The Boston University One-Year International MBA (IMBA) program has found a great recipe for creating strength amongst a diverse group and expanding leadership acumen. This past summer, my twenty-five classmates and I lived in China, in the same apartment complex, engaging in rigorous course study. We were provided the opportunity to live in Shanghai, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and Beijing, a city steeped in history and tradition. My cohort is comprised of students from Chile, Panama, Mexico, Peru, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Russia, Israel, Germany, and the USA. Even though the IMBA is an accelerated program, we always found time to have fun and explore all that China had to offer while also getting to know each other’s cultures. Afterwards, we had a group that considers each other to be a “second family” due to the incredibly unique experiences we have shared.
Before going to B-school, I was extremely passionate about working on and with diverse teams, which is what attracted me to the BU IMBA program. After arriving in China, my international teammates taught me that I needed to adjust my management style in order to better understand the strengths and challenges of working with a truly international team. My classmates spoke English as their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language. In addition to language differences, there were also cultural differences that we needed to learn about in order to become an effective team. As an American, slowing down and taking pragmatic pauses have become a part of my repertoire after this experience. I learned the benefits of this firsthand when my team was able to come up far better ideas after we had fostered a culture that allowed everyone to comfortably participate.
My second takeaway from my China experience was the art of negotiation. I always felt a little uncomfortable negotiating but I knew it was a valuable asset in the business world. I found that my international classmates are extremely good at negotiating because often it is a regular part of their culture. They taught me that negotiation requires a thought out strategy and having an understanding of when to walk away. My classmates coached me through leveraging the power of indifference to negotiate a fair price. In my time spent negotiating for goods, my classmates also taught me that there is always a real decision maker. Whether it’s a business owner or club promoter, pinpointing the person in power makes negotiations more productive.
Mark Twain said, “Travel is the death of ignorance.” After 3 months of immersion in China, I am more knowledgeable about the complexity of Chinese life and the beauty of interconnection among truly diverse cultures. I developed relationships that are so deep it’s hard to imagine these people haven’t always been a part of my life. I acquired skills that I never knew I could. I saw some of the greatest wonders of the world and I learned about China firsthand, this social and political powerhouse that previously I’d only perceived from afar. The International MBA program is challenging, but I can guarantee its academic and social recipe will make your life much richer than you ever expected.