How studying in Sweden changed this Chinese executive’s life forever

After working in China for eight years, Nikita Zhou decided to do her EMBA at the Stockholm School of Economics. She tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS why she chose to study in Sweden, how she adapted to the way of working in Sweden, and why you should fight for any learning opportunities that come your way.

In short

Nikita Zhou (China) – Stockholm School of Economics EMBA

Why Sweden?

“[I’d] been working for almost eight years when I decided to come here,” Nikita tells us. “And I didn’t really have a life when I was working. I really worked very hard, but I do feel I need some systematic [way of learning].” (0:27)

So, why Sweden? “Of course, there are so many MBA courses in the world – but I [would] really love it to be Sweden because I think this is the best country for women and children. So, I would like to experience something totally different from the Chinese culture [and] Chinese business environment,” Nikita explains. (1:14)

After finding out that the Stockholm School of Economics is one of the best business schools in Sweden, Nikita decided to apply.

Follow the leader? Not in Sweden

“Personally, I think I changed my personality a bit,” Nikita says. “In China, everything is very fast – you have to learn fast and in work life, everything is fast…But here, I think I learned how to be patient…I feel more powerful inside of me because I can handle different things now.” (5:10)

“And another thing is, in China, we are very hierarchical,” Nikita adds. “In China, we would have one person make [the call]…But here it’s very amazing. The leadership is totally something new that I’ve never experienced…People just give their ideas and talk, and somehow we make it. And still today, I don’t know, how does it work?” (5:57)

Nikita discussed this new way of working with a personal coach. “I [felt] confused,” she shares. “How should I perform in a team? And then I learned there is a new way to work in groups…you don’t need a leader to lead the group – everyone can be a leader. And the more you talk, maybe the idea [is] better. That’s one thing I’ve learned.” (7:03)

A personal coach & a new culture: The ultimate growth experience

Getting assigned a personal coach offered huge support to Nikita. “In China, when you have difficulties, [you] often talk to your friends or family, but they don’t have the professional knowledge to help you,” Nikita says. “But here, we have this coach. I think we met them four [or] five times during the whole program, and you can talk to them [about] what you’ve been through and what are your personal learning challenges and your plan [for] the future. And they are really, really professional and gave me a lot of good feedback and helped me to adapt myself in this context.” (11:55)

It is clear that the Stockholm School of Economics gave Nikita the ultimate learning and growth experience. Nikita admits, “I miss [being] a student. I like to learn things…I know the excitement before the class starts, you know you’re going to learn something wonderful this week, and you’re prepared. You know you’re going to school and learn something, and you have to read before and you gain the knowledge and you can feel the achievement. I miss that feeling.” (14:22)

“I would say that this program [is] designed for a fighter: somebody who doesn’t give up easy and [who is] willing to learn…If you’re willing to learn, then you definitely will gain something here and fight for it.” (14:59)

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