Is a B-School Study Abroad Program Right for Me?

If you’re looking for a unique addition to your b-school experience, incorporating a study abroad program may be right for you. A study abroad component within your business school program can give you the chance to foster skills and gain knowledge that you may not otherwise acquire. To identify if a b-school study abroad program is right for you, examine where you want to study, what available programs are offered in this area, and if this endeavor aligns with what you hope to get out of your business school experience.

Here are four ways to know if a b-school study abroad program is right for you:

Identify where you would like to study abroad during b-school

Though there are dozens of countries that you might like to travel to, you only have enough time during business school to select one or perhaps two countries at most. Additionally, not every MBA program offers study abroad opportunities to every country that has a business school. Certain schools partner with other programs to provide specific study abroad programs. For example, in addition to international conferences and global career treks, The Wharton School (at the University of Pennsylvania) offers students a number of study abroad experiences. Graziadio Business School (at Pepperdine University) partners with schools on multiple continents for students who hope to spend full trimesters abroad. Investigate the study abroad programs your school offers and where they are each located.

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Note what you would like to learn when studying abroad in b-school

The course catalog offered at one MBA program rarely matches that of another MBA program, even for business schools in the same city. Usually, you can count on the MBA basic courses—accounting, finance, marketing, and operations—to be covered at most business schools across the globe. That being said, elective courses will vary widely from school to school. Therefore, check the courses offered by the study abroad programs you’re interested in before applying. Note factors like:

  • If your concentration is consulting, a program without strategy classes might not be an appropriate fit.

  • If your concentration is marketing, a program focused mainly on finance might not be applicable.

When searching b-school study abroad programs, look for an opportunity that offers a curriculum that matches your educational goals.

Understand how studying abroad during b-school will affect your recruiting process

Where do you want to work after you complete your MBA program? Will the companies you’re interested in only recruit at your school during the time that you’d like to study abroad? If you’re concerned that studying abroad for an entire semester could limit your career search opportunities, then consider international experiences that provide global exposure but take less of your time. Some business schools, like Stern School of Business (at New York University), offer shorter study abroad opportunities that last one or two weeks during student breaks, to locations such as Australia, China, and Costa Rica. This would allow you to travel abroad, but still be able to participate in career events, as well as hold club leadership positions offered during the regular semesters at your school. Examine your business school timeline and identify how a study abroad experience would best fit it.

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Examine what you hope to get out of your b-school experience—whether or not it relates to study abroad

Each student has a personal agenda for business school. Some students wish to find greater opportunities in their industry, some plan to transition into another industry, and others hope to explore positions in different countries. Additionally, a few students want to stay in the same job, at the same company, in the same country, but earn a graduate degree in business to learn skills necessary to excel in their existing position.

Determine what you want to achieve in your MBA program and whether studying abroad will help you reach your goals. If you want to work for a multinational corporation and take advantage of positions that become available in different countries, then international experience would be beneficial to have during your career search. If you hope to stay in one country at a company that works with clients throughout the world, then studying abroad would help you interact with those clients in a more informed fashion. Conversely, if you want to work for a company that only does business in the country that your MBA program is located in, then studying abroad may not provide a significant return on your investment of time, energy, and money.

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Before you make a decision about studying abroad during business school, consider all of your options. Many schools offer students a variety of international opportunities that range in length, cost, language, and location. Explore what your school has to offer. Then, select a b-school study abroad program that works best for your overall MBA goals.

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