Students in master’s programs in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business have the opportunity to extend their classroom experiences by participating in study abroad, personally investigating international business contexts and practices they discuss in their courses.
And they do: preliminary numbers indicate that more than one-quarter of MSU’s graduate students who studied abroad during the 2012–13 academic year were Broad College students.
“Graduate study abroad programs present a different challenge from undergraduate programs because many graduate students already have lived or traveled abroad,” said Kirt Butler, director of study abroad for the Broad College of Business. “To deliver a quality experience, graduate study abroad programs work with our corporate partners both at home and abroad to provide unique, practical insights into international business and local culture.”
Students from the Full-Time MBA program and the master of science in accounting program visited Central and Eastern Europe this summer to study the cultures and business environments there.
“It is amazing how many of the presentations … reinforce and relate to many of the business topics we learned about this past year in the Broad MBA program,” said Sally Sproat (MBA ’14) in a blog about the trip. “We’ve heard about how companies are using game theory, we’ve seen their brand positioning maps, and even heard about how often they conduct internal employee satisfaction surveys. My background before business school was engineering, so seeing these business concepts in action (and halfway around the world, at that!) has added a lot of relevance to the curriculum for me.”
Sproat wrote a detailed account of each day’s activities on the MBA trip to Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, which included visits to companies such as the Hungarian National Bank, Zwack Unicum, Foxconn, Slovnaft, and even OPEC headquarters.
Likewise, the accounting students visited a variety of company environments during their time in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
“The greatest value was the experience of adapting to a new and unfamiliar culture—and the chance to see diverse working environments within the new culture,” noted Grace Cao (MS Accounting ’13). “We visited accounting firms as well as IBM, Google, a brewery, and a winery and saw wide differences in environment. It helped me understand international accounting issues that we had talked about in class.”
On the other side of the world, Weekend MBA students made two trips—one to India and one to China. At both locations, students explored what working effectively with others in these international contexts looked like.
At S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai, India, students combined classroom instruction on local business conditions with visits to Indian companies such as Tata Motors.
“During the company visits, the presenters were clearly aware that we were all working professionals, so some typical introductory information was skipped in favor of more detailed forays into some of the aspects of business in India,” explained Jim Hathaway (MBA ’14). “While shopping after class, I was amazed how the shop owner behaved towards us exactly as classroom instruction on Indian retail practices implied.”
Beijing and Shanghai were the key stops for the Weekend MBA trip to China. Students experienced a variety of Chinese firms, including Air China, a hospital, two NGOs, intellectual property and marketing consulting firms, Amway China, and Shanghai GM.
“Many of the presenters at the companies we visited emphasized the importance in the successful and long-term operation of their business of the art of relationship building, also known as guanxi,” explained Angela Nelson (MBA ’14). “The opportunities to do business in China are abundant, but having an understanding of hurdles like making the right connections and having carefully courted social skills became a key takeaway for me.”
These graduate students returned to the U.S. with a deeper understanding of international business and its diverse contexts and cultures enriching their work—both in the classroom and as they move forward in their careers.