“It’s a machine that’s designed to take care of every aspect of your life so you can focus on what you came here for – your studies.”

In China, Xue Yuan earned an undergrad degree in environmental engineering and graduate degrees in advanced polymer chemistry. “But spending eight hours a day, seven days a week in a research lab was not what I wanted to do with my life,” says Xue. Changing gears, he brought his expertise to General Electric’s Advanced Materials division in Shanghai where he served as a sales representative for silicon resins in east China. When the division was sold off and became an independent business, Momentive, Xue stayed on for six years and was promoted to commercial manager (Greater China) in 2010. Just before beginning his MBA studies, Xue was a summer associate at Northern Light Venture Capital, where he reviewed “new materials and clean technology companies.”

For Xue, HBS was the clear choice for advancing his career. “I knew I wanted to go into general management,” he says, “and HBS is the number one school in this area.” Name recognition was also important: “Harvard is the one school everyone in China knows about.”

Surrounded by support

“Before I came to HBS, I had heard some bad things about the students – they were arrogant, they wouldn’t talk to you,” Xue says. “But I found that it’s the exact opposite here. Everyone is so awesome, both in terms of personality and professional experience.”

The faculty, Xue believes, are the key to making the case method experience a success. “Many of our professors have been industry practitioners before coming to HBS; they perfectly combine textbook knowledge with real-life experience. The way they command the classroom, facilitate discussions, ask questions – they get us to think about things we wouldn’t have considered otherwise.”

For Xue, the entire school conspires to educate. “It’s a machine that’s designed to take care of every aspect of your life so you can focus on what you came here for – your studies. Think about it: the number of faculty and supporting staff is about the same as the number of students, eighteen hundred. It’s as if each student has someone to support them.”

A stand-up kind of guy

In addition to his studies and his experience in complex chemical polymers, Xue has a passion for stand-up comedy. “It started about two years ago when a couple of my friends returned from Canada and we talked about how Shanghai had nowhere to go for comedy,” Xue says. “So we thought, why not start a club for one hundred percent Mandarin comedy?” In August 2011 they pulled together their first show in a small bar that held fifty to eighty people. Within a year, thanks to word-of-mouth and Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, they were packing theaters that held 300-400 people. Encouraged, Xue took to the stage himself, a practice he has continued in Boston. “This will always be my hobby,” Xue says. “When I come up with my own stories and bring laughter to people, the feeling is just awesome.”