to get good outcome from this experience, it is way more valuable just to enjoy this journey, good or bad. Especially, most of the time, it’s good!

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