NUS MSc 11 May 2017

To infinity and beyond at the Tengger Desert MBA challenge

The 6th Asia-Pacific Business School Desert Adventure was on April 29th to May 2nd this year. Held in Tengger Desert of Inner Mongolia of China, the challenge required all participants to finish 70km with a 5-kg backpack in the desert for three days. 81 business schools in the region attended the challenge this year and NUS Business School was one of 60 schools to successfully complete the challenge. The team, comprising a mix of MBA alumni, current full time and part time students plus an incoming AY2017/2018 student, reflects on their arduous journey – no shower, no proper food, limited water, no visible toilets and just lots and lots of sand.

The first day kicked off with a massive banquet in Yinchuan city where all the participants took a pledge of integrity for participating in the challenge and to protect the environment as much as possible. An early morning shower, the last one for 3 days and then a 2-hour bus journey took us into the desert. It was a beautiful day, overcast and cool and ideal for the long 26km hike ahead of us.

Unfortunately that also meant strong winds which somehow always seemed to be blowing against us no matter which direction we were heading. We managed to complete the day within the stipulated time but it was extremely challenging to control our pace, and figure out the right amount of water to drink and the correct food supplements to take. On reaching the finish line for the day we were relieved but realised there was one more challenge left and that was to set up our tents in really windy conditions. As we settled in, the temperatures fell and we really got to experience the desert cold.


At 4.30am, we struggled to get ready in the cold and attempted to keep as much sand out of our clothes and body before another long 31km day. After some porridge and a hard-boiled egg to get our energy levels up, we started our trek at 7am. The organisers gave us complete freedom in choosing our paths over or around multiple sand dunes. Besides managing navigation, it was really a test of resilience and stamina. We had to literally hold up some of our teammates to cross the second day’s finish line. As a reward, some participants put up a concert in the middle of the desert with songs, dance and even classical violin pieces. It must have been adrenaline, because their energy was amazing!

The third day was seemingly the easiest with only 13km but there was a strict timeline of 3 hours and 20 minutes to complete. To top it up, it was raining! To say crossing the final finishing line was a relief is an understatement! Many broke down, hugged and we celebrated!


We experienced strong winds, serious heat and chilling rain. We went across oasis, swamps, countless hills, sand dunes, reaching new horizons every hour. One could see tiny figures of people and flags at the edge of the earth, and that was the next destination. It was always one step at a time and one minute to the next but we knew we were never alone.

This was not only a mental and physical challenge, but a time of positive encouragement, care and overcoming obstacles together while maintaining a high level of sportsmanship and determination to complete the challenge. Most importantly, we completed the race as a team, helping each other and making sure no one is left behind!

Meet some of the team members

Zhang Yuan Jie
3 days of the desert challenge is one of my best NUS MBA experience, and will be one of my precious life memories worth remembering. It is a silent retreat: Away from modern technologies no internet no electricity. 


Thomas Nielson
One would think the major consideration of walking 70km in a desert is a physical one. But mental preparedness is even more important than being physically prepared.

Chetan Prakash
You undertake an MBA to accelerate your learning, challenge yourself mentally, meet new people and develop teamwork and leadership capabilities. The challenge was a mini MBA and so much more for me. It is definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life because it taught me so much about myself and helped me make friends that I can count on for a life time.

Li Shuman
Adventure opens limitless possibilities. Conquering an adventure always builds my confidence to fearlessly face future challenges. I’m glad I took the chance to dig into my potential through this desert adventure and I’m so grateful to my teammates’ help and encouragement all the way.

Chieh-An Yu
Three takeaways from my desert adventure: 1. Sand dunes are beautiful! And it’s amazing to see oasis walking in the desert! 2. I have a new appreciation for the flow of space and time: walking in the desert for 70km took me 20 hours. 3. My teammates are the best.

Zhao Bo
Trekking 70km in the desert was tough. It was supposed to be tough. It took all the desire determination dedication and discipline to reach the destination. The challenge is not about the triumph but the struggles. All the pains we’ve gone through have become part of our bodies, fused into our minds, and will eventually pay off someday somewhere somehow.

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