2024 MBAs Abroad: United Kingdom

It takes courage to study overseas. You’re a proverbial stranger – and everything is so different. At first, it can be disorienting. You’re always mentally translating a different language or adjusting your rhythms to the time difference. Even more, you keep up your guard, afraid of standing out, wary knowing you’re not fully-versed in the norms of your new home.

And then there’s homesickness – missing the people you love and the places you find comfort. Emily Chew noticed that a lot after moving from Malaysia to the United Kingdom to earn her MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School. While Chew’s adjustment was softened from previously studying in Australia, she watched her classmates struggle with homesickness. As time passed, her international classmates naturally came together to form a tight-knit community. Still, there was one element that sped up this sense of belonging…



Emily Chew, Alliance Manchester

“Manchester, being an incredibly international city, offered diverse culinary options, making it easy to find comfort in familiar foods from home,” Chew explains. “I think this proactive approach, combining social connections and access to familiar comforts, will significantly ease the potential hurdles of anyone trying to transition to living life in the UK.”

Sometimes, MBA expats take it upon themselves to alleviate homesickness with meals. That’s particularly true at Cambridge Judge Business School. Here, you’ll find food exchanges among the most popular MBA traditions, says Aria Nurfikry, a growth manager from Indonesia.

“Offer delicious food from your country and ask for recommendations about where to get great food from your friend’s country,” he advises. “Often, your new classmates and friends will invite you for a delicious home-cooked dinner from their own country’s cuisine. These dinners across the MBA cohort and among my international classmates have been the most amazing experience I have had.”


Ah, the United Kingdom. It is home to royals, rockers, and footballers; countrysides, highlands, and chalk cliffs; fish and chips, Cornish pasties, and bangers and mash; The Beatles, James Bond, and Harry Potter too. The nation also features some of the world’s most prestigious business schools, with 10 MBA programs ranking among The Financial Times’ 100 best. Ten MBA programs in the U.K. made last year’s FT 100, ranging from London Business School (ranked 16th) to Birmingham Business School (with a global rank of 97). Yet, all told, there are 27 business schools in Britain that have earned triple accreditation from all three major business school accrediting agencies.

For MBAs studying abroad in the UK, the academics component can be formidable. Question is, how can international students ease their transition into British society?

To answer this question, P&Q reached out to 12 foreign-born MBA candidates at six British business schools, part of our forthcoming special report on going to business school in the U.K. One advantage of studying in the United Kingdom, they say, is that business schools are melting pots. The London Business School, for example is home to 63 nationalities. At the same time, 97% of the MBA students at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School were born outside the United Kingdom (with women, who account for 51% of the latest class, adding another dimension to this diversity). Saïd’s Ifeoluwa Olokode, a Nigerian from the health sector, appreciated how the program weaved non-Western cases throughout the curriculum. And that was just the beginning, she adds.

“This diversity also energizes [Saïd’s] co-curricular offerings and social life. In our first term alone, we’ve heard from a speaker building one of Africa’s most celebrated FinTech companies, celebrated Diwali, and had a Christmas Fiesta hosted by the Latin American Club.”


Navid Eskandar in front of the Sammy Ofer Centre

Olokode’s classmate, Aditi Angiras, hails from India. For her, London – a 90-minute train ride from Oxford – may be the best part of the UK experience. A Fortune 500 and startup hub, London ranks alongside New York City as the world’s financial center. Not only does London provide access to top companies, experts, and investors, but also brings projects, internships, and networking opportunities to campus,” Angiras adds. At London Business School, Navid Eskandar is equally bullish on his LDN digs.

“On my first visit to London after securing acceptance to LBS, I remember feeling like the smallest fish in the deepest ocean,” writes the Canada native. “So insignificant amongst all the hustle and bustle of the financial district and the flagship retail stores of Oxford Street. It simultaneously scared me and excited me, but it ultimately gave me perspective. I was able to zoom out and recognize how many more opportunities there were here that I couldn’t find back home. I’ve since learned about jobs I’d never even heard of, globally-focused work approaches, and the importance of real diversity (both of thought and background).”

And there’s one other benefit to studying in the United Kingdom that international students sometimes overlook. “Students qualify for a graduate visa which allows you to work in the UK for 2 years after graduating,” Eskandar adds. “When that visa expires, I’ll likely need sponsorship from an employer, but students who have pursued this in the past have said that it is quite straightforward and not much of a barrier to employment (which is good news)!”


Like any move, the United Kingdom involves a transition for international MBA students. Beyond deciphering the train schedule or finding a reliable doctor, the British weather flummoxes many students who come from abroad. Think wildly fluctuating temperatures, heavy rain, and early sunsets, says Oxford’s Aditi Angiras – a combination that can wreak havoc on a student’s health. This change in climate also left an impression on Cambridge Judge’s Aria Nurfikry, who was accustomed to the tropical humidity of Jakarta,

I found that I can adapt to the colder temperature easily by having the right warm clothing. What is surprising is how short the day is and how rarely I see the sun. At 4 pm in the winter, it is already dark in this country! I overcame this by shifting my sleeping and waking hours to make sure I get more sun, and I got a lamp for my room that helps simulate sunlight on darker days.”

Finding a flat can also be daunting – at least in London, says Imperial College’s Edison Nunez. The Colombia native notes that internationals need to start searching for accommodations and understanding the rental process long before arriving in the UK. In many cases, that means reaching out for help.

“Finding a place to live and getting settled was really challenging,” says Navid Eskandar, echoing Nunez’s experience. “London has an incredibly competitive rental market, which means it’s expensive and flats are hard to come by. We managed to work through it [by] leveraging multiple letting agents at the same time, but its best to start looking early. Setting up bank accounts and home services were also much more complicated than expected. Thankfully, our UK classmates were quick to lend a hand or make suggestions. Asking for help for things that were so simple to do back home felt awkward, but it helped me make new friends and allowed me to help our other classmates when they made the move to the UK.”

Mathis Wong, Cambridge Judge Business School


At London Business School, “Meet” was one outlet where international students could solicit help. “A social media cross between Facebook, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp” – in the words of Navid Eskandar – Meet furnished a platform for students to connect globally.

“We set up virtual icebreakers, so folks could meet each other before the program and Ask Me Anything’s answered by consultants and bankers in our cohort,” Eskandar adds. “We even managed to plan a huge trip with 250 of our classmates before stepping foot on campus! Being able to make friends nearly nine months before school started made the transition incredible easy, and made London feel like home almost right away.”

In many cases, international MBA students turned to services supplied by their business schools. Alliance Manchester’s student support services offered guidance on areas like “accommodation, local norms, and legalities,” says Ahmed Almelad, an investor from Saudi Arabia. At London Business School, the visa services team provided a continuous communication loop on “travel and house hunting” to India’s Kaveri Doshi. Imperial Business School includes mentorship as a way to ease the training, pairing alumni and students with similar backgrounds according to Edison Nunez. When it comes to adapting to UK work culture, Cambridge Judge weaves it right into the curriculum.

“They conduct thought-provoking workshops on the professional culture in the UK and in-depth talks about various sectors in the UK market,” explains Mathis Wong, a Hong Kong entrepreneur. “Additionally, they offer 1-1 coaching sessions with seasoned career coaches and expert advisers, providing valuable insights to aid my transition and adaptation processes.”

Kaveri Doshi, London Business School


Of course, there is also the matter of grasping British cultural nuances. Emily Chew, for one, quickly discerned that the famed ‘British accent” actually included several regional dialects far removed from the proper “Queen’s English.” By the same token, the British sense of humor didn’t necessarily fit the stereotype either, adds Navid Eskandar.

“It’s an odd mix of sarcasm and dry absurdity, all packaged with a deadpan delivery,” he observes. “I thought it’d be more in line with Monty Python, or Mr. Bean, but it’s definitely not.”

In contrast, Kaveri Doshi was struck by the country’s passion for gardening and greenery – an impulse only matched by its embrace of ‘pub culture.’ “Pubs are more than just places to drink; they are social hubs where people gather to chat, relax, and enjoy each other’s company,” Doshi adds “This tradition emphasizes the importance of community and social connection in British life. The warm, friendly atmosphere of pubs, often with their unique historical and local character, is something that many from other cultures find intriguing and quintessentially British.”

Vicente Gonzalez, Warwick Business School


At British pubs, everyone is welcome – even MBAs studying abroad. That came as a surprise to Warwick Business School’s Vicente Gonzalez, an inventory planner from Mexico. “They are very open to foreigners. This struck me because I had the misconception that Brits were cold and rude, but since the first moment we arrived I was proven wrong. Wherever I went, I was treated with deference, and people always smiled back and were helpful when it came to it.”

While international students may arrive as strangers, they are hardly minorities. After all, MBAs abroad constitute the majority of MBA students at the top British MBA programs. That means they set the pace, shape the culture, and ultimately drive the results.

“Currently, our class has more than 20 nationalities in a small cohort of 54 students,” says Imperial College’s Edison Nunez. “The diversity of the MBA cohort makes it effortless to form connections and friendships with peers from other countries.”

Click on the MBA student links below to learn more on how they overcome their toughest challenges in moving to the United Kingdom for business schools and the advice they’d give to candidates hoping to follow in their path. 

MBA Student Business School Home Country Last Employer
Ahmed Almelad Alliance Manchester Business School Eastern, Saudi Arabia HALA Ventures
Emily Chew Alliance Manchester Business School Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia PwC
Aria Nurfikry University of Cambridge (Judge) Jakarta, Indonesia Jiva Agriculture
Mathis Wong University of Cambridge (Judge) Hong Kong VALIDA Solar & Green
Maria Luisa Mena Imperial College Santiago, Chile Hush Puppies Kids
Edison Nunez Imperial College Bogota, Colombia Boehringer Ingelheim
Navid Eskandar London Business School Calgary, Canada Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)
Kaveri Doshi London Business School Ahmedabad, India Kanaiya Exports Private Limited
Aditi Angiras University of Oxford (Saïd) New Delhi, India Yara International
Ifeoluwa Olokode University of Oxford (Saïd) Lagos, Nigeria Helium Health
Vicente Gonzalez Warwick Business School Monterrey, Mexico Home Depot
Farrah Yunisa Warwick Business School Jakarta, Indonesia Flywheel Digital

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