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MBA Abroad: Biggest Challenges Faced by Indian Students

There could be many reasons why you’re reading a blog about the challenges faced by Indian students at an international MBA program. But the two main ones, that most of are likely to have, would be:

1. You’re considering an MBA and wonder whether an international MBA is worth it or not.

2. You’ve been accepted to both an international and an Indian business school and are wondering which one you should go for.

In either case, knowing what challenges lie ahead of you, if you choose to go for an MBA abroad, is going to hugely impact your decision.

Which is why we won’t just be talking about why an international MBA is great, or what challenges you might face during it. We will also be looking at the first-hand experience of an MBA grad from Emory Goizueta.

Joseph, our very first MBA applicant, got accepted to Emory Goizueta after having worked 4 years as a Chartered Accountant. In an interview with us recently, he opened up about how an international MBA changed his career trajectory for the positive, and the challenges he had to overcome as an Indian student.

Why should you choose an International MBA?

If you are sitting on the fence about whether an international MBA would be of use to you or not, there are a few things you should be focusing on.

Ask yourself, do you want a career in India, or do you want to have a global career?

If the answer is a global career, then an international MBA is the quickest most direct route. However, let’s be clear about a few things.

1. International firms recruit from top Indian Business Schools as well.

2. Top Indian business schools have exchange programs that allow students to get international exposure.

However, Indian business schools might still not be able to give you a global career. Here’s why.

Gives a global perspective

Top business schools around the globe have upwards of 30% of international students in their MBA class every year.

These students arrive from all across the globe. Some schools have MBA students from over 70 countries as well. The kind of diversity an MBA student at a top international business school witnesses is unmatched by business schools in India.

Explaining how an international MBA helped him, Joseph said, “You get to experience the world. You don’t just talk to people for an hour, you see them every day for the next two years and become friends with them. You truly get a global view.”

“I remember coming off the plane and going to my room and then a few days later was when the first day of orientation was for the MBA program. Meeting all the classmates coming from all around the world, that was just a phenomenal experience. The first semester of the MBA program, I don’t think I have had a learning curve as steep as that in my life. You just meet people from all around the world. I had classmates from Australia, Korea, Japan. You name it, countries from all around the world, people were down there. Some people were from the military. People had done a wide range of work coming from a wide range of countries. And you get to talk to them and work with them in small groups. That learning experience was something which you’d never have,” he added.

Helps create a strong Network

Two of the biggest and most recognizable names in business are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Opposed to what might think, their friendship did not bud from a business deal. They met at one of Gates’ mother’s soirees but bonded playing bridge online. Gates’ mother, Mary Maxwell Gates, had arranged many such soirees using her network, to connect her son with the right people.

Their friendship, over time, led to Buffet donating over 2.9 Billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and pledging a big chunk of his life earning to the same.

If you ever doubted the value of creating an amazing and strong network of people, Mary Gates is just one of many examples you can find that drive the point home.

Business school is all about creating lasting networks with students, alumni, faculty, and guest lecturers, whether in India or abroad.

The biggest advantage of studying at an international business school, however, is the strong Network you get to create across the globe without having been to every country you have a network in.

International business schools bring like-minded people from all cultures, ethnicities, and geographical locations, together and provide them with the opportunity to create strong networks throughout the MBA program.

Real-world Business experience

International business schools are big on learning through experience. From the famous Harvard Case Study Method to Kellogg SOM’s Experiential Learning Labs, international schools ensure that the students hit the ground running when they graduate.

These programs give students real-world business experience by exposing themes to existing challenges that industry leaders face.

Creates global leadership skills

Our applicant Joseph says that an international MBA helps you gain leadership skills while working in a global business environment in the future.

Leadership styles need to change as geographical and cultural boundaries change. Thus, the leadership style that might work wonders in India, might not provide the same type of results in another country. As students work with diverse classmates and faculty, they are exposed to how leadership expectations and styles vary globally.

Challenges faced by Indian students during an MBA abroad?

Although an International MBA comes with a lot of perks, it has it’s own set of challenges too, especially for the Indian MBA applicant.

  • The MBA Application

It might not be fair to use a single point for the MBA application challenge that Indian MBA applicants face. The various parts of the MBA application, be it the MBA essays, the MBA Resume, or the Letters of Recommendation, are a concept that a lot of MBA applicants get familiar with for the first time during their MBA journey.

India’s education system doesn’t prepare them to write authentic answers to MBA essay questions like Stanford GSB’s, “What matters most to you and why?”.

The biggest issue arises when even familiar concepts like resumes and letters of recommendation require a completely different approach to create an exceptional MBA application. But there is a solution – You can reach out to experienced MBA Consultants who can help you with this journey.

  • Networking & Recruitment

Ahh, the Achilles’ heel of many MBA applicants and MBA students. Networking!

Talking about networking, Joseph says, “I think it’s a big challenge for Indian students because we are always brought up in the mindset that you crack the test and that’s how you go forward. But that’s not it. Then there is the next stage of how you communicate and we tend to ignore the soft-skill part of it and that’s very important when you come in an international global setting.”

Networking is a skill that is crucial for MBA applicants and MBA students alike.

During MBA applications, the essay question ‘Why this school?’ requires students to really learn how they fit with their target business school. To answer this question and understand their fit with the school and it’s community, students need more information than just the internet provides. They need to learn about the school’s programs and community on a personal level through the first-hand experience of current students, alumni, or faculty.

Once they are accepted to their target school, the process of recruitment gets started almost instantly. The Career Centers at most top business schools start networking activities in the first semester. These activities provide students with the opportunity to mingle with prospective recruiters in the form of representatives of firms or the school’s alumni.

Networking for MBAs, however, is not a one-and-done thing. It is a lifelong connection that they learn to build and maintain throughout their business school education. Thus, networking can be a really helpful tool to get accepted to your dream business school as well as get your dream job post-MBA.

  • Cultural shock

One of the most neglected factors while applying to business schools has to be a cultural shock.

Students get so overwhelmed by all the struggles of creating an amazing MBA application or getting a great GMAT score that the cultural shock doesn’t even cross their mind initially. Once they get accepted to their dream school, the focus shifts onto getting visa clearances and funding their MBA.

Once those formalities are complete, the student starts planning their accommodation. By the time they get out of this cycle, they are already on the flight to their business school. Here’s how India’s culture compares to the US.

This leaves the applicant to encounter the reality of cultural differences as they start their MBA classes.

Since business schools become a melting pot of cultures due to their focus on diversity, a lot of students are able to quickly adapt to the changing environment. However, the business school isn’t the only place that students might encounter cultural shock.

Every country has different business etiquette. This evolves into changed expectations from people in the same roles. As explained earlier, business schools do an amazing job of creating awareness for the same amongst students.

Similarly, social etiquette also changes as we move across borders. Thus, taking a few steps before moving to the country your business school is located in, can be truly helpful.

      • Learn the language of the country:

You might not be able to learn French in a month or two, but you can learn a few necessary phrases. For students who choose to go to schools such as HEC Paris or INSEAD’s Fontainebleau campus, learning the language is crucial.

      • Get involved with the community:

The effect of cultural shock isn’t simply frustration, it can also lead to boredom. Although an MBA won’t leave you much time to be bored, being involved in your college community would help you fill any time gaps you might have and also create more networking opportunities.

      • Learn about your city:

Before you reach your host city to study for the next year or two, research good spots in the city. Making yourself familiar with the city will help you feel safe and will come in handy whenever you need a quick bite, have an amazing study session outside of your dorm, or just let loose for a while.

It is difficult to move out of your comfort zone and moving to a new country surely qualifies as that. However, if you just put in a little bit of prep, your stay in your host country can be amazing as you get your MBA education.

In addition, most business schools acknowledge international students’ challenges and have various resources for the same. Just ensure that you utilize these resources to their full extent to optimize your MBA journey.

Read Also:

How to Get Top MBA Scholarships Despite a Low GMAT Score



For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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