HKUST MBA – The Little Hidden Gem

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International Night

While offered with an opportunity to do his MBA in the US, Alvin decided to choose a business school in Hong Kong instead. What makes the business school in HK more appealing than the US? Alvin tells his story here.

Me: “Yes, I’m doing my MBA in Hong Kong at HKUST”

X: “Eh? In Hong Kong?”

I’ve had countless of such interactions prior, during and after my MBA in Hong Kong. As normal as it may sound, I initially wanted to do my MBA in the US. I was offered a full scholarship by one of my former employers to do my MBA at University of Virginia – Darden School of Business. But then, I heard that there was a B-school in Hong Kong that was ranked number 1 in Asia by Financial Times. Curious about the school, I decided to attend their very first event in Jakarta.

Everything changed when I attended the HKUST MBA event. I was quickly attracted by their jargon “diversity” – both professional backgrounds and nationalities. HKUST MBA also has smaller class size compared to most B-schools in the US. But still, I could not see myself doing an MBA in Hong Kong. In fact, having visited HK many times since I was a kid, HK to me was all about great food and their “harsher version of Mandarin” language. My perceptions quickly changed when I flew to Hong Kong to attend HKUST MBA Open House and Sample Class at the end of 2015. HKUST Campus is located in a hilly residential area on the far east side of Hong Kong, an area called Clearwater Bay. The campus is huge and beautiful, surrounded by mountain and sea.

View from campus
View from campus

During the open house event, I met more MBA Office staffs and HKUST MBA students who were very approachable and knowledgeable. The experiences shared by the diverse students and alumni were all very positive and I got a vibe that HKUST MBA is quite a close community. It was also during this time that I fully realized the potential of Asia’s economic growth globally and decided that I wanted to be part of it. Being in the event and thinking about Asia’s future economy, ensure me to make a firm decision to do my MBA at HKUST. I see the HKUST MBA can offer me great exposure to the west and east part of the world, as well as strengthening my Asia business knowledge.

HKUST MBA
The HKUST MBA program started with a 1-month immersion, which involved a lot of team building activities and short introductory classes. This first month was really fun and it made me realized that I picked the right diverse program. My classmates were all very enthusiastic and had a quite interesting background story to tell. For me, doing an MBA is not just about gaining hard skills from the classes, but it is also about learning from the people I meet and gaining the lifelong friendship. Even though I was in Hong Kong, but I felt like I was in touch with a much bigger community worldwide in the HKUST MBA.

I took the 16-month MBA program and within that time I had the freedom to choose the classes I am interested in (apart from the core classes taken at the beginning of the program). HKUST offers a great selection of classes ranging from finance, marketing, operations, management, etc. The great thing about taking MBA in Asia is that the classes are focused on how to do business in Asia. Having said that, it does not necessarily mean HKUST does not focus on global business; the faculties come from around the world and have extensive experiences in academia as well as global industry.

Outside of class, we have lots of school activities conducted by clubs as well as by companies. The clubs are divided into two types: career-focused clubs and social clubs. An example of a career-focused club is General Management club that held several career-related events including industry experts sharing – where we had a chance to hear from professionals about their experience working and surviving in HK. On the more fun side, the social clubs held events to introduce their cultures, or do gathering to bring people closer together. Additionally, one of the biggest events for HKUST MBA is International Night. It is where the MBA students from different culture perform some shows, share their food and wear traditional clothes. I was involved in the MBA Band during International Night where we performed various songs, from The Beatles to Beyond, from ballads to heavy rock. The MBA Band existed until even a year later where we performed in many different events on and off campus.

International Night
UST MBA Band. Photo credit: Tammy Taw

Most of the MBA students live in Tower C as it is just a walking distance to the class building. Level 5-8 of Tower C is especially dedicated to the MBA students of a certain batch, so it becomes very convenient to mingle with classmates or do work projects from school. Apart from the convenient location, Tower C also offers a great view of the outlying islands and is also quite affordable compared to out of campus housing. It takes around 40 – 60 minutes by bus and train to go to the city center from Tower C.

Doing MBA at HKUST really opened up different opportunities. I was fortunate to be trusted in helping the kick off of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macau – this was done with full support from HKUST MBA Office for endorsing me with the initiation. During the summer semester, students are allowed to choose whether to take summer classes, do an internship or simply take a full 3-4 months holiday. Through my MBA friends, I was able to land an internship in Tokyo, Japan for the summer of 2017. In addition to that, I had a chance to do a part-time job at a growing Hong Kong tech startups during my last semester in MBA.

Outside of Class and School
Most people only know Hong Kong as the shopping paradise, but Hong Kong actually has a lot more things to explore. You can go from a hustle bustle city life to an amazing nature view in just a short distance; this is what’s most attractive about Hong Kong for me. The HKUST campus happens to be located near an area called Sai Kung. Downtown Sai Kung consists of small shops and restaurants, and the area is famous for seafood. From downtown Sai Kung, you can also take boats to several nearby islands with beautiful beaches and scenic hike. Other than in Sai Kung, hiking trails are also abundant throughout Hong Kong. The most famous hike is the Dragon’s Back located in Hong Kong Island.

Hiking in Hong Kong
Hiking in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Wisiani Wijaya

Hong Kong is also a paradise for a foodie. You can easily find international food from around the world. The local food is also very good, but some restaurants might not have a server who speak English. There are a lot of Indonesian restaurants in the city and the taste is quite authentic. For our Moslem friends, finding halal food can be challenging; it is best to go to an Indonesian restaurant or vegetarian restaurant to be sure.

After almost 3 years living in Hong Kong, my career brought me back to Jakarta. People would often ask what I got from doing MBA in Hong Kong, and my answer is: a family. The close-knit HKUST MBA has become like a family to me – I can now proudly say that I have families all over the world. The diversity of my classmates changes my perception of the business world; from the classes and the people, I learned to think more globally and adapt to different ways of doing things. Most importantly, Cantonese is no longer “the harsher version” of Mandarin anymore to me, it is truly an expressive yet beautiful language.

Photos are provided by the author.

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Alvin Valerian
Alvin Valerian is an MBA graduate from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Alvin holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Civil & Environmental Engineering. He co-founded the South East Asian Club at HKUST MBA and served as the club’s first President. He has working experiences in the US, Indonesia, Japan and Hong Kong for more than 6 years in different fields. Alvin is now working as Business Transformation Manager of the Chairman Office at Sinar Mas Group in Jakarta, Indonesia. A true musician at heart, he plays guitar, bass and drums. Tennis and Hiking are his steroids.