Alberto talks about the benefits of studying abroad and how to make the most of your time immersed in a new culture
WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR LIVING AND STUDYING ABROAD?
When you come from another country, you try to behave very much like a local and try to integrate. You try to be a local. The reality is that if you are yourself, people embrace you faster because they realize that you have a lot to add to their community. A good thing about Canada and HEC Montreal is that it is full of immigrants and people from abroad. So, locals and others who have been there many years and have been through the same situation are happy to network and help you in the city and the country. Networking can work both ways – you have experiences from your country that local business people are interested in learning. Also, tap into your passions. If you have something that you really enjoy doing, it is always good to share that interest. People with the same interests are keen to help you and share experiences and be your partner in anything that you are trying to develop. My third piece of advice is to be generous. Canadians, in my opinion, are one of the most generous cultures in the world. If you are generous, they respect that very much and they are generous to you in return.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GETTING YOUR MBA ABROAD?
I think the biggest benefit is learning the language. Although I still don’t speak English fluently, I think it has improved significantly since I started my MBA. You’ll learn all the technical aspects of the language. Another good aspect of earning your MBA abroad is that you become very comfortable talking to anybody. You have to present so many times in front of other people. So, even if your language skills aren’t that good, you become comfortable speaking to people. The second thing is that in some places, like Colombia, the schools are not as strong as schools in Canada and the United States. So, earning an MBA in Canada was very beneficial for that reason. I can validate a lot of my knowledge and professionals around the world understand that my knowledge level is as good as anyone else. And the cultural aspect – it is fantastic! You really don’t understand how different a country is until you live there and you have the opportunity to share your life with locals. Earning an MBA abroad is not only a great way to gain skills but also a great way to understand how different a culture is from your own. You’re not only exposed to people from that country – I was also exposed to people from Africa and Europe and Asia. I was exposed to different cultures of the world. That is a very rich benefit. Finally, in my opinion, the main reason people get a MBA is to expand their career options and mobility. This is very true for me. After I did my MBA I worked in Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and now I am working in Hong Kong. Currently, I am travelling around the region in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Korea. So, earning my MBA abroad has helped me a lot with my mobility and my career options.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DOING YOUR MBA IN MONTREAL?
Montreal is a large city; it’s close to 3.6 million people. And nearly 80,000-90,000 people are students and about a third are international students. So, it’s a very diverse and very young city. You find a lot of people with the same interests going through the same process/experience as you are, and these people are from all over the world. Montreal is fantastic because of all the Canadian cities; it has a little bit of everything. You have lots of summer festivals – a Jazz Festival, a Comedy Festival, a Fireworks Festival. Summertime is an amazing time for students doing a MBA. On top of that, if you look at wintertime, which is a long one in Canada, you have very beautiful ski resorts within 2 hours of the city where you find powder snow and very beautiful slopes. It’s very unique. You have a fantastic summer and a beautiful winter. If you like skiing and winter activities, you will have a great time in Montreal.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MBA CLASS?
It was strategy. What I liked about the course is that we had the perfect mix. First of all, we had a great professor who had great experience and knowledge. It was a very practical course. The second aspect was the mix of our class. My peers were from all over the world with a lot of experience. So, it was a very rich class with a lot of input not only from our professor but also from our peers. Strategy seems to work very well in some countries, but in other places it doesn’t work so well. This is when you start realizing that the cultural aspects play a very big role. That was an eye opener for me and that is why I enjoyed that class so much. Over the years, now that I have been moving around the world in different roles, I always go back to that class and remember those moments because I am basically living those moments, that I experienced in my class, in the real world.
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