Well here I am, sitting at BCN International Airport waiting for my flight to Frankfurt to begin boarding, which is the first leg of my 20-some-odd hour journey back home. It is amazing to think about everything that has happened over the past ten months…has it really been ten months? Seems like just yesterday I had a job and was only beginning to talk to Blanca about my crazy idea of pursuing my MBA abroad. Now, I’m a second year heading home to do an internship with one of my favorite people in the world. I’m a lucky man – really, I am.
These last few days in particular have been interesting. I have gone out for dinner and drinks about every night since I took my last final. My body is ready to switch things up a bit and I really hope to be disciplined and stick to my word this summer. I want to get into “fighting shape” so I can head to Texas ready to rock-and-roll on the full-time job hunt. While doing my internship, I plan to box and do jiu-jitsu with friends as often as possible and ride my bike around when feasible to help save on gas (not looking forward to paying for that again!). We will see.
Ok, enough about that, it’s reflection time! So, what have I learned? Um…wow…well, more than I could ever put into words, that’s for sure. Regardless, let me try to see if I can’t share at least a few thoughts about my experiences after one year of being an international MBA student.
Living in a country different from your own is hard work!
This is true, but you should know that it gets easier over time. Also, once you realize why it is such hard work, you begin to see things in a new way. So, why is living in a country different from your own so hard? Well, of course there are going to be varying degrees of “difficulty” one would experience when throwing him or herself into a new country. Obviously if I were to have pursued my exchange in Canada it would have been a less intensive adaptation process. However, the reason things are so difficult really just boils down to the differences. Different norms, cultures, languages, etc. from what anyone is used to will naturally take time and effort to understand and cope with. The sooner these differences are accepted and resistance to adapt is realized as futile, the easier the transition will be. This is to say, as soon as I accepted that things are simply “done” differently in Spain than in the US, it became easier to not dwell on these things and waste energy resisting when that energy could be much better used elsewhere. Understanding this aspect of living abroad is absolutely key!
Intercultural communication is hard work!
Ok, it’s really not that hard, but we tend to make it hard with our own programming and preconceptions about what certain people should be like or how certain people should look and act. I know this is cliché, but an open mind is the best asset to have (in my opinion) in many of life’s situations, but in an international/inter-cultural setting, this is true even moreso. I could go on and on about different instances where my sarcasm fell on confused ears or where making sweeping generalizations has led to heated discussions, but again, I haven’t the time or space to do so. Just understand that sensitivity is vital and again, that open mind thing works wonders when in an international setting.
The first year of a top, global MBA program is hard work!!!
Come on, what kinda discussion would this be if I didn’t even mention the real reason I’m here – the school! This is very true, these last ten months have stretched me further and pushed me harder than I think anything ever has in my life. Regularly spending 12-15 hours a day at school only to come home and keep going for ten months straight makes you really take a new look at life and priorities. It was actually hard for me to snap myself out of “school mode” every day in an effort to pay attention to Blanca, which made me feel horrible regularly, but I like to think by the end of the year I began to improve on this and learned how to create school-free time when I got home – no matter how little time that was. I said before I got here that I’d never have been able to do this without Blanca, but now I can say with honesty that this is true – I could never have done this without her support. In the end, it was lots and lots of hard work, but it was all for a reason and I think that reason will continue to reveal itself to me more and more moving forward.
So in the end, I think this is a sufficiently brief summary of my findings at the end of year one. Although I will be spending the next few months state-side, I will certainly be making an effort (I say this, but have been so bad about keeping up, my apologies) to keep this updated and will hopefully have the chance to share my “re-entry” experience back into US culture. Until then, I guess I should get moving toward the boarding gate…