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Student Spotlight: Zihan S. (Darden MBA)

Jan 28, 2022

Zihan Sha - China

Darden MBA '23


Q&A with B-Speak! Director Christina Ball 

Zihan, what motivated or inspired you to undertake an MBA in the U.S.? What attracted you most to the program at Darden?

I’ve always been the type of person who wants to explore new cultures and different experiences. An MBA program gives me a fantastic opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. Besides, I wanted to realize a career change Having worked in finance and consulting for so many years, I wanted to leverage relevant skillsets to do something that will directly affect peoples’ daily lives, like product management or marketing. So, the MBA program was a natural choice for me. What attracted me most to Darden was the Case Method. My previous academic experience in China was very lecture-oriented. I think it’s a good thing to experience a very different type of teaching. I always feel very excited sitting in the Darden classroom and hearing the experiences of other students.

The second reason I chose Darden was the culture. I like the friendly and supportive community. And third: the location. I was always in Shanghai and I wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of life there. In Charlottesville, I can enjoy fantastic outdoor activities and natural views. When I was considering the MBA program back in 2018, the first info session that I attended was held by Darden and also later on, I received the offer from Darden on my birthday! I kind of feel like I have so many personal relations with this school so even though I had offers from other schools, I preferred to come here.

What prompted you to sign up for B-Speak! English coaching?

First, it’s because of the language barrier. All my previous professional and academic experience was in China. I definitely thought I should join this program to improve my written and oral English before coming to school. Also, through the B-Speak! Program, you’re not only learning about hard skills like grammar or how to keep talking and talking. You can also learn about American culture with your B-Speak! Coach. I liked topics we covered like small talk, behavioral interviews and elevator pitches. For international students, it’s pretty good that you can start this kind of work as early as possible. And the last thing is that, due to the cooperation between Darden and Speak! Language Center, we were provided a great discount. The prices are just so great you just have no reason not to participate in this program! I really appreciate this point. I think Darden did a great job taking care of their international students.

How did your coaching sessions with Rebecca help you prepare for interview season and land your dream job?

We did a lot regarding how to structure the story like, for example, at the very beginning my story is quite long and you have to talk for 4-5 minutes. But she coached me, step-by-step, in how to shorten those long paragraphs using more concise wording. The second thing I think that’s quite important is that she let me know some more natural English expressions as well as helped me build my vocabulary. This not only helped me with the interview but will help me for my life and work field in the future. And third, I really appreciated her flexibility with the teaching hours and time. She knew I was really stressed out and gave me all the support I needed during that challenging time. I feel like during that time, she was not only an English coach but also a close friend.

What did you enjoy most about your B-Speak! sessions with Rebecca?

What helped me the most was Rebecca helping me make my answers more concise. Being concise is very important because one thing at the very beginning is I want to add many story elements to it but she told me her feelings (as the audience) and we worked together to exclude unnecessary details. From the content and language perspective, she helped me condense my answers into shorter sentences and a more appropriate timeframe for a behavioral answer.

How would you describe B-Speak! to a friend or fellow international student?

I would say that I think it’s a very great program. You can make full use of it either to do the preparation before coming to school or get further improvement while you are at school. It’s a program that you can always seek help during your school time. Meanwhile, it’s a very flexible program. You can communicate with your coach and tailor your program based on any areas that you want to work on.


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