Starting Over In A New City

I have met a lot of people who dropped everything to go start over in a new place but I never thought I would be one of them. Leaving behind family, friends, a career (or at least that’s what I thought it was at the time), comfort, routine, everything you’ve built for most of your life. It sounds exciting but the beginning is always overwhelming. What gave me the extra push to do it are the words of my former company’s CEO, who said “growth and comfort do not coexist.” Indeed I was comfortable and so were all the people in my closest circle of friends and family. Most of us lived in the same little neighborhood of Astoria, New York our whole lives and had plans of getting married there, raising our kids there, taking our grandkids to the park together. It is a typical Astoria family thing to do and for some reason I couldn’t bare the thought of living that “typical” life.

Did I work this hard to be “typical”? Did I reach a certain level of comfort in my life that I thought was sufficient to continue this way? I was too comfortable it bothered me because I knew I wanted to do something crazy on my own without having the pressure of the society I lived in holding me down.

And now, here I am, writing this blog post from my apartment in the whimsical neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin. Everyone called me crazy for leaving the perfect life situation to start over and be “alone” in a different country but I never felt happier in my life. I’m finally living by myself, meeting new people from all around the world (some of which have become my best friends), trying new foods, learning German (a language I never thought I’d want to learn), interning at one of the largest e-commerce companies of Western Europe and doing it all on my own.

It’s all happening thanks to ESMT Berlin. I found the perfect masters program to help me pursue a specialized higher education without being in debt for the next 20 years of my life. Located right in the heart of Berlin, only steps away from some of the most historical landmarks in Europe, ESMT opened so many doors for me that helped me learn about myself and about the people around me. As the only American in a class of 89 students, not only am I debunking some myths about Americans (like that we use more credit cards to pay our credit card bills or that we are obsessed with McDonald’s) but also rapidly increasing my cultural competence, allowing me to travel to new countries and better connect with locals. Some of my classmates have become my best friends, joining me on my adventures to discover the city and giving me their support during tough times, like when my grandfather passed away in September. This experience has been magical so far and I am excited to see what the future holds.

If you’ve read this far, it either means you’re somewhat inspired by what I had to say…..or you just like to read. Either way, I hope you never let yourself become too comfortable with your life situation. And if you do, I hope this post inspires you to do something crazy in your life that will give you the opportunity to learn about the world and about yourself. Whether it be moving to a new city, pursuing a different career, volunteering to help people in underdeveloped countries, learning a new language, or following a different dream, do something that prevents you from living a “typical” life.

ESMT visits Harvard

Berlin to Boston

As soon as I landed in Boston, my network went off and I was doomed to the very existence as to how would I reach my hotel now. Thanks to my back up plan I had a few screenshots guiding me. I decided to take the snapshots to a passenger outside the train station. The nightmare struck me, how will I ask him the way? I was curious and hoped he could speak English so I went and asked the direction speaking English very slowly. To my astonishment, he replied quickly and fluently and then I realized I actually had landed in the USA and I can speak English freely =P. He topped it off by ending the conversation with “Sub theekh hah” (Urdu) which means “All is good”, making me realize that the people from my part of the world i.e. Pakistan and India are everywhere. I had landed in Boston where the weather was fairly similar and my journey ESMT visits Harvard begun.

HPAIR CONFERENCE

Well coming back to the conference, the reason for my trip and the million-dollar question what was HPAIR? HPAIR is an internationally-recognized student-run organization at Harvard College. It offers a forum of exchange to facilitate discussion of the most important economic, political, and social issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region. Past speakers at the conferences include Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, President of Singapore S.R. Nathan and former President of Goldman Sachs Philip Murphy. I was honored to be selected where I represented my country and university at this conference. I had to go through a series of 4 to 5 essay questions for the application and then had to undergo a Skype interview to land the title of becoming a delegate to this delegate.

There is a common misconception that this is the statue of Mr. John Harvard when in fact it was one of his students who posed for the sculpture
My Experience

The HPAIR conference was an amazing experience, meeting delegates from various parts of the world. The delegates represented top universities from around the world and the experience to network with them was unparalleled to anything. I took the lead in starting a conversation as for every country I had a friend already thanks to the diversity ESMT Berlin offers =). The language classes surely paid off as I started interacting in German with a few delegates who were proficient in German.

Our very first day comprised of keynote lectures by Mitchell Dong and Jon Liechty. Mitchell Dong is currently the Managing Director of Pythagoras Investment Management. Jon Liechty is currently the vice president, Regional Operations for Starbucks Asia Pacific. The following day we were able to network further with Mr. Michael Eckhart, Managing director at Citigroup and Caitlin Iles, Partner at Capital xx. It was an amazing experience sharing the same room with such great motivational people with whom I could interact and discuss further on Asian economy, future of Asia and especially the south Asian region current and expected growth.

My Track

The following day I could speak my vision regarding the future of South Asia in my respective track of governance and diplomacy track. The governance and diplomacy track further allowed me to discuss my vision and approach with esteemed delegates and experts in the field. Mr. Nima Baiati who is the Senior Director of Product Management and Corporate Development at Absolute Software. Dr. Gordon M. Goldstein currently the Managing Director at Silver Lake Partners and Dr. Nazli Choucri, Professor of Political Science at MIT. The topics took a turn and soon in our next panel of discussion we were in discussion regarding geopolitics, regionalism and nuclear tensions amongst the Asian regions. I could reflect my thoughts on the mentioned topic of discussion with various esteemed colleagues such as Mr. Frederic Graire. (served the French embassy in various roles in Pakistan and India).

Final words

To cap it all off we had amazing international and cultural nights. It was an honor to wear ESMT’s shirt and wave the flag of Pakistan. A symbolic gesture that made me happy and proud at the same time. The international night was the final night where we bid our farewell to various colleagues. Colleagues that had become friends over the course of 5 days sharing intellect and vision for the future. The experience to go through those 5 days was magical and surely I would recommend anyone who considers himself/herself a future leader of Asia or has a profound interest towards Asian economy, policies and international relations should opt to apply for this experience. Go and get an experience of meeting all kinds of amazing people will be my final sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football and ESMT Berlin

Football at esmt berlin

It was the last minute, a throw-in ball came in between two defenders. It was only the keeper that stood between the paths to victory. This was not a FIFA World Cup final, nor was it Ronaldo up against Buffon. This was just a bunch of exuberant, energetic master’s in management students from ESMT Berlin playing football.

The energy was high and the passion intense as the ESMT MIM students tackled their way across the football field. I ran against the wind on the pitch, racing past defenders and succeeding to score. I was a thousand miles from my hometown, yet I felt like I was at home.

We quickly came together as a team, admiring and appreciating each other’s performances. It was as though we had known each other and played together for years. We gave each other generous nicknames, such as the “Pakistani Benzema”, the “Lebanese Bazooka”, and “Milan’s Pirlo.”

What makes ESMT Berlin speciaL?

It was interesting to see the talent that the different countries had to offer. I definitely amazed people who had thought that Pakistan did not know anything about football. Coming from a non-footballing country, I felt special playing with Germans, Italians, and Spaniards. This dream is made into reality at ESMT Berlin, where we have 39 different nationalities studying for the MIM 2017-2019 Program.

On the football pitch, I realized that the students from ESMT Berlin’s MIM Program are special. Not only are they focused on academia, they are equally involved in extracurricular activities. ESMT Berlin is a perfect mix of diversity in all aspects, yet somehow, together under one roof, we are all trying to reach a common goal and helping one another along the way. I think that is what makes ESMT Berlin special.

My First Month at ESMT Berlin

By Jack (Wen-Jui) Liu

I was adding to-do lists to my calendar when I realized that I moved to Berlin almost 3 months ago. Time flies and there are a lot of new things going on in my life. Before sharing my story with you, I would like to tell you why I chose to study at ESMT Berlin .

Why ESMT Berlin?

ESMT Berlin

Location

I have always been a city person. Compared to the other places: TIAS in Utrecht and ESSEC in Cergy-Pontoise, Berlin seems like a better fit for me. On top of that, as a person who does not speak any other European language apart from English, Berlin is a very international city where English is understood everywhere so that I would not have many difficulties living there.

Diversity Backgrounds of Fellow Students

According to the information I got from the school brochure and the interviewer, there are more than 30 nationalities in the program and they all come from different academic backgrounds. Due to previous experiences, I know that many sparks can be created in this kind of multicultural environment.

Chances to Gain Practical Experiences

At ESMT, we have to do at least 4 months of internship and one social impact project. Compared to other business schools, which are more academic oriented, I believe that I can gain more business knowledge connected to the real world.

Life at ESMT

After a very busy first month, I have noticed many differences from my undergraduate studies and I am very happy that I made the choice to come here.

A LOT OF Readings

In order to finish most of the courses before doing an internship, ESMT’s schedule can be intense sometimes. You might have to read 30 to 60 pages in preparation for the class. I am not going to sugarcoat this part. Sometimes you might feel stressed out and that you are not able to finish everything in time or you feel like you are studying all the time. However, after a month you will get the hang of it and realize that there is still some time left for you to enjoy your life in this amazing city.

Multicultural Hub

This is one of the main reasons I chose ESMT and so far, this is my favorite part of the program. We have 89 people with 39 nationalities in our class. Every time we are discussing something during the class or within the study group, I am amazed by how different our perspectives can be because of our different cultural and academic backgrounds. In the meantime, I am learning a lot from this environment and I am on the way to gaining a more international mindset.

Oktoberfest

Interactive Course

The professors at ESMT use very interactive teaching methods. Students are encouraged to communicate their own ideas during the course. As a student from Taiwan, I still remember the shock that I felt seeing 50 hands in the air after the professor asked a question. If you are not used to speaking in front of so many people, you might need some time to adjust, as I had to. At first, it was quite hard to force myself to raise my hand in class, but now I have managed to share my opinions a few times already.

Life in Berlin

Berlin is one of the biggest cities in Europe. It is a beautiful city with a very interesting historical background. Most importantly, you feel the vibes of the city and live like a Berliner.

Public Transportation or Bike

Cycling in Berlin

The Berlin public transportation system is convenient and very well connected. Even on weekdays, you can still catch some night bus to get home at 2am in the morning. Just remember to download an app called BVG Fahrinfo, where you can find all available connections, so you get to where you need to be. The other common transportation that Berliners commonly use is the bike. Berlin has one of the most well planned bicycle lanes in the world. You just need to observe carefully the traffic signals for the bikers and you will be fine.

Accommodation

Finding an apartment in Berlin can be quite dreadful, especially if you do not speak German. The housing market is short in supply, so you have to compete with many other applicants. Alternatively, you can try out some international student resident housing for a start. Most of them have contacts who speak English. They might be a little overpriced, but if you want to save some troubles, it is a good option.

Night Life

I wouldn’t call myself a party animal but it is always good to go partying after a long week at school. Berlin is one of the biggest party cities in Europe. Besides, if you are a big techno fan you will feel like you are in heaven. If you are more of a hip-hop or pop music person like me, you can still find some places to go.  If you are not keen on clubbing, there are plenty of bars everywhere. The best part is the price of alcohol in Berlin, which is very affordable compared to London or Paris.

BE WHO YOU ARE

I think this is the most important thing I love about Berlin. No matter who you are, you can always find a place in this city and just be yourself. You might see people with more than 30 piercings or dressed up exceptionally on the U-Bahn, but nobody will give them a weird look. People mostly don’t care whether you are heterosexual or homosexual. You can just be who you are and feel totally comfortable.

I am very glad that I came to ESMT in Berlin. Although sometimes I still miss home and there are always some difficulties in life, which you have to deal with, so far, I am still very happy about my choice. I am 95% sure that I will still feel the same way after I complete these two years at ESMT.

 

Green Colleges promote agriculture, economic development in rural India

By Shruti Vasudev and Leonhard Fricke

It has been a month since Leonhard and I, both ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellows, have been in India working with Welthungerhilfe, and our journey has been nothing less than spectacular. In this past month, we have travelled to several places in India and worked with people from different religions, languages, and societal strata. GIZ has given funds to Welterhungerhilfe to set up “Green Colleges” across India. This initiative promotes sustainable rural development via capacity building and assistance in setting up and promoting microenterprises and other sustainable forms of income generation to control rural-urban migration. The project we took on places us as external consultants for Welthungerhilfe India, and our role is tripartite, wherein we first perform an impact evaluation of the project to date, then based on this we develop a business plan, and eventually assist with defining a brand strategy for scaling up the project.

So far about 15 Green Colleges have been set up in 5 Indian states, and we had the opportunity to visit one of them two weeks ago to get a first impression. We travelled to Aurangabad, a city in the state of Maharashtra, by means of a super comfortable sleeper bus, observing beautiful landscapes pass by. Upon arrival, we were received by our hosts, who are also the officials running the IIRD Green College in Aurangabad (the most recently established Green College). We had a series of field visits planned with them where they would not only show us the running of the Green College but also give us the opportunity to conduct focus group sessions with their staff and the past and current beneficiaries.

Several presentations and discussions later it was a true joy to walk into a running training session on goat rearing and watch almost 30 local villagers keen to make a living by perfecting the art. They were delighted to have us over; many of the villagers here are not educated above high school level but their determination to learn and apply their knowledge was clearly notable in their zeal during the discussions. They told us all about how they feel these courses support them as they set out to make a living for their families.

It was also a joy to see many women attending the sessions. Despite belonging to a predominantly patriarchal society, they were just as determined to contribute to their families’ earnings, perhaps an early sign of long overdue change and economic development in rural India.

We then visited the farm of two of IIRD Green College’s recent graduates who completed a course in poultry management and have even established their own microenterprise. As a result of their training, the two sons of a poor farmer who once relied on the unpredictable monsoon to support the family’s income through sugarcane plantation have now established a year-round sustainable income. Their happy faces, the pride in their father’s eyes as they showed off their new business to us, and the satisfaction visible among the IIRD Green College staff who took us on the field visit was truly a delightful sight.

Something that Leo and I learned that day was that no matter how small the impact you think you may be making, its effects are always magnified when done with dedication and commitment to the greater cause. We were also amused to see how hospitable the poor farmer and his family were: as soon as we arrived they rushed to bring us water and fresh fruit from their farm. Their big hearts despite their shallow pockets were admirable!

Next, we were taken to another village where the IIRD Green College staff along with other CSR contributors had established a water conservation project to support the village farmers. The village, run by its “sarpanj,” welcomed us in their meeting hall, where all the key villagers had gathered to witness our arrival and assist us in our project. A small ceremony was performed where Leo and I were each presented with a shawl and a coconut. We were told that Indians believe that a guest is the equivalent of God. That is why we were given this special welcome as guests of the entire village.

We were then taken to various village farms and shown the different drip irrigation methods employed by the farmers after training at the IIRD Green College. They told us about how their lives had improved because of the assistance of Welthungerhilfe and the Indian government. We conducted various focus group sessions here to understand the full impact so far and its potential future scope.

Overall, in the course of this one month, we have seen and learned a great deal about rural India, the efforts by the local governments and external agencies such as Welthungerhilfe to uplift the economy, and about the grassroot-level agricultural industry. Over the next months we will endeavour to travel to East India to study the impacts of the Green Colleges there through a series of field visits, case studies, focus group sessions, and surveys.

Along with our work schedule, we have also managed to establish a good sightseeing balance. Each time we visit a new city or state we try to accommodate some exploration into the local culture, food, and architecture. For instance, in Aurangabad we had the chance to visit the famous Ellora Caves as well as the mini Taj Mahal known as the Bibi ka Makbara.