By Clarence Lewis

Hai Yan Dendy (left in above photo) and Meaghan Patrick (right) serve as Global Programs Managers for Darden’s Center for Global Initiatives (CGI), managing Darden’s portfolio of global academic opportunities for full-time residential MBA students including Global Immersion Courses, Global Topics Courses, Global Client Courses and the Exchange Program. The core mission of their role is to prepare and enable Darden’s full-time MBA students to engage in global academic offerings in pursuit of CGI’s vision to bridge Darden and the world.

Hai Yan and Meaghan took a few minutes to share their own global experiences and advice for student travelers in advance of the January Darden Worldwide Courses to Dubai & Bahrain, India and Australia, departing in just a few weeks!

What prompted you to work in international education? What were your previous experiences with different cultural backgrounds, if any?

Hai Yan: I was born in China and grew up there for a portion of my childhood before moving to the U.S., so I am from a different cultural background than the one in which I currently live. During undergrad, I studied abroad in Germany twice over two different summer programs and loved my experiences there. Those opportunities taught me the importance of being able to engage, adapt and lead in diverse environments. This is what inspired me to pursue a career in international education.

Meaghan: In high school, I traveled to China and that experience was exciting, challenging and different from anything I had done before. I knew that in college, I wanted to pursue experiential learning opportunities in an international setting. There, I participated on an alternative spring break program in Costa Rica, studied and interned in Senegal, and sailed on a voyage with Semester at Sea, visiting ports in Europe, Africa and South America.  After graduating, I worked for an educational travel provider, and in my last role I partnered with universities from around the country to develop custom international programs that align with their curriculum goals. I managed education abroad programs for undergraduate and graduate groups alike to nearly thirty countries around the world and accompanied student groups in Asia and the Middle East.

What impact do you believe international experiential learning has on students, and how has your role as Global Programs Manager changed or reinforced your beliefs?

Meaghan: Working as a Global Programs Manager reinforces my views that international education is essential for the next generation of business leaders. In this role, I work closely with faculty and students and I can see firsthand how these courses positively impact the student experience. International experiential learning pushes people out of their comfort zones. Sometimes this requires you to think on your feet, go with the flow or accept things that might be out of your control. You have to navigate places, cultures and language barriers that might be new to you. This can be fun and exciting, but this can also be challenging. I think these experiences can help prepare students to confront the challenges they will face in the business world with creative solutions.

In your view, how does globalization affect international education and business around the world?

Hai Yan: Globalization leads to an incredibly interconnected world. It is more crucial than ever before for business leaders to navigate diverse teams in diverse settings. I believe globalization fueled the development of the international education field in higher education, as institutions recognized the need to provide global academic programs that would add value to students’ education and train them to work in different environments. As a result, universities send more globally minded graduates into the workforce all around the world.

What are the various global academic opportunities at Darden and how are they different?

Meaghan: The Darden Worldwide Course portfolio encompasses a variety of global academic courses each geared to prepare the student to work more constructively in new business settings. The DWC portfolio includes Global Immersion Courses, Global Topics Courses, Global Client Courses and the Exchange Program.

Global Immersion Courses are 8-day courses that explore business through the lens of a new culture and embody the themes of that course through those new experiences. This course enables students to acquire a first-person perspective of business and culture in a new environment. Global Topics Courses run similarly to Global Immersion Courses, but focus on a particular theme or topic that is better understood in the context of the destination. Examples of course themes include leadership lessons from the WWII campaign in Normandy and the business of conservation in South Africa.

Global Client Courses involve a global experience through a partnership with an external partner, available to students through Kaizen Projects and Global Consulting Projects. Kaizen Projects allows first year students to work directly on a current challenge with one of Darden’s client partnerships. Global Consulting Projects allows second year students, usually a team of about two to four people, to work on a current challenge with a client around the world.

The Exchange Program allows students to study abroad at one of Darden’s many partner business schools around the world and complete courses for credit at those institutions. These are fully immersive programs for one or two quarters that allow Darden students to experience education in an international setting.

What are your hopes (and tips!) for students who participate in Darden’s global experiences?

Hai Yan: We work closely with faculty and various travel vendors and in-country partners to develop intentional programs that we feel would add value to students’ education and professional practice. During the program, I hope students remain open-minded and flexible to the experiences they encounter. After the program, I hope students take away lessons that enable them to be more thoughtful and critical in the way they approach complex issues. Tips I have for anyone traveling anywhere in the world are to go with the flow, try something new at least once (such as eating food you would normally not consume), make new friends and stay adaptable.

Meaghan: I hope that the global experiences here at Darden teach students to be flexible and open-minded business leaders that are prepared to take on diverse and complex global challenges in creative ways. One suggestion I have for students traveling on a DWC is to keep a small journal to jot down ideas as they arise or things they don’t want to forget. Later on, students might reflect on a business model they learned in Africa, a brand strategy from the Middle East, or even an encounter they had with someone while they were out and about. You never know what experience might inspire you personally or professionally.