What to Expect When Studying Abroad

Sep 6, 2012
Tags: Business School, Official GMAT

Going to business school is a gruelling experience. Thrown in at the deep end, you have to form working relationships with people you have known for only a week, work across all the major business disciplines, not just your own, and meet a series of impossibly tough deadlines. 

Throw into the mix the fact that you’re studying in a foreign country, don’t speak the language and aren’t au fait with local business culture, and it’s a bold person who ventures abroad for business school. 

It is certainly extra challenging, but people who study abroad seem to agree that the experience is exceptionally rewarding too. Here are some of the things you can expect when studying abroad.

  1. Learn a new language: New Yorker Nina Fattahi found it harder than expected to learn French while on the MBA at Grenoble Graduate School of Business, but she’s determined to become fluent! European business schools emphasise languages: to graduate from INSEAD you must have practical knowledge of second language before you start and basic knowledge of a third language by the time you graduate!
  2. Change your sector: The two-year, full-time MBA programs offered by US business schools have helped students land internships and work experience in the sector they want to get into during the summer vacation, and then make the switch on graduation. British-born Accenture consultant Ken Jackson wanted to move into corporate restructuring (an area of finance). He made the switch via a Wharton MBA. “I couldn’t have done it without two years,” he says.
  3. Explore new careers you hadn’t thought of: Many business students land in a new country and discover fast-growing and innovative local industries that offer great career progression. Spanish real estate developer Javier Vallaure joined his girlfriend in her homeland Germany, and discovered that the country is the world leader in renewable energy. He plans to move into the industry when he graduates from ESMT.
  4. Set up a business: Deloitte finance analyst Anders Larsson headed to the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance on an exchange program, but caught the entrepreneurial bug and ended up staying on in China to set up a trading firm, selling Chinese goods in his native Denmark.
  5. Immerse yourself in the local business culture: Bangalore real estate executive Vinod Jose was on exchange at Rio de Janeiro’s Coppead Business School as part of his MBA program. He helped his landlord out brokering deals with tenants during the peak Carnival season (despite not speaking a word of Portuguese) and got a free apartment in Copacabana in return.
  6. Follow the money: This applies more to business school in Asia, the world’s fastest-growing regions, than anywhere else. Asia is a booming market for cars, financial products, iPads and nearly everything else. It’s also the world’s biggest-spending region when it comes to luxury goods, which is why New Jersey native Susanna Tang, whose dream job would be as a brand manager at Stella McCartney, chose to do her MBA at Chinese University Hong Kong. Chinese-Canadian Bobby Huang headed to the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance for his MBA, as he thinks Shanghai’s finance industry is set for massive growth.
  7. Discover a new way of life: Studying abroad can bring you face-to-face with people you would never have met, and to experience a completely different way of life. Italian Faustino Musicco went on exchange to India as part of his MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano. While he was there he spent time on a rural development project in northern India.  Life in the village where he stayed was, he says: “A nice balance of activity and peace; chores and freedom; community and privacy. Your day is structured, like those of the local people, by chores that need to be performed – fetching water, collecting firewood, preparing food, but the pace of life is very smooth and easy going.”
  8. Be reminded of home: Sometimes studying abroad isn’t that much of a change after all. Indian student Leo Tom Zacharaiah headed to Zaragoza, Spain as part of a dual degree from EBS Business School and MIT-Zaragoza. He was nearly hit by a car moments after arriving: he was nearly hit by a car moments after arriving: “That felt very like India to me!”