International & Full Time Orientation Q&A

Written by Miao Song

It has been nearly one year since I enrolled in the Alberta MBA.  It is still fresh in my mind as if it was just yesterday and I would like to share my experience at the MBA orientation.

For international students, orientation begins in the middle of August and lasts for two weeks.  It consists of two main parts: international orientation and full-time orientation.  It is intensive but very enjoyable.  By attending orientation, we were given the opportunity to learn more about the program and the MBA office, as well as meet our brilliant classmates who we get to explore life with together over the next few years here.  Most importantly, it grants us the opportunity to be well-prepared for the program.

What value did you get out of attending orientation?

The orientation provided me with perspectives on how to prepare for the MBA program and how to achieve success through the program in terms of language, culture, networking, and career path management. It was a big transition for me to study and work in Canada with a totally different culture. Facing the challenge, I was frustrated but excited. The orientation encouraged me to reflect on my past experiences, strengths and weaknesses, goals and how to accomplish my goals step by step.  I feel lucky that getting involved in orientation allowed me to have a good start here.

What activities took place during orientation?

For international orientation, the MBA office provided a series of classes to help international students know more about the Canadian culture and business communication in North America. We had professors from the communications field talk about what success looks like in business communication.  In addition, some international MBA alumni were invited to join us in small group discussions and give some advice on the culture shock we might experience in Canada.  Besides the above activities, the Career Management Center gave us guidance on business communication rules here in Canada (for example, coffee meeting invitations, thank-you emails, relationship maintenance), followed by a “Business Communications Simulation” with our alumni. All the activities above prepared international students to adjust to the culture, environment, and business world in Canada.

Full-time orientation, which included international students, contained three major parts: career management, personality types and working in teams, and leadership coaching. We had several sessions with the MBA Career Management Center on career development in different phases throughout the whole MBA program. The topics included building career, analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, telling our career stories, answering interview questions, job applications, introducing ourselves in networking, the Alberta labour market, and working efficiently with the MBA Career Management Center to achieve career success. The activities were varied from pair practice, group seminar, and team simulation. For the personality types and working in teams’ session, we were divided into teams of four to five people based on personality types by doing the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test, and these would be the teams we worked with for the following one semester. By doing some team building exercises, we understood the different behaviors of each personality type in our teams and how to deal with different types of people in order to work as a team and accomplish team goals. The third main part was leadership building, where we learned the practical concepts, theories and models of leadership in the business world. On the last day of the orientation, the MBA Association executive team and student group leaders introduced the student activities and answered inquiries from incoming students, which was followed by a sporting activity and BBQ together with all the first and second year students.

If you can, I would strongly recommend you to attend the orientation. You will start your MBA with a memorable experience.

What surprised you the most about orientation when I attended?

The MBA office’s attitude toward caring about the students left me with a deep impression. The orientation was well-organized with various activities and the MBA office kept seeking our feedback throughout the whole orientation. It makes me feel that I am not alone here. Instead, there are always advisors from the MBA program who will support me and help me succeed.

What was your favorite memory from orientation?

I would say getting to know classmates from different backgrounds was the most amazing experience. The Alberta MBA is quite well diversified, and the orientation provides a good chance for us to meet and get to know each other in an open and friendly atmosphere. During the orientation, I met the classmates whom I would study and work with for the next two years. Luckily, I made some good friends who would share the laughs and tears with me. Thus, orientation is a warming up to getting along with our peers. The natural bond that we formed in orientation will never fade away.

What advice would you have for an incoming student attending orientation?

Open your mind and be brave to embrace the new journey of starting the MBA. Going back to school after several years of work will be exciting and challenging. Thus, keeping an open mind and learning from different perspectives during the orientation will help you adapt to the new environment quickly and smoothly. Additionally, being brave enough to accept new challenges is always a positive way to build up confidence and reduce the feeling of setbacks. The MBA opens a new door leading to the future life. Let us enjoy the journey and make these two years meaningful and fruitful.