Four Tips for International Students Starting the MBA Program

Being a new MBA student can be challenging, especially for international students. International students must adapt to a new environment with a large number of demands and commitments, making the first few months quite challenging and intense. For students who are from Canada or who have been living in Canada, it is important to remember the large change many international students are experiencing and how much your friendliness and helpfulness are appreciated. As a second year international student myself, I have experienced many of the same feelings that you might be experiencing right now. I hope the following tips will be helpful for both international and domestic students and help make the transition into the MBA program successful and enjoyable!

  1. Embrace the New Culture in Canada

Moving to a different country can be challenging and uncomfortable. However, it is always interesting and exciting to experience different cultures by learning rituals, customs and exploring the country. That is why we chose to study abroad in Canada, isn’t it?

Keep an open mind to accepting the differences in Canadian culture and try your best to put your biases aside. There is no right or wrong when something conflicts with your culture. For example, it was difficult for me to get used to handshaking and hugging for the first few months. According to my culture, these actions are too intimate. After learning business etiquette by Canadian standards, I understood that a firm and proper handshake is a good way to present yourself in business settings.  On the other hand, a hug is a friendly expression with friends and family. Thus, I practiced these actions and they now come quite naturally to me.

It is important that you do not push yourself too hard. It takes a long time to really understand a culture in the context of its history, social relations, habits, and ways of life. As long as you are willing to accept the changes that come along with a new culture and take steps to get involved, your transition into Canadian culture will be much easier.

  1. Make Friends with Your Classmates Who Are from Different Countries

You are not the only one who may feel lonely, isolated and anxious in your new and unfamiliar surroundings. Talking with other students can help to relax your nerves, and you might also get tips on how to overcome the cultural differences. I made some good friends from many different countries during orientation, and their support really helped me! Since then, we hang out together and enjoy the festivals in Edmonton, try different types of food, and explore the life of people here. Even though I am living in a different country, the friends I have made this past year has made my time in Edmonton very enjoyable.

  1. Seek Advice from Local Students

The most effective way to explore a city is to start by talking with the locals. You could start by asking them what types of activities they enjoy in their spare time; what their favourite place for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, skiing is; and which festivals they recommend going to. To better understand Edmonton and the Canadian culture, I made friends with two students from Edmonton, and they helped me adapt to my new environment by introducing the Canadian culture, recommending local foods, sharing event and festival information, etc. They helped me to get out of my comfort zone, to be brave, and to discover the life here in Edmonton!

  1. Continue to Develop on your English Language Skills

English is a crucial asset for international students studying and working in North America. You will be required to complete a large amount of readings, participate in class discussions, presentations, assignments, team projects, and networking. Thus, strong verbal, written, and reading skills will help you in presenting the best version of yourself. “How do I improve my English?” is a frequently asked question. One of the things that I am doing to improve my English is seeking feedback from my peers by asking them to correct me if I make mistakes while speaking. Also, I like to have my teammates review my writing before we submit assignments. You will find that for presentations, you will typically rehearse as a group beforehand to help each other with grammar, words, structure, and pronunciation. Learning from mistakes is always helpful, so be open to this type of feedback!

Written by Miao Song