Generally, studying overseas sounds like a great idea. You get to explore a new country, meet people, make great friends, and get up to shenanigans that might be frowned upon in Singapore.
On the other hand, it is a huge decision to spend a year or two overseas by yourself, pursuing a highly intense and stressful course of study.
Let’s have a look at the whole picture and consider the other issues that could interfere with your MBA experience abroad.
Pros #1 Experience A Different Culture
Living and studying in a new country broadens your world view and opens your mind to a whole other world.
A world where people may speak a different language, eat things you’ve never heard of, and have customs you don’t understand (yet).
You’ll get a whole new perspective on life, possibly pick up a new language, and have long conversations about culture with people who grew up completely different to you.
You will also learn new ways of doing things; maybe even change the way you behave. Living with a different culture forces you to be more accepting of things that are unlike yourself and pass less judgement on people who are different from you.
Pros # 2 International Work Experience
Nothing beats global exposure and access to an overseas network of contacts. Each country has their own working culture. The Dutch are big on work-life balance, Australians are more casual, and Americans like having meetings.
You will learn to adapt to various working styles and your employability will sky rocket. The knowledge you gain from doing an MBA overseas could be applied anywhere. Master the best business practices globally, meet people from all over the world who are as driven and ambitious as yourself, and connect with industry peers from different countries.
There will be opportunities for an international career after your MBA, and lots of room for growth.
Pros # 3 Personal Growth
When you live away from home, you learn to take care of yourself in every way. You’ll pick up useful life skills such as changing the light bulb, how to make friends in a foreign country, and how to get on with life without your family. The things you value in life change, and you discover a kind of confidence – the ability to make it anywhere. Your working style and lifestyle will evolve with you as your flexibility in life increases. The independence and street smarts that come about when you have to build up a new life for yourself from scratch would stay with you forever. You will never be the same again.
Cons # 1 Financial Costs
Of course, we must talk about the money. It’s always about the money… Things like course fees and living expenses. If you’re studying in the UK, the conversion rate may not be in our favour. Suddenly everything seems so much more expensive when we convert it back to SGD.
You now have to pay rent (as compared to living at home with the parents), pay for overpriced Asian food, expensive public transport, and so on. Life as a broke student is worse when you’re overseas and can’t even go home for free food.
If you are already working, you will have to deal with a drastic lifestyle change and give up the many luxuries you may be used to (like taking a cab everywhere). Not to mention the opportunity costs that arise when you stop working to take on an MBA.
Cons # 2 Career Opportunity Costs
You will have to put your career on hold for a year or two as you complete your MBA. Play the long game; short term pain for long term gain. You’ll be able to ask for a higher salary than before, when you complete your MBA.
However, whether it is really the right time to give up your promising career right now to pursue an MBA is something only you can decide for yourself.
Think hard about why you want an MBA. Is it for the prestige, the business and leadership skills, or the contacts? In some cases, relevant work experience could be more important than a specific credential.
Cons # 3 Being Away From Family And Friends
If you’ve never lived away from home or in a different country, you might be in for a shock. Things that you used to take for granted, like having your parents stock up the fridge, asking friends out for coffee any time of the night, having a support network etc, are now all gone.
Help is a plane ride away. You might be homesick, and you will miss your friends and family. Life is just a little bit harder without the comfort of your nearest and dearest.
Studying overseas alone can be lonely, especially when you’re sick and have an assignment due tomorrow but you still have to do your laundry and get groceries for dinner!
At the end of the day, the benefits and risks that come with taking an MBA abroad is something only you will know if you could handle. An MBA is no walk in the park, even if you were doing it in the comfort of your home country.
Yet, an overseas experience will be life-changing, should you choose to go ahead. Sacrifices will be made along the way, and you get to decide whether an overseas MBA is worth it or not.
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