Graduate Studies Blog



Article contributed by Julia Leuchtgens – MBA Class of 2020.

As a participant in the double degree programme between the University of St. Gallen and Nanyang Business School (NBS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU, Singapore), I will receive two degrees upon my graduation – a Master of Arts in Strategy and International Management (“SIM”) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The two programmes are complementary as the focus of each lies on different aspects of business and its challenges. While courses such as International Management and Exploring Sustainability as Strategic Opportunity in St. Gallen and Strategic Brand Management and Strategic Technology and Innovation Management at NBS have influenced my perspective on strategy in completely different ways, the core modules reinforced what truly matters in today’s globalised and dynamic world – Strong Leadership with a Purpose.

The SIM programme is a multifaceted experience, which gave me great insights into the theory of strategy and how to apply it. Courses were quite interconnected and I especially enjoyed modules such as Strategic Management where all the frameworks, insights from case studies and real-world news came together. One highlight of the programme was the SIMagination Challenge which gave us the chance to support a social project of our choice. My team worked closely with the NGO Niños en Xela, which strives to support single women and their children in the highlands of Guatemala. We collected donations and worked on new business plans for our initiative and in February, each team visited its respective project all over the world including Uganda, South Africa, Guatemala and Cambodia. The cohort in St. Gallen was small and with around 50 students from all over the world, we built a community which was united in its diversity. St. Gallen is a small beautiful town in Switzerland and apart from what I have learnt in the university context, I cherish the memories of exploring the mountains and culture of Switzerland together with my classmates. The SIM spirit grew and drew all of us closer together. Apart from studying, we explored several cultural events such as OLMA, a big annual fair in St. Gallen, Christmas markets in Zurich and our entire cohort went to Madrid together for a weekend full of fun and engaging activities. Once a month, I participated in so-called “running dinners” where teams of students cook meals together and share them with other students. It was a great way to get to know new people and learn about different cuisines. We frequently got the chance to participate in career info sessions and workshops in Zurich which were organised by companies such as BCG and I greatly appreciated networking with experts from the industry and my fellow classmates there as well. Last but not least, hiking became one of my favorite activities – the train system in Switzerland is amazing and with my friends, I discovered some of the nicest hiking paths and lakes in the mountains I have ever seen!

The MBA programme was a whole new experience altogether – not only was it set in an Asian context, in a dynamic place such as Singapore, the way of learning and teaching was also different. Most of my classmates had multiple years of work experience which was one of the core assets in each class. Case discussions were led with a more open structure, while theory was always a backbone – examples from personal work experiences were stressed and discussed in depth. While the SIM programme put high emphasis on strategy and leadership, the MBA united students with diverse professional backgrounds and gave them different focus tracks to choose from. One highlight of the year was the Business Study Mission during which our cohort split into two groups and went to Tokyo and Shanghai to meet professionals from well-reputed companies across industries in Japan and China. We got unique on-site insights and our friendships grew closer by the day. The experiences from this trip will always be a special memory as I move forward. The course series Leading People Globally complemented the leadership modules I had taken in St. Gallen and re-emphasised the importance of cultural exchange, mutual and respectful understanding and integrity within a leader. Another challenging but great experience has been working with my team on a SPAN project for Peak Hospitality: we developed a go-to-market strategy for the company and were supported by our mentor and the CEO of the company. We worked closely together on real life problems and as COVID-19 has especially impacted the hospitality industry, we learnt what adapting goals and an agile style of working really means.

Another deep learning experience for me during the year was extracurricular: I was one of four participants from my cohort selected to represent NBS at the John Molson Case Competition in Montreal, Canada. We trained and prepared for the competition for months. During this period, I did not just learn how to approach case studies and develop real life strategies with implementation plans, I also learned how a truly functioning team works. After a 25-hour flight from Singapore, we reached Montreal in January and had one of the most interesting, challenging, enriching and tiring weeks of our lives. The whole preparation journey, the tension during the competition itself and the interaction with 35 other teams from all over the world made me get out of my comfort zone. We won the third prize in the end, but the most important thing we took away from the experience was team spirit, self-confidence and new knowledge.

During the MBA programme, living on campus was a major part of student life. Living so close to each other was great as we could meet each other regularly, both for social events organised by the MBA Executive Committee (e.g. Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas Party) or for gatherings in our dorm lounges. The NTU campus is on the western end of Singapore and is very lush and green with running tracks and gardens. We frequently went into the city to explore different festivals and events in different parts of Singapore, such as Little India and Chinatown, and it was a lot of fun exploring different cultures with a diverse group of friends. I enjoyed travelling in South East Asia as well, as Singapore is right in the close to many interesting countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand – and as always, I have very fond memories of travelling abroad with my friends from the MBA programme.

In hindsight, embarking on my double degree journey was the best decision I could have made as I grew beyond what I had expected, both personally and professionally. I am well-equipped to take on new challenges and strive to follow my career dreams, and above all I have built friendships which will hopefully last a lifetime. I am grateful for every person I have met, both students and professors, as in the end, both programmes were so special because of what I have learnt in the classroom and from others.

Our SIM team with the women supported by the social project Niños en Xela in Guatemala (February 2019)

Hiking with some of my SIM classmates in Appenzell, which is 1 hour by train from St. Gallen (September 2018)

Octoberfest theme party during orientation of the SIM programme (September 2018)

Enjoying a night out at the famous Lau Pa Sat hawker center with my MBA friends (January 2020)

Taking a stroll in front of the beautiful Shanghai skyline at The Bund during our BSM (October 2019)

We had great fun at our MBA Holiday Party just before the Christmas break (December 2019)

Celebrating our win at the John Molson International Case Competition in Montreal, Canada (January 2020)