MBA international students hit the mother road
Eleven days. 3,781 miles. One University of Northern Iowa graduation ceremony.
That was the journey of Jingjing Yu (MBA ‘19) and Ziyi Li (MBA ‘19), two international Chinese students who graduated with a master’s degree in business administration last spring by utilizing a unique program that allows Chinese business professionals to earn an MBA through UNI in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Since UNI faculty travel to China to teach the face-to-face components of the classes, the Chinese students never set foot on campus. And because the MBA degree international students earn is no different than what students in Cedar Falls receive, they have the option to travel to Iowa for commencement. So that’s exactly what Yu and Li did.
But they wanted to make an adventure out of it, to make the trip a memory. So, they flew into Los Angeles and made the trek to Cedar Falls via historic Route 66, the iconic highway made famous as the main migration route for
people moving west during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and memorialized in pop culture.
“It was a trip of adventure,” Li said. “We stopped wherever we wanted to on the way and didn’t book any hotels in advance. It all depended on the mood of the moment. We let our destiny guide the trip.”
The two UNI graduates made the trip with Li’s husband and a high school friend, who made the decision to travel Route 66.
“Zhu and Zhang chose Route 66 due to their rocker’s dream – listening to those classic American rock songs and encountering that historic feeling,” Li said.
Both said that one of the highlights of the trip was Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon on Navajo land in Arizona near the border with Utah. The canyon is famous for the shafts of sunlight that pour down from the openings at the top of the canyon, washing over the yellow sandstone and creating dramatic shadows.
But the group arrived on a cloudy day and had to postpone their visit. Fortunately, the next day was clear and sunny.
“The magnificent views were definitely worth the effort,” Yu said.
From Arizona, the group traveled into New Mexico. In Albuquerque, they took in the Mexican-inspired vistas that reminded the group of the popular television series “Breaking Bad.” They traveled to Cuba, New Mexico, which was full of wall drawings, and Pops 66 Soda Ranch, which features 700 kinds of sodas and sparkling waters.
Beyond the sightseeing, the group was struck by the window into America’s past offered by the stops along the highway.
“I deeply felt the sharp contrast between the past and the present, which demonstrates the huge change and development of the United States,” Yu said. “Just standing in the middle of all the small towns along the route and looking at the houses – some of which have long been abandoned while some are still in use – shows you how prosperous the town used to be when the route was the main transportation pass.”
They also encountered many travelers taking the same trip, including many retirees.
“I was impressed by the people we met along the route,” Yu said. “They were so passionate about their country’s history and showed hospitality to foreign visitors.”
At the end of the journey, Li and Yu discovered UNI’s campus for the first time during the commencement ceremony.
“I was impressed by the big campus,” Li said. “It was very green and had good facilities.”
Now back in China, the two graduates are making use of their UNI education. Yu is working for Disney at Shanghai Disney Resort, and Li is the executive assistant for the chief operating officer Asia-Pacific branch of an Italian automotive company.
“I definitely use my UNI MBA education,” Li said. “I apply the content and experience I got from class everyday at work.”