Why Travel to Another Country for an MBA?
Rebecca explains why she decided to leave her lifetime home in the San Francisco Bay Area to head north to Canada for her MBA.
Rebecca To is a full-time MBA student at Queen's University, Smith School of Business
My motto in approaching life is “If it’s too easy to say ‘no’ to something, you probably should try it.” That motto has gotten me where I am today.
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and like many of my peers, went to school within the University of California system and then went on to work in Silicon Valley. I feel very blessed to have been brought up in area with great weather, opportunities and also a spirit of innovation, but I always wanted to explore outside of California and see what else was out there in the world (so to speak).
With a goal of broadening my mindset and personal experiences, I set off to Canada on my own to pursue my MBA and graduated from the Queen’s School of Business with not only a degree and amazing new career ahead of me, but also lifelong friends and memories that I will always cherish. I am currently a Senior Consultant with Deloitte Canada and my life motto is still pushing me to look for new experiences each day.
Dream career: To travel around doing public speaking and coaching students, young professionals and executives. My goal is to one day do a TED Talk!
Why Business School? With about 6 years of work experience under my belt, I felt that it was time for me to start thinking about the next level in my career (moving from a junior to more senior role). Though I loved the company I was working for and the industry, I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed too early in my career. I also had done some self-reflection and found great interest in management consulting. These reasons combined pointed me in the direction of going back to pursue my MBA.
Best GMAT study tip? It is never too early to start studying and make a study plan. Prioritize the topics that you know you will need more time with and look outside of just prep courses and textbooks. If you really feel rusty, it doesn’t hurt to take some supplemental courses to get back into full student mode.
Before business school, I was: Prior to going back to pursue my MBA, I worked for about 6 years in marketing and public relations in Silicon Valley for a leading high-tech corporation. I also spent much of my free time doing community work.
When I’m not in class, you’ll find me: In the library? Just kidding. When I wasn’t in class during my MBA I made time to socialize with my classmates and also enjoy what Kingston, Ontario had to offer. During spring and summer, Kingston is amazing for water activities like canoeing, kayaking and sailing!
Advice for anyone thinking about b-school? Make sure you pick the school that is the best fit for what is important to you. That could include reputation and specializations, but don’t forget about your lifestyle and personal interests too. The MBA experience is much more than just about the academics, it should be a holistic experience.
My remedy for pre-test nerves: Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself: “If I don’t take this test today I will have wasted all the effort I have put in to date to go to b-school.” Honestly, sometimes you have to give yourself tough love in order to persevere.On the day before your exam, you should: Relax and rest! By this time your brain should have absorbed all that it can handle. Some light review is okay, but don’t try to cram anything new in. Someone also shared this really important tip with me–don’t eat anything ‘exotic’ or out of the ordinary the day before and day of your exam. Just stick to what you normally would do, and that includes any exercise, etc.
Why Travel to Another Country for an MBA?
"When it came down to picking where I wanted to go to school, Canada made sense, because then I get to kill two birds with one stone and spend some time in a country that I always wanted to live in while pursuing my graduate degree at the same time."
"Hi, my name is Rebecca To, from the Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Full-time MBA alumni, Class of 2014. Today I’m here to share with you guys why I chose to do my MBA in a different country in Canada and hopefully some of you guys out there considering doing international MBA as well, it will give you some things to think about. I was born and raised in California in the San Francisco Bay area and did my undergrad in communications in the University of California, Davis and worked for about six years in marketing, communications, and public relations in Silicon Valley prior to going back to pursue my MBA. For me, Canada was a great choice because growing up for some reason I always was fascinated with the country, I don't know if it was watching the Canadian teams in the Olympics or watching movies about Canada, I definitely have learned now that it’s not the snow. But, yeah, when it came down to picking where I wanted to go to school, Canada made sense, because then I get to kill two birds with one stone and spend some time in a country that I always wanted to live in while pursuing my graduate degree at the same time. The other reason I chose to do my MBA in another country was about career growth and personal growth. And I think it’s important to point out that when you guys are looking at where you want to go to school, whether it be in your own country or internationally you really know what you want to get out of the experience. For me, I knew that growing up and going to school and working in the same area where I was born, it was really important that I get some exposure to what it’s like to live and work outside of that area at least at some point in my life. And that’s why going to school in a different country made sense, to get that exposure. And certainly when I went to school in Canada, I learned all about what industries are relevant to the economy in Canada, but also Queen’s is a great school for international students and I got to meet some of my really lifelong friends now who were from different countries: from Russia, from India, from Latin America. And I got to learn from them also what cultural differences existed when it came to working with people from different countries and what it’s like to do business in their countries and also the countries that they had had international experience in. The other thing that was important for me too was I know a lot of people will think that Canada is not exactly “international” when you’re coming from the States, but actually it is. I think it’s important to point out that any country is going to have its own nuances and cultural differences. And for me I already knew that I wanted to spend my career within North America and so balancing that with wanting to get international experience, Canada made sense for me. And I knew that also where I picked to go to school would be where it ultimately developed a professional network both within my classmates, the alumni network of Queen’s University, but also looking at well what industries and businesses and career opportunities surround where I was going to go to school. So Canada made sense for me. And it’s not to say that if you guys choose to go to school in a certain country that that’s where you’re going to have to work afterwards. But it is important to think about that as well. And the thing that I always say to anyone who’s an international student is really to take that year, two years, three years, however long your program is, even if it’s an exchange opportunity that you’re pursuing, to really embrace the culture that you’re going into and make it more than just about the academics for that time period, right, because you’re there to make lifelong friends, you’re there to learn what it’s like to truly live in a different country. And I think that those experiences are going to grow you so much on the personal level and I know it has for me. Really I had to start all over essentially when I moved to a different country, really find a place to live, etc., etc. And I think that it’s just an experience that I’ll never forget and I'm always so grateful that I stumbled upon Queen’s University and now I always get to say that I have that international experience. So I hope this was a little bit helpful to you guys, that it gave you something to think about, really what do you want out of your experience where you choose where you want to go to school."
Use an MBA to Grow, Shift or Switch Your Career
"Start really early and tap again into that alumni network, your peers, any career coaching services that are available to you."
"Hi guys, my name is Rebecca To with the Queens School of Business in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Full-time MBA alumni, Class of 2014. Today I’m here to share with you two of my biggest tips for switching careers and finding career growth during the MBA. When it comes to career growth and the MBA people often go back to school for one of several reasons, you could be really happy with what you’re doing to-date and it’s just a matter of finding that bump to the next level in your career. So, for example, you could be looking to move from more of an implementation and support role to a managerial one. Or you could be looking to switch careers completely which is what I did, moving from marketing to consulting. Or you could be a professional musician looking to become a financial analyst, which by the way does happen. Or you could be one of those individuals who’s not quite sure yet what they want to do career-wise post-MBA, but they do want to get professional and personal development out of the experience. So whatever your situation may be, one of the biggest tips that I can pass on is to really do some self-reflection and to understand what your Point A and your Point B is going to be. In other words what do you want to out of the experience? What are your goals? And again they don’t have to necessarily be career driven but it’s important to know and understand what are those specific developmental areas for you, what are areas of improvements, so that you can close that gap that exists between Point A and Point B and to use your time wisely while you’re in school and the resources that are available to you in order to close that gap. So resources that are available to you are your classmates, your peers, your professors, the classes that you can enroll in, the clubs that you can join, competition, such as case competitions that you can sign up for and internships at that. And also any counseling or coaching services that your school may offer. And again it’s to really tap into those resources in order to help you with your specific developmental areas. So, for example, for me I knew that going into consulting, I would need to really hone my presentation and analytical skills, so I signed up for the Toastmasters Club where we always practice speeches during lunches, after school, things like that as a class and the other thing is I signed up for case competitions where I knew a big component of it was going to be analytical skills and presentation skills and also I signed up for electives, classes where I knew that presentations were going to be a big component again. So I think that that’s one of the biggest things that you can do for yourself is to identify personally what are your gaps and address them, via the resources available to you. The other big tip is to start early and do your networking. So networking is one of the biggest components in business and certainly it’s going to be big when it comes to finding that next step in your career. So start really early and tap again into that alumni network, your peers, any career coaching services that are available to you; don’t wait until on-campus recruitment time comes around. Start early, build it up because it’s going to get you that much closer, one step closer to really that next career step for you. And another thing that you’re going to get out of it is validation. Validation that maybe what you want to do next is the right career path for you and also what type of people, what type of firms, etc., do you ultimately belong in? So guys, those are my two tips for you when it comes to switching careers and finding career growth in the MBA and I hope they were helpful. Good luck."
Misconceptions and Surprises About Business School
"Take the time to go socialize with your classmates because that truly is where the strong friendships were formed and the bonds and you always hear about the strong network that you’re going to walk away from business school with."
"Hi guys, my name is Rebecca To, from the Queens School of Business in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Full time MBA alumni, class of 2014. Today I wanted to highlight a couple of misconceptions that people might have prior to going back to business school. I shared these misconceptions and I wanted to share with you what the reality was that I experienced once I went back to school. The first big one. People assumed that the business school environment is super serious, which is not to say that studying and finding that job post-MBA is not going to be a big component, it is. But the reality was that the environment was much more relaxed than I thought. For one thing, for some reason I envisioned that we were going to have to be in suits all the time, that every single day we were going to have to attend classes in suits. And, yes, there were events where you were expected to dress professionally, so if not a suit, then at least a button up shirt and slacks, such as during on-campus recruiting season when alumni would come back and we’d have an opportunity to network with them. It was really was up to you to be smart about knowing, okay, well when do I need to be casual and when do I need to dress up more professionally? But other than that day in and day out when we were attending classes per se, it was pretty casual. It was much like your undergraduate experience, right, people are wearing jeans, t-shirts, those hoodies with your college name across them, things like that. However I would ditch the pajamas and the sweat pants. I'm not sure if that would fly in business school, but no, you do not have to go out and buy 100 suits and fill your closet like Clark Kent, things like that. But, yeah, the other thing is I thought that the business school environment was going to be always professional and always serious, but no we took a lot of time to socialize and we did a lot of things outside of the classroom. So the Queens School of Business at least they really emphasized this idea of fit breaks where you take time out of your day to go outside, go play sports, something to alleviate some of the stress that you might be feeling. So as a class we would go and play volleyball, cricket, try new things like curling, canoeing, kayaking, things like that. And even on the weekends we would try to get together and sometimes we’d go on trips. So, for example, in the wintertime we organized a ski trip together. So I think that that’s what I would really emphasize to you is to take the time to go socialize with your classmates because that truly is where the strong friendships were formed and the bonds and you always hear about the strong network that you’re going to walk away from business school with and certainly, yes, you can form part of that network through the stuff that you do within the classroom and really learn, okay, well, this is how somebody works, etc. But I think that that strong network really comes from when you take the time to get to know each other outside of the classroom, because then really form that relationship together. The other misconception that I think that people often have about the MBA is that you’re going to have to graduate and go into one of three career paths; consulting, finance or marketing, and that if you don’t choose to go into one of these three you shouldn’t go back to get your MBA. And it’s definitely not true, definitely not true. Yes, maybe emphasis is placed on one of those three career paths, but I think more and more you’re finding people going back who simply want to learn a little bit more about business and build that foundational knowledge sets, right, and to get managerial skills that they can apply to any area that they want to go into post-MBA. So for sure you do not have to go into one of these three areas; consulting, finance or marketing if you go pursue your MBA. It’s really up to you to take what you learn throughout your time in the MBA, the experiences that you have and apply them to the area you want to go into. And to also use the resources available to you really explore, okay, well, what can I do that’s of interest to me and not feel like I have to go into one of those three areas. So anyway I hope that that clarifies a couple of the big misconceptions that people often have when it comes to going back to business school. Good luck."
Get Prepared: From Deciding to Go to Day One of Business School
"You’re going to hear this from everybody that you ask advice from: start early and study early."
"Hi guys, my name is Rebecca To from the Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Full-time MBA program class of 2014. Today I’m here to answer the question, “So you’ve decided to go back to business school, now what?” Really, there are two big decisions and steps that you need to take. The first one is getting in, and taking the GMAT at that. And I know that when it comes to the GMAT, a lot of you have questions and you’re scared, but really it’s just like any other test or interview that you would go into. First you’ve got to prepare, get to know what the test is all about. Study, of course, and then go into the test feeling like I’ve got this, I know the subject matter. And you’re going to hear this from everybody that you ask advice from: start early and study early. And really why that’s important is what I mentioned before. You want to make sure that by the time you go into the test, you feel like you’ve got a solid grasp on what type of questions to expect and how you’re going to attack them. And studying early will get you this because you’re going to practice and practice and practice, taking those practice tests. You’re going to see, okay, what types of questions are on there, and what’s my approach for going at this question. So that when it comes to test day, you’re not surprised, and you’ve at least seen every type of question, almost hopefully, at least once before going into the exam. The other part of it is really getting back into that student mode that I like to call it. Or the test-taking mode, because for some of us, especially those going back to get your MBA, it may have been a while since you’ve taken an exam or you’ve studied or you’ve gone back to class."