International Students No Longer Limited to Same Perspectives or Mentality
Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences embraces internationalisation as one of its key values. With every intake, it manages to bring in students from a vast number of nationalities. That is something to be proud of since it has built its reputation on three cornerstones: Internationalisation, Diversity and Ethics.
But what really are the benefits of having so many students from all sorts of cultures, ethnicities and countries in one school, in one class? What do the students themselves have to say about this kind of class setting? Let’s delve in deeper into this topic.
Exposure to New Cultures
Studying in a school with classmates from different countries allows you to experience and learn about different cultures first-hand and not from books or movies. We get to see them face to face, shake hands, share experiences, laugh and work together. We get to experience new ways of talking, dressing, working and studying which we have never seen before. I myself have never thought that I would meet and work with friends from Malta, Georgia, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Iran, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, or even Australia. The list goes on and on. It is just so amazing and surreal. Listening to different accents, rhythms and tones of a variety of languages is just music to the ears.
It wouldn’t be too extravagant if I said that it is a privilege to have this exclusive opportunity to discover the great many differences or similarities in other cultures compared to my own. It has opened up a whole new frontier for me to see the prodigal diversity of humans from all corners of the earth.
My friend Samadhi De Silva from Sri Lanka, an MBA-General Management student, sums up the experience: "Studying in a class of many international students is very inspiring to say the least because you get to meet people from different backgrounds, which helps you to understand where you stand in life. Definitely, if you are in a class of the same nationality, you are limited in your scope and imagination. Whereas, if it is a mixed class, you get exposed to knowledge (however small) which is unimaginable in your existing scope. For example, during a case study in marketing class, one of the Nigerian students mentioned that in her country, pizza and yoghurt are sold together in the same place. This is completely new to me because that never happens in my country."
"My Prejudices are Dissipating by the Minute"
With a diverse student cohort in the same class, discussions are more enriching and wider in scope. We are no longer limited to the same mentality, same learned knowledge or same perspectives. More often than not, discussions are vibrant and interesting as each student shares his/her opinion on the topic based on his/her country’s perspectives. Aspects such as legal issues, cultural and ethical values as well as political beliefs get thrown into the discussion arena. Likewise, the lecturers of each module infuse and integrate into their curricula the international perspectives of the topics. For me, this adds spice to the classes making them more interactive, current, dynamic and lively. It has definitely been an eye-opening experience for me. My prejudices and cynicism about certain political ideas or certain groups of people or controversial schools of thoughts are dissipating by the minute as I learn more about these issues in detail.
Kavindya Samarakoon from Sri Lanka, an IBA student in Marketing Communication & Information, commented: “The degree programme I follow is International Business Administration, whereby the exposure to a multicultural environment inside the university premises provides better opportunity and understanding for the future. Since there are about 20 students in my class whose nationalities are different from one another, I feel lucky enough to get the international cultural exposure during lecture hours itself. One of the benefits that I gain from this international experience related to many subject matters is how different opinions and perspectives in different cultures are discussed during certain classes. The students tend to discuss the matter from the perspective of their national, cultural and legal backgrounds, which helps every student to learn about cultural diversity around the world, with more practical approaches. I believe this will help me to become a better experienced IBA degree holder.”
Gaining More Career Opportunities
With all the changes and paradigm shifts that are happening in the world now, many enterprises operate their businesses or activities on a global scale. Thus, having experience working and collaborating with people from various cultures is another competitive advantage under your belt when applying for jobs. The chances of being sent overseas for your job assignments, of which the rewards and compensations are much more attractive, are usually higher too. Wittenborg also provides the opportunity for students to study other languages of their choice throughout their three- or four-year courses.
Multilingualism is also another desired trait favoured by employers. The ability to speak multiple languages, coupled by experiences in collaborating with diverse nationalities, will not only increase your confidence but also make you more understanding, matured and empathetic towards others. All these qualities are valuable for life in the international corporate world.
As Iranian student Bahareh Bahmanpour (MBA - International Management) says: “I really like the international environment and I find the diversity interesting. This is a great chance to compare your mindset with those from other cultures and countries. You will realise that the environment in which you live really shapes your personality and beliefs. Studying in an international environment is richer in value because you can learn how to adapt to the multi-culture environment in university before working in an international company.”
Ana Rodriguez (MBA – Hospitality Management) from Venezuela, adds: “I feel that studying in an international environment helps you to have a better understanding of people’s opinions due to their cultural differences. Having an international setting makes our classes more interesting as we have the opportunity to hear inputs from people of different nationalities. In addition, it gives us international exposure by exchanging ideas about business issues happening on a global scale. In short, international classes set the base for entering the global marketplace.”
Growth in Personality
Being in the midst of an international setting is not all a bed of roses. Different cultures bring different sets of behaviours and beliefs into the situation, even bad, anti-social ones. For example, some cultures may be very particular about punctuality and commitment, while others do not take it seriously. So how do you manage those bothersome little behaviors and bad habits? This is where the learning takes place. Learn to be patient and tolerant, no matter how annoying that bad habit or behavior is. Tolerance for variance in cultures and the failings of others nurtures emotive maturity and independence in you. It really builds up your character and personality and raises your righteousness as a person. Accept such human imperfections and blemishes with humility and deference. Remember that they do not grow up in the same social, political and economic background as you. There are bound to be differences in habits, behaviours, opinions and attitudes. Throw away that negativity and exude an air of forbearance and fortitude. We have to learn to be flexible and try to understand the other person. It is not an easy task but, with practice, it’ll get better. Ultimately, it’s you who will benefit from all these as only you can use your experiences in this situation to shape your own character, morale and personality.
MBA student Hanna Abdelwahab is a regular writer for our ‘Student Column’ for Wittenborg University News. This column is dedicated to various topics related to student life. Hanna is originally from Singapore but migrated to Egypt in 2011. She has a Bachelor of Accountancy Degree and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from Singapore, and at present is doing her MBA in Education Management.
by Hanna Abdelwahab
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