BSc International Management with Finance student Sanskruti shares her experience of studying abroad as part of her course.
I was the first girl in my family who was allowed to complete my studies, rather than sacrifice my ambitions - this trend is something I want to change. This disparity that exists between males and females in my country attracted me to learn more about how different organisations in different economies manage such differences. Choosing a year abroad in two culturally distinct countries was, therefore, a logical step forward in achieving my objective of understanding more about cultural disparity management in a business context.
Coming to Warwick University as an international student marked my first step in studying abroad. During my first year, I went on an exchange for six weeks in the summer to Cambodia through AIESEC (volunteering society at Warwick). I traveled alone, made a global family, and adapted to the Khmer style of living. By the end of the exchange, I was speaking their language. This journey made me realise that studying abroad would not merely expose me to numerous cultures, but will additionally provide me with prospects that will help me do something for society in the future.
I wanted to go to Singapore for the first semester of my year abroad to study, mainly because of its cultural vibrancy. One can only imagine how shocked I felt getting accepted to study in Singapore and later learning that it was canceled due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was disheartened, and in the heat of the moment was even considering changing my course to the BSc Management degree instead. However, I decided that I would wait and see if I had any alternative options.
The WBS CareersPlus team were great at supporting me during this uncertain time and advised me that I should still consider a year abroad experience in a different country. That’s when I learned about Switzerland. I love hiking in the mountains and being surrounded by snow, so I decided that I would like to study at the University of St. Gallen for my first semester. I was looking forward to the experience. Nonetheless, I was a bit concerned if I could still experience the openness of cultures in Singapore or not. Little did I realise, how academically and socially enriching this experience would be and how it would change the way I perceive the world.
In particular, my semester in Switzerland helped me achieve this through coursework with cross-cultural components. Being from India, I had orthodox thinking about transgenderism. Coming to the UK, my thoughts were challenged and I was able to learn more about LGBTQ. I remember reading about a student from my school in India (after this semester) who went through a gender transformation and the challenges they faced. In contrast to the adverse reaction I would have initially had, I had tears of happiness because I appreciated them for owning their true self.
Every weekend I traveled to a new place, met people in student rental hotels, went hiking with them, and by the end of it I had met over 15 different people from different nationalities and was living the best Swiss life. I still remember ordering my meal in German for the first time in my 10th week which I had learned by just interacting with the natives. Not having people around me all the time, pushed me to face my fears, climb more mountains, network with more people, and just accept myself for who I am.
I wanted to study at Bocconi University in Italy for my second semester as I would have had the opportunity to live in one of the most famous fashion hubs of the world…Milan. However, it was soon announced that the semester would happen virtually and I had to travel back to India in December 2020. At this point, on the one hand, my parents wanted me to repeat my year abroad next year and on the other hand, my friends said that I should just look for an alternative study placement. Despite this confusion, I decided to continue studying at Bocconi University as it would provide me an opportunity to live with my family for a while. Moreover, this would help me hone my learning agility skills which are essential in the global business environment. This virtual semester assisted me in becoming dynamic and provided me with a taste of living and studying in two countries at the same time.
At Bocconi University the Management Consulting course was truly inspiring. After spending hours discussing case studies with my classmates I soon realised that this was the industry that I want to work in, in the future. This was mainly because I really enjoy working with people and thinking about alternative strategies to approach a problem to find innovative and sustainable solutions.
Overall, my year abroad experience was a journey that enabled me to rediscover myself. Traveling by myself, adapting to a new study environment, exploring diversity both through my academic studies and personally, accepting myself just the way I am, and challenging my home culture are just some of the key highlights of my year abroad. My experience at Bocconi University igniting my interest in working in the management consulting industry, and my experience at the University of St. Gallen helped me realise that I want to work in an organisation where I can bring about a change mainly in terms of accepting and promoting diversity. Most importantly, I faced my biggest challenge and accepted myself which helped me realise what I want to do with my life by helping my home country develop.