Norwegian student in China: ‘Choosing the road less travelled’

05 Jun 2024

Sindre Gumø is a Year Four international management student from BI Norwegian Business School. Last year, when choosing a country for his exchange programme, he bypassed the destinations typically chosen by his peers – Italy, Germany, France, Australia, and the US. Instead, he chose Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in China. He took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference. 

Sindre Gumø (back row, second from left) and other exchange students from BI Norwegian Business School at XJTLU North Campus


Study international business in China

Gumø wanted to study international business because he thinks the world’s future success lies in collaboration between countries and understanding of each other’s cultures and languages.

In a world that’s become more globalised, recent years have seen a wave of trade barriers and de-globalisation, he says.

“But I think that’s exactly the time to study international business, because we need to understand how we can better collaborate and move forward,” Gumø says.

He enjoyed the study programmes at XJTLU’s International Business School Suzhou (IBSS), he says, because they facilitated his understanding of other cultures.

“I think probably the coolest thing about these classes are that we are mixed with the Chinese students,” he says. “The teachers encouraged us to talk to each other, and I learned about so many aspects of Chinese society.”

He credits class discussions with insights he gained that are important to conducting international business in China. For example, China’s household registration (‘hukou’) was something he hadn’t been aware of before.

“I didn’t know that, apart from ID cards, Chinese people also have a hukou,” he says, “and this can affect their access to education, healthcare and other social benefits based on their registration as either urban or rural, local or non-local residents.

“These aspects are very relevant for international management. If I’m going to set up a company or manage an operation in China, I need to know what Chinese employees care about and what impacts their lives, both at work and outside of it.”

IBSS students and staff visit Yadea

Recently, IBSS arranged a company visit for international students to Yadea, a leading Chinese company that manufactures electric scooters in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. During the visit, the students saw the latest battery technology, production lines, and the final assembly stage.

“The factory was incredibly impressive. Everything was very well-organised and highly efficient. Gumø says. “We also learned more about the company’s globalisation strategies, such as their expansion in Indonesia and Vietnam.”

Sindre Gumø (right) celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day on 17 May in Suzhou

As part of his curriculum at XJTLU, Gumø also attended the module Practical Chinese for Everyday Life.

“It’s a Chinese language course focused around getting by in China. It includes things like buying train tickets, shopping for groceries, haggling, having simple conversations, ordering coffee, and so on. We also learn to read Chinese characters, which really helps with understanding signs and using Chinese apps.

“The teacher is also very good at combining the elements of Chinese culture with the Chinese language, and explaining how everything fits together. It’s very helpful, and also a lot of fun,” he says.

Participation in Model UN

Outside of academic studies, Gumø participated in the Model United Nations Club at XJTLU, in which students represent countries in discussions about topics they’ve researched in advance.

“We try to understand why that country feels the way they feel about the topic,” Gumø says. “And then, we come prepared, take turns to present, and make resolutions like a real UN conference.”

A group selfie of Sindre Gumø (left) with other students from the Model United Nations conference at XJTLU in October 2023

Participants of the Model United Nations conference

Gumø says participating in Model United Nations at XJTLU was different for him compared to previous experiences.

“Usually, when you play Model UN, you will act like the country, but you won’t really feel like the one you’re representing necessarily, because it's all kind of a game,” he says. “But it was really cool to participate in Model UN here at XJTLU, because the club has several nationalities.

“For example, I represented a Scandinavian country, while students with other nationalities represented countries from their respective world regions. China was represented by a Chinese student, and so on. This adds a layer of realism,” he explains.

Exploration and self-discovery

 During the past year, Gumø travelled to many places, including China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Harbin, Xi’an, Changsha, Chongqing, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xining, and Beijing. These experiences gave him different perspectives and a chance for self-reflection, he says.

Sindre Gumø with two Tibetan Mastiffs during a break in an eight-hour car ride to Mount Everest base camp

Sindre Gumø (back row, second from right) with other tourists in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region

Sindre Gumø (right) and his friend driving a buggy on top of the frozen lake in Harbin, China

Sindre Gumø (left) in Xi’an, China  

Since arriving in China, Gumø says he has become “more open-minded” and “more willing” to listen to ideas that are different from the norm back home.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself. Maybe that’s one of the most important things,” he says. “When you are in your home country, you don’t really think about how you act or how other people act because that’s the way it’s always been.

“But when you go to a completely different place, like China, you realise why you are doing the things you do, and sometimes you start to question, ‘Why don’t we do it some other way? People there are doing the things they do for a reason as well.’

“I think you’d need to live in another country to really understand that the world is a big place and people are very different.”

He says he would recommend other international students to study in China.

Gumø: “Media and news outlets outside of China tend to portray China in a certain way. So, the impression I had of the country before coming here was very different from the reality I met.

“I think you’d need to come here and talk to Chinese people in order to understand that.”


By Xinmin Han
Edited by Tamara Kaup and Catherine Diamond
Editorial support of Linlin Xie
Photos courtesy of Sindre Gumø


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