Accepted.com is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at selected MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Here’s a talk with a student who traveled half way around the world to attend Hong Kong’s top-notch MBA program at HKUST Business School. Thank you Jeremy Haber for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Jeremy Haber: I’m a white southern Jew. Grew up on an emu farm outside Nashville, TN. Studied accounting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Spent a semester abroad in South Korea, studying international business. I fell in love with Korea, and travelling around Asia. In 2008, I came to a tough decision of studying another semester abroad in Asia or starting work at Boeing. I chose to start work, knowing I’d have a second chance to study abroad in MBA school.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend HKUST? What are some of your favorite things about living in Hong Kong? Least favorite?
Jeremy Haber: I am your normal career changer: an accountant who wanted to work in banking. My roommate and I decided to travel to Hong Kong to get a change in perspective. We both loved the city and made a pact we’d try out banking in Asia. The MBA was the next logical step. The 2010 Financial Times globally ranked HKUST as a top 10 university. The school has strong connections with the Hong Kong finance industry and a great finance curriculum. The 16-month MBA program also offers time for a 3-month internship and a semester to study abroad at other top 10 programs. HKUST ended up being the only school I applied to.
HKUST is located forty minutes away from downtown Hong Kong, in one of the most beautiful areas of Hong Kong. It’s one of the most peaceful places to study during the week. On the weekend, Lan Quai Fung is the place to be for networking and enjoying a pint with fellow classmates and other Hong Kong MBA students. My favorite thing to do in Hong Kong is hiking, a normal MBA Sunday activity. Actually, 40 percent of Hong Kong is country parks, having over 300km of trails. There are really unique events like Moontrekker, a 40km hike in the dark, which myself and another MBA accomplished this weekend.
My least favorite thing about living in Hong Kong is the necessity of learning Chinese. Travelling in Hong Kong is pretty easy knowing English, but it is necessary to learn Mandarin and a little Cantonese if your heart is set on living and working in Hong Kong after school. Although Hong Kong finance internships only require English speaking skills, most applications I fill out for internships prefer strong Mandarin speaking skills. Most students take a few months off before MBA school to study Mandarin in China. If I had the choice again, I probably would have done the same.
Accepted: How does the Asian location contribute to your post-MBA goals? Have your career goals changed since you’ve begun your studies?
Jeremy Haber: Definitely, I will stay and work a few years in Asia. HKUST is one of the most recognized schools in the Asia region so it makes sense to work in Asia. Originally, I had my heart set on Hong Kong; however, Singapore is another great option for non-native Mandarin speakers. Singapore, although a little slower paced city compared to Hong Kong, has a lot of great opportunities in finance and management consulting. All my internship applications have been for investment banking in Singapore or Hong Kong; however, I find I like consulting too, so I’ll probably choose one of the two. It’s also very easy to start a business in Hong Kong and Singapore so maybe after building a network I may give entrepreneurship a shot, too.
Accepted: Had you visited the campus before deciding to attend?
Jeremy Haber: I didn’t visit HKUST before attending the MBA. I did visit Hong Kong the year prior, so I was familiar with the city. Many students do move off campus after first semester, since most of the elective classes are in downtown Hong Kong. I did have a Mandarin teacher in Seattle and he visited the campus and mentioned how beautiful it was, so that was all the convincing I needed.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Jeremy Haber: By far the best class is the Residential Program. It is a two-day leadership and teambuilding class where we were thrown into challenging situations. Only the teams that worked together succeeded. It was definitely tough for some teammates, especially those who were afraid of heights. For the roller coasters and bungee jumping enthusiasts, we really enjoyed the ropes course and crazy obstacles.
Accepted: Can you recommend any cozy places to study and get a cup of joe near campus? (And how is the joe in Hong Kong?)
Jeremy Haber: The #1 favorite thing I love about Hong Kong is the Afternoon Tea. In the late afternoon, most cafes serve tea sets, which is tea, coffee, and small snacks. There are countless combinations one can choose from. I usually get the hot milk tea with French toast and peanut butter which ends up being around $2.00USD. Other popular snacks are sausages, chicken wings, hot dogs, and French fries and my second favorite drink “Yuenyeung” 50:50 milk tea and coffee. The coffee in Hong Kong is quite good. The best places to get coffee are downtown where the good shopping is. Most subway stops have Starbucks and McCafes. Another popular chain is Pacific Coffee Company, which is a more artsy environment. Most students go to Hung Hau about 10 min by minibus if they want to get coffee off campus or meet with friends.
Accepted: We’ve heard that HKUST gives an iPad to each of its students. How have you benefited from this perk?
Jeremy Haber: Everyone was excited to hear about the iPads, and they have been great! At the beginning of orientation, the MBA office organized an iPad effectiveness course, where we learned all the tricks to manage documents, mark up cases, collect news feeds, and what the hottest apps are. All the course materials are put on a common Dropbox folder by classmates so we are able to view all our cases and course lectures directly on our iPads. I am so glad to not have to print out Annual Reports. That would have been a nightmare for accounting. You don’t know how many trees the MBA program has saved. Most students go to Hong Kong three times a week, so it’s convenient to just bring the iPad on the 40 min subway ride and read cases on the way to events. Hong Kong has many wireless hotspots that are free to university students, so it’s great to go to any public place and connect to the internet.
About half of the students are also learning Mandarin at the same time as taking classes, so using the iPad has really helped in our Mandarin studies. I love CamDictionary app where I can use the camera on the iPad to look up scan Chinese characters and it translates to English so I can order my dim sum. Flipboard is also very useful for Twitter and blog feeds.
Accepted: Do you think all MBA students should own iPads (that is, even those who aren’t lucky enough to get one for free from their program)?
Jeremy Haber: MBA students should own iPads. It is a competitive advantage in terms of productivity, accessing, and organizing data. There is so much information being thrown at MBA students. I learn 60% from lectures and homework, and 40% from online social networks with classmates posting videos and articles. As companies begin to feel more comfortable with social media, students will connect more with recruiters through their iPads. In the future, more curriculums will incorporate simulations, or learning through games; it’ll only be time until professors connect with MBA software engineering students to make simulation business apps for iPads, or for professors to make short learning videos. I would much rather view all these materials on the go from my iPad, while enjoying my afternoon tea set, of course.
Do you want to win an iPad 2 for school? Create a video explaining how an iPad would improve your life as a student and submit it to our Y iPad? contest. View the contest rules on our Y iPad? contest page on Facebook.