Almost two years ago, as I was nearing the end of the MBA admissions cycle, I was thankful to receive multiple admission offers. However, this meant that I had to make a choice of which program to select. For anyone who knows me, they’ll say I have some insane FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). That fear of missing out on a great program and new friends for life weighed heavily on me.
One of the reasons why I chose NYU Stern was their global learning opportunities, particularly its dual-MBA program with HEC Paris. You spend one year in New York City and the second year in Paris. However, one year away from my classmates seemed too much for my goals, so Stern’s semester-long exchange program was a great alternative for me, so I decided to do my final semester in Paris. What’s even better is that Stern has students from all over the world doing exchanges in NYC.
IMMERSING YOURSELF IN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS
I volunteered to be an exchange ambassador during the fall semester of my second year at Stern and helped integrate the students into the NYU and NYC community. Some of them became my very good friends; we even celebrated my birthday together in Miami. When it came time for me to study abroad, I was convinced to go to London instead. As a result, London Business School was a perfect choice, especially since most of the exchange students I met at Stern came from there. In essence, we would spend an entire year together — fall 2021 in NYC and spring 2022 in London — which would make our relationship stronger than just transitory or temporary.
At the beginning of spring semester, I arrived in London and it has been amazing so far. It’s great to see the parallels and differences between these two cultural and business epicenters. The old-world vs the new world. Modernism vs Traditionalism. The UK’s global influence stems from its Empire days and major economic sectors are in banking and tourism versus the US where its global influence is rooted in media and entertainment and one of its biggest exports is technology. Still, many of the same things are observed as well, such as democratic ideals and values. I wanted (and needed) to know how an entire country and continent conducts business. That way, I could better understand those cultural differences in my professional career so I can be more mindful and aware when working with international teams and gain their trust and confidence.
In London, I’m no longer an observer or student of international business, I’m practicing it. I’m currently taking a class on negotiations and I was able to learn a great deal about how to negotiate with people from all around the world, many of whom have business backgrounds in their home countries. There’s so much more nuance in trying to make a deal, such as culture, body language, facial expressions, and word choice. Each week, the deals get more complicated as we try to apply what we’ve learned both academically and practically. This class made me realize how I’ve taken a US-centric approach to business and strategy for granted. I’ve gained an invaluable skillset for the future of a globalized world.
A CHANGED PERSPECTIVE
Another great aspect of this study abroad program is that I’m meeting like-minded and adventurous students from other top programs. These include the University of Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Yale School of Management, Columbia Business School, and even other Sternies. We’ve been exploring the United Kingdom and Europe together. We all see the value of studying abroad and networking with people from other countries and programs. For example, I was able to meet a colleague of mine in person whom I’d worked with during my summer internship. Although I haven’t officially started my full-time position yet, I’ve already built a good relationship outside of work. He has also introduced me to others on our team and other LBS students who interned at his office.
It’s a bit of a different experience than if you were just with your b-school classmates from home. We’re going through the same trials-and-tribulations but in different cities and programs. We’re cognizant of what the other is going through but still able to connect and reflect. One discussion we had was how we can help our consulting clubs improve their international business and cultural understanding. We decided to create a cross-school cross-industry consulting case. We’re implementing a local business model that was unique to Scotland, which we conceptualized while we were visiting Edinburgh. My friends from Booth and Kellogg are hoping to publish it for our schools’ respective case books before we graduate. These types of ideas and bonding wouldn’t have happened if not for the exchange program.
This entire experience has also changed me and my perspective on people and relationships. I’m able to approach completely random strangers and connect with them through many different avenues. Whether it’s through culture, hobbies and interest, or global affairs, I’m enriched through each interaction while I’m in London. I used to approach people with a very US-centric approach and brought biases to conversations and lived within the US bubble. Thankfully, I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone and gain much better soft skills to my personal and professional life.
At the end of the day, I realized most top programs all have the same things in common: excellent professors, plentiful offerings, a smart and dynamic student body, and a very unique experience. My best advice while you’re making a school decision is to make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each program carefully; understand what you’re looking for and know what’s most important to you; and take advantage of all of the options available when you’re finally there. For me, the key takeaway from the study abroad program has been that I’m able to expand my perspectives to different cultures directly, build long-lasting relationships with people from other top schools outside of my own, and step out of my comfort zone. It’s truly a unique experience and something I’m glad that NYU Stern offers for well-rounded business education.
Bio: Phan Hoang, a first-generation Bostonian, is a second-year MBA candidate at NYU Stern School of Business. Prior to business school, he was an enlisted in the United States Air Force serving in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions worldwide. He has also taught internationally in countries such as Honduras and China. He worked in Product Management during the summer.