A busy time of the year has started once again: Exams are moving closer and closer and my schedule is slowing filling with university meetings and interviews. Just recently I had an interview with the alumnus of a US university. My interviewer was the executive director and chief operating officer of the US’ largest bank (according to assets), responsible for operational oversight of the company’s investment funds in Asia. When I asked him how he had acquired that job, he told me that his lifetime dream had been to become the COO of a gigantic banking cooperation. He applied for the job two and a half years ago, in the middle of the financial crisis. “Everybody else got fired and lost their job – but I was offered one”, he explained, “It was a miracle.”
I was supposed to meet my interviewer at 4.30 pm in Central, in the Chater House, a large office tower in Hong Kong. I went to Central a little earlier, as it was a warm day and I usually don’t get to stroll around Hong Kong any more, so this was the chance for me to see a bit more of Hong Kong than usual. I took my camera and a book, sat next to a water fountain in front of a World War I and II memorial stone and watched the masses of business people pass by. This was the Hong Kong how I had expected it to be before coming here: Fast life; honking taxis everywhere; Prada, Gucci and Valentino at every corner; people in suits or high heels yelling into their iPhones and Blackberries; the buildings so high and large that you could only see glimpses of the sky. The sun reflected itself in all the glass towers, so I sometimes had to squeeze my eyes till they were nearly completely shut, not to be blinded by the light.
My interviewer was late. Apparently he had forgotten to tell his secretary about our meeting, so it wasn’t included in his calendar. Fortunately, I had my book, so it was no problem for me to wait for forty more minutes to finally get my interview. My interviewer was so sorry for the delay that he bought me delicious banana cake and amazing hot chocolate; we sat down in a café – and simply started talking about everything that came to our minds. He asked me about the bombing of Dresden, and, as this was my Extended Essay topic, I could tell him all about it. We went on to Neo-Nazism in East-Germany, my German identity and my time and intercultural connection at LPC. I told him about the Global Issues Forum we have at LPC, and of course about my blog, we discussed German immigration policies and the education system, and the cultural and educational differences between Germany and the US. Our talk was very broadly set up in terms of topics, but I thought that was great and aloud both the interviewer and me to gain more personal insight into the person in front of us.
An Alumnus Interview for a university is not a “make-or-break” interview. It is set up so that the Interviewer can get an impression of us prospective students and that we can ask more questions about the particular university. For this university, I didn’t have many questions, as I had already flooded the mailboxes of two LPC Alumni, who go to that university, with curious question about life and academics for undergraduate students. That way, my interview was very relaxed; as I had a good amount of knowledge about the university and my interviewer had been to Germany before, we had an awesome and inspiring time together. Even though this was my first university interview, I was not nervous and rather relaxed – especially as my interviewer was late, much of my excitement lost itself in the gigantic foyer of the Chater House, where I could wait and witness, that all these suited up business men and women are equally just humans. My interviewer was also already a little elderly; he told me that he had children of his own and hence created a very relaxed and understanding atmosphere for our interview. This eliminated all resting nervousness and encouraged me to speak up, tell him my opinions and ideas for a future world and reflect openly about the UWC education.
For a first university interview, this one was absolutely great. No nervousness, a kind and open atmosphere and an interviewer to whom I could connect immediately. If just all university interviews were like that! I have my next one in ten days … let’s see how it goes.