When I was first informed of the possibility to take a semester abroad for my MBA program, I jumped at the opportunity. Although it meant that I would lose a semester of education from Schulich, the prospect of going to another school and experiencing my MBA through a different perspective was attractive. Since I’ve returned from my exchange, I’ve had time to reflect on my experience and assess my decision of taking on the semester abroad.
First and foremost, my recommendation is to go on exchange. Besides being able to experience another MBA program at a respected institution, you have an opportunity to explore another country for four months and learn important life lessons. When you’re travelling, you will run into situations for which you don’t plan for, or there will be instances when you will need to think on your feet and make quick decisions that will have unforeseen consequences. This will assist you in both your academic and personal life, and you will find a newfound confidence at the end of your four month adventure. As mentioned before, the education is also top-notch, as Schulich only sends students to schools which have solid reputations and quality faculty. I had the privilege of attending the University of Mannheim, the top ranked business school in Germany, which allowed me to continue to receive a great education while I was also able to explore surrounding countries in Europe. Besides being a well-respected school, I was able to gain a better understanding of how business is conducted in another part of the world, and this was reinforced by guest lectures from major European companies (such as Ferraro and Bosch) hosted by established professors who are well-respected in their fields.
However, there are some factors which you also need to consider before applying for exchange. The makeup of the 601 project is different for students who go on exchange, and you will need to find a team of understanding and flexible teammates who will be considerate of your exchange experience. In my own group, we had three exchange students while five others stayed at Schulich, and our contributions to the project varied depending on the phase. Since we knew that we would be going on exchange, the exchange students were responsible for much of phase 0 & 1 (during the summer months) whereas the non-exchange students did a majority of the work for phase 2a (during our exchange months). I was fortunate enough to have found group who are appreciative of the exchange program, so it is important to take the time and find a similar group before leaving.
Another factor would be your job status. I was lucky enough to have been employed throughout my MBA program, so it was only a matter of taking a leave of absence from work and returning back to my job once I had finished my semester. If finding a job is your top priority, the exchange semester may hinder your chances. However, if you are open to international job options, than the exchange also provides ample opportunities to find jobs which you may not have had if you were to stay in Canada. If you are looking for international opportunities once you’ve completed the MBA program, than the exchange program also provides you with international experience, which will be a plus for recruiters who are looking for this background.
I am now completing my last semester at Schulich. I structured my second year of the MBA program such that I took a part-time semester over the summer, then took a full course load in Mannheim, and am now completing a part-time semester while still working. This was most convenient for me, as it allowed me flexibility to continue working over the summer and currently in the winter, but the summer semester does lack certain courses which are only offered during the fall and winter. However, I have no regrets about taking a semester abroad, and it was a definite highlight of my MBA experience. My advice would be to take advantage of this opportunity, as there may be few similar opportunities in the future. I came back with a new perspective on my academic and personal life, as well as with a wealth of memories and friends which I will keep forever. If you have any questions about my experience, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan Yeu – Mannheim, Germany
Apply for exchange by 4pm on Friday, March 11, 2016.