Chen Xu knew he wanted to earn a Master of Business Administration degree when he moved to the United States three years ago.
His new home, Ashland, Oregon, had just the spot for him. Chen, whose American name is Leo, graduated with an MBA from Southern Oregon University in December 2017.
"I have almost 10 years' work experience in China, which is why I came here to go back to school for the master's degree," Chen said. "Life has a lot of circles. You need to figure out how to deal with it. I had a lot of questions, and I thought I needed to go back to school and learn new things. The MBA will be very helpful for my future."
Chen graduated with a bachelor's degree in international trade and economics from Henan University of Science and Technology in 2007. He has held various jobs over the last decade, such as factory manager and first-line worker. Chen also worked in international trade and international transportation before he moved to the United States in 2014.
His wife, Xuan Guo, whose American name is Jennifer, teaches Chinese at Ashland High School and recently obtained her work visa.
"My wife loves her job and loves her students," Chen said. "We are planning to work here for several years, but it depends on if we get green cards -- that's the hardest part. I am sending my resume around this area to try to find a job. My wife and I don't want to move to another place. We love Ashland."
The couple especially enjoy the beauty and local culture of their home away from home.
"The town I come from in southern China is very pretty -- just like Ashland. Both my hometown and Ashland give me a peaceful feeling," he said. "Ashland has a Shakespeare Festival and a lot of shows every year. I love it here. That's another reason we want to stay."
First Things First
Chen had to sharpen his English-speaking skills before he was ready to dive into a master's degree program in a foreign country.
"I tried to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam three times before I came here," he said. "Before I enrolled in the MBA program, I started my Intensive English Program (IEP) at SOU. That was very helpful."
The IEP also gave Chen some insight into the United States and its culture.
"Even though I passed the TOEFL exam, I didn't understand the American culture, the English culture," he said. "I knew how to say things, but I didn't know the meanings of the words. When you go to IEP class, you have time to learn more and learn exactly what the meanings of the words are from the professor. That was very helpful."
Among Chen's favorite courses in the curriculum were MBA 516: Managerial Accounting for Decision Making, MBA 514: Strategic Operations Management, BA 588: Fundamentals of Project Management, BA 436 Internet Marketing and E-Commerce, BA 541: Marketing Channels Management and Pricing Strategy and MBA 515: Information Systems.
Group effort is an aspect of higher education in the United States that Chen appreciates.
"In America, the classes are different," Chen said. "In university classes in China, we mostly just listen to the professor and think about what he said after class. In the U.S., the professor gives you some points and we have to brainstorm. Everybody can share ideas. At the end, the professor will give their ideas and opinions. It's good. That's an important thing."
Even as a full-time student in the MBA program, Chen took advantage of additional opportunities along the way.
"I am doing Optional Practical Training for international students at SOU who are studying under the F1 visa," he said. "I also did an internship this summer for a local nonprofit Talent Maker City."
He believes his diverse work experience helped him tremendously in the MBA program.
"After you get your bachelor's degree, it's better to have some experience in order to have some questions," Chen said. "Then, you go back into an MBA program with those questions and can learn with more efficiency. "
Chen hopes the MBA will help him land a job in internet marketing.
"I want to communicate with people," he said. "I really enjoy that moment when I can share my ideas and express myself to other people."
Chen, who has a one-year-old son, has received plenty of moral support as he works toward his higher education goals.
"My friends and family really encouraged me," he said. "They think that it is very important to be educated."
Once he gets a job and, hopefully, a work visa, he can focus even more on getting the work experience he wants to take back to China one day. In the meantime, he’ll continue to enjoy American culture.
"I like to go see movies," he said. "American movies, Hollywood movies, are very famous with the Chinese people."Learn more about the SOU online MBA programs.
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