Completing a foreign MBA

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After 12 months of many sleepless nights (mostly spent in front of a computer and drinking wayyy too many rounds of caffeine), asking for loads of prayer from family and friends to preserve my sanity, a 3 hour daily commute (a combination of the LRT, the dreaded KTM trains, most Kuala Lumpur locals don’t even attempt this one, and the campus shuttle) and a mark on one side of my nose from wearing glasses too often, I finally finished my MBA at the University of Nottingham-Malaysia campus. I can’t express how grateful I am to finally be able to say those words. Deciding to attend a foreign university was a huge decision for me. Will I understand my professors? Do they speak English? What’s campus life like outside the US? What will my job prospects be like outside the country I complete my degree in? I knew it was going to be a major time commitment but something my husband and I decided was worth it and I had his full support on (although he insists it was only so he can retire earlier).

Accreditation is always a concern for those of us who’ve only studied in the US and other developed countries. Luckily, this program has its home base in the UK and is internationally well known. If you’re considering studying abroad, I would strongly advise you check on the university’s accreditation status. In my case, there were still challenges as the administration was conducted at the local level. As I quickly discovered, business operations in Kuala Lumpur run at a different pace than I was used to in the US. Things are not as straightforward as I would’ve liked them to be which led to much frustration and added to the already stressful course schedule. My first semester of the full-time MBA program consisted of 6 modules which is equivalent to 18 credit hours in the US and the course load remained mostly this way for the remainder of the program. Although I’ve attended grad school previosuly in the US, the most I took was 3 courses a semester and that was considered full-time! I’ve also come to realize that a great deal of emphasis is placed on theory which I guess is to be expected as this was a UK-based program. In the US, I believe we’re more concerned about the practical relevance of the material and how we apply it to life outside the classroom. The assessment of all modules was through 1 group or individual project (usually group) and 1 written final exam. That’s it. No multiple choice or fill in the blanks. I nearly choked when I heard the professor review the syllabus for the first module on the first day of classes. I had one professor during my undergraduate years that tested her students this way and she had a history of being a tough grader. I remember it being challenging but I felt I knew the material better at the end of the class. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to be challenged for every module…

I learned a lot from others about education and approches to different business strategies due to the different cultural perspectives that were represented in our student groups. I’ve learned to become more flexible when dealing with people from other cultures who don’t all come from fast-paced countries and working environments. Not all my group members were fluent in their English language skills (written and verbal) which provided for some, ah, colorful moments. Overall, I’m really glad for the experience and for the new friendships created, especially with fellow colleagues from all over the world.

Do you have any questions or similar experiences to share about studying abroad?

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