As one of two students coming from the West Coast of the United States, I was not only incredibly excited for the opportunity to live on the opposite side of the country through the M.S. in Global Commerce, but also to live on the opposite side of the world. I finally have a minute to sit down and reflect on my experience in the Program thus far. If there is one word I would use to describe my time in this Program, it would be growth. Growth as a student. Growth as a presenter. Growth as a teammate. Growth as a friend. And finally growth as an international citizen of the world.
Coming into this Program, I knew there would be many given opportunities for growth and potential challenges to solve. While I was doing my research before applying, I heard from students in prior years that we would be rooming with one peer from each representative school, meaning that as an American, I could expect to live with one European peer and one Asian peer. In addition, I had heard that classes were rigorous and group projects were abundant. I had past experience working in international groups for school projects during my six months abroad in The Netherlands during undergrad. I distinctly remember the challenges that arose from communication, work habit, and cultural differences. As someone who is excited by facing these challenges head on, I applied to this Program, partly because I wanted to continue to work on overcoming them (as practice for real-life international business projects). I mentally prepared myself for what I could expect months before I stepped foot on UVA’s Grounds in the fall.
However, my biggest growth in this program has not come from the expected challenges, as described above, but from all the experiences I did not expect. Instead of feeling stressed by difficulty in communicating with students from other countries in times of upcoming deadlines, I found myself, in fact, being comforted by my peers, any language and cultural barrier completely set aside to make way for one human comforting another in a time of need. It is all these unexpected moments that have made me realize just how special the M.S. in Global Commerce really is.
The cohort was fortunate to be in China for a few weeks before the coronavirus outbreak. Two-thirds of our cohort are Westerners, and the inability for most of us to read or speak Chinese, on top of lacking many of the proper tools (local SIM card, bank account, WeChat) when we first landed, had the potential to make our first few weeks there nearly impossible to navigate. Although these weeks did have their challenges, they were surprisingly stress-free. The reason for this, you may ask? The other third of the cohort—the Chinese students. There are truly no words to explain how incredible our Chinese peers are. Their patience, willingness to help, and utter kindness were the driving force behind making so many of our transitions to this new culture as smooth as I ever could have imagined it to be. We are all so grateful to have them as peers, colleagues, and lifelong friends.
I am excited to continue the many adventures that await us in the M.S. in Global Commerce Program. We are finishing up the second part of our studies at Lingnan (University) College through distance learning, given the coronavirus outbreak. I chose to travel to Australia to complete mine, while other peers have gone with other peers to their home countries. I feel fortunate for the time I had in China. In early March, we look forward to reuniting in Barcelona to complete the final leg of the Program at Esade.
Check out the UVA McIntire Grad Instagram account to stay updated on our cohort.