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Fridays from the Frontline: Unlocking a World of Opportunities as an International MBA Student

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Today’s Fridays from the Frontline contribution comes to us from Prerana Manvi, a second-year student at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. A native of India, Manvi shares in detail her experiences as an international MBA student—including the many opportunities her time at Kenan-Flagler has afforded her.

For Manvi, success as an international MBA student has hinged on taking full advantage of in-class opportunities, extracurricular activities and real-world experience. Among other things, she has played an active role in student clubs, serving as vice president of international experience for the Consulting Club and president of the MBA Net Impact Club.

But the warm welcome she received from her Carolina classmates also contributed significantly. Read on for Manvi’s advice to prospective international MBA students on how to make the most of business school in the United States if you hail from another country.

This post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the Kenan-Flagler Full-Time MBA Blog.

Unlocking a World of Opportunities as an International MBA Student

By Prerana Manvi, MBA ’17

Every year, scores of international students enter U.S. business schools armed with rich experiences and valuable perspectives, combined with a tinge of anxiety and the hunger to succeed. As an international MBA student, I set out to understand how businesses function in different parts of the world and amass tools and skills that position me for success in a global business career. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, I got all of that—along with a close-knit Tar Heel family that warmly embraces diversity.

As vice president of international experience for UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Consulting Club, I work closely with international students to help them navigate recruiting and the maze that b-school can be. As a consultant with the Business Communication Center, I help students improve upon their verbal and non-verbal communication skills. While serving in these roles, I have noted some common struggles faced by international students—all of which can undoubtedly be overcome by unlocking key learning opportunities. UNC Kenan-Flagler’s academic curriculum lays the foundation for in-class learning, and the school presents a myriad of opportunities outside the classroom to help students learn, grow and thrive amidst the brightest minds from across the globe.

international MBA student
Manvi and her teammates pose with Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario.

In-Class Opportunities
To succeed as an international MBA student, it is essential to hone your strengths while being open to learning from new experiences and bridging skill gaps. In the first few weeks of my MBA program, I derived a lot of confidence from contributing to classroom discussions—particularly from the perspective of someone with firsthand knowledge of emerging economies. Conversations with American students in my study group and legacy fostered a healthy exchange of ideas, which helped me get a grip on cultural nuances. These learnings and observations primed me for every other opportunity that came my way, both within and outside of the business school.

Extracurricular Activities
UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA career clubs do an amazing job of preparing students to succeed in the workplace by facilitating learning and development sessions and competitions. The Consulting Club’s focused efforts toward international students helped me perform well in the First-Year MBA Case-Off and Deloitte Case Competition. These successes reinforced my confidence in my abilities to leverage past experiences, ideate and communicate effectively. Representing UNC at the finals of the Patagonia Case Competition remains one of my most cherished experiences. Being the only international student on the team, I jumped at the opportunity to conceive unconventional solutions by examining the problem through the lens of my own experiences living in India. By sharing my ideas and soliciting feedback, I learned immensely from my teammates.

Real-World Experience
Thanks to UNC, I benefited from a number of practical, real-world experiences while still in school.

international MBA student
Manvi and her classmates enjoying a Sunday dinner event.

Through UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise, I had the opportunity to collaborate with students from Duke and NC State on an initiative that helps local startup founders achieve B Corp status for their ventures. As part of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s STAR program, I consulted on a project for the North Carolina state government that provided recommendations to position the state as a hub for data science. By leveraging opportunities to work with CEOs and key government officials, I gained invaluable exposure to decision-making at the highest levels of organizations—thus accelerating my learning curve.

The Carolina Way
The UNC Kenan-Flagler community is truly one of a kind. My classmates didn’t just embrace me as an international student—they also embraced my culture and were always willing to help as I adjusted to life in the United States.

What makes the UNC Kenan-Flagler family so special is that it fosters a sense of inclusion. Our Sunday dinners—where American students and their families host international students—are a testament to this. At these dinners I not only had the chance to taste wonderful food and wine from around the world, but also to discuss things like pop culture, current events and hear various perspectives on them, which was very reminiscent of a sit-down meal at home. I have been deeply touched by the thoughtfulness of my friends who have hosted these dinners, as they respect that I am a vegetarian and always ensure there are dishes available for me to enjoy.

international MBA student
Manvi with UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni at Amazon.

Through these events, I’ve forged cherished friendships that began over conversations and recipe exchanges. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed embracing the quintessential Carolina spirit through social events like our weekly Carolina Casuals, annual Halloween Bash, backyard barbecues, game nights and of course, March Madness gatherings.

UNC’s fervent focus on community inspires me to give back while also paying it forward. The environment allows students to blossom into their best selves and has given me the opportunity to lead and be part of diverse, passionate teams.

At Carolina, I have experienced a strong sense of acceptance. The Tar Heel spirit emanates from every person that walks through the halls of the McColl Building and continues long after graduation, as evidenced by the UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni who welcomed me with open arms during my summer internship at Amazon.

My UNC Kenan-Flagler journey hasn’t just positioned me for success—it’s empowered me to carve out my own legacy at the school.