The NUS MBA has rightly been described as a melting pot of cultures. In my first semester, I had the chance to meet and work on assignments with students from South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Taiwan, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, among others. Attending such an engaging program amidst such a plethora of cultural diversity gives one an opportunity to realise and appreciate the nuances and beauty of different cultures.
To further leverage this cultural diversity, an MBA student initiated an extremely fascinating program, named, “The Mandarin Initiative”. Ma Dongye, a full time MBA student from China had previously worked in an NGO that focused on inter-cultural communication between China and the rest of the world and had arranged Mandarin teaching trainings for Chinese teachers. After joining the NUS MBA, Dongye realised that there was a lot of interest in Mandarin among the non-Chinese students. Many students also felt that learning Mandarin would help them in securing better jobs and would open up more lucrative opportunities for them.
The growing interest and fascination for Mandarin, coupled with his pre-MBA experience in the cultural NGO, led Dongye to form the Mandarin Initiative. This initiative gave a unique opportunity to non-Chinese students to learn Mandarin from their Chinese counterparts. The key focus of this program is not merely to learn the language, but also to understand and appreciate the richness of the Chinese culture.
Needless to say, this opportunity was widely embraced by the cohort. Currently there are 20 students from 12 countries who are taught by 6 Teachers and 7 Teaching Assistants. These students managed to make time for the Mandarin Initiative in spite of a very demanding first semester and attended two sessions a week, each of a one hour duration. “It is so amazing to hear students speak in Mandarin on varied topics in an international accent and a proud mood!” says Dongye.
The Mandarin Initiative is, in fact, a part of the newly constituted Language and Culture Club under the aegis of the NUS MBA Students’ Council. Future plans of this club include widening of the ambit to teach Japanese, providing more language training within the community and organising workshops on culture and management to complement the academic courses. As Dongye says, “Our aim is for students to learn beyond the language-language is in fact a tool and mastery of the cultures and values is essential”.
Shaili Pandia (Indian)
Full Time MBA student, Class of 2013