Friday, 27 November 2009

Prospective Students for GBUS/HKUST? P. I

Long time no write. I've been indolent and... well, much too self-conscious to post. I felt that something has been expected of me, that my poor writing and inane entries would not stand up to the calibre of a "Global Business Student."

Almost a year and a half here. I wish I could more clearly articulate my gradual evolution. Before I broadcast my own knot of thoughts, perhaps what would be more interesting to others would be what HKUST/GBUS is like, at least in my eyes. At least, that's what I get asked most of the time. Funnily enough, I just got asked that through Facebook.

Because I will be talking about HKUST/GBUS through my lens, it's only fair that you know where I come from and how my lens is biased. I'm from an international school and I entered through "non-Jupas" with the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. I am, however, considered a "local student" because I have a Hong Kong Identity Card. For the record, though, I've never lived in HK before university. I'm afraid I would not be able to offer any information regarding entry using HK public examination results.

International Students
Please come to HKUST with an open mindset. I learned that the hard way. I somewhat expected HKUST to be more international than my high school, that it would resemble a private university in the US. HKUST has many international students and the trend is that it will get more international. At the time being, expecting it to be thoroughly diverse in terms of nationality is a little over-demanding. It is still a young school that has been very successful in earning itself a respectable reputation. It is still growing.

In terms of athletics, I also expected it to be like a US uni. Note that HKUST is more academically-oriented. As captain of the swim team and water polo team, I can tell you that my high school team was better. We have amazing facilities though - the outdoor pool is great, right next to the sea, and we have all equipment necessary for building a formidable swimming and water polo team. Here, schoolwork comes first and I respect that. It may be a little difficult to ask for resources to support your team too - our swim team training sessions are now on Tues and Thurs mornings which conflict with class time for many swimmers (classes can be anytime between 9-6pm, with certain classes/tutorials ending at 7pm) because the SAO (Student Affairs Office) has asked us to train during non-peak hours in the indoor pool (smaller than the outdoor pool and hence space is more precious). Unfortunately our usual time of 7-9pm which suits all athletes falls under peak hours. In all due respect, it took much negotiation and compromise to even reach the non-peak hour training timeslot. Originally the SAO said that it will not support swim team training sessions in the indoor pool at all. We are immensely grateful that at the end we are still able to train.

It's late, I'm sick, time for bed.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

B-School - Value and Ethics. (?)

Global Business Analysis class finished half an hour ago and left me with an insane urgency to publish a post. Values and Ethics. How many times have we all heard of this? How many times have I suppressed a yawn when any topic veers close enough to this?

Yet this "soporific" subject has special pertinence to me. And my own "boredom" was probably due to the fact that I never really cared enough to look deep enough. Everybody has values. Blah blah blah. I, really, didn't really care. And I, really hate preaching. Which is usually what a lecture on V&E usually is. Of course the world would be a better place if we could all be good people.

Then, today rolled around. Professor Paul Forster invited a special guest to our lecture today, Dr. Karen. Leadership and values. Dear reader, if you know anything about BMGB 101, you will know that it is anything BUT proselytizing. I knew better than to expect a sermon.

"Leaders wield great power" - we all know that. That's why everybody in that class wants to be one. "Leaders make big decisions." Once again, of course. "These decisions are subtly influenced by individual values and ethics." Now that it was clearly stated for me, I felt like slapping myself. That connection's pretty freaking obvious. Yet I never thought about it. "Values" = time to zone out. "Ethics" = time to doodle. I am always, so silly. And because leaders, well, lead their companies, they influence the entire organization's values, decisions, and environment.

Enron. Being the insular imbecile that I am, I only vaguely heard of that company when Dr. Karen mentioned it. Ex-CEO Jeff Shilling's values and ethics (or lack of) trickled down to the traders and infested the entire enterprise. The only incentives were extrinsic. Money. 15% of the workforce was fired every year based on "peer evaluations" (the exact wording I've forgotten). One employee said, "If stepping on a colleague's throat would double my bonus, I'd STOMP on his throat, you know?" (Something like that.) Ex-CEO Jeff Shilling had truly Darwinian beliefs - survival of the fittest. And that money is the only motivator. Talk about leadership and establishing an organizational culture!

When the ex-CEO was at Harvard Business School, one professor asked him, "Are you smart?" He replied, "I'm f***ing smart." Sometimes we are deluded by our own brains. Sometimes we think we're doing good. Perhaps the trader at Enron thought he was doing good for the company by fabricating accounting entries. It was made doubly easy for that trader to believe so when everybody else was doing the same thing.

"When money is the only motivator, perhaps something's amiss."

This is especially poignant for me. A little more than a year ago, I thought I was going to become an investment banker or actuary after graduating from university. It makes no sense when you take into account my personality. I love interacting with people. There really shouldn't be much appeal in a job that entails being locked up in a cubicle all day long. But you get paid obscene amounts of money. I admit it. I was attracted to that career because of extrinsic motives. I thought that I could separate "work" from my life, that "work" was simply a means to get money. Dr. Karen also shared her own experiences of working at an I-bank. Coupled with the financial crisis, this was my wake-up call.

Maybe the financial crisis was solely because of greed.

Or maybe it's karma.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Academically me, part I

So far, I've refrained from commenting on life @ UST as a student studying global business. I've decided that it's not fair since well, I've only experienced less than a month of GBUS-specific courses. In the first semester, the core courses for GBUS (shorthand for global business) are the same as Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students. Oh! Core courses are different from required courses, I came to realize. Core courses cannot be flunked, deferred, or dropped. Required courses can be deferred. Unfortunately, all my classes this semester are core classes and I have seven. No flexibility in choosing courses for now!

So, what's so special about this semester? *drumrollllll....* BMGB 101! The course that makes GBUS special. Okay, not really, but it's the GBUS course. Our textbook consists of business cases that focus on (gasp!) globalization of companies. We analyzed a Zara case last week. Did you know it's Spanish? That it rarely outsources? That its main value is speed? That shops are updated almost twice every week?

....I just broadcasted my nerdiness, didn't I.

Anyways. Some students have said that BMGB is basically an extension of Labu (language for business, which also is a case study class). Besides the fact that they both analyze cases, I'd say the similarities end there. In Labu, you get quite a bit of guidance. The issues in the cases are incredibly clear and the worksheets/packets tell you what you need to know. However, in BMGB, the potential pitfalls are much harder to spot. My groupmates and I are analyzing a L'Oreal case and... well, we spent an hour discussing, groping for problems the company has, and failed. (Digression: Shu Uemura is L'Oreal's. Seriously.)

No doubt, I'm a complete newb at this analyzing thing. I'm probably as competent as an elephant trying to belly dance. My only consolation is that after this semester of case after case after another cursin' case, I'll improve. With a sprinkle of a miracle, maybe I'll even be able to crack out incisive comments.

Almost 8pm! Time for a swim. I think Part II will consist of a rant about cases.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Food @ HKUST Part I - Bistro

The day before yesterday was a happy happy day, dear reader, even though I am starting to feel ancient. I gorged down three different slices of cake too - amazingly, I didn’t feel sick at all. Maybe I’ll regret it fifty years from now, toothless. And shaking a cane at my granddaughter.

Dear reader, understand that I am a food fanatic. My friends who were pampered by exquisite and inexpensive food in their high school years are now complaining to me about the insipid cafeteria food at their universities. There is a certain amount of schadenfreude in me, so I smugly detail the ARRAY OF CHOICE of food at HKUST. Of course, it’s not haute cuisine, but HAH! – there are two places where I can get dim sum on campus! I can have udon! I can have an avocado-smoked turkey Panini, oozing with cheese! Curse it, and all my meals are under four bucks. Drinks/soup included.

I digress. HKUST has a subsidized Bistro that is a very good restaurant at a very good price. Because it was my birthday, my friends and I got drinks on the house. The bartender arranged three wine glasses on the base and stacked an inverted glass on top. A bigger wine glass held a peachy alcoholic drink. The bartender then LIT the drink and poured the flaming liquid down the glass pyramid. Impressive! I wish I took a picture, but the sight took my breath away and I could only drink in the pretty sight.

The Bistro’s burger is 55 HKD, less than $7 and is delicious. Good old grilled chicken Caesar salad, hearty lasagna, simple sandwiches and others are on the menu. Though the menu is not comprehensive, the food quality is amazing for its price, as is the décor and service. Of course, the Bistro charges higher than our cafeterias. Still, no complaints!

So, dear friends, how about coming-a-coming to HKUST?

Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Lunar New Year!

This day trumps Christmas and New Year (as in January 1st) in Hong Kong. Its importance and meaning is probably the equivalent of Christmas and January 1st combined. This is THE day for family reunions (like Christmas) and wishing the best for the coming year (like Jan 1st). I've never seen the campus so... vacant. Since the majority of the students here at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are local Cantonese, these lucky students have gone home to celebrate. Although I have relatives in Hong Kong (Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins), I don't have a permanent home here and hence live in the now-[close to]-deserted dorms.

Today we visited my father's side of the family to 拜年, basically wish each other well for the coming year. The kids get 紅包 (red envelopes), which have pocket money in them from the elders. I once asked my parents at what age we stop getting red envelopes. Apparently the tradition is to start giving once you're married to those who aren't. However, tonight my Big Aunt (the hostess of today's family gathering) gave my parents red bags too. I guess now, at least in my family, it's more of an elders-give-the-younger. Usually, the envelopes are given in pairs. My sister and I each got an extra one from Big Aunt because we brought presents.

Certain designs of red envelopes should seriously be considered as works of art. Last year, we received ones that resembled intricate red pop-up birthday cards. Okay, not pop-up, but pull-out. I pull this tab and WHOAH! - the money pops out with a four-charactered auspicious greeting. Conventional envelopes simply have a self-adhesive flap for one time use. Throughout the years, I've wondered what to do with these scarlet packets after I've fattened up my wallet. Being environmentally aware (or so I'd like to think), I would love to re-use them. Except the self-adhesive flaps refuse to re-stick. Being artistically-challenged, I can't bear to toss out the pull-out ones or even the vaguely prettier ones. So now, the somewhat seemly ones sit somewhere in some drawer back in Beijing, collecting dust. I wish I could put a better use to them, instead of putting them in my pile of pretty but (let's face it) rather useless STUFF.

So almost all the cousins, uncles, and aunts were at Big Aunt's apartment today, celebrating New Year. Most played majong (very popular Chinese game involving four players, many... blocks??... somewhat vaguely similar to cards) until dinnertime. DINNER WAS DELICIOUS. The most traditional dish tonight was 斎 - a meatless dish. In it, vermicelli, black fungus, this.. plant that looks like the legs of enoki mushrooms, and tofu were braised in a sauce. I'm a failure at describing taste, so I will simply ask Dear Reader to try it yourself. In the more northern parts of China, dumplings are the norm for New Year's dinner.

Dessert was even served. I didn't expect 南瓜糊 (pumpkin porridge)! Honestly, I don't even know if it's a Chinese dish. It was served with 湯圓 (glutinous rice balls with sesame-paste centers), which ARE Chinese. Either way, it was sweet, creamy, with notes of coconut milk. DELISH! On top of that, we had slices of striped pandan jello. Needless to say, I've returned to my dorm with a bloated belly.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Swim Practice

If there is one thing I remember clearly about swim practices, it is the dread. I was convinced that all my coaches were stubbornly sadistic and took pleasure in making practices as painful as possible. Every day, my mind would pluck out a plethora of feeble excuses, hoping to justify a skipped session. When I was much younger, I would wheedle, I would weep. I would go to the changing room as late as possible. Sometimes, that worked to my “advantage” – I could figure I’d be late anyways, so why bother going? Which is exactly what happened today.

Although I am not in the water, I am at the pool though, watching the others swim. Looking down, it really ISN’T that bad. Practice isn’t overkill today. It really isn’t. It is actually quite manageable.

So why didn’t I go? What IS so dreadful about practice, now that I’m not even part of the high school team (I’ve graduated) and it doesn’t matter if I get lapped by an eleven-year-old?
It does matter. The self-centered sore loser that I am is extremely embarrassed for not being able to keep up. Yet I just skipped practice, forgoing another chance to be less slow. It’s a vicious cycle – I dread practice because I don’t want to be seen this slow, so I skip practice. Exactly because I skip practice, I get slower and slower and slower and finally sink. (Kidding – I’m not to the point where I actually sink… yet.)

It's not a moment of epiphany - the obvious has been glaring at me for years. I must put down my ego and put in effort. I will say “shut up” to dread and dive into the water. Tomorrow - I promise.

Friday, 2 January 2009


As promised, I baked without quitting halfway.

Ta-da! Choco Chip Chookies... I meant cookies.

As I was preparing the batter...
Cookie dough ice cream. Mmmmmm.... tempting. However I have read somewhere that cookie dough isn't exactly the most hygienic. "Raw eggs can make you sicker than a dog," apparently.

My picture was an epic failure so nope, I'm not facing that loser picture. Delete! The cookies came out looking undercooked, but that means they should come out perfect - unless I want rock-hard chocochip UFOs. I think the toothpick method work wonderfully on cakes, but it may malfunction on chewy cookies.

Letting the cookies cool and settle.
Very important - as I've learned the hard way. Oh the many times I've cried over a mutilated cookie due to my overzealous attempt to rip it from the pan when it was still a newborn.
Removing the cookies from the pan...
Made loads easier if I had invested in parchment paper.

Serve with milk!

....And I had to remind myself not to finish the entire batch in one go because a) it's selfish, b) it's fattening, and c) it'll make me sick. To hell with the first and second, better listen to the third. Because it happened before. Not cool.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Symbolically Appropriate... 24 hours ago

Happy 2009!
...Except I'm over 24 hours late. I decided that it was appropriate to start my blog yesterday, BUT my wireless internet decided to have its own celebration - a hiatus in internet service for me.

Here is my unpublished virgin blog from yesterday -

Happy 2009!

New Year ’s Day. Symbolically appropriate for starting my blog. I would love to detail all the *AMAZING* things I did today … except I really DIDN’T do anything spectacularly fun. In reality, lazing around today suited my palate quite well. I’m finally home for the holidays and I’ve finally had a chance to take a breath and relax. Not feeling rushed and no ardent need to accomplish anything today, so I can afford to flip through the channels on TV and watch Shrek 3 and an episode of Friends; read a children’s book and not feel OVERLY guilty (or stupid), play Bach’s Prelude in A flat Major and not continue on to Fugue simply because I felt like watching an episode on my laptop.

Hmm. Sounds like today was just an excuse for me to be flippant about everything. For me to act on impulse. For me to start a task and abandon it. Grain of guilt gnawing at me. But! I have started this blog which I have planned to write since…. Let’s stop me from embarrassing myself.

How long do New Year’s Resolutions last? Maybe this year, I’ll finally stick to my resolutions. That is, if I had bothered to make a list this morning. I have quite a number of goals ingrained in my brain right now but… well, honestly I haven’t put them on paper or specified the steps needed to achieve them. I’ll do that after I bake my deliciously 2009 chocolate chip cookies. (How is 2009 an adjective? I do not know. I should be flogged.) Don’t worry – I won’t start this project and give up! Baking is a passion - desserts are not to be joked about. “Nine” in Chinese has the same pronunciation as “longevity.” With some luck and much determination, my Resolutions (yes, with a capital “R”) will last. Will a bit more luck be allotted to me because I’m Chinese?