Edmund Amoye, 2012 MBA grad, shares advice for international students, why it’s good to make friends from outside your own country, and benefits of having a spouse and family life during the program.
Edmund Amoye, MBA 2012
College of William and Mary, Mason School of Business
Business rotation & development program, Moët Hennessy USA (LVMH Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton), New York, NY
What’s your advice to living and studying abroad?
My advice hinges on a balance between staying “true” to who you are and being unique. But, also at the same time being able to advance yourself, or turn yourself into something different. For a lot of students coming from other countries to the US, there’s a HUGE cultural change. A lot of these students don’t understand how things work in the US in the sense of students building relationships with their classmates, alumni and faculty or with businesses that they would like to work in. A lot of students have this approach of going around and not being as direct because in their cultures that might be the way of doing things. But, what I notice here in the US is one thing that International students need to understand in the American culture: being direct, being able to actually “lay out” what you want and not beating around the bush for things. So, that’s one thing in a cultural perspective that students have to understand, that the culture is different, you’re going to have to change but you don’t want to change to where you don’t have your own unique identity.
The second thing that I want International students to know is that you are immensely valuable to the MBA program. A lot of my friends from other countries thought that their language skills weren’t as great or that they didn’t understand things like they should. But, what I want to point out is that without them in the program, I wouldn’t have been as successful as I was because they brought a totally different perspective into how business was done in different parts of the world, into how culture affected the way business was done. So, the one thing that I would advise International students is to not just look at yourself as coming to a new culture and absorbing its business curriculum, but look at yourself as a teacher. You can actually teach your fellow classmates about something that they never knew or never even cared to know about. “What is business like in Thailand?” “How does it work in India?” “What is Brazil going through right now?” Those kinds of conversations really expanded my view of the world and helped me immensely.
Another piece of advice is based on language. Be sure to make a lot of foreign friends. Make a lot of friends who are not from your country because the “default behavior” for international students, myself included, when you come to a new environment, is to find people that are like yourself and then insulate yourself within that group. That’s not good because it doesn’t allow you to get that cultural perspective that I was talking about. So, number one, make a lot of foreign friends and make a commitment to hang out with people that are not from your country or region of the world because it really does add value to your personal development.
How did you balance family and the MBA?
The number one thing that I want to say to students who have families is that it is NOT a burden to have a family and get an MBA. I actually would go to team meetings and a lot of my classmates would say, “Wow, you get to go home and talk about all this stuff you have to do and you get to unburden all your stress and talk to someone!” A lot of my fellow classmates who were single didn’t have anyone who they could talk to or “unburden” themselves to. So, that is a big, big advantage. But, that great advantage comes with some costs.
The first thing that I had to do with my wife before we moved to Williamsburg was to literally make an “agreement”. If I am going to do this MBA program, there are certain things I am going to need in order to succeed. We knew that I was probably going to be spending late nights at school, so we knew that we had to live close to school because we only had one car. So, we had to decide who was going to have the car.
Also, you have to have a partner and family system that understands that you are not going to be available for a lot of things. I missed a lot of family things while I was in the MBA program, but my family knew that obtaining the MBA would take us all a lot further in life.
William and Mary has a Partners and Family Association and from the time I got into the program, we would meet a couple of times every semester. But, the most important things about it was that while I was busy being a student, the association was still very active. The college would “link up” unemployed spouses with companies in the area that were hiring. For people with kids, the Associations would recommend the best daycare centers or childcare providers. So, William and Mary had a very strong support system for students with families. In fact, sometimes my classmates would pitch in to make sure that I was able to get my work done. So, yes, it was a very supportive environment. In a program of about 200 students, I can think of at least 10 people who had families and I’m also thinking of guys that were in the military. The Partners and Family Association was really, really great!
Read part one of Edmund's interview here.