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International experience is the root of international understanding

By Luis Adler - Posted on 21 February 2013

Luis Adler from Portugal, shares his experiences of Strathclyde Business School’s Masters in International Management programme and reflects on what it’s like to study in a multi-cultural environment.

With television, internet, telecommunications and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter breaking barriers and bringing the world closer together, people are now more connected than ever before.

However, while these tools have allowed us all to interact with different cultures and mind-sets, virtually, for a real multicultural experience there is still no substitute for living and interacting with different cultures on a daily basis.

From my first day at Strathclyde Business School, the differences between Glasgow and my home city of Porto were apparent. While I found Scottish culture to be not unlike that of other European countries, the most striking differences came from the mix of different cultures and languages among my fellow students.

Although, having enrolled on the Masters in International Management (MIM) programme, I had expected this strong international element it still posed some unexpected challenges.

One of the first challenges everyone faces when living abroad is the language. While, on the whole I was comfortable speaking in a second language, it did occasionally create problems and led to a few funny situations.

However, as it soon became clear, getting the most from such a multicultural environment would require a lot more than just language skills. The MIM is structured to promote collaboration, with working groups selected by academic staff to maximise diversity.

While initially, as everything was still new, there were almost no cultural contrasts, as the weeks passed, and the assignments became more difficult and intensive, differences in working habits, backgrounds and perspectives, started to become apparent.

This was challenging, of course, but it also gave us some valuable experience. The differences, conflicts and opposing views, challenged my fellow students and I to be more flexible, taking on other’s views and cultural perspectives, to find the best solution to the problem.

Lectures and assignments are also geared towards giving students an international perspective but, for me, it is this exposure to a multi-cultural working environment, through group projects, that is one of the most important aspects of the programme for students with international management aspirations.

Even though I really enjoy the programme, fortunately, being an international student at Strathclyde Business School is not just about studying. Throughout the business school, and throughout Glasgow itself, there is an international environment everywhere. From student accommodation and the friends I’ve made to the choice of restaurants, the multicultural character of life in Glasgow is evident.

Even when I’m not studying I’m constantly learning and improving my knowledge of other countries and cultures.

Starting my second semester in Glasgow, I’m sure there’ll be many more challenges but I’m confident I’ll be able to overcome them.

For other students considering studying abroad, I would give just one piece of advice: learning how to interact with people from different countries and appreciate different cultures cannot be taught in the classroom. It has to be learned through experience, so go out there and try it for yourself.

What are your experiences of studying abroad? How have you benefited from working with people from different cultures? Let us know in the comments below. 

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