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[Special Report] René Boye: Reflecting on a Leap across Continents, and Preparing for Another

Last updated :2015-07-06

Source: Office for Overseas Promotion, SYSU
Written by: Ian J. Heuer
Edited by: Wang Dongmei

René Boye is comfortable with transitions. He left the city of Ingolstadt in his native Germany two years ago to complete the second leg of a dual degree in business administration, flying halfway around the world to Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) in Guangzhou. On paper, the two cities couldn’t be more different. Ingolstadt is a tidy Bavarian city, home to picturesque gothic architecture and not far from a fairytale German castle. “It’s very traditional, full of old houses with an old city center and old traditional churches. It’s a middle-sized city with about 130,000 people. It’s mostly full of families and professional people, so the pace of life is slower,” René said. Compare that to Guangzhou, the lightning-paced metropolis of over 13 million, where new skyscrapers pop up in just months and neon-drenched urban landscapes are perpetually bursting at the seams with frenetic activity and commerce. Despite this contrast, the transition didn’t faze René when he arrived in August 2013. “There was no real culture shock. The transition was not difficult, because Guangzhou is a very forward facing city and because I came with about ten other Germans,” he said, adding: “the biggest transition was the food.”

The transition was also eased, perhaps, by the fact that René had two years to prepare. “I knew from the beginning on when I started studying in Germany that I would do two years in Ingolstadt and then two years in China. I applied directly for the business administration dual-degree program. I chose to come to SYSU because it had a better reputation for business administration. I wanted to have a chance to do something with culture in addition to business, so it was this combination that brought me here.”

René receiving his bachelor’s degree from SYSU President (Photo taken by Jin Feng)

When asked what led him to choose studying abroad in China over other countries, René again mentioned culture, saying “I don’t aim to get rich, although it would be nice, but combing business and language and culture is a good way to go abroad, while also giving myself the chance to have a good living. I am also interested in France, but the culture is more similar to Germany. It’s a neighboring country so it’s not as difficult to go there and find something. I love the Chinese language and the characters. Especially the traditional characters, which are so good at expressing meaning.”

Studying at SYSU also gave René the chance to see other parts of China and Asia. Since arriving, he has been to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Sichuan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan; he still hopes to visit Beijing and Xinjiang in the future.

René in Guilin in front of the karst landscape that inspired design on the twenty RMB note (Photo provided by René)

After spending some time reflecting on his transition across continents to earn his degree in China, René turned his attention to the future, where another cross-continental relocation is impending. “I will be going to California in two months to live there. I have been in China for two years, but I am ready for something new. I will study for the CPA exam and prepare to be a professional accountant. I have fulfilled almost all the requirements but I just have to take one more course.”

His time as an international student at SYSU has provided René with a good base for this next step. “The competition will be tough, but I want to live in America and find a job there. Because of the international nature of studying in this program, I am comfortable with American accounting and I am even better at reading financial statements in English than in German.”

René had a chance to spend four weeks in California last year, and was attracted to the famously low-key cultural attitudes found there, in addition to the stunningly diverse natural settings. “We stayed in San Diego, and then went through a desert before going to San Francisco for a week and then Santa Cruz. We also went camping outside of Yosemite Park and we went to Monterey Bay and Catalina Island. I like that California is very relaxed and very liberal. In my opinion, the culture in California is more liberal or open than in Germany. The landscape was beautiful.” He mentioned one other thing that made me confident he will be a good fit in the culturally diverse American state: “Besides, I really liked the Mexican food.”

As graduation nears and his time in China comes to a close, René sounded confident about the challenges of a new transition. “I know it will be difficult, but it’s a new start. I have a decision: either start a new life in Germany or go to a new place. I prefer the mentality of America and I look forward to starting something new.”