From winning medals to reflecting on what matters the most in life, Qiuting Zhong tells us about how collaboration leads to efficient decision-making, perseverance leads to achieving seemingly impossible goals, and what we put in is what we get out of life.

I’m writing this blog on the flight from Geneva to Silicon Valley for our first discovery expedition. The long flight allows me to reflect on module 3 and the first half of my IMD MBA journey.

The MBA Tournament (MBAT) in France marked the transition between module 2 and module 3. I participated in the Spartan Race, cross-country run, and fashion show, winning two medals for IMD with my classmates. These achievements deepened my pride in being an IMD MBA candidate. Despite having no experience in the Spartan Race or modeling and no time to practice beforehand, we quickly formed team strategies and executed them to win. The decision-making process was efficient, and the collaboration during the competition was highly enjoyable. I see our seamless collaboration and success as the result of group assignments and the close-knit IMD MBA cohort, where we truly learn to understand each other.

IMD MBA students participate in the MBA tournament
IMD MBA students participate in the MBA Tournament: Sheng Li, Chenlu Li, Stephanie Hudson, Fairuz Shariff, Sarah Fuhrmann, Todor Mihaylov, Pekka Tuisku, Adrian Knöpfel, Sebastián Wilson, Qiuting Zhong

Participating in Steps for Cancer was another significant collective effort with my MBA classmates. Raising funds for cancer support by accumulating steps was inspiring and encouraging, especially for me as a cancer survivor. On the last day of the challenge, my classmate Kam walked more than a full marathon distance to surpass my step count, demonstrating incredible determination. This challenge not only helps raise awareness and promote a healthier lifestyle, it also aligns with one of our major MBA study topics: sustainability.

IMD_MBA students participate in steps-for-cancer
IMD MBA student participants in Steps-for-Cancer: Alvaro Aubele Leon, Sebastián Wilson, Jakob Johansson, Veronica Durando, Qiuting Zhong, Sean Skantze, Kam Sohi, Alison Brett, Isabel Fernández Acín, Fairuz Shariff

Module 3 also brought deeply emotional moments, including the unexpected passing of my grandmother and a period of deep self-reflection. On May 20, a Swiss bank holiday, I had planned a trip to Milan with my classmate Laras. The morning before we departed from Lausanne, I confirmed the August itinerary for Grandma’s 100th birthday celebration. But as I stepped into my hotel room in Milan, I received the news of her peaceful passing, which deeply affected me. Her funeral coincided with our departure for the Silicon Valley discovery expedition, so I couldn’t attend. However, the companionship of my classmates helped me gradually overcome my grief and see her passing as a celebration of a life well-lived. These moments triggered deeper reflections on life’s larger purpose, who I am, and how I want to spend my time.

IMD MBA students on a road-trip to Milan
Laras,Sandra Sindora, Gujan Mittal, Qiuting Zhong

My module 3 study group classmate Zach mentioned that the IMD MBA helped him realize what he can and can’t do. I completely agree. Knowing what I know and what I don’t know is crucial. All the constraints push me to connect with my inner voice, drowned out by external noise. I also realize that finding and being myself is a more meaningful life lesson. Growing my roots and becoming my secure base is part of real learning and impacting my life.

One of my personal challenges in module 3 was running a new distance on the Swiss Canyon Trail. It required me to focus on dolphins while there are sharks, a metaphor from my career coach, Rebecca Meadows. During one of my career coaching sessions, when I expressed my feeling of stress, she shared with me a video of dolphins protecting long-distance ocean swimmer Adam Walker from a great white shark.

Along the race, I faced several challenges. First, I had never trained to hold onto a rope and step on tree branches to descend from a cliff, but I learned from another runner during the race. It required a great level of confidence in myself while facing the unknown. Many runners quit the race at that vertical drop. Despite a swollen ankle and a bleeding knee from a fall, I immensely enjoyed running among the mountains and had my fastest 50km run.

IMD MBA student Qiuting Zhong on the Swiss Grand Canyon Trail Race
IMD MBA student Qiuting Zhong on the Swiss Canyon Trail.

Carrying on through the pain for the race’s second half became a mental game. The weather was unfavorable, with rain making the trail slippery and un-runnable. My stomach burned after taking some food supplements. I slowly lost body temperature and started getting dizzy. While ascending a steep slope, I started to fall backward. I felt like I couldn’t finish the race and began whistling and calling for help with my last bit of consciousness and energy.

That moment was filled with desperation as it was after midnight, and I couldn’t see any headlights from other runners. Fortunately, a runner who had already reached the top of the mountain came back to check on me. Despite the language barrier, he managed to get another English-speaking runner to help. Charles Hoarau offered me a capsule for my dizziness and helped me call emergency services. He told me there was no way to quit the race after 100km; I had to finish. After I took the capsule, they hiked with me to ensure I was safe.

When I shared my race experience with Rebecca later, I told her that the lady who had shown me how to descend the vertical drop and the runners who saved me in the wet midnight were my guardian dolphins. She was so glad that I focused on finding dolphins while there were dangerous sharks.

Some people don’t understand why I enjoy long-distance trail running. My favorite book, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, mentions in the chapter called Wind, Sand, and Stars that “One discovers the value of obstacles only by overcoming them.” I truly believe life is not measured by the number of heartbeats but by the moments that take your breath away.

Since returning from MBAT, finalizing the summer internship has been my focus. Being a non-EU resident, managing a short-term internship is challenging as it requires efforts from the employer to go through the work authorization process. The internship search experience has been good preparation for my post-MBA job search. This summer I’ll be interning in Melbourne and will share my internship experience in a future blog. While I’ll miss the beautiful Lausanne summer, I’m excited about the adventure on the other side of the world.

IMD MBA students Qiuting Zhong, Vincent Chiron, Alison Brett, Dario Pigato
IMD MBA students Vincent Chiron, Alison Brett, Dario Pigato, Qiuting Zhong

For now, I’m saying goodbye to beautiful Lausanne. I haven’t landed yet, but I already miss Switzerland!

Qiuting Zhong

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