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Study Abroad: Ruurd van der Heide

Find out what Ruurd van der Heide did in Shangai!

Dear Lugians,

Whilst writing this, I was flying to Porto with my dear friend Olaf van Egmond to compete in the TIMES case competition by ESTIEM. Once there, the importance of international experience becomes clear. One should be out of his or her comfort zone in order to develop in life, and so I did.

On April the 30th I left the Netherlands for Shanghai. Although within our curriculum is no space to go abroad I am completing the bachelor in 4 years instead of 3. This gave me some space in the last semester to make myself useful. With a bit of luck, I became an intern at CEIBS (China Europe International Business School). The business school provides MBA’s and EMBA’s (takes 2 years) for people who aspire a job in higher management positions. This means that you have to be at least around 27 to do such program since a few years of working experience is mandatory to apply. This was no possibility for me, instead, I became the first western intern at the case department.


The case department conducts investigations into companies (agreed upon together) and writes cases about the problems and changes made. Although these cases are very much written in a business strategy way, it was still interesting as an engineering student since the company I wrote about was DSM. After conducting a lot of background research, the interviews were taken with high ranked managers for example CEO China and CFO Asia. It is interesting to hear their views on the company on a local perspective since the DSM China approach is very different to the European approach of running a company. For example, regulations with the government, pushing forward new products on the market and doing business with associates goes on a whole different level then DSM was used to in Europe. My advantage to become of any value to the department was due to my level English and of out of the box thinking compared to the Chinese case writers. 

Besides the writing of a case which is instructive, I stepped out of my comfort zone into a world with guys who worked at big companies like McKenzie for 10 years who knew how to deal with certain things in life. I decided to join the western people on campus (10% of total) with social activities since the Chinese ‘students’ were so eager to get good grades that you would barely see them. Since I hadn’t made a decent amount of money in my life so far, they decided to pay sometimes (which made the decision to go easier). On top of that you get a lot for free from the night clubs. This was not so much because we knew someone over there but because of the culture difference. Chinese people show a lot of respect towards western people, the respect people give you rises when more western people come visit. This results in more rich Chinese kids coming as well to show their amounts of money (and they have a lot). 

A big mistake is to take this for granted and see the locals as less intelligent, this is absolutely not the case. The Chinese population is incredibly hard working and are (probably) smarter than most of us all. The advantage we have are our social skills, standing your man and expressing your opinion even to your supervisor. When I heard about the failed RUG in China I might have been a bit relieved since I was not looking forward at a stream of shy Chinese students coming to Groningen. While writing this letter, I think that is a mistake, our level would probably have risen while competing with them as fellow students and moreover, there would have been a valuable opportunity to go abroad.

To each person who goes abroad I say: ‘the first day will probably be like hell. You have no idea what you are doing and how you will go through with it. But once you find your way, (give it a few days) it will be the best choice so far’. 

It is a shame we have no extradition program in our bachelor and I would definitely vote for one, I am positive it would contribute to the level of students will reach once we do.

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