The Odyssey of a B-School Student

Student Snapshot

One day in 1978, while reading John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Age of Uncertainty" in the American books section of a library in Shanghai, China. Ching-hua Tang came across a picture of the Harvard Business School. Impressed by the beauty of the campus, Tang dreamed of one day coming to the B-School to study.

Now, five years and three continents later, Tang's dream has come true. A first year student, he is only the second person from the People's Republic of China to enroll in the MBA program.

"When I saw the picture. I thought, 'what a nice place to study,'" says Tang. "The next years were devoted to finding the rationale for getting there," he recalls.

Adjusting to life at the B-School hasn't been too difficult for Tang, who says his age falls on "the other side of 30." Tang also holds a bachelor's degree from the London School of Economics, and says that he found Harvard's case method of instruction entirely novel at first.

"My previous experiences were all either one-to-one with a professor or just straight lecture. Here it's multiple interaction," he says, adding that "at first I was nervous about speaking up in class because everything got so quiet, but no if I have something to say I just raise my hand."


So far, he says, America has agreed with Tang, but he expresses a strong dis-like for fast foods. "Americans are warm and outgoing. They admire individual achievement and are very independent," he remarks.

Aside from the fulfillment of a long- awaited goal, Tang had other reasons for showing excitement about being here.

"New England is a special place for me. It's the home of Crimson, Thorean and Longfellow. To imagine these writers and poets roaming the trees of Harvard astounds me," the student explains.

But his love for New England is not enough to make Tang-wam to remain here after he completes his education.

"I am technically free, but I feel a sense of mission because my country is at a crucial stage in its history. China is shedding old dog-ups and fetishes," Tang says.

"Now we are paying closer attention to market forces, becoming more pragmatic," he adds. "It's too bad there aren't more of us have because Harvard offers us an education we could use."

For Tang, the road to Soldier's Field has not been an easy one. After graduating from high school in his native Shanghai in 1969, Tang faced an uncertain future.

Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution had shut down the universities and students were ordered to the countryside to live as peasants. For those who refused to go, no jobs would be available in the cities.

Aware of the hardships he would face, Tang resisted all official pressure and remained at home.

"It didn't make any sense at all to go," he say in careful English. "Economically, it was impossible to make a living out in the country so your parents had to subsidize you. And for me, I didn't want that type of life and it would have been a tremendous waste of time," he explains.

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