Cecilia Chen, the Residential MBA (RMBA) Program’s first international student, travelled nearly 24 hours to reach the campus of Anderson University. Cecilia, a student from Anyang City, China, has just begun her MBA classes, but has already identified major differences between American university life and Chinese university life.
Cecilia comes from a family of doctors—her mother runs a women’s and children’s hospital, and Cecilia herself has a medical degree in addition to two business-focused degrees. For Cecilia, however, earning an MBA could help her manage family-run medical practices.
As she searched for an MBA Program, Cecilia realized she wanted to study abroad. “My mother’s friend (who I call an aunt) has lived in Indianapolis for almost 10 years,” said Cecilia. “I was looking and praying for schools in New York or Chicago, but my aunt suggested I look in the Midwest because it is so similar to my home.”
After looking at several Midwestern colleges, Cecilia chose Anderson University. “I put myself in a challenging environment,” said Cecilia. “And that’s okay—I like challenges.”
Cecilia belongs to a cohort of 19 students, each with their own studio apartment. In China, however, as many as 8 students could live in a dorm, which could be crowded.
Her schedule has also changed dramatically. “In China, we had classes in the morning and then at noon we took a two-hour break,” said Cecilia. “We didn’t cook our own food, so it might take a long time to wait in lines at restaurants to eat lunch. Then we’d head back for afternoon courses.”
In the evening, Cecilia would either stay in her dorm to study or head to laboratories to do work there. For students’ birthdays, Cecilia and her friends might karaoke or go dancing for fun, but as her classes became more intense, the trips became more infrequent. “I have to study every day,” explained Cecilia. “Since I was working on two degrees, I would have double the courses than one-degree students at SIAS International University.”
One of the major differences Cecilia has noticed in the educational process in general is that in her experiences, it was more difficult to enter college than to graduate. “Parents might be involved in their children getting into college, but it wasn’t a tradition for them to come to graduation ceremonies.”
This year, Cecilia’s parents plan to fly out to Anderson to watch her graduate from the RMBA Program.
Because it is common to learn English in Chinese schools, Cecilia has spoken English for years, although she admits to struggling with speaking English. “In big cities, foreigners teach English to students,” said Cecilia, who is from a more rural part of China. “They are so lucky! We had no environment to practice oral English.”
As she begins her co-op and continues taking classes, however, Cecilia’s confidence grows, as well as her appreciation.
“I’m the lucky one,” said Cecilia. “Some people have no chance to go abroad. We live in two worlds.”