By Jessica Hirsch
Bonnie Xu (Class of 2016) embraced the opportunity to explore Darden’s global programs by attending Global Business Experiences (GBEs) in both Sweden and Spain, participating in the Cannes Film and Business Program in France, and going on a quarter-long exchange to Hitotsubashi University in Japan.
Although Xu decided to pursue her MBA degree abroad, since her native country is China,
she had a desire to broaden her perspective and expand her worldview even further during her time at Darden. Her first global academic program through Darden was the “Sustainability, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a Socially Oriented Society” GBE which traveled to Sweden last May. This program appealed to Xu because of its focus on sustainability and equality, as well as the different company visits and opportunities to meet entrepreneurs that the trip offered.
“I’d never been to Europe before,” Xu said. “The EU is such a big economy, and I wanted to expose myself to that. I really benefited from the Darden network to be able to attend presentations and visit places like the U.S. Ambassador’s house that I wouldn’t have been able to arrange if I went on my own.”
Following the GBE, Xu jumped right into another global experience with the Cannes Film and Business Program, which she chose because of its unique focus on art and film.
“The timing worked out perfectly for the Sweden GBE and Cannes program in France,” Xu said. “I needed a visa for France anyway, and Sweden took place only one week beforehand. The Cannes program introduced me to the movie industry. I didn’t always understand the business perspective or why certain movies had been nominated or won awards, but the program provided a lot of answers and insights.”
This past winter, Xu expanded her international travel from short-term GBEs to a quarter-long exchange at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan.
“A larger portion of the classes in Japan were lecture based, and we learned more from the professor’s perspective,” Xu said. “It was different because at Darden, professors engage students and we mostly learn from our peers. I really enjoy hearing my classmates’ insights from different industries.”
Aside from the differences in classroom style, Xu encountered several cultural norms she had not expected, especially during her trip to the Western part of Japan, near Kyoto.
“It’s impressive how well culture is preserved in Japan,” Xu said. “The ancient Asian architecture is preserved for many of the temples and religious sites. This is very different from my own country. I was also surprised that so many people still wore kimonos and other traditional clothing. I always had wanted to go to Japan but I never took action before this exchange.”
Upon her return, Xu recently participated in the GBE to Barcelona, Spain, this past March.
“I had never been to a city with such interesting architecture,” Xu said. “For some of the buildings, I needed time to really digest and appreciate them, but some I liked at first glance.”
Xu feels that these opportunities for global exposure have greatly benefited her personally.
“I highly recommend that all Darden students take at least one GBE,” Xu said. “These programs provided me with skills and insights to leverage in future work environments. Learning about different countries and cultures helped me make connections with different types of people and work well in a team. The experience will help me view things from different perspectives, generate superior insights, and communicate more effectively to deliver better business results.”