At present 32 students - 19 women and 13 men - from different provinces of China are enrolled in the Estonian Business School for a two-year master's degree course in business administration. Thirty more students are expected to come in 2002.
Silja Magi, the coordinator of the Chinese MBA program said this collaboration between the two countries is a dream come true for Habakuk. "One of our professors, Albert Y. Chi, who is a native Chinese, offered to be the much needed link between China and the business school," Magi said.
Tracing the history of the program, Magi said, "In May 2000, people from the Shangdong province's education department paid a visit to the business school. Both parties signed the accord of intent, wishing to promote cooperation in offering a master's degree in business administration to students from China."
Albert Chi - who calls himself the "biological father" of the school's Chinese program - said he wanted the Estonian Business School to collaborate with China because of its huge market. "Economic progress is growing fast in China and hence the demand for MBA professionals is also growing," he said. Chi added that this year the demand for MBA professionals in China was 260,000 while the supply was only 12,000.
The tailor-made course for Chinese students is taught in English, with a focus on future business in Europe. Tallinn, said Chi, is a gateway to Northern Europe, and with this program it has become a doorway to China.
The students seem to be enjoying their stay here in Tallinn, though they find the climatic and cultural differences between the two countries a little shocking at times.
"The people of Estonia are as quiet as the place. We are from the world's most populated country and so are accustomed to more noise. The silence is uncanny," said a Chinese student taking business administration courses. He and his classmates also find the people rather reserved and the majority of them are shocked by the Estonian winter.
When asked why they opted to study in Estonia, a country mostly unknown to Chinese people, they simply say, "We wanted to learn the European work culture."
Justin Jia, a student from China taking the course at Estonian Business School, said he was satisfied with the teachers here who tried to help the foreign students feel at home. However, Jia said that the Chinese were accustomed to spicy hot food which was not readily available here and that certain food he was used to was too expensive in the Baltic state.
Sophia Ming left her job in China to study here. She said a European degree certainly made her chances of getting a good job in China better.
"As we are being introduced to the Western work culture, we can hope to get jobs in multinational companies and even in Europe," said Ming.
Her colleagues Castaly Wu and Bruce Qi agreed with her.
Student Linda Zhang said teaching methods were different here as more emphasis was placed on practice, while in China training focused on theory.
Zhang said she personally felt that Chinese were more hard-working than the Estonian students. "Though the Estonians are no less intelligent, they lack the spirit of competition," said Zhang.