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25.8.2023 | School of Business

Bridging the Best of Two Worlds – Eric's Swiss-Asian MBA Graduation Journey

As a Chinese student in the Swiss-Asian MBA, Eric shares his experiences from his graduation ceremony in Switzerland.

«One month has passed since my return to China, but the memories of my short yet exciting MBA graduation trip to Basel, Switzerland, are still fresh in my mind.» (Eric)

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Episode 1: MBA Graduation Ceremony

Basel is located on the border of Switzerland, France, and Germany. Upon landing, I turned on my cell phone, only to receive a signal that said, "Welcome to France." Interestingly, Basel airport is essentially located in France but is operated jointly by France and Switzerland, resulting in two exits: one towards Switzerland and the other towards France.

Walking the streets of Basel was a different experience. Despite the weather being just 26 degrees Celsius, I found myself unusually warm in a pullover. Eager to meet my fellow MBA students for lunch at the hotel, I hastened my pace. After a quick check-in, I finally reunited with my German classmate Kai, my Singaporean classmate Terry, and my Shanghai classmate Yulia, all of whom I knew from Shanghai. Basel isn't large, so we used the Basel card provided by the hotel, hopped on a tram just outside the hotel's entrance, and arrived at the renowned Kunstmuseum Basel within minutes. As one of Europe's finest art museums, we delighted in the works of Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, Dali, Mondrian, Rodin, and other masters. Lunch was served at the Herzog & de Meuron-renovated historic building, now transformed into a charming complex of hotels, restaurants, public art, and event exhibits. The shaded courtyard provided a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy our meal while gazing at the nearby Rhine river.

Our graduation ceremony was scheduled for the evening at the Elizabeth Church in downtown Basel. So, we planned to meet with other Swiss students at a café in front of the church at 4:00 p.m. After finishing our lunch, we returned to the hotel to change into formal attire and set off for the church.

By the way, right in front of the church stands the famous artist Tinguely's art fountain installation. The movements of interplay of water and the metal sculptures are quite fascinating.

Due to the pandemic's three-year disruption, it was the first time some Swiss-Asian MBA students met in person. The excitement was palpable. As it was still quite hot in Basel at 4:00 p.m., we ordered iced coffees and beers and began chatting. Time flew, and before we knew it, it was 6 o'clock. Our project director, Prof. Dr. Dieter Reineke, had already arrived, and after exchanging pleasantries with everyone, we all walked into the venue for the graduation ceremony together. As a Chinese student, it was my first time attending a formal ceremony in a church that was personally significant to me. Despite having travelled and worked around the world, being officially "crowned" in Switzerland marked a significant milestone in my life.

During the ceremony, the solemnity of the event was palpable. Since the graduation ceremony brought together graduates from all four MBA programs at FHNW School of Business, we had the opportunity to interact and get to know graduates from other programs.


The moment Professor Reineke called my name, I felt overwhelming excitement. At that moment, memories of the past two years of study flooded my mind, including the four weeks of overseas study and visits to Switzerland, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. We had all overcome the challenges of the pandemic, and now we stood together in Basel, Switzerland, for our graduation. Stepping up to receive my diploma and feeling the applause from fellow students and professors in the church, I knew that every effort I had put into this journey was truly worthwhile.

Episode 2: Campus Tour

Despite time constraints, we managed to visit all four campuses in and around Basel - Basel Peter Merian, Olten, Brugg-Windisch, and Muttenz. Each campus possessed its own unique style, size, and character.

FHNW Campus Basel Peter Merian

Located in the heart of Basel, this campus is a mere 10-minute walk from the central train station. Situated in the modern office building called Peter Merian Haus, it is the main teaching location of the FHNW School of Business. Notably, Bayer Pharmaceuticals is next door, and across the street is the headquarters of the renowned Swiss pharmaceutical company Lonza, as well as the Swiss branch of Moderna Bio, the mRNA vaccine manufacturer that gained prominence during the covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, we found several headquarters of esteemed companies specializing in oral and diabetes-related pharmaceuticals and medical devices in a building known as Jacob Burckhardt-Haus. The strong life science appeal of Basel, both within Switzerland and globally, left us all in awe.


FHNW Campus Olten

As we had plans to meet some new MBA students in Switzerland for dinner at a small airport restaurant near Brugg, we took the opportunity to stop at Olten during our train ride from Lucerne to Brugg. FHNW's Olten Campus is home to three main colleges: the School of Applied Psychology, the School of Social Work, and the School of Business. Although Olten is a small town, it holds importance as a vital transportation hub in German-speaking Switzerland and the entire country, with numerous railways and various transportation connections intersecting there. The campus is well-equipped, and we were impressed by the modern library on the first floor. Inside one of the classrooms, a course on market analysis of sustainable new energy in Vietnam was underway, and our Singaporean classmate Terry was eager to share his hands-on experience in Vietnam.


FHNW Campus Brugg-Windisch

After a brief stop at Olten Campus, we continued our journey on a northbound SBB train and arrived at Brugg Station. There, we were met by Jayson Wang, a local Chinese student who had recently immigrated to Switzerland. Though we had heard about it before, we were truly stunned to find that the largest campus of FHNW was right at the station's exit without any barrier separating them. Merely two steps away from the station entrance was the school building, making it incredibly accessible. The Brugg-Windisch Campus is the main campus of FHNW and boasts six buildings that are harmoniously laid out over slightly hilly terrain. The campus offered a spacious environment, with students exchanging ideas and laughter at the large plaza and outdoor cafes. Our campus tour left me feeling nostalgic for my own days of youthful university life.

Jayson was familiar with the school because his home is only a ten minutes’ drive away. He showed us around the whole campus and then took the elevator from the ground level to the underground garage, where we actually saw the ruins of the ancient towns and cities of the region, protected in glass showcases with pictures. From Jayson's introduction, the area is an important archaeological excavation site in Switzerland, with a large number of remains of medieval and even older civilizations that are still being excavated and discovered.


FHNW Campus Muttenz

On the third day in Basel, I decided to go to the new campus in Muttenz outside of Basel since I still had some time left, and I didn't expect that it would end up being another great reward of the trip.

It took about 25 minutes on bus 47 to get to the station near that campus, and when I arrived in front of the school building, I felt that the building was really spectacular. It looked like a beautiful black jade towering above the suburbs. The interior was very modern, and the lobby overlooked interlocking giant staircases going all the way to the top floor. I talked to a student and found out that she was an Education major and this building housed the FHNW Schools of Education, Social Work, Architecture, and Life Sciences. The atrium reaches straight up to the sky, and the of state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment can be seen from the atrium on the 10th floor looking over the classrooms. Back on the ground floor, I met a few students. When I asked them, I realized that they were actually "classmates" from the School of Business, and they said they came to meet their friends from other majors on weekends and came to take a look at this modern building.

Episode 3: Sentiments

Although the trip was brief, its rewards exceeded my expectations by far. Within the limited time, I even had the opportunity to take a cruise on Lake Brienz with my Chinese classmates, board the Golden Express, and visit Bern and Lucerne. The beauty of Switzerland is truly unforgettable. Beyond traveling, the most precious aspect of the trip was reuniting with MBA classmates, Swiss professors, and teachers, engaging in intimate communication and forging lasting connections.

Over the past few years, amidst the pandemic's challenges, several Swiss or German executives in Shanghai have completed their overseas work contracts in China and returned to their home countries. Many of them, like Yves and Kai, introduced their spouses and friends to the project. Filip was promoted to Singapore to continue his responsibilities for the Asia-Pacific market and, together with his classmates, established the Swiss-Asian MBA group with students in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Meeting these old MBA classmates in Basel once again filled us with excitement. The small class system fostered a strong sense of trust, mutual understanding, and camaraderie over two years of joint collaboration and learning online.


On my last night in Switzerland, I had the privilege of spending an unforgettable evening with local MBA students who work and study in Switzerland, including Chinese students living and working there. We gathered at a special restaurant located at a light airport, with a massive Breitling wall clock and Hamilton on the runway, evoking the passion of every aviation enthusiast. Amidst the warm and joyful atmosphere, we shared stories of China and Switzerland, our studies, work, and future prospects. As we watched the light planes and gliders take off and land, the moment of parting arrived. Farewells were difficult, but we vowed to meet again next year. I sincerely wish that our Swiss-Asian MBA students soar like these light aircraft, light and elegant, yet steadfast and stable, flying towards the light, exploring the vast skies and bluer horizons.

A text by Eric Zhai Qiwei, Shanghai, 2023.

Swiss-Asian MBA FHNW

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Swiss-Asian MBA