The first cohort of World Bachelor in Business (WBB) students just completed its freshman year of studies at the USC Marshall School of Business.
The inaugural group will have a unique educational experience, earning three degrees on three continents. This fall, the students will head to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (UST), they will spend junior year at Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy and they will return to the university of their choice for the final year.
WBB, the only undergraduate program of its kind, is designed to engage intellectually curious and entrepreneurial students in a business curriculum that connects leading teaching methods with cultural immersion and real-world experiences. WBB students Sofia Gazzotti, Benjamin Rubin and Sophia Lim shared their experiences at USC.
What was your favorite part of the program this year?
[It] was getting to know the rest of the cohort. Each one of us has a unique story to tell; we learned things from each other that we never could’ve learned in school. Whatever skill I tried to enhance, from learning Mandarin Chinese to running 10 miles, there was always a fellow WBB who had mastered that skill and was willing to help me out. As a result, I had a chance to bond with everyone in the cohort. It already feels like a family.
Sofia Gazzotti, Italy
My favorite part was the cohort itself. My goal for college was to surround myself with ambitious and competitive people that would push me to be a better person, and I am happy to say that I have achieved that goal. Each student has a distinguished background and complex life story that greatly contributes to our shared experience. I feel I have learned much from my cohort and will continue to do so in the upcoming years.
Benjamin Rubin, Israel/United States
My favorite part was getting to spend time with my WBB classmates. Because my classmates have such a wide range of background experiences and stories, any time we sit down, there is a lot we can share. And now, no matter where I go, if there’s one WBB student in the group, I know I can trust them to watch after me. Watching us go from strangers to family definitely has been my favorite part of WBB this year.
Sophia Lim, China
How was your university experience different as a WBB student?
The program allowed me to live the full freshman experience like any other Marshall student. I had the opportunity to join any USC student organization, experience Greek life and dorm life, compete in case competitions and so on. On top of that, as a WBB student, I enjoyed an even more dynamic environment: I often would find myself studying for a USC midterm while checking out housing arrangements in Hong Kong and emailing Bocconi’s career service resources. Sure thing, I never got bored! — S.G.
Knowing I was going to spend only one year at USC, I felt the need to experience all the campus had to offer. Whether joining many organizations or attending many events, I did my best to fill my schedule and to never be idle. — B.R.
As WBB students, we had the honor and privilege to meet with USC and WBB administrators. This was made possible through special dinners and events, such as dinners at the homes of Dean [James G.] Ellis and Vice Dean [Deborah] MacInnis. WBB students also attended seminars on international business, especially tailored to us. These valuable insights all contributed to what made our USC experience different and unique. — S.L.
What was your favorite class?
My favorite class was Chinese. At first it was overwhelming because of all the tones, characters and rules, but with the help of Chinese-speaking friends (yes, obviously, fellow WBB students), I managed to ace the class and become more confident in my language skills. I learned not only the language, but also the Chinese culture and ended the semester with the professor treating us to Chinese food — what’s not to love about that? — S.G.
My favorite class was “Los Angeles Stories.” With the use of a number of books, presentations, movies and guest speakers, this class examined the history of Los Angeles from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. I especially enjoyed the comprehensive discussions we had in class; we analyzed historical events and ethical issues that arose from the course’s content. — B.R.
My favorite class at USC was “Los Angeles Stories.” Although the class involved quite a bit of reading, the novels and the discussions were all related to Los Angeles. It was interesting to learn about Los Angeles’ history because it helped me understand why Los Angeles ended up being the city it is today. Writing assignments were structured to give students the opportunity to be creative while being reflective. — S.L.
What activities or experiences outside of the classroom were particularly important to you?
USC offers innumerable extracurricular opportunities to grow as an individual. Having studied in a traditional Italian high school, I wasn’t really used to getting involved in student organizations or research projects, but I particularly enjoyed competing in business case competitions. Such competitions allowed me to learn more about various industries — for instance, Boeing taught me a lot about satellites and the space industry — while enhancing my critical thinking and communication skills. I also met some of my best friends during Panhellenic formal recruitment, which led me to be part of a sorority for a while. My experience with the Greek system taught me a lot about American culture. Even though I decided not to commit formally to my sorority, some of those women are still my greatest friends here. — S.G.
Among the many activities outside the classroom, the ones that were particularly important to me were those organized by our adviser and program director for the WBB students. Among them was a dinner at the Marshall dean’s home, a dinner at a sushi restaurant downtown, an end-of-the-semester meal with food from continents we will not be visiting during our program and an afternoon in Santa Monica. These gatherings gave us the opportunity to learn more about each other and to build connections that otherwise may not have been made. — B.R.
Since USC has a wide range of teams and clubs, I was able to do a lot outside of the classroom. Two of the most important activities to me were participating on the USC badminton team and in the American Sign Language (ASL) Club. For me, being a part of USC’s badminton team was not only participating in a sport, but also being a part of a family. In addition to playing together, the athletes would organize birthday celebrations, off-campus community events, study sessions, dinners and a wide range of activities. Having taught myself a bit of ASL before college, I was deeply intrigued by the language. Since resources were limited in China, I wanted to immerse myself in the language and culture while studying at USC. As part of the ASL club, I got to learn more signs, have casual meetings with more experienced signers and go off-campus to meet deaf people to learn more about deaf culture and ASL. — S.L.
Were you able to explore Los Angeles?
With my friends, most weekends I would go to Santa Monica, either to the beach or to Third Street Promenade. I particularly enjoyed biking from Santa Monica to Venice while looking at the ocean and enjoying the sun and breeze. I also have been to Hollywood multiple times and visited my friends in Beverly Hills. Since the USC campus is very close to downtown Los Angeles, my friends and I would walk around and try some of the delicious restaurants and cafés. — S.G.
I have been to Los Angeles in the past, so I dedicated less time to exploring the outside environment and more to the campus itself. When I did leave campus, it was usually to see a movie or have some dinner. — B.R.
For my “Los Angeles Stories” class, I did a photo essay on some of Los Angeles’ landmarks. As a result, I got to explore historical landmarks such as Angels Flight, Grand Central Market, Third Street Tunnel, Pershing Square, etc. Throughout all of my adventures in Los Angeles, I’ve been amazed by the city’s historical past and rich cultural mix. — S.L.
What are you most looking forward to in Hong Kong next year?
Some of my WBB friends have introduced me to Chinese cuisine by taking me to delicious restaurants in the Los Angeles area, so I am looking forward to the food there. And, of course, my excitement grows whenever I look at UST campus pictures online. I am sad to leave USC and California, but I cannot wait to get to Hong Kong and continue this incredible adventure! — S.G.
I have always been intrigued by the Far East and am excited to explore everything and anything Hong Kong and the surrounding areas have to offer. I definitely can’t wait to wake up to a view of Clear Water Bay every morning. — B.R.
I look forward to being closer to my family. Being in the same time zone and only two hours away by flight will definitely help with my homesickness. The second thing I look forward to is food. Growing up in a family where a burger or steak was an occasional luxury, I have missed good Chinese/Asian foods. And the third thing I look forward to is sharing my Hong Kong experience with my WBB classmates. I’m excited to show them Ocean Park and Disneyland, Discovery Bay and Repulse Bay, Victoria Harbor and the Peak … the list goes on. — S.L.
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