For most people, a commute to school simply involves a short drive, or hopping on the bus or train. Nowadays, however, it is not uncommon for students to travel greater distances to attend classes. At the Richard Ivey School of Business in Hong Kong, a number of students fly in from across the region to attend regular weekend classes. These students, on the executive MBA programme, add a truly international feel to the already broad mix of students on the course. Typically, these students need to attend classes for two weekends every month. The programme includes a two-week residence in Hong Kong at the beginning of the 18-month course, and one week in Canada the following year. One such student is Duan Changsheng, assistant to the general manager and general manager of the nitrogen fertiliser department at the mainland's biggest manufacturer of fertiliser - Sinochem Fertilizer. He began the Richard Ivey School of Business EMBA programme in August last year and, although based in Beijing, he manages to attend his weekend classes by flying to Hong Kong on Friday and back home on Sunday. He has been working at Sinochem since 1993, and during his career there he decided that he wanted to take a course of study, especially related to management. His first thought was that he would look for a relevant course close to home, but his boss suggested to him that he take a programme with a more international flavour. 'He encouraged me to go to Hong Kong as we have an office there and it was good place to get on a good, international course,' Duan says. About 44 per cent of the 40 students on the Richard Ivey EMBA are from Hong Kong, with 10 per cent are from the mainland, 16 per cent from North America, and the rest from across Southeast Asia, Europe, Japan, Africa, the Middle East and Australia. The students represent a mix of industries from manufacturing to technology and telecommunications, to health care, hospitality, retail and property. In all, six of the 40 students on the programme commute to classes from overseas. They come from Beijing, Shanghai and other mainland cities, Taipei and Manila. For these students, managing a busy work schedule, personal life, classes and the long commute is no easy task, but Duan explains that if you have the right desire to study on a programme like his, then you will always find a way to do so. 'When I decided to study I thought that I wouldn't be too busy at work, but it turned out that the very opposite happened and in fact things got very busy.' He feels that although commuting to classes means he may miss out on some time that he could spend with classmates, the benefits of being in an international class of students, with an international faculty, far outweigh the drawbacks. 'The multinational mix of students means that we can learn a lot from our fellow classmates as well as just from the professors. 'We discuss what has been learned and can apply our own experiences to it.' Duan explains that a lot of his strengths come from practical experience he has gained on the job. The EMBA enables him to build on these strengths by applying theoretical practices to his job. 'It's very helpful, and you can connect this sort of study to your daily work. Some of what I learn here I can take straight back to Beijing and apply in the workplace.' He advises anyone thinking of embarking on an EMBA that each person has their different needs and should base their decision on what programme they should follow on those needs. 'Some people based on the mainland may not have great English speaking skills and, as such, may not be able to keep up with what is being taught on programmes such as this one, and could benefit more from doing a course closer to home,' he says. 'I know I made the right choice. My company is listed in Hong Kong and we have an office here so there are advantages to learn in this city.'