Gianni De Bruyn : A Ph.D. Is a Long Way to Go, But I Enjoy the Journey
2022-01-04 14:27:44
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Six o’ clock in the morning, Gianni De Bruyn opened his laptop and started our online interview in South Carolina, America. After the two-year study inPeking University HSBC Business School(PHBS), Gianni was successfully admitted to the University of South Carolina with a full scholarship, to conduct research on business strategy.“PHBS has had a huge positive impact on my life, as well as the friendships I made and the projects I’ve completed,” he said.

After his bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Antwerp, Gianni moved to the United States to pursue a second bachelor ’s degree with a dual major in sports management and biomedicine at Grand Canyon University, where he also received his MBA. Upon completion of the MBA, Gianni decided to broaden his horizons and apply to a master’s degree in finance at Peking University, for which he was accepted and received a full scholarship. It was at PHBS that he found his true passion for research and decided to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation.

PHBS offers masters of economics, management, and finance to international students, and was admitted to the finance program in 2018; Although he was not limited to just taking finance major’s courses. Students can take courses that cross their major, which enabled Gianni to choose a wide-range of courses based on his interests and to meet his two academic mentors, Professor David Lander, whose research interests are in macroeconomics and labor economics, and Professor Marshall Urias, whose research fields include monetary theory and international trade. “The conversation with both David and Marshall, was what got me interested in the deeper underlying mechanisms of phenomena,” said Gianni. Study room, dining hall and gym; he spent most of his time in those three places and enjoyed his simple but pure academic life.

Gianni’s enthusiasm was not only in class, but also in PHBS ’s diverse activities. Each  year, PHBS holds a grand dinner party to celebrate the New Year, and in 2018, Gianni decided to join the host team . When asked why, Gianni said that “I want everybody to remember me.” After the celebration, this was indeed the case.

Golden hair, deep voice, wearing a shiny flashy blue jacket, Gianni was standing in the center of the stage, speaking to his audience, “Hello everyone, I’m Gianni, 秦思齐 As the only international host in a team of four, Gianni not only showed his public speaking skills, but also his confidence, courage, and open mind. “Make sure people know who you are and never be afraid,” he said. With his unique courage, Gianni made a brave decision for his first winter vacation in China. He decided to travel alone to Guangzhou and Wuhan’s rural areas to explore how local people lived. Although he had learned some basic Chinese, the language gap was still huge. However, as he recalled, “local people are very warm, kind-hearted, and hospitable.

We lived and ate together just as I was one of them, a brother or a friend.” He loves Chinese culture and particularly the food. During the trip, he even tried to play Majiang with the villagers. “They didn’ t ask me to pay for their food, so I played Majiang to lose money to them and pay for the food in that way”. This trip strengthened Gianni’s interest to learn more about China. In 2019, inspired by the sustainable finance conference held at PHBS that January, Gianni and his classmates decided to submit a proposal focusing on tax equity and income bonds to support improved air quality through investments in biofuel plants in remote Bayannur, Inner Mogolia, China. They formed a diverse team from Belgium, South Korea, and America, and, with PHBS’s financial support, the team successfully conducted a field trip in April 2019 to improve their new innovative financial vehicle. “I don't want to just look at the numbers, I need to visit the place by myself to see if our vehicle is applicable,” he said.

Gianni thought the trip was very eye-opening in many ways, and much different from what he had read. As a result of this trip, the team's design was chosen as one of the twelve finalists in the 2019 Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge, where 109 teams from the world’s top universities, including Yale, Stanford, and Berkeley, joined in competition. Gianni likes to plan ahead. For example, he finished his graduate thesis 8 months before the school's required due date and then prepared for his Ph.D. applications. As the saying goes, “luck favors the brave,” and Gianni was successfully admitted to the Business Strategy Ph.D. program at the University of South Carolina with a full scholarship in 2020.

Just as his student life in PHBS, Gianni still wakes up at 5am in the morning, does one hour of exercise and then reads papers, takes seminars, has a few meals, and writes his thoughts down, until 11pm. Learning, eating, and working out, those are still the three main things in his daily life. “Getting a Ph.D. degree requires a lot of patience and dedication, but I enjoy the journey and wouldn’t want to trade it for anything in the world. Food, gym, and learning, that's enough for me.”

When recalling his life in Shenzhen, Gianni said that it is the journey that had a huge positive impact on his life: “I met nice professors and kind friends there. Those precious memories will always stay with me, in my heart.”

By Ding Ning 
From PHBS Magazine 5th Issue