Preparing for China… don’t forget your passport!

georgia knoxBy Georgia Knox, Manager – Projects/M&A at APN News & Media and current student of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA program

I still don’t know how I did it. Maybe I was having a particularly bad day. Or maybe it was a random slip of the mind. In any event, leaving my passport at the Chinese Visa Application Process Centre (which is strictly open from 9am to 3pm on week days) on a Friday afternoon was not a great idea when I was heading to New Zealand for work at 7am on Monday morning. Needless to say I didn’t go…

I did receive my passport back by the Wednesday, visa inserted within its worn cover (yes, I may be reasonably well-travelled – and doing an MBA – but I still made the rookie error above). The visa is one of the last pieces of the puzzle to be completed before 24 of my MBA colleagues and I set off for China to undertake our International Business Project.

This 12 credit point unit of study is another first for the University of Sydney Business School – as clearly teaching the inaugural cohort of its recently launched MBA first-time subjects in a brand new campus is just not enough! On August 4, we will commence a one-week intensive module in Shanghai, during which we will have the opportunity to both study and work.

With regards to study, we have partnered with the Antai College of Economics and Management and Shanghai Jiao Tong University to learn about key topics spanning from Chinese business culture to the innovation challenges facing domestic firms and multinational corporations in China.

On the work front, we will be working in small groups on consulting projects for a variety of Chinese companies that are interested in investing in Australia. This is quite different to the approach of many other academic programs, which often look at the way that companies from their country of origin do business in China.

So, other than obtaining a visa (and being self-excluded from an international work trip in the process) – what else do we need to do to prepare for China?

As our schedule on the ground is jam-packed with lectures, fieldwork, networking events, site visits, presentations and dinners, the key is to be as organised as possible before we leave. This means reading a range of pre-departure materials selected by our (very impressive) unit coordinators, Professor Hans Hendrischke  and Professor Bruce McKern. The readings not only provide important background knowledge about Chinese business, economics, culture and politics, but also commentary on the intersection of these elements and the challenges faced by the West in understanding them.

We are also required to submit a business plan in our small groups, which sets out how we are going to go about our time with our assigned company. My group will be working with a previously state-owned enterprise in the personal care industry, which has survived the onslaught of multinational companies in the domestic market and is now looking for international opportunities. Submitting the business plan before we leave will ensure that we have a thorough understanding of our company, its operations, its current and potential markets and its goals so that we are armed and ready to hit the ground running when we commence our fieldwork.

Then there are transfers to be arranged, restaurants to be dined at, sights to be seen, additional accommodation to be booked, clothes to be packed (which should be suitable for 30 degrees and above temperatures and often freezing-cold air conditioning)… Fortunately several of my colleagues have utilised their knowledge and connections to help us make the most out of the additional personal time that we have – for some people this may be six hours, for others it may be one week. The University staff have also gone over and above to make sure that we will have the best experience possible in every respect. Day by day each the puzzle is getting nearer and nearer to completion.

The last piece is getting on the plane at Sydney airport… let’s just hope that I don’t forget my passport!

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