When you visit Darden’s website and click the ‘Why Darden MBA button’ you are presented with six main points. Out of these, ‘Diversity’ and ‘Global Perspective’ are both highlighted as chief benefits of the program. I wholeheartedly concur!
Looking back at my first year here, one of the most rewarding aspects of ‘The Darden Experience’ has definitely been the exposure to other cultures and nationalities. Whereas I have found myself in international environments before, I have never experienced the degree of cross-cultural interaction that I have at Darden.
While the sheer number of internationals (~30%) is part of the equation, I believe that the format of the Darden MBA is the main reason that this interaction works so well. In classrooms, the total dedication to the discussion based case-method ascertains, to the largest extent possible, that all voices are heard. It’s nothing short of awesome to learn some of the stories and opinions of your peers that have grown up in such different environments. Equally important, the diversity of our classmates combined with the intimacy of our learning teams leads to many good lessons in working in multicultural environments.
These lessons will serve many well in their future professional lives. I spent this summer in a very global management consulting company. During this period I had interactions with people of different nationalities many times every day. I don’t think my case is unique. It’s such a cliché by now but it remains true: Almost all of us will all work in a highly globalized context. While the companies we will work for may not be global, they are almost certain to rely on foreign customers, suppliers, etc. I believe that a prerequisite for long-term success in this environment is – at minimum – an understanding of and respect for different cultures, which the environment at Darden can provide for everybody here.
However, with all this said, I have personally found that the greatest benefit of this international environment is a social one. After our first year at Darden I now have great friends from every significant continent (sorry Antarctica). That’s terribly exciting! There are the obvious benefits, such as being able to visit all of your new peers in their respective countries, tasting their local food, etc. But there are also more intangible benefits. One of these is that meeting other cultures and traditions gives a great opportunity and ability to reflect upon your own culture. By comparing my culture to that of my peers, I have become much more aware of what parts of my culture that I appreciate and which I find more unfortunate. These insights lead to many new perspectives that are probably beneficial for everybody to gain.
A lot of this social networking is institutionalized in different student-led clubs. Regional clubs throw great parties and other events and in the International Business Society (IBS) we also have several events planned in the coming year as well. For instance, we hope that you will all join us for the International Food Festival on October 2nd. However, these institutionalized settings cannot make up for personal initiative. I therefore hope that everybody at Darden will continue to take advantage of this unique environment and make sure to form lasting friendships across cultures and nationalities. While it may require slightly more effort than networking with local peers, the benefits are too great to miss.
International Business Society