Travelling and experiencing living and studying abroad, in an unknown cultural, social and ethical environment, is a key feature of MBA courses worldwide. Whether this is achieved through campus rotation, exchange programmes, study trips or working seminars, the result is one - a wider horizon.

MBA programmes aim to educate highly-skilled professionals not just by providing them with top knowledge by world-renowned professors and lecturers but to train managers, who are capable of dealing with real-life issues, coping with unpredicted risks and solving unexpected problems.

A key asset to be gained during the MBA experience endeavour is particularly their real-life experience option offered by the programme. MBA students have the possibility to grab this opportunity and become members of the internationalised network of students by taking part either in an exchange programme, or by changing campus, or paying a working visit overseas in an emerging economy.

Study trips and working seminars

Many schools include in their MBA curriculum study trips and working seminars in developing countries within their MBA curriculum. Being at the heart of different business hubs spread across the globe – this is the philosophy of the study trips organised by the Belgium’s Vlerick Business School as part of its MBA and EMBA curricula. The school’s full-time MBA course includes a mandatory two-week international trip to China aimed at exploring the world of Chinese business on the ground.

The trip combines company visits, lectures and networking opportunities, preparing MBAs for the future role of the Chinese economy. Within its Executive MBA programme, the school holds one-week study trips in the BRICs region aimed at discovering different business hubs around the world. “The Brazil study tour was one of the highlightsof my MBA year. It was a fantasticopportunity toappreciate the real life operationalchallenges facing organisations inBrazil. I absolutelyrecommend joining aninternational study tour - it's a once in alifetime opportunity,”says Shirley Gilbey, MBA 2011 of Leeds University Business School.

Several continents, one MBA

Hult is one of the types of top business schools, which offer their students the flexibility to combine studying and travelling without changing their study programme. Through its campuses in Boston, Shanghai, London, San Francisco and Dubai the school offers its students the opportunity to see the world and examine international business practices close-up through studying in its campuses set up in the world’s fastest growing economies.

According to Hult’s Dean, Dr. Stephen Hodges, by offering the same curriculum at the school’s campuses, the educational experience is as similar as possible across all campuses. A one-year exchange programme can take quite a lot of time away from a student’s education because of the different university systems or the way the curriculum is set up. With campus rotation, students move between campuses without any disruption of classes, missing or duplicating a certain class.

Exchange programmes

This might not be the case with exchange programmes offered by most of the business schools. The MBA curriculum of one school could differ from that of another school. However, the exchange programmes are the most common practice of schools globally.

The exchange programmes might last for up to three months, or for up to six months, or for up to an year. They provide the invaluable opportunity to live in an international environment, to meet students whom you have not met before, to try a different educational experience.

For example, U.S. Duke’s Fuqua Business School offers its MBA students the opportunity to study overseas for a short, intense programme; for one term, one semester, or even during the summer break thanks to its exchange relationships with top business schools from in 27 countries around the world. Duke is a member of the Partnership in International Management (PIM) (, set up in 1973 by HEC, New York University and London Business School in an effort to overcome academic isolationism and multiple logistical obstacles to make student exchanges a reality.

Fellowship programmes

There is another option – different fellowship programmes that guide young business leaders along their way to boosting their leadership potential. Such a programme is that of the Emzingo group. Emzingo’s immersion programme combines group learning, reflective practice and personal coaching with a hands-on social impact project in an emerging country.

The fellowship programme aims to train leadership that is committed to social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and financial success. The programme uses a holistic approach which includes a learning-by-doing component and a leadership development curriculum. The participants in the programme are exposed to experiential learning through consulting for and learning from social impact projects in emerging markets.

“By being part of the Emzingo FellowshipProgramme participants are challenged tofigure out how to mosteffectively transfer classroom knowledgeinto the imperfect world of everyday life,and must adapt quickly in order to succeed.They get to experience the real issues thesocial organisations in developing communitiesare facing,” says Pablo Esteves, Emzingo Group director of strategic partnerships and marketing.

Over a period of six weeks the participants – called Emzingo Fellows – provide expert managerial assistance to social organisations – social entrepreneurs, non-profits and foundations in Johannesburg, South Africa and Lima, Peru – to help them build the long-term skills they need to work efficiently towards increasingly impacting their communities. Since the organisations’ priorities change over in time, the issues the fellows work on also change from programme to programme. In general, Emzingo fellows work on projects related to strategic impact, operational efficiency, and organisational effectiveness.

Through the work of the partner organisations, Emzingo and the fellows effectively address some of the most challenging poverty-related issues including: child education, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, sanitation, development of social enterprises, preservation of the environment, and the promotion of gender equality. By taking part in the programme, Emzingo fellows have the unique opportunity to experience foreign environments and cultures first-hand, while learning how to tackle problems with limited resources. They learn how to work in a different cultural context and bring back new models of stakeholder engagement and social impact. And because participants work in teams, they leverage knowledge and experience, foster valuable team and project management competencies, and develop a stronger sense of emotional intelligence.

There are certainly a number of inconveniences that might occur during a study trip or an exchange or fellowship programme particularly regarding additional requirements of the hosting country like visas, health insurance and a range of administrative obstacles. Despite all these, though, such programmes and trips make the study not just a sitting-in-a classroom experience where students study maths, finances and accounting. They widen horizons, expand networks, enrich life experience and help participants go beyond natural and artificial boundaries.