This may come as a complete surprise to you, but HKUST’s MBA program is the only one I’ve applied for.
Why HKUST, you ask?
Actually, quite a few of my colleagues raise their eyebrows when I tell them that yes, I’ve resigned to go back to school, and yes, it’s a small campus in Hong Kong called HKUST.
The school needs to do a lot more branding, man… though they have leap-frogged achievements in a mere few years, HKUST has yet to achieve cult-like status unlike Wharton, NYU, Colombia and LBS, schools btw that I have planned to apply for earlier on when I was thinking about where to get my MBA.
Yes, I could’ve gone to these Ivy League school.
My interest was Finance and I could’ve chosen the best globally. Wharton, NYU and Colombia were all shining schools I would’ve loved to have as my alma matter. London Business School would’ve been terrific diversity wise, and London – wow – the gateway to Paris and all those European cities! No more 12- to 14-hour flights for me, baby!
However, after joining the information sessions for INSEAD, London Business School and University of Chicago, ultimately, it was HKUST that I decided on. After HKUST’s information session and sample class last December in Clearwater Bay, I’ve decided that this was the most ideal school for me for certain reasons:
1) HKUST’s foundation in finance is solid – and technical skills are what I’m seeking to get from my MBA.
I don’t care if you would want to change your career, expand your network or increase your salary floor, but for me, the reason why I’m getting an MBA is that my years in finance highlighted the huge gaps I have on my knowledge.
It’s the things you take for granted if you’re a finance practitioner, and would come to hate — financial modelling, company valuation, investment analysis, etc. All these numbers and Excel datasheets. These are my weaknesses, and boy, do I want to strengthen all those things that I currently lack.
Bummer, right? Some people are in an MBA for different reasons. I’m maybe one of those crazy enough who is actually forgoing almost 18-months of salary for an education.
Fortunately, HKUST’s financial tilt is solid. I’ve seen their electives and am impressed. These are classes I wanted to get into and learn more about.
2) It’s in Asia. And supposedly, it’s the best in Asia.
Everyone talks about China and the importance of studying in a program that’s close to where the action is.
I do not disagree.
Despite the market’s volatility (imagine, just the last couple of months brought censorship by Google, the ups and downs of the China proprety market, the reserve rate hikes, amont others), China is still the place to be. That’s where growth is maintained to over 8 percent (!) per annum. Imagine that, where the world is crumbling, China is just waking up!
However, my reasons for staying in Asia has less to do with China, than being close to my love ones.
I remember when Trader and I first got together. For some reason, men take less time getting to know women before making them their girlfriends. In any case, I told Trader that I wanted to get an MBA.
You could’ve seen his reaction. I don’t really know if he teared up but he really did pick a fuss.
“Why is it that so many couples try to stay closer together, when you are trying to move farther away,” he almost shouted. Well, I’ve always been a firm believer that distance can make the heart go fonder or further so que sera sera but Trader was not as pleased as peach to hear my news of an MBA.
My traditional mother was nowhere better. She was ecstatic that finally, here was a guy who was willing to seriously date her obstinate daughter with her quirks and all. Her advice? “Choose between your career or a family, Bonita,” she admonished me. “If you get an MBA, you’ll even be more arrogant and heck, you will never ever find a husband!”
My mom exaggerates, but you can imagine my pain and conflict.
Ultimately, we all agreed that a happy compromise was to find a school in Asia.
There were only three choices I was willing to consider — CEIBS in Shanghai, INSEAD in Singapore and HKUST in Clearwater Bay.
The information sessions cleared a lot of things.
INSEAD unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth (as to that is the alumni’s intention, I wouldn’t know but for some reason, I thought of Insead as the party school where you get to tour Singapore and France without studying too much) and it was not particularly known for its strength in finance; CEIBS were mostly too local for me and was better attended by manufacturing managers; while HKUST was great in finance.
It was later on after I’ve decided to apply at HKUST that I heard that its rankings increased from No. 16, to No. 9 in a year according to the Financial Times. Talk about coincidences. Hence, arguably, it is the best, if not one of the best MBA programs in Asia.
So given my limitations, HKUST is the best school for me.
Not only is it closer to my family and Trader, but it’s also gaining visibility in Asia. Imagine, if it can consistently maintain its ranking (and who says I’m not a long-term investor) and its educational quality, what’s not to expect it to be later known by everyone.
Slowly and steadily wins the race, but hey, can you fault me from making a calculated bet that HKUST has the potential to actually be THE B-School to be in Asia?
3) I liked the faculty and campus appeal.
The campus is in Clearwater Bay which to many is still the middle of nowhere. However, you can imagine just how beautiful the scenery is just being in the midst of nothingness. Check it out:
The campus itself is as peaceful on a blue sunny day. The library is huge and accommodating. Just the perfect place to do your class bonding and cramming. 🙂
Besides, it seems that the university itself stresses that though MBA may be fun, it’s also very stressful and challenging. Ha, as if that would push me away. Stress and challenges? Bring it on and the more the better!
Overall, it’s the most ideal school for me so much the even the practical side of me only allowed me to apply to a single school. Crazy, I know. However, it’s not that I am too arrogant into thinking that I could actually get in (in fact, the admission also came as a surprise to me), but rather because I found a school that fits MY needs (and note that it doesn’t mean that MBA is for everyone).
Loyal readers of this blog know very well that MBA is a dream come true for me. My mother warns me that I may be magnificently disappointed and thoroughly bored when I realize that MBA would be a waste of time given that I already know what is being taught but I must differ.
One does not pay HKD420,000 of tuition fee (at least for Year 2010) and expect themselves to be bored. Quite contrary, I do not expect any less than a world-class education, a wide diverse of classmates who have much to offer in the classroom, and a lifechanging experience that prepares you for the future.
It’s not that I am worried about the future per se. However, it does give me a bit of comfort that I am more organized and ready to face what the world would like to throw at my face. As mentioned, an MBA is not really for everyone and even Trader thinks it’s a complete waste of time (Trader btw believes that work experience is more valuable than education), but it is for me.
And I am so looking forward to August to start getting it on.
Btw, I just resigned today and now serving my 1-month transition period. Here’s wishing me all the best and that I can finalize all travel plans before I say bye-bye to my company I worked in for almost 4 years.
I feel like a stranger now, but that’s another blog post.
Have a great week everyone!