Harvard | Mr. African Energy
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Quality Assurance
GMAT 770, GPA 3.6
Columbia | Mr. Energy Italian
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Salesman
GMAT 700, GPA 3.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Army Engineer
GRE 326, GPA 3.89
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Aspirant
GRE 322, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Army Aviator
GRE 314, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Ms. Big4 M&A
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare PE
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Military Quant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
UCLA Anderson | Mr. SME Consulting
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55 (as per WES paid service)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Healthcare PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
Kellogg | Mr. Concrete Angel
GRE 318, GPA 3.33
Kellogg | Mr. Maximum Impact
GMAT Waiver, GPA 3.77
MIT Sloan | Ms. Rocket Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.9
Wharton | Ms. Interstellar Thinker
GMAT 740, GPA 7.6/10
Harvard | Mr. Finance
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Ms. Sustainable Development
GRE N/A, GPA 3.4
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Female Sales Leader
GMAT 740 (target), GPA 3.45
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Harvard | Ms. Gay Techie
GRE 332, GPA 3.88
INSEAD | Mr. Product Manager
GMAT 740, GPA 63%

MBAs Abroad: The New Normal?

map pushpinsBeing an elite MBA graduate who has gone abroad makes you look distinct—well, for now, at least. Soon, it might be obligatory. With employers increasingly coveting applicants who’ve checked that box, Michigan Ross Dean Alison Davis-Blake says she’s seen more and more students go on trips or study abroad programs. She’s even seen an uptick in students pursuing multiple international opportunities.

A POPULAR AND RECESSION-PROOF TREND

The trend is “almost recession-proof,” argues Bertrand Guillotin, director of the international programs office at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He would know: Guillotin has held this position for the past 10 years. Aside from a drop in demand between 2009 and 2010, students have been consistently eager to go abroad; these days, some students even ask him about it within a week of arriving at Fuqua. “It’s expected that somebody is going to do something international,” Guillotin says. He imagines that in a reunion of Fuqua alumni 10 years from now, the person who hadn’t taken advantage of any abroad opportunities would absolutely stand out.

It’s also something would-be MBAs think about when they’re choosing between schools. “Candidates are looking for those opportunities as well, particularly the opportunity to work on a project abroad or participate in a leadership track,” says Ann W. Richards, interim director of admissions and director of financial aid at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Amanda Soule Shaw, the assistant dean of student services at Johnson, notes that the school is currently looking for extra staffers to help keep the study and travel abroad programs going.

At Fuqua, Guillotin has even found himself slowing some students down, discouraging them from doing things like traveling to 10 countries in two weeks just for the stories. “There’s a huge appetite for global opportunities,” he explains. But as good as those opportunities look on a resume, he doesn’t want students to get so caught up in traveling that they forget the more mundane aspects of their job searches. “That’s the balance we’re trying to find,” he says.

BEYOND STUDENT EXCHANGE

It’s hard to blame MBAs for being anxious to travel, because going abroad no longer simply means going on exchange. Nowadays, it often means meeting with businesses, studying emerging economies, and even searching for jobs. For example, when Shaw was a Johnson MBA in 2005, there was one big trip that people talked about; now, the school offers five to seven courses per year that involve international travel. That figure doesn’t even include trips that don’t count for academic credit, like the ones organized by student groups. Shaw estimates that 100 to 150 students go on some kind of weeklong or multi-week international journey every year.

One class, titled “International Consulting Practicum,” involves partnering with MBAs located thousands of miles away. Students who took the class this fall were working with students at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore on company-sponsored consulting projects and industry analyses. In December, the Johnson students spent a week in Bangalore, where they finished up the projects and visited companies (and hopefully got a nice break from the harsh Ithaca winter). Other courses Johnson is offering in the 2014-2015 academic year include trips to South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Japan, and Korea.

Fuqua offers something similar: the Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) courses. In these classes, students spend six weeks studying the culture, economy, and politics of various countries and regions and then spend roughly twelve days actually experiencing them. In September, the Tuck School of Business added an immersive global experience to their curriculum beginning with the Class of 2017, which includes credit-bearing courses, pre-travel orientation, overseas travel, and reflection on the experience. 

Deidre-Ann Nelson, an MBA from the Class of 2013 who traveled to multiple continents (yes, continents) through Fuqua, describes a GATE trip to various parts of China in a blog post: “Surprise—the trip was awesome!” she gushes. “It was 2+ weeks of non-stop movement, discussions with classmates and business leaders at amazing companies, and total cultural overload. Not only did I leave China with a better cultural understanding and greater business access, but also, and equally important, deeper friendships with classmates that I did not know at all or very well prior to taking the class.”