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A Day in the Life: Eric Chen ’24

We spent a day with GBS student Eric Chen as he went to class, played squash, and worked on his startup. Photos by Tony Rinaldo.

Two people walking up a set of stairs carrying iced coffee

8:20 a.m.

Fanjia and I met while we were undergraduates at NYU, and we’re cofounders of a branding consultancy startup. Basically, we aim to help small- and middle-scale enterprises in China to build their brands and differentiate themselves in a very competitive market. We’ve already worked with 13 clients.

We have a similar class schedule this semester and we share a lot of hobbies, so we always show up together on weekdays. That morning we met at McNay Café. When I have an 8:30 class, I need a cup of coffee to wake me up. Usually I get an americano.

Two students sitting at classroom desks with nametags

8:30 a.m.

This is my first class, Principles of Entrepreneurship. It’s super interactive, and we do a lot of group discussions. That day, the professor showed us some videos from the TV show Shark Tank, and we had to evaluate the different projects based on their business model, customer value proposition, go-to-market plan, and cash flow formula.

Before studying at SOM, when I was working on my own startup, I lacked this kind of model. But through my coursework, I’ve learned a lot of effective models I can use to organize my thoughts when I’m taking on a new project.

A group of students chatting and drinking coffee in a classroom
Two students talking while sitting down at classroom desks

10:10 a.m.

I was early to my next class, Financial Statement Analysis. Most GBS students have to take this course, so we’re all very familiar with each other. I chatted with some Chinese friends who did the first year of their degree in Hong Kong, like me.

This guy in orange is Filippo, from Italy. He’s one of my closest friends from another country. One of his fun facts is that he’s been learning Mandarin for years. The first time we met, he spoke a little bit of Mandarin to me, and I was shocked. He’s invited me to his house to have an Italian dinner. I brought him to a Chinese restaurant near campus called Chef Jiang, and introduced him to xiao long bao, a traditional dumpling I grew up with in Shanghai.

Four students walking out of Evans Hall
A student selecting food from a lunch buffet
Several students sitting down at a dining hall table with plates of food

12:00 p.m.

I had lunch with Fanjia and two other friends, Emily Yan and Elaine Jiang. We went to Pauli Murray, the closest undergrad residential college to SOM. We like the college dining halls because they change up the menus frequently. It’s very balanced in nutrition. They serve Korean and different kinds of European food, not just pizza. My favorite meal is salmon—it’s super nice, especially in this dining hall. I also love the dessert, especially the chocolate cookies.

A person posing with a dog on a green lawn
Several people sitting outside playing with a dog
Two people working at an outdoor table

12:45 p.m.

The weather was super nice, and I had an hour until my next class. So I met some friends in the yard behind SOM. That’s Anran Cai in the chair, with her dog Lucky. Lucky is famous in our squad, so we took some group photos with her.

Then Fanjia and I grabbed a table in the courtyard to do some work for our startup. We have two new clients, so we were doing some market research and creating slides for a presentation. Since our clients are mainly in China, we usually meet with them at night, which is their morning. We meet with each other a couple afternoons a week on campus.

Three students sitting at a picnic table filming a video with their phones

3:30 p.m.

This is Sisi Xue. She’s an MBA student and a very popular influencer in China. She makes a lot of content related to her daily life and experience at Yale. That day, she invited me and Fanjia to do an interview about our entrepreneurial journey and why we decided to study at Yale. So we went to another residential college, Silliman, and found a quiet spot to set up the camera. We spoke for about an hour. Sisi will post clips on TikTok and other Chinese social media platforms.

I’m also a fan of making vlogs. When I was an undergrad, I would watch a lot of college YouTubers, and eventually I asked myself, “Why can’t I do that too?” So I started making videos. I’m not a big influencer, but I love editing the videos and interacting with my audience.

Two people playing squash
Two people playing squash

6:30 p.m.

I grabbed a poke bowl for a quick dinner, because I had plans to play squash at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. This is something I got into after coming to Yale. I learned it from Elaine, who played squash for seven or eight years. Then more and more people got into it, and now I’d say about half the Chinese students in the GBS program play squash. You don’t need to train very much to play well. I’ve gotten a lot better in the last year. I played with our cohort leader once when I had just started and once last week, and he said my skill had really improved.

We have a group chat of people who play together, usually twice a week. We’ll grab a couple of courts and rotate competitors for a couple hours. I played with Fanjia and then with Mona Yan. It’s a great way to get sweaty and wrap up a long day.

After squash, I went back to my dorm to work on some assignments. Since it’s getting close to the end of the semester, I had a couple of group projects. I also had a meeting with our new clients in China. When all of that was done, I just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep.