Small Wonder

For a pint-sized girl, CapitaLand International scholar Maggie Chi Hui has a big appetite for adventure

Issue: Oct 2009

Maggie (in cheongsam) celebrating NUS MBA International Day with her school mates
Maggie (in cheongsam) celebrating NUS MBA International Day with her school mates

If there ever was a city full of people passionate for real estate, it is Wenzhou, China. Research shows that around 100,000 out of a total population of around 1.5 million Wenzhou townsmen have successfully broken into China's real estate market. Dubbed the 'Wenzhou Chao Fang Tuan' (Wenzhou House Speculating Group), these real estate enthusiasts have achieved fame beyond China's shores.

CapitaLand International scholar Maggie Chi Hui, 25, prides herself on this. "Every time I am introduced to someone from senior management, they know my city," she says.

The majority of her friends and relatives back in her hometown work in the real estate industry. It's no wonder Maggie decided to pursue a Master in Business Administration, specialising in Real Estate. For overseas exposure, she applied to study at the National University of Singapore in 2008. Here, she found out about CapitaLand's International Scholarship and promptly applied for it.

Maggie (center) helping out at an NUS MBA fair in 2008
The avid learner likes the fact that CapitaLand's core businesses lie not only in real estate, but also in financial services and hospitality. "It provides capacious space for me to learn and grow," she says.

Maggie is no rookie to the industry. She has tried her hand at real estate financing and commercial mortgages and loans at the Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai.

Now, she is learning the tricks of the trade as an intern with CapitaLand Retail. Her present task involves discussions with prospective tenants for Raffles City's newest underpass link. Maggie says she doesn't have specific expectations of duties assigned to her, but only wishes to do it well. "Now I'm telling myself to keep an open mind. I just hope I can do something related to my study, so I can apply what I've learnt."

Roughing it out

Maggie (in white) with her colleagues from the Marketing Communications department of CapitaLand Retail (Raffles City Shopping Centre)

Home stays during her US exchange programme helped Maggie to understand the local culture better
Maggie had her first overseas exchange stint in America. She was selected during her university days in China. Marketing and Management was her choice of study at Pittsburg State University. It proved to be a daunting task for an only child who had never been abroad without her parents.

"This overseas study experience was the first time I engaged in independent learning in a foreign language and foreign land," she says. "I had to learn to be strong in an unfamiliar environment."

Now that the CapitaLand scholar is living in Singapore, she is grateful for the mentor-mentee arrangement. She admits that her mentor Mr Chong Kee Hiong, CEO of Ascott Residence Trust Management, is a dependable source of support.

"To me, for a Chinese native trying to adapt to the demanding corporate world in a foreign land, the arrangement is very useful in setting me at ease," she says. "He inspires me a lot and has provided much valuable advice and guidance."

Maggie is also pleasantly surprised that Mr Chong's understanding of the Chinese language, history and culture far surpasses hers. "Sometimes I wonder if I should be ashamed of myself," she jokes.

Adapting Easily

Maggie was bitten by the travel bug during her US exchange programme
The petite scholar bashfully admits that it's probably her sociable nature that contributed to her smooth integration into new environments. Plus, her vast travelling experience also helped a great deal.

Her US exchange programme sparked Maggie's love for travel. "I took up part-time jobs to save money for backpack tours during school breaks in the States." She took in 20 cities sometimes travelling with friends.

Maggie adds: "I travel a lot and have worked in different countries. I learnt to adapt very quickly to various living cultures and working environments over the past eight years."

Written Art

Maggie displaying her calligraphy skills at Pittsburg State University, US
And the one thing which defines her as a true Chinese native? She practises Chinese calligraphy. It's an interest that her parents started her on at the tender age of five. Apparently she has gotten pretty good at it too.

"It took me seven years to learn it," she says. "I give my Chinese calligraphy pieces away as birthday gifts to relatives."

When Maggie doesn't have her head buried in books, she enjoys knocking down pins and frolicking in water. So trips to bowling centres and swimming complexes are often part of her itinerary. The energetic scholar explains: "Work-life balance is very important to me. It helps to keep my body and mind fresh and ready for challenges."

Despite being a scholar, Maggie doesn't count on good career prospects readily served to her on a silver platter. Instead, she focuses on having the right attitude throughout her learning journey, and hopes to pick up as much as she can.

"I know I'm not guaranteed for success in CapitaLand. The scholarship is just a door, an opportunity given to me to perform - just like any other employee. I need to contribute well, to work as hard, or if not, harder."
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