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The Tsinghua University Experience and Journey to the Great Wall of China

Eric Lawrence van Vliet, Visiting MBA Exchange Student


Leaving Canada and coming to Beijing to continue my MBA education has been an eye-opening experience. Five months have passed since I arrived at Tsinghua and joined the orientation, but it still feels like it was only yesterday. So many amazing things have happened during this exchange that the time has flown by.

Although traveling to a completely different country is nothing new to me, as I had spent considerable time studying abroad in Europe, the language barrier made this experience extremely interesting. Before coming to China, I had taken a year-long Chinese language course to prepare myself for this exchange opportunity.

Visiting student Eric Lawrence van Vliet takes a day away from his exchange studies to enjoy a trip to the Badaling section of the Great Wall.

One very notable experience that stands out was the trip organized by local Tsinghua students to visit the Great Wall of China at Badaling. Badaling is about 80 km northwest of Beijing, and getting there required a lengthy bus trip, but it was absolutely worth the effort. As one of the great wonders of the world, it felt like a dream seeing the Great Wall in person. As a Westerner, I had always heard stories about these grandiose monuments in the news, but to actually experience it in person was unreal.

Badaling is the most visited section of the Great Wall, and it is easy to see why. It’s absolutely breathtaking to see it in the mountains, stretching as far as the eye can see. The section of the Wall at Badaling was reinforced during the Ming Dynasty and has seen some major historical events in its nearly 500-year life. It was a major defensive fortification meant to protect Beijing from attacks coming out of the north and also acted as a very long highway through the steep mountains. Climbing all the steps up the Wall came as a huge shock, as it was incredible to believe this amazing piece of architecture was built so long ago. After the visit to the Great Wall, we were all treated to some famous Peking duck at a top-notch restaurant near the wall.

Visiting student Eric Lawrence van Vliet takes a day away from his exchange studies to enjoy a trip to a nearby Peking duck dining experience.

There have been many more extraordinary experiences during the semester, and the entire exchange in China has been an incredible learning opportunity. The classes at Tsinghua have been some of the best I have had the chance to take, covering an impressive range of topics that have provided me with deep insight in some of China’s most successful businesses.

If I can give my fellow exchange students a piece of advice, it would be to get involved with the local students as much as you can and attend every event organized on campus in order to fully maximize your exchange!