Chuxuan Hou (Class of 2017)

Hometown: Tianjin, China

Pre-Darden University and Major: Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Finance

Pre-Darden Employment: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Tell me about what life was like growing up for you.  It is like a journey of exploration. In the past, every new step I took involved entering into a brand new area in every aspect. From primary school to now, I stepped away from my home district, my city and finally my home country. The change is more than just location — it’s about meeting new people and learning new things to keep expanding my view of the world. Although the process comes with many challenges, I still enjoy it a lot and appreciate where it takes me.

What motivated you to want to earn an MBA degree? I enjoy exploring new things in the world. After working for four years, I became interested in the field of business and wanted to learn more than my undergraduate major and my field of work. Having interacted with clients from all over the world, actually learning in a class with international diversity also become important to me. Moreover, for future career development, I think knowledge in all business functions is necessary to be successful at the management level.

Why did you choose Darden?  Before choosing the target school, I first made an assessment of myself. I decided what I most needed from the MBA school was a good curriculum in selection of various business areas, a teaching method that could best assist me with my communication skills, and most importantly, a friendly and supportive environment. From the interaction with the Admissions office and alumni, I felt Darden was the best choice.

As a non-native English speaker, how have you adjusted to the case method and life at Darden?  By communicating more with my learning team, classmates and professors. In the beginning, keeping up with the fast-paced class and contributing was not easy, and my contributions were more geared toward helping add case facts to our analysis. However, by spending more time preparing for the case, and with help from my learning team friends, I was able to gradually catch up with the class. And later, my contributions changed from quantitative to qualitative, and now I am able to communicate and express my opinion in English without much difficulty.

How did Darden help you find and prepare for your internship?  I would say the knowledge I gained in class, the communication skills from class and also the various events on Grounds helped, as did the opportunity to access recruiters. But most importantly, Darden’s amazing alumni helped greatly in the whole process. I think Darden’s dedication to teaching and cultivating its students is the primary reason behind all of this.

What advice do you have for prospective students?  Assess what you need from a MBA degree — every program has its strengths and weaknesses, and they are only suitable for certain groups of people. Talk more with current students and alumni, and get a better understanding of the program. In terms of preparation, your CV, GMAT and essay are of equal importance and should not be overlooked.

How did living in Charlottesville impact your MBA experience?  Charlottesville is a great place to live — it is small but it has all of the things we need. The scenery is beautiful, and the town is quiet and not crowded. Aside from studying, we enjoy driving around and exploring the surrounding areas. It is quite close to Washington, D.C., so getting to other cities is convenient. Overall, I enjoy living here a lot and I feel that it has further enhanced my MBA experience.

What do you hope to do with your life post-Darden?  I want to utilize what I learned at Darden and go further in my original specialization in finance. Before Darden, my work was more solely focused on the finance area. But I think by combining the knowledge I’ve gained in areas like marketing, operations and strategy, I can proceed further into a corporate finance role, where I can use finance as a tool in more strategic business decision-making processes.