Through online education, international students can earn a U.S. graduate degree even while overseas.
With few, if any, on-campus travel or residency expenses, online students can continue working full-time jobs in their home countries. But before deciding to enroll in a U.S. online MBA program, prospective students should consider three factors.
1. Find out if a school attracts a diverse student body. As an international student, you will have a different cultural background from many of your online MBA classmates. This diversity can be desirable for schools, since it brings fresh ideas, sparks healthy debate and helps all students learn more about business in other countries.
[Discover what to expect from your online MBA classmates.]
During my own search, I looked for an almost entirely online program with faculty and students of various cultures. The school’s website or a student coordinator can tell you more about the demographics of the online MBA student body.
If school administrators and professors have previous experience working with international students, they may be familiar with your specific needs and learning styles.
In my online program, some professors assigned students to self-reflect on their cultural identities and differences – what they believe regarding how the learning process should work and how different cultural backgrounds affected the way students interacted in- and outside the classroom. At a minimum, I received a much better understanding of differences between my home country and U.S. business culture.
2. Research a program’s ties and opportunities with overseas universities. If you plan to conduct business in countries other than the U.S., you may want to learn more about various markets in different countries.
To gain exposure to other business practices, look for an online MBA that offers immersion classes, or courses in other countries, and has international faculty.
Immersion classes can help you meet students and professionals from other parts of the world and potentially reach out to new future business partners. International professors can also bring a different perspective to local business news that you can apply directly in your professional environment.
3. Embrace the experience and connect with peers. When exploring online MBA programs, try to get a feel for the types of assignments and advantages or disadvantages they might have for you as an international student.
For example, if a program is loaded with synchronous, or live, discussion boards, as an international student you need to prepare to engage with your classmates at odd hours, given your location.
[Discover the do’s, don’ts of online group work.]
There is also a chance that, as an international student, you may not be entirely comfortable writing or speaking in English in front of the class. It can be helpful to connect with other international online students and share and discuss similar experiences.
Through these conversations, you may find solutions, share tips or simply adjust and prepare for the challenges of online education. Unless you are in the inaugural cohort of a program, there will likely be other current international online students and alumni who share your background and from whom you can learn.
The takeaway: You can use and adapt your cultural background and experiences to your advantage while pursuing an online MBA, but research the diversity and online teaching styles of potential programs. Look for MBA programs that offer immersion courses in countries of interest, that can help you find your future employer or simply boost your career.