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Prague for the Weekend, Anyone? Advantages of the Overseas MBA

PraguePerhaps it’s time to heed Thomas L. Friedman’s globalization warning in The World Is Flat: “In a flatter world, you really don’t want to be mediocre.”

This holds true for four women who packed their bags and bravely ventured 3000+ miles for the perfect MBA, begging from us the critical question: Why?

Broad Networks, International Perspective, Experiential Learning

Increasingly, students are being lured abroad to gain the diverse cultural perspectives valued by the companies where they eventually want to work, as well as for their own personal edification. Consider Joy Jaillon, a California native who crossed the Atlantic to earn an MBA in Paris. “In addition to the actual educational experience, living and operating in a foreign country offers an education in its own right,” she explains.

Natasha Belgrave, a UK citizen who came to the U.S. for her MBA and now works for Google UK, agrees. “Studying abroad allows you the opportunity to learn how business works in other countries and exposes you to people who can bring their own unique cultural perspective to a business issue.”

Likewise, Amy Donahue, an American student at London Business School (LBS), where students come from 124 countries, wanted a European network to bolster her global consulting career. “LBS made it possible to build a network of friends and potential colleagues prior to beginning my career there.”

Julie McEver, an LBS graduate from the U.S. who chose LBS for its diverse student demographics, sums up the MBA abroad experience, “It’s like having the international perspective delivered right to your door!”

Specialty Programs Around the Globe

From fashion-centric degrees in Italy, to culinary-specific degrees in France, to sports or medical-related degrees elsewhere, MBA programs are growing more unique, and to see the whole selection, a potential student has to look beyond the borders of the United States.

McEver decided to remain in England as director of business operations for UnLtd (a foundation for social entrepreneurship) after obtaining her degree from LBS. She has been impressed with the progressiveness of the charity sector in the UK. “UnLtd is a global pioneer in that it supports individual entrepreneurs instead of organizations. A recent Net Impact conference revealed that other countries have yet to follow.” If your interest lies in contributing to progressive social organizations, then, obtaining a degree in England so that there is a better chance to be selected for such an opportunity is a good strategy.

Likewise, a media specialty lured Belgrave from her native England west to the Stern School of Business at New York University. “I wanted access to the intellectual capital of New York in conjunction with the Entertainment, Media & Technology specialization at Stern,” she says. Stern hosts the annual MBA Media & Entertainment Conference, bringing together top MBA students with leading media and entertainment companies. Belgrave was impressed with the long-term relationships that companies develop with American schools—relationships that result in industry connections and jobs.

Priceless Competitive Advantage

These global alumnae unanimously agree on one major point: When choosing an international program, it is important to measure its professional pull in the country where you wish to work after graduation.

Now in corporate treasury at Valeo in Paris, Jaillon originally selected the HEC School of Management for its top branding in France. “Attending a top European business school adds credibility to a CV that follows an individual throughout her career,” she explains. “And top MBA programs in Europe help you get into EMEA (Europe Middle East Africa) positions.”

Jaillon adds that if your goal is to work in a specific country, being able to write and speak at a professional level in that country’s language is a big plus. She says this from experience, having conquered interviews in her second language, a venture in itself.

Belgrave, whose class at Stern was 30 percent international, says, “Having an international MBA demonstrates your ability to take on any challenge. In a global career you must be able to understand the nuance of international business.”

“The recruiting season can be slightly more challenging because most of the recruiters who come to European campuses are seeking candidates to fill positions in their European offices,” Donahue agrees. “But I would recommend an overseas MBA to any candidate who is seriously considering working overseas after graduation.” And Belgrave recommends, “If there are particular companies you are interested in back in your home country, then do your research as far as where they recruit.”

Exotic Travel and New Adventure

“I love London for the travel it affords its proximity to continental Europe,” McEver explains the exciting perks of living abroad, including weekend trips to Paris or Brussels. “Don’t hold back,” she advises. “Take trips, join clubs, explore the social culture do everything.” Many top global MBA programs offer cultural activities, social trips, and recruiting or business excursions to China, Japan, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, France, the U.S., and beyond.

Dual-degrees, worldwide recruiting, globalization, outsourcing, culture collaboration—the world is getting “flatter” as you read this, and the pressure to upgrade your skills is heavier so don’t resist a world waiting to sweep you off your feet. As McEver says, “Throw yourself into it!”

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