Virgina (Hui) Zhang, IBEI alumni 2012-2013
Name and Last Name: Virgina (Hui) Zhang
Master studied at IBEI: Master's in International Relations
Current working company, position and city: MBA/MA student of Wharton Business School & Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, USA)
1. Why did you choose the IBEI Master’s in International Relations?
Upon graduation from university, I went to teach Chinese at Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan, Mexico. This cross-cultural experience inspired me to pursue a formal study in international relations and development. Intending to strengthen my Spanish ability while receiving a quality education in English, I decided to enroll in the Master’s program at IBEI. I was greatly impressed by the calibre of the professors and the diversity of the student body.
2. What is your experience at IBEI?
One of the major characteristics of IBEI is the geographical and cultural diversity found in the student body. In my class, we had students coming from more than 30 countries. These fellow students, all came prepared to share their unique experience, stories and perspectives of the world. I cannot recall how many times I was amazed and refreshed by the different perspectives of my classmates. Studying and living in this heterogeneous cultural environment trained me to view the world with an open mind to other cultures and values, which was incredibly valuable for my future professional career across globe.
3. Describe your career path since graduating from the IBEI
After finishing the course, I accepted an internship to work for the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Subsequently, I accepted a second internship through IBEI to work for the Spanish Foreign Ministry, and was sent to the Spanish Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe (despite being a Chinese national). I participated in multilateral diplomatic meetings and socialized with government officials from numerous countries representing the Spanish government, a unique and extremely personally rewarding experience.
After the internship, I joined a Chinese state-owned company in the petroleum sector in the Gulf of Mexico. Most recently, I have been working for the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal Project and was stationed in Nicaragua for a year carrying out project management and stakeholder relations before coming back to the company’s headquarters in Hong Kong.
4. What is your professional experience (your current position, your main functions)?
I was recently admitted to the Wharton Business School in their MBA program, to be completed together with a MA in International Studies (Global Track) at the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania, I will be beginning my studies in the spring of this year. Previously, I was working as the Manager of the Project Support Division in HKND Group, the concessionaire of the Grand Interoceanic Canal of Nicaragua. I was stationed in Nicaragua for a year, before coming back to the headquarters in Hong Kong. I took care of the environmental and social impact projects of the Canal, such as archaeology investigations, reforestation, and biodiversity studies. I also worked on stakeholder relationships and partnership with public institutions.
5. How did the master programme prepare you for the work you're doing now?
My education at IBEI prepared me to deal with the sophisticated dynamics existing between governments, indigenous groups, and other stakeholders. The development courses at IBEI laid out a solid foundation for me to understand the infrastructure sector in Latin America, and the cases we studied in classes turned out to be highly applicable when dealing with similar situations in real life.
6. Is this more or less what you pictured yourself doing after the master programme?
I always want to work for developmental projects in Latin America and my concentration in IBEI was in Political Economy of Development. I do feel that I have been applying the knowledge learned in school in real projects, working to improve local living standards and reverse the deteriorating natural environment in Nicaragua by working on a large infrastructure project in the country.
7. What advice would you give to current students who want to follow this career path? / Some advice to future IBEI students?
Sit in on as many classes as you can, as IBEI has so many great professors and a broad range of courses. I find that obtaining new perspectives to view the world is super valuable. Make friends and socialize as much as possible, as it is indeed a unique opportunity to be able to share life with people from so many different countries and distinct backgrounds.
8. What do you miss most about the IBEI?
Sunbathing on the square of MACBA during lunch hour while reading papers!