Virginia is currently on two master’s programmes – Master of Science in International Business and CEMS Master in International Management. The Master of Science in International Business (MIB) provides her with theoretical knowledge of how globalisation has affected multinational companies and organisations in terms of their international business.
At the same time she is doing the CEMS Master’s degree in International Management, which ranks second on the Financial Times list of Master of Management programmes in 2011. The programme includes a series of skills seminars, lectures, ten weeks internship and the ability to speak at least three languages. Virginia is excited about the programme and it will take her to an exchange semester and internship in the Netherlands next spring.
- I’m very much looking forward to getting hands-on working experience in a multinational company, she smiles.
Multinational past, present and future
Virginia has quite a multinational background herself. As a child, she lived in Canada, just before Hong Kong as a British Colony was handed over to China. While completing her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Finance at a university in Hong Kong, she also went to South Africa for exchange. Apart from studying, she worked as a volunteer in a trust fund focusing on microcredit in South Africa. She also found love there, but her Norwegian boyfriend was not the reason for her eventually moving to Norway and Bergen.
- I just love to see different parts of the world and will grab every opportunity to do so, Virginia says. – I will always strive to combine the interest I have in learning about different cultures, their way of communication and doing business with my love of travelling to unknown places. I’m very glad that has been possible so far.
A global outlook
After finishing her bachelor’s degree back in Hong Kong, Virginia was employed in a shipping company for half a year, and the rest of the year she worked in a bank.
- I wanted some experience before I started looking around for a master’s degree programme – to make sure I knew what my interest and passion was in order to further my studies and to broaden my horizon even more.
Virginia had applied for several schools all over the world and after some considerations, she decided to further her studies in Norway.
- The fact that there is no school fee here was attractive to me, and also NHH’s position as Norway’s top business school and their offering the CEMS programme were important factors in my choice of Bergen.
‘The best country in the world’
Her main source of information about studying in Bergen was NHH’s website.
- Other than what I found there, I had basic knowledge of Norway as the world’s best place to live according to the Human Development Index (HDI), with its beautiful nature, democratic political system and prosperous oil industry. And of course I’d heard of the Vikings! But previous to my arrival in Bergen I had relatively little information on the city itself.
That would soon change, as NHH provides an intensive welcoming week for both Norwegian and international students. The school seeks to ease the process of integration for the international students, through lectures on Norwegian politics, culture and language in the daytime.
- The nights were filled with social events and parties where we got to hang out with each other as well as meet the local students. It makes for a quick introduction and integration into the Norwegian ways, Virginia thinks.
The Norwegian code
However, the speed with which she got to know any Norwegian locals was slower than what she has experienced in other countries.
- If you don’t speak Norwegian you need to invest a little more time and effort to make Norwegian friends. That said, it’s worth the effort, and I have many good friends here, local as well as international students.
Virginia also recommends the Buddy programme, which provides international students with a personal mentor to their new city.
She notices some differences between the Norwegian Institute and the universities she studied before in terms of the professors’ attitude towards their students.
- They are open and easy to approach if you have any questions or suggestions. At the universities where I have studied before, the hierarchy between teachers and students is much more pronounced, and students are less encouraged to voice their opinions at lectures or seminars. And I would never imagine addressing my professor with his or her first name!
What’s in a name?
Virginia’s Cantonese name is Yiu Wai Chun – she is thus addressed by her parents as Wai Chun. But her parents may also call her ‘Virginia’, which in English is phonetically similar to a Westernised combination of her first and last name: Wai Chun Yiu. It is common among Hong Kong people to take a more Western name when applying for jobs abroad or working in international companies.
- My Cantonese name is Yiu Wai Chun, but my friends and family in Hong Kong also call me Virginia. I use both names, depending on which is easier. Here in Bergen, I guess it is more difficult to remember my name as Yiu Wai Chun.
A political hot potato
She focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in her master’s thesis, which is a comparison between Western and Chinese oil companies operating in Angola. Writing with a fellow student, Virginia hopes to be finished by Christmas. Their thesis theme was born out of an old but relevant debate on China and their supposed lack of CSR.
- We’re investigating the hypothesis that Chinese companies are doing more for the local society, such as providing aid, infrastructure and educational facilities, than what the critics perceive, perhaps even more than Western companies operating in the same area. But this has yet to be concluded on!
NHH: A world of its own
Virginia lives in Hatleberg student hostel, only five minutes walking from her school.
- The whole school area is like a community of its own. The people I share kitchen with are also my friends, and we have regular get-togethers, making dinner, going to museums or hiking, and of course we throw a party once in a while!
She is normally busy attending lectures and seminars in the daytime.
- Then I’ll usually go to the study room to read for a couple of hours, during exam periods more, of course. There is a lot to read!
Virginia keeps herself active outside the school area.
- One of the things I appreciate the most about Bergen is that everything is so easily accessible, wherever you are – whether you’re going downtown or to the mountains, or just need a supermarket, it’s never far away, she says.
Although she does not think much of the typical Bergen weather, she also goes hiking, often taking the steep route up Stoltzekleiven.
- With the right clothes it’s not a problem, she insists smiling.
When in Bergen…
At one point Virginia felt she had enough free time on her hands to take up a new hobby. Her choice fell on a typically Norwegian leisure activity – fishing.
- I’d never tried it before, but I’ve become quite the fisherwoman since I came here, Virginia laughs.
When she does not fish or hike, Virginia may be found at one of her favourite coffee spots, Capello or Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, the tiny café close to the funicular tram Fløybanen. She also enjoys going to museums, especially recommending the Edvard Grieg museum at the famous composer’s home called Troldhaugen. However, her favourite place in the whole of Bergen is a less mentioned spot in the tourist guides.
- For peace and quiet I go to Hellebakken, she says. – It’s only a 20-minute walk away from the school and it has a great sea view.
To explore Bergen in a more sociable context, Virginia follows Study Bergen and tries to join their organised trips when they are announced. A fjord cruise, a skiing course and ice skating are among the activities she has tried out this way.
- I’m also a member of AIESEC, an organisation offering internships and company visits. I try to make the most of the time I have here, she smiles.
Bergensians: No Jante Law!
Far from the metropolis that Virginia came from, Bergen has become Virginia’s home over the past two years. She prefers Bergen to the two other largest Norwegian cities.
- Oslo is bigger and the capital of Norway but I just don’t find it spectacular and busy enough for a metropolitan city. Trondheim is simply too small and calm for me. Bergen is somewhere in the middle I think, it has the best of both worlds!
She experiences Bergensians as a people of its own, too.
- I find them to be more open and a bit louder, maybe it’s because of their dialect.
She has heard of ‘Janteloven’ or the Jante law, a fictional but famous set of rules invented by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, in short suppressing and criticising individual ambition and achievement.
- I really don’t think there’s much of that in Bergen!
The dream career
After her graduation in the Netherlands in 2012, Virginia hopes to pursue an international career within business or banking.
- My dream is to have a relevant job based somewhere in Europe that involves the possibility of travelling!
For new international students in Bergen, Virginia recommends an open mind and to get involved in the activities on offer. She also has a particular piece of advice concerning the Bergensian climate conditions.
- Do not be scared of bad weather or Norwegian ‘coldness’ – it takes a little effort, but Bergen is really worth it!