Studying Abroad During Your MBA

After spending all of that time, money, and energy writing applications essays, going on school visits, and networking with current students and alumni, you’ve been accepted to your dream MBA program…now you want to go study abroad?!

Before your bank account balance snaps you back into reality, wait. There may actually be some legitimate reasons for you to study abroad during your MBA experience. Below, find a couple of reasons why studying abroad could add to your post-graduation competitiveness, and some words of caution.

International Business Experience

If you have lived, earned your undergraduate degree, and worked in only one country, then taking a study abroad experience might be a great opportunity for you to broaden your international experience. Most companies that you’ll be looking to secure a full-time gig at after earning your MBA will likely have international operations. An applicant that has experience integrating into new cultures and work environments will have the upper hand over someone with a less diverse work history. Many MBA programs offer international experiential learning opportunities. For example, let’s check out Wharton’s Global Immersion Program:

In spring, Wharton students have the opportunity to travel and study in China, East Africa, or South Korea on an intensive Global Immersion Program that includes visits to companies, factories, and government-owned businesses. The program also features classroom projects with international peers and cultural networking events. If your long-term goals involve starting a business in one of these regions, this opportunity to network with industry leaders and government officials could be invaluable.

Leadership Development

Another great reason to consider studying abroad during your MBA is the opportunity to develop important leadership skills through experiential learning opportunities. Many MBA programs offer their students opportunities to develop leadership skills through outdoor excursions to foreign countries. For example, let’s take a look at Cornell’s SC Johnson School of Business’s Patagonia Trip:

Johnson partners with the National Outdoor Leadership Institute to offer its MBA students an opportunity to take a 10-day leadership excursion in rugged Chilean Patagonia. Activities include scaling mountains, sea kayaking, camping, and survival training, and are meant to help participants gain experience leading groups through uncertainty and in harsh, unforgiving environments. We can’t think of a more interesting answer to the “how have you led in the past?” interview question than, “Well, one time, I used my navigational and motivational skills to lead my terrified classmates down off of a mountain in the middle of a snow storm in the Andes.”

Making the Right Study Abroad Choice

While the trips we’ve highlighted seem amazing, they aren’t cheap, and oftentimes these study abroad experiences may not fulfill any core requirements towards the completion of your MBA. So, if you think that a study abroad experience during your MBA studies is something you want to explore, you need to take the time to make sure the experience is going to check several important boxes. These requirements should include:

  • The experience is going to provide unique international cultural experiences
  • The experience is going to provide networking opportunities
  • The experience is going to provide opportunities to develop leadership skills
  • The study abroad involves travel to a place that is distinctly different from your previous experiences.

Remember, your MBA study abroad experience needs to be more than simply an interesting trip, it should help improve and diversify your personal and professional profile.  

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