The Value of an International Education

155408_breeden017What is the benefit of studying abroad? Wouldn’t it be easier and more convenient for me to stay put here in Russia and study global business?  After all, can’t I just go online to hear global perspectives?

French native Bertrand Guillotin, director of the international programs office at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, shares his point of view in the following Q and A.

What does international experience do for one’s resume?
Going to America still has a cachet associated with it.  Just look at the lists of global companies, largest banks or billionaires and see how many are American.  Making it in America implies higher performance, success and prestige.

How does a student extract value from the international experience for recruiters?
You need to spell it out, especially if the recruiter does not speak global.  If you come to the table with an international background, you are ahead of the crowd (only 1% of Americans study abroad; 30% don’t even have a passport).

Bertrand Guillotin, Director of International Programs at Fuqua

Bertrand Guillotin, Director of International Programs at Fuqua

You need to unpack your international experience.  Research published in Harvard Business Review on the Global Mindset by Mansour Javidan shows that global minded managers handle ambiguity better (there is plenty of that in international markets, either you manage it or you don’t survive), solve problems faster, are more creative than others, show more tolerance and embrace diversity in a deeper way.  All of those attributes not only help global-minded managers differentiate themselves, but also yield a competitive advantage in our global world.

What is the benefit of an international exchange program?
First, it is immersion in a culture looking at different lifestyles and ways of doing business.  For example, Starbucks was founded after Mr. Schultz took a trip to Italy. It was not as a result of lab experiments.  Interestingly enough, his partner at the time really did not get what the deal was about those people sitting at cafés in Europe and paying so much for tiny cups of espresso. Schultz got the message, saw the opportunity, and acted on it. The rest is history!  Look at the story of Red Bull and the same pretty much applies: direct international exposure yields ideas that can be turned into huge opportunities.

Going on exchange helps students reflect in a non-threatening environment where they can make mistakes, take time to absorb new knowledge and build their global networks with other top institutions’ students and influential alumni. At Fuqua, we have 40 of these partner institutions in 30 countries.  A typical working environment does not provide this kind of special opportunity.  That’s why it is still very popular and 20% of our Daytime MBA students take advantage of these opportunities.

What advice would you give to students in identifying international opportunities?  How should they think through when and where to go?
I would differentiate between academic and professional opportunities. There is a lot more at stake with the latter. That being said, I would say that the strategic fit is absolutely key! Analyze the pros and cons of an international move the way you would analyze a company. What are the assets? What is the current and future value of the brand? What are the opportunities for improvement, as well as the best and worst case scenarios associated with your strategy? In either case, going international is a stretch and it is not for the faint-hearted! It will give you a much thicker skin and unique skills. The sharper the skills, the sharper the mind!

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