In February of 2012, as I was reviewing the information about the Darden’s GEMBA program, specifically the locations of the global residencies, it was hard for me to be excited about going to China. It would be my sixth time visiting the country. At the time, I was hoping for a more unique location, somewhere where I had not been, yet somewhere where, from a business perspective it would be a valid place to go. How about Japan or South Korea, I pondered.
But no, it was China, a place that I explored on multiple occasions, and a place I learned to like. To make things worse, the destinations cities where the most obvious: Shanghai and Beijing. What else is out there, that I have not seen and ...view middle of the document...
After the class I had an opportunity to chat with almost entire GEMBA 12 class. I was so impressed with the openness of the guys, their willingness to share their stories, their point of view and their honest opinions about the intensity of the China residency. The staff and faculty was great as well, making me feel welcome and happy I was able to attend the class. What really impressed me the attitude of the class towards learning- I can tell they were worn out yet curious and eager to learn. I could feel a spirit of comradely, maybe some frustration but definitely excitement and happiness to be part of this adventure. I started to think what will be my attitude next year, when it is me being cold called by Elliot?
After the sessions I met back with my girlfriend and was eager to share my experience with her. She could really tell I was excited about the program and urged me to focus on task at hand instead- networking with the solar manufacturers- after all, this is why I was in Shanghai in the first place.
Soon after I got back to the United States it was time to start the program and prepare for the first residency in Charlottesville. There were so many experiences, it was almost overwhelming, in the most amazing way possible. Then there was Brazil; between “fighting the fish” with Yiorgos, exploring Copacabana, and dancing samba there was not too much time to think about the upcoming residency in China.
But then the day came when it was time to pack and go to the third residency- China. I was still skeptical about the trip- what is there I can learn about the country that I have visited most than any other, other than the United States? What will be the value of going there, sit in the classroom and talk about the realities of China. When people asked me about the next destination for the Darden program they could tell me lack of excitement about going to Shanghai and Beijing. Those are the most obvious destinations, everybody goes there- I kept telling people and in many cases causing their irritation.
I arrived to Shanghai a few days earlier, to meet with some friends, catch up on time zone and to explore Tian Zi Feng, where I decided to rent a small art studio from a Kiwi Chinese. Shanghai welcomed me with a taxi driver who refused to show me his meter readout, hijacked my cell phone until I promised to pay him the outrageous taxi fee (long story culminating in me not paying him the outrageous fee), throwing my suitcase of his trunk and driving off with his trunk up so I could not capture his license plate. Not a bad start, I thought- maybe I learn something after all.
Tia Zi Feng was everything I expected, crowded, cobble stone streets with many tiny shops, cafes, and art galleries. My host Jamie, who had a New Zealand souvenir store at the bottom of the studio was very welcoming. My first night he invited me to join him and a few fellow Westerners to a Shanghai style restaurant situated in an old local-style mansion. The...