NUS part-time MBA student Andrew Cho shares his experience on a summer MBA exchange programme at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany.
Germany has always been one of my favourite countries and a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Needless to say, when I found out about the opportunity to go for a summer exchange at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Koblenz, Germany; I jumped at the chance to experience German life. The programme entitled “The Changing Environment for International Business in Europe”, centered around introducing students to the business environment in Europe and included visits to German companies and the European Central Bank.
The application process was simple enough, ably coordinated by Zahira Nawi from the MBA Exchange Programme. All I had to do was to fill up the application forms and submit it together with a short write up of my motivations for enrolling in the programme and a copy of my resume.
Not understanding German, I was initially a little apprehensive about how I’d cope over two weeks. However, upon my arrival I soon found my worries were unfounded as most of the Germans I met spoke good very good English so I really had no trouble going about daily life.
WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management is a private university with a rich tradition, with a modern campus set in the quiet German town of Vallendar, Koblenz; one of the oldest cities with a picturesque landscape of castles and hills. I stayed in a little apartment in Niederwerth, a quiet town on an island in the middle of the romantic river Rhine, just ten minutes walk from WHU. My two week stay was an environmental awakening. I was impressed with the level of environmental consciousness in Germany. I soon found myself separating garbage, recycling empty bottles and doing all the things I did not recall doing back in Singapore.
At the broad level, the programme taught us about the history, social and political factors shaped Europe and learnt about the diverse cultural and social differences within European markets. We also discussed how the European Union (EU) policies and in particular, the European Monetary Union has helped to open opportunities and reduce costs for European based businesses. We also had opportunities to interact with German executives and ECB bankers who were happy to share their management and business experiences.
The course was fairly intensive because aside from the standard case studies, there was a final exam and an end of course project where we had to apply what we have learnt to market a luxury product in key European markets. Although the project work was arduous, I felt I had benefited tremendously from the opportunity to work closely with American and European MBA students. The handwork also paid off because our group won second prize for our strategy for manufacturing and distributing Harley Davidson motorcycles in Europe.
The social activities organized by WHU were also excellent. There was an introductory dinner with faculty members and fellow exchange students, barhopping and wine tasting with WHU students. More importantly, the activities provided a good social setting for MBA students from the US, Europe and WHU to mingle and interact with faculty. Through my newfound friends, I found out that the reason why German beer taste so good is because it is brewed in accordance to the purity law (Reinheitsgebot) since ancient times. The only allowable ingredients for German beer are water, hops and barley-malt. Any beer not brewed according to the purity law cannot be legally sold as beer in Germany.
But at the end of the day, no exchange programme is complete without a little fun on the side. I took the weekend break to visit Munich, where I went to Schloss Neuschwanstein (Neuschwanstein Castle, commissioned by Ludwig the Second, and the inspiration behind Disneyland’s Castle) and sampled the best German beer at the famous Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
Overall, I found the exchange programme very professionally run, with a good mix of lectures, interactions with German companies and leisure. More importantly, it gave me the chance to experience German culture and way of life as well as the opportunity to network with American and European MBA students, making this a truly memorable and enriching two weeks.
Andrew Cho Kuo Ren
Part Time MBA Student