Before joining ESSEC Business School’s Global Bachelor in Business Administration (GBBA) program in 2015, Yufei Zhou had only lived in Shanghai.

By 2019, she had studied, worked, and lived in Singapore, France, Brazil, Germany, and the United States.

She says this was thanks to the International Business Education Alliance (IBEA) program.

Her post-ESSEC journey saw her complete a master’s at London Business School and start a full-time role at BlackRock’s London office.

She reflects on how the IBEA program prepared her for this global career.

Tell us a little about the work you do at BlackRock.

I provide advisory services to central banks and other financial institutions as part of the financial markets advisory team.

For example, I’m working with a Middle Eastern central bank to enhance their macro-stress testing framework and on a reconstruction fund for post-war Ukraine.

Before that, I also worked with large European banks on market risk and climate risk-related projects.

How did your time at the IBEA program prepare you for this role?

IBEA provided a unique opportunity to study in multiple countries on different continents.

We had specialized business courses at each partner school—ESSEC Business School, the University of Mannheim, Fundaçao Getulio Vargas, and the University of South Carolina—and practical business projects.

This unparalleled global exposure and cultural immersion prepared me for the diverse challenges in the international business landscape.

It was an experience unmatched by any other exchange program.

Share about your cultural immersion—what cultural differences have you noticed?

The culture was different in each country. In Germany, they emphasized precision and attention to detail. At the same time, in the United States, we focused on practical subjects, and I had a course managing a student fund with real money.

In Brazil, the warmth and enthusiasm of the people left a lasting impression, and in Singapore, the cutting-edge technology and innovation stood out.

Within my IBEA cohort, there was also a symphony of different greeting styles at first. French students greeted with kisses on the cheek, Americans with a casual “Hey, what’s up, bro,” Germans with firm handshakes, and Brazilians with warm, tight hugs.

Over time, we seamlessly merged all these diverse greetings and created our unique IBEA way of saying hello.

Were there challenges adapting to these cultures and fitting in with your cohort?

No. No doubt, my IBEA classmates each had distinct qualities and ambitions—some aim to start businesses, others are passionate about aviation, and a few are already successful investors.

Despite our diverse backgrounds, we became close friends and learned to appreciate each other’s differences.

Looking back, what’s the most significant change you’ve seen in yourself?

The cultural appreciation and adaptability I gained through the IBEA program are ingrained in my approach to life.

I’ve developed a deep curiosity for various aspects of life and learned to avoid clichés, always approaching new situations with an open mind.

Advice for other potential GBBA students?

Don’t just focus on academic excellence but also remain eager to explore new perspectives.

That’s important for an IBEA student: You need a genuine curiosity about the world.