Friday, November 20, 2015

The Domestic International Experience

By Deedi Boland
Contributing Writer

When I applied to the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University’s MBA program in the fall of 2013, I wasn’t thinking about cross-cultural experiences. I’d grown up 45 minutes south of Syracuse and completed my undergraduate education 45 minutes south of my hometown. I’d been outside the United States just once on a trip to France when I was 16. Clearly, I hadn’t strayed far from home, and I hadn’t had much experience with people from other cultures.

Fast-forward one year to my orientation at Syracuse's Whitman School of Management. All the new masters’ studentsover 200 totalwere in one auditorium together. The speaker directed the domestic students looking for domestic work to go into one room, the international students looking for domestic work to stay put, and the international students looking for international work to go to a third room. What was surprising was that less than 25 of the people in the auditorium went to the “domestic room.” I realized that for the first time, I was part of the minority.

While cross-cultural experiences weren’t the reason I chose Whitman for my MBA, I can now say with enthusiasm that it's of the many reasons why I love studying there. Never before had I realized that people in India drink (and prefer!) warm milk. Never before had I heard of Diwali, the celebration of lights. Never before had I watched someone tie a turban. Never before had I seen (or learned) traditional Persian dances. Never before had I tied a kimono, or witnessed the power of traditional Chinese drumming.

Without my international peers, I wouldn’t have been able to dive so deeply into case studies about products from other cultures. Conversations about international business would have been entirely one-sided, and I would have had to theorize about how another culture might react to a proposed business strategy instead of asking someone who could just tell me.

And so my message to international students who choose to study in the United States is this: thank you so much. Thank you for choosing to take your educational journey alongside mine so that we can learn and grow together. The only way we can make this world—and humanity itself—more accepting, diverse, and successful is by working together, and that means we need to open our eyes to the people beyond our own backyard.

International students are so valuable to the educational system of the United States. I only hope that we can repay that value back in education, acceptance, and lifelong partnership. Thank you.
Diane (Deedi) Boland is a second-year MBA student at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. She holds bachelor’s degrees in management and theater from Binghamton University. At Whitman, she serves as program coordinator for the Student Ambassador Program, vice president of public relations for Whitman Women in Business, and vice president of external affairs of the Whitman Consulting Club. She loves working in digital marketing, especially with social media, SEO, and blogging. She also cheers for SU's men's basketball team loud and often!

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