Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Global & Multicultural

Overcoming Challenges as an International MBA Student

kazBy Kaz Kawaguchi

Since I came to Babson in 2012 summer, I have faced many challenges. I have lived in Japan for around 30 years, and this was my first time to live abroad, so I expected that I would face many challenges such as language issue and cultural difference as well as study at a business school. However, the real challenges exceeded my expectations. The first Pre-MBA week was the toughest moment for me. I remember that I couldn’t participate in the first group discussion at all. Even though we were all international students, other team members spoke English very fluently and aggressively expressed their opinions during the discussion. I needed more time to come up with and express my ideas than others, and the discussion topic had changed while I was thinking about it. I was disappointed that other team members seemed to consider me as shy or having no unique ideas. Class participation was also a challenge for me. In my school experience, our learning style is basically listening to and writing down what teacher said and wrote. If I have questions about the class contents, I asked questions for teachers after classes. Here, the learning style is opposite. The role of the faculty is a facilitator, not a teacher. Students have to speak up during the class discussion. Besides language issues, I had to overcome such cultural differences.

To overcome these challenges, I tried multiple ways.

1). Speech Resource Center

I went to the Speech Resource Center frequently to improve my English speaking. During the session with the counselor, I practiced presentations, mock interviews, imitation of famous public speech, and reflection of what I learned from each subject.

2). Mind Shift

As some of the international students may feel the same thing, I felt that other students, especially native English speakers, seemed to see me as something weird or ignored me when I talked mainly due to my poor English. However, I changed my mindset into ignoring their attitude and focused on my delivery. I learned confidence is one of the most important factors for communication here.

3). Extracurricular activities

I tried many extracurricular activities to improve communication skills. Case competitions, Business Idea Pitch, Conferences, Networking events, Student Clubs, and alumni relations committee. These experiences helped me a lot not only for communications skills, but also for many other skills and connections with others.

I’m still on a way of trial and errors. It is obviously important to “get out of your comfort zone”, but sometimes it was just exhausting for me, and that fatigue made things worse. It was a vicious cycle. More importantly, I would say “you should expand your comfort zone”, and sometime you need to get out of your comfort zone in order expand your capacity and capability.

In my experience, the worst period was the first three months. After that, I felt I was getting better, and from spring semester I could say I enjoyed my MBA life. Some people may pass that bad period faster, and others may do more slowly. But, I promise you that you will get better sooner or later if you continue to try to improve. I hope you can do it, and I am willing to help you whenever you need any help.