Coronavirus all but shut down international travel, but Adam Hollifield overcame the pandemic disruption and flew to Hong Kong to complete one semester of GLOBE, an immersive 18-month curriculum spanning three continents run by a trio of the world’s best business schools.
He spent 21 days alone, holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room, as did his 18 GLOBE classmates. They could interact only via Zoom.
“I had approximately 220 square feet of space, and being confined in something that small for so long took a toll on me,” says Hollifield. He dealt with claustrophobic irritability and restlessness by exercising and playing games virtually with his fellow quarantining classmates, and taking multiple showers every day “for fun simply to break the monotony of lying in bed all day.”
Hollifield has no regrets. “I’d do it over if I could spend another semester in Hong Kong.”
GLOBE broadened his horizons. Before enrolling, he rarely travelled outside of North Carolina and had never even left the U.S. “Opportunities like this incredible program simply don’t come to most kids from my hometown,” he says. “I knew not applying would have been one of my biggest regrets.”
GLOBE brings together business students from UNC Kenan-Flagler along with Copenhagen Business School and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Each partner institution choses 18 star students to spend three semesters living on three continents, studying at the trio of leading universities.
Usually, GLOBE kicks off at UNC Kenan-Flagler in Chapel Hill during the autumn semester. Then students move to CUHK in Hong Kong in the spring before ending at Copenhagen Business School the following autumn. When it is over, students return to their respective schools.
When the pandemic struck in spring 2020, UNC Kenan-Flagler and its partners responded quickly. UNC Kenan-Flagler students studying abroad in Copenhagen had to return quickly to the U.S. But they were able to go to Hong Kong for the fall term that year, thanks to the hard work of the Undergraduate Business Program global team and the leadership of Sherri Carmichael, assistant director of GLOBE, at UNC Kenan-Flagler.
Carmichael and her colleagues at CUHK worked over the summer to write a risk assessment. In close partnership with the Vice Provost for Global Affairs at UNC, she developed and submitted a petition to the UNC Provost and Chancellor for permission for GLOBE students to study in Hong Kong, which was approved. The students had to quarantine upon arrival in Hong Kong, wear tracking bracelets, and exercised, sourced meals, and did laundry within their own small, single-occupancy hotel rooms. But they finished out the semester on the CUHK campus.
Carmichael says the experience forced students to be highly flexible and resilient — important leadership skills. “COVID-19 made it even more of a tight-knit group,” she says. “They stuck together, looked out for and helped each other in terms of their mental and physical health, and were each other’s champions. They provided a real family component – doing what was best for each other as individuals and as a group to get through tough times.”
Application volume for the next cohort start in August 2021 remained strong. “I thought people would not be as interested due to the pandemic, but we have had equally high interest as we did last year,” says Carmichael, noting students want to learn to navigate a globalized world while vaccines should reduce the impact of coronavirus.
The ability to work across cultures is attractive to corporate recruiters in diverse industries from healthcare to real estate and public policy, she says. “In a normal year at least 95% of GLOBE students are employed by the late fall of their senior year.”
Students are hired by companies that need employees who have proven ability to be adaptable when working across borders and cultures.
Even during the pandemic every student received a summer internship. “Companies trust the GLOBE brand due to the strong reputation and legacy of the 17-year GLOBE program and the strong track record of GLOBE graduates in their workforce. They were willing to hire students who they had not even met in person,” says Carmichael. “We have companies that specifically ask to see the resumes of GLOBE students.”
GLOBE launched in 2004 and the first cohort graduated in 2005. Alongside studying an academically rigorous curriculum, students embark on company visits in Hong Kong, Copenhagen and the U.S., meeting alumni and other senior executives who are at companies.
“They build international networks that provide career context across borders and first-hand insights about global markets and what doing international business is really like,” says Carmichael.
In Copenhagen, students complete a capstone consultancy project, advising a start-up on how to overcome their real business challenges, guided by senior consultants at McKinsey & Company.
They also take part in field-based study trips to understand different cultures, which is key to developing successful business relations in the global marketplace of economic and cultural integration. “Over time, students become more curious and aware of their places in the world,” says Carmichael. “They develop the ability to integrate into new environments. They are changed forever.”
Extended study abroad also accelerates their emotional and professional maturity, so they become more independent and adaptable, developing personal financial and life skills such as living on a budget and navigating new healthcare systems.
Students learn a great deal from each another as well as top business school professors and executives. They build a global network of classmates, professors and business leaders, including an alumni group of more than 800 “GLOBE scholars” worldwide.
“The GLOBE network is incredibly helpful for career progression, networking and advice on moving to a new global location,” says Carmichael. “With extraordinarily strong bonds, alumni always go out of their way to assist each other, from career support to their personal lives. Whether you are from the first cohort or the sixteenth cohort, you share experiences that shaped you, experiences you continue to value.”
GLOBE is very selective. In any given year, only half of those who apply to the course are admitted.
“The experience is like polishing a gem stone,” Carmichael says. “The students who come to us are already amazing, and GLOBE makes them even more ready to change the world because they develop frameworks for understanding global business and thrive as they put into practice what they have learned at UNC Kenan-Flagler.”
Undergraduate Business students at UNC Kenan-Flagler are eligible to apply for a competitive place by submitting an essay in response to a question inviting them to reflect on “collaborative leadership,” where everything and everyone are linked and there is more responsibility and accountability. A short list of applicants then complete a rigorous interview process to create a cohort of 18 UNC Kenan-Flagler students.
“A high GPA is not the only way to gain admission,” says Carmichael. “We are looking for students who are open-minded and will contribute to their cohort and to the overall program as much as they gain. They don’t need to know another language or even have a passport yet.”