A Year in Tongji University, Shanghai China

Nathalie Louisgrand, Professor and International Academic Advisor for Asia has had an in-depth interview with four ESC year 3 students at GEM. Philippe Bachmann, Lucy Cheramy, Abdallah Jbilou and Johanna Eloit, have joined the Exchange Program for Double Degree in Tongji University in Shanghai China. By this testimonial, they shared the motivation of studying in China and Tongji University, the overall impression and experiences,  and advices regarding how to prepare for an exchange program.


Nathalie Louisgrand, International Academic Advisor for Asia has had an in-depth interview with students who have studied in Tongji University in Shanghai China.

China and its Booming Economy, Culture/Language as well as Open Opportunities

“China is a country which provides a lot of promises for students who study business and this is because of its encouraging economy” said Abdallah “Because of that, I find that it is quite interesting to come to China.”

“Chinese culture is one of the most different cultures. It is not so mainstream like United Stated or United Kingdom. That is why I chose to study in China.” said Philippe.

Chinese language has become more and more important for international communication. To learn or improve Chinese language is another motivation for the four exchange students.


“For me, the motivation to study in China is because I have been learning Chinese for a while. It would be a good opportunity to follow the courses with Chinese culture and Chinese language around” said Lucy.

To learn and practice Chinese is Philippe’s motivation as well. “I have taken Chinese as a third language in Grenoble so I want to practice and make further progress.” “Knowing how to speak Chinese, especially when Chinese is becoming a very important language for trade, would be an advantage for job seeking.” said Johanna. She thinks that there are a lot of of open opportunities in China and speaking Chinese language would provide her more chances to get a job.

The Prosperity of Shanghai & the Uniqueness of Tongji University


Shanghai is a renowned international metropolis, drawing more and more attention from all over the world. It serves as the most influential economic, financial, international trade, cultural, science and technology center in East China.

Situated in Shanghai, Tongji University is one of the leading universities in China and its history can be traced back to 1907, attracting a large number of students from all parts of China and all over the world. In particular, it has become one choice of those who are pursuing a Double Degree in Master for exchange programs at GEM.Tongji_University_Emblem_svg

As Abdallah mentioned, “I come to Tongji because first I would have the chance to stay for one year for a double master’s degree. Tongji University was built in 1907. It is well known and it has students coming from all over the world. So I think it is the best university I can have in China.”

To achieve a double degree from Tongji makes the same reasons for Lucy and Philippe.

“The main reason is to stay one year in China and to get the double degree because other choices for exchanging in China or in Shanghai are just for one semester” said Lucy. “I think it can be a huge value to have a degree from a top Chinese university. Tongji University is a tier one university, top 10. So I think it is really a huge opportunity to get this degree” said Philippe. As for Johanna, she concerned about staying longer in China, not just for one semester but a year.

Studying @ Tongji – Theoretical Approach vs. Practical Approach

The students’ overall impression to the one year program at Tongji is positive even though they encountered some differences in terms of academic approach. According to the students’ feedback, it is more about learning by heart and taking theoretical knowledges in China while in France it is about learning, practicing and understanding how to react in a corporate or organization.Theoretical Approach  vs. Practical Approach

“In China I feel that studying is more about what other people think.” said Lucy. “In France we innovate, we create and in china we just repeat the things.” said Johanna.

“To study in China is quite different from the way studying in France.” said Abdallah, “We get many views on the Chinese markets and on the Chinese culture. In my opinion, there is a lack of critical thinking.”

Critical thinking

“Thanks to the program, it is good to understand the differences between the two programs in France and in China. This is really the best thing during our year. But it’s true that is a bit too theoretical for us. It is better to have more practical case studies” said Lucy. Philippe has the same impression. “Teaching methods are completely different from what we use in France. At Tongji, the approach is much more academic and paper research, such as questioning about the big journals, Harvard Business Review and so on.”

Group work is indispensable for all students. What are the culture shocks they have experienced?


As China has become more and more international, it is not surprising to have students from different countries studying and working together. By Philippe and Johanna’s observation, they find that Chinese, Germans, UK people, Spanish, Russian think and work differently in the same project. This kind of team work dynamics is also part of the international experience.

Enjoyment @ Shanghai – Blended Culture of Eastern and Western


Shanghai is a city with its fabulous modernization which perfectly blends cultures of the modern and the traditional. All four students find Shanghai is awesome and modern, just like New York or other metropolis around the world.

For the students, the best way to embrace the culture and enjoy the life in Shanghai is to be with the local people and learn from them. Johanna summarized preciously.

“It’s a cosmopolitan city so there are a lot of opportunities. You can just go out, in a club, in a bar or restaurant and meet someone else and get a job opportunity.”

“The way to enjoy the life of Shanghai is to get in touch with Chinese people and understand what they do” said Abdallah. As for Lucy, she enjoyed the culture of Shanghai.

“I love China. I love Chinese people. Sometimes you really think it’s like being in the center of the world because so many foreigners from everywhere.”

Earlier Adaptation to International Working Environment

Their biggest return from this program is working in an international team and adapting themselves to future professional environment. Students from different background bring different ways of thinking and doing. Abdallah and Johanna have learned mainly about how people think in the way that quite different from them and considered it a useful to prepare themselves for future careers.

International Working Environment

“Making a PowerPoint presentation is completely different if you are Chinese, if you are German, if you are French.” Abdallah and Luchy said.

Philippe’s gain from the program is how to apply the Chinese language into his daily life in Shanghai.

“I have Chinese lessons twice a week. I learn a lot in this lesson and it’s really amazing because once I step out in the street I can use it with people.”

Add Values to Future Career – Being Open Mind & Adaptable 

open mindFor the students, they all agree that studying one year in a completely different culture will add values to their CVs, in which the managers usually look for unusual people with a special identity and background. The experience in China is one of the best presentation for this uniqueness.

“We hope that we are really open mind. The adaptation of a new culture and new country is really interesting and will be helpful for the future. We already know how to adapt ourselves how to behave in comparing other experiences.” said Abdallah and Johanna.

学位For Chinese students, having a degree from Tongji will be an advantage in the job markets. For Philippe, he has really applied what he learned in China to job interviews and impressed the recruiters.

“It really helps me in job interviews because I have been in China. I have some former Chinese business partners.  When I tells them I’m going be graduated from Tongji university, they always say what a wide future I will have. I think it is useful for job seeking in Europe and it’s even more useful for Asia.”

Other Adventures during the Stay in China

Sightseeing around Shanghai or traveling in China or Asia are the most common activities for exchange students.


Some students tried to meet professionals or entrepreneurs to have further contacts for job opportunities. “I tried to network. It’s not easy” said Lucy. Like Johanna, she successfully found a short time job in Shanghai as a hostess for a conference in the Marriott Hotel in Butan for the company Shell.

“I’ve worked for the wine fair in November in the Shanghai International Expedition. It was very interesting. I’ve met a lot of people in wine production. I got a lot of opportunities in Shanghai.”

Others enjoyed themselves by doing either short distant trip or long-haut journey. “I go to museums in Shanghai which are very nice” said Abdallah. “I have been travelling a lot, enjoying China and Asia. In China, I am able to go to amazing places conveniently. If I depart from Europe, it would be far away and expensive. I have been in South China, Laois, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia” said Philippe.

Advice to students at GEM of exchange program

“Just come and experience everything” said Philippe, Lucy, Abdallah and Johanna. Here are some tips from them for considering studying in China:


  • Try to be as open mind as possible.
  • Take stereotypes objectively.
  • Make friends with Chinese students to make life at campus or in the city easier.
  • Go outside of the comfort zone.
  • Challenge your daily life.



Philippe Bachmann, Lucy Cheramy, Abdallah Jbilou and Johanna Eloit are the students from ESC-3A programs at GEM and they have participated in the exchange program for double degree in Tongji University in Shanghai China from 2013 to 2014.


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