Many international MBA applicants are so engrossed in cracking the MBA admissions process, they fail to do enough research into what awaits them after they get the good news from the admissions team.
We reached out to our old friend, Vijay Allen Raj, who completed his MBA from one of the best MBA in Marketing programs in the world on a scholarship. After graduating from Kelley Business School (Indiana University) he worked in USA with a Big 4 consulting firm.
Vijay had written earlier on his application journey that got him into Kelley. He’s back to fill us up on what happened since then.
Indian student life in USA | International MBA experience
by Vijay Allen Raj
I had previously written about my GMAT and school selection experiences. Having graduated from one of the top Marketing programs in the United States, I am following up with my experience in an international MBA.
Before the MBA starts:
1. After getting an admit, one has to choose schools to go to. Refer to this article here to read more about how I chose schools – How I got into Kelley MBA with a scholarship.
2. Financial Preparation:
This one is subjective and depends on what your savings look like, what scholarship package you got, what the tuition fee is, which city you are moving to and what your expenses look like every month.
It is usually prudent to budget about $25,000 to $30,000 a year for your expenses during your MBA Program.
3. Student F1 Visa Application
It is usually prudent to apply for schools either in the first or second rounds. That way you would have time to sort out financials, get the I20 documents on time and apply for the student visa, as well as plan your travel.
Additionally, you would have to work out your accommodation needs, by reaching out to apartments and signing the leasing agreements. Try to figure out who you would be staying with while you are here in India. Facebook and other groups are best for this, as the friendships you make here, would help you get situated comfortably.
I met with my friend in Bangalore and we signed the lease agreement from here. We planned travel on the same day, in the same flight and landed at the same time. That way we could split our ride to Bloomington and move in on the first day at the new apartment.
5. Clothing, purchases, packing
You would need at least two business suits that you may need to pack. Additionally, you may want to do your clothing purchases in India, as good clothing is expensive here (A half decent suit for example will cost you $300 at Macy’s after discount).
Do not buy winter clothing, plenty of pairs of shoes etc., All of that can be bought here in the US for much cheaper rates and much better quality than you can find in India.
On arrival in the U.S.
Try to work out how you are travelling to the final destination – cab ride, train etc. You may want to work this out with your flat mate, if you have made arrangements with someone from here.
Keep documents handy as the first major city you land in, in the US, would be your port of entry where you would need to get your I94 (authorization of stay).
This one is important. When you get here to the US, an option (which is what I did), is to go to Target or Walmart and buy cheap utensils. You will get a complete set, including plates, bowls, coffee cups etc for under $100.
You may however, choose to bring basic utensils with you, if that helps. I personally hate luggage and therefore did not.
If you have food restrictions, its usually prudent to try bring small quantities of homemade snacks you can rely on. Make sure to vacuum pack these.
However, do not bring pickles, spices (like cumin seeds, cinnamon etc) in your baggage. Those will be confiscated at the airport and its illegal to import those into the US. All of that can be bought here at the Indian store.
You literally will miss nothing from India, contrary to popular belief.
Now that you have successfully got an admit and made preparations to leave for the international MBA, here are some of my insights from my experiences at business school:
The First Week in the MBA Classroom
The first week is always the hardest. You have orientation, career development activities, networking events, course overviews, class photographs, legal obligations etc., Here are some of my experiences during the first week:
Career development activities
Career development activities were called Me Inc., at Kelley. We were asked to review our resumes, review our interview stories and instructed on networking. Networking is extremely important in an international MBA especially in the United States.
85% of companies in the United States will not recruit international students.
Therefore, in order to find roles and companies its important to develop relationships that could pay off in the future.
Here is a link to – companies that are likely to sponsor H1B for international students.
Informal, practice networking events in the form of round tables helped me a lot. It gave me an opportunity to meet Kelley alums, learn about their experiences and form an idea as to what companies and roles might work well for me.
Additionally, this is a good way to develop relationships as most of the jobs in the US, are filled through referrals.
Another thing to note is networking is always the hardest part for international students, especially for Indians, as we do not have a culture of networking in India. This was probably the one thing that I wasn’t quite prepared for.
The first week workload was brutal. Class sessions, networking events, an initial case competition took nearly 12 to 13 hours.
Make sure to arrive at least 2 weeks prior, so that you aren’t plagued by jet lag and other move-in activities, as you wont have much time to pay attention to anything else.
Understanding American culture
This one takes time depending on how much of exposure you have had. Each region and state has a different culture (the west and the east tend to be more liberal, whereas the south and the mid-west tend to be more conservative) and accordingly you might find it easier or difficult to adapt.
Make use of events at school that students organize – such as D-bars, to get to know your colleagues and make friends. Also, Americans generally tend to speak about American sports – Basketball, football and baseball in social situations, so the more you know about those things, the more you will be able to connect with them.
Academics and Extra curricular
You would generally have an academic counselor who will help you with course selection. Be sure to work with career counselors and academic counselors to understand what specialization you would like to focus on Here are a few of my experiences:
Class structure and participation
Business school tends to be case and lecture based. This means that you may need to prepare business cases and then discuss this in class.
One of the things you need to be prepared for is class participation. You will be expected to speak and you will be graded on it. And you will be graded on the quality of your comments.
Many Indian students find it very difficult to speak up in class, as it tends to be a foreign environment. Its important to be aware that it is a safe environment and it is okay to make mistakes. Class participation also plays a part in building your confidence.
This one is very important. You will have regular assignments, tests and case preparation requirements. Its important to pre-read and this is time consuming. You would have to spend at least 4 to 6 hours everyday pre-reading for your classes the next day.
Additionally you would have regular networking events that you need to balance along with your academics.
MBA Student Clubs
You may want to join some student clubs. This really depends on business school. Kelley’s student clubs weren’t that active. But these clubs conduct conferences, speaker series, networking events etc.
Additionally the culture clubs will frequently organize Diwali, Holi and other parties that you may be interested in. If there is a club for partners, and if you are married or have a partner, it might be a good way to get your significant other introduced to your friends at business school or their partners.
I personally stuck just with the marketing, consulting and high tech clubs. At the high tech club, we organized a tech trek, to the west coast and organized networking events with companies there such as Ebay, NetApp etc., This really helped some of my colleagues get a job in the tech industry. Also read Student Clubs at B-Schools – How they help your future
If you remember nothing else, just keep the following basic tips in mind.
5 Tips for international students to cope with business school
1. Be financially prepared
Business school is a big investment that comes with a lot of risk. If you have a Graduate Assistantship, and if you require more money, work with your school to extend the hours (upto a maximum of 20 per week). Mine did and I got more money that way (my GA was for 12 hours a week).
2. Make sure to network and develop relationships.
Spend your first year on academics and your second year on recruiting/networking. Make use of career services as well as alumni for this.
3. Be sure to front load your courses
Take as many courses as you can in the first year so that you can get required credits by March (and not May when you graduate). This will help you apply for the work visa in the Masters Quota (so you have 2 chances at the lottery).
4. Participate in class.
And prepare for class the previous day.
5. Try to develop relationships
Build bonds with your classmates, through events at school, student clubs and other social events.
Most of all, enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience!
– MBA at Kelley with 700 GMAT for retail banker
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– What every Indian student must do before going abroad (USA, UK, Canada)
– 50 Study abroad tips to make the most of your education
– Number of Indian students in USA statistics