Faculty of Business attracts students around the world

Shuyee Chen

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Global mobility is reshaping the world. With the speed of globalization, the rise of information technology and the dramatic increase in multinational enterprises, the world truly has become a global village. In order to prepare students for this reality, CityU encourages its undergraduate students to participate in overseas exchange programmes for one or two semesters before they graduate. CityU started this initiative in the early 1990s. It now has about 70 partner institutions outside Hong Kong. More than 100 students from overseas countries and the Mainland participated in CityU’s student exchange programmes in the academic year 2003-2004.


The Faculty of Business (FB), which pioneered the student exchange programme at CityU, has continued to be the most popular faculty among exchange students from abroad. This year, the faculty accepted 39 exchange students from 19 partner institutions. The students come from all over the world, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Singapore,  Sweden and the United States, .  “With the increasing importance of Asia and China in the world’s political and economic scene, and Hong Kong as a well-known international finance and trade centre, CityU’s Faculty of Business is attracting more business students across the globe,” said Dr Ho To Ming, Associate Head of CityU’s Department of Economics and Finance. The Faculty of Business, he added, has “a natural emphasis on China and Asia in its curriculum design.”


"Exchange students  from overseas bring a variety of benefits to CityU students. “They give our students a taste of different cultures,” said Dr Mary Pang, Associate Professor in the Department of Management and Coordinator of the exchange programme for the FB. “They help our students increase their cultural awareness and intercultural communication skilla without having to go abroad,” she said. In sharing activities with exchange students, local students also come to a better understanding of themselves, their own culture and society. “The sharing process is a two-way thing,” Dr Pang added.


Nicholas West, 22, a final-year student from the University of Western Ontario, Canada (Western), spent one semester here, ending in early January 2004. For him, the exchange experience at CityU was fruitful, both academically and culturally. “My major is Finance and Administration. I felt I had to come to Hong Kong, because it is such an important financial centre,” Nicholas said. He was also attracted by CityU’s courses, some of which were not available at Western.


Nicholas’s two favorite classes were "Introduction to Financial Trading" and "Cross-Cultural Negotiations." The former, offered by the Department of Economics and Finance, was conducted in a classroom with 25 personal computers. Each was connected to Reuters’ real-time stock update and analysis, and each student was able to use a computer throughout the class. “I don’t think many undergraduates have been exposed to Reuters in this way unless they also have a job. That was definitely an advantage,” he said. The teacher also taught them how to use a variety of practical financial tools. “I’m definitely going to mention some of the skills I learned at CityU on my CV.”


In the Cross-Cultural Negotiations course, offered by the Department of Management, Nicholas found the teacher’s approach extremely beneficial. Most of the course focused on real-world issues and settings through role-playing. “This approach allowed us to apply what we learned,” Nicholas said. “It makes the important things stay with you. Apart from that, there was also a quiz in every single session.” For Nicholas, it was also a big plus that the class dealt with Chinese culture. Half the class focused on negotiating with China, so the teacher explained the subtle differences between western culture and Chinese culture. “I certainly would not have had these insights at Western,” Nicholas readily admitted. 


Philip Blumenthal, 22, a business student from the University of Mannheim, Germany, came to CityU to learn about Asia, China in particular. In Europe, many people seem to believe that possessing an MBA from an American university is like having a passport to multinational enterprises—a guarantee of a bright future. Philip thinks differently. “According to a popular German saying, if a fish swims against the flow of the river, it is likely to be the first one to find the origin of the river.” For Philip, the center of the world’s business today is Asia, not the west. “So why not come directly to Asia?” he wondered.


CityU’s classroom culture made Philip reflect upon education in general. In Germany, because university education is free, the class size is generally large, often with more than 100 students in a class. “It makes the relationship between teacher and student more distant, and two-way communication is just about impossible,” Philip said. At CityU’s Faculty of Business, most classes are small and interaction between the students and the teacher is highly encouraged. “In Germany, there is often no coursework or homework required. A student’s performance is only judged by the final examination at the semester end,” Philip said, “but at CityU, we had to participate in all kinds of group discussions. We had to do presentations, projects and reports, not to mention preparing for quizzes. It forced me to work much harder than I would have back home” .


In Germany, teachers generally focus more on theory, while at CityU, according to Philip, teachers emphasize practical skills and professional knowledge to prepare students for their future career. “My ideal model is a mixture of both. German universities should try to add a touch of the real world to what they teach inside the classroom, so that students learn something that is useful. On the other hand, CityU could make their students work more on theory, so that a solid foundation is laid down for further studies,” Philip said.


Anne-Marie Myssen, 23, often mistaken for a teacher by local students , was one of the tenth group of exchange students from the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. “My university has been exchanging students with CityU’s Faculty of Business for the past five years,” Anne-Marie said . “Everyone I know who had been to CityU told me it would be one of the best things I could do for myself.” Still, she was concerned about the cost. Then, one day, a teacher asked her how she planned to make herself stand out among her 600 peer graduates. “That simple question helped me make up my mind immediately. I knew I could easily gain a competitive edge by coming to Hong Kong,” she said.


To get acquainted with Hong Kong and China, Anne-Marie chose to study Economics of China (Mainland) and Hong Kong, offered by the Department of Economics and Finance, and  Business Environment in China, offered by the Department of Marketing. “My Chinese experience in Hong Kong and the knowledge I’ve gained about China at CityU will definitely help my future career development,” Anne-Marie commented.


When she first arrived, Anne-Marie was stunned by the crowds and Hong Kong’s busy streets. However, she soon fell in love with the city and its exotic culture. “Although CityU is not the best known university in the world, it has a high academic standard. I was also impressed by its advanced and abundant equipment. It is very easy for a student to borrow a notebook computer from the university, and we can be connected virtually with our teachers and classmates, and the rest of the world, almost anytime and anywhere.”


CityU started an exchange programme with Oregon State University less than two years ago. The extremely positive response encouraged Peter Stams, 23, a double option business student, to come to Hong Kong. “I major in Business and Hong Kong is Asia’s key business center,” Peter said. “I thought it would be my best bet to spend some time studying here.”


Beyond the courses, what Peter found most enlightening was the experience of being a westerner in Chinese culture. “It’s a humbling process. It opened my eyes. Now I know better how the outside world looks at America. It was definitely a precious, personal growth experience.”


“We try to make our courses as lively as possible, incorporating various activities along with internship programmes and study tours in China,” said Dr Zhou Nan, Head of CityU’s Department of Marketing. “We aim to nurture talent for Hong Kong, China and Asia. We are very glad to see that the fruits of our labours are shared with students from around the world.”


Established in 1990, CityU’s Faculty of Business has evolved into six departments: the Department of Accountancy, the Department of Economics and Finance, the Department of Information Systems, the Department of Management, the Department of Management Sciences and the Department of Marketing. They have built exchange links with 19 overseas institutions including:  IndianaUniversity in the United States; Groupe ESSCA in France; and Erasmus University Rotterdam in Holland.


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