While international experience is not a requirement for admission into the top MBA programs, it will definitely help your application. Most MBA applicants have some sort of international experience -- either through travel or work -- so showing that you have international experience will help you stay competitive with other applicants. Travel and international work experience also provide great material for MBA essays.
If you are an international MBA applicant, it is even more important for you to demonstrate your international experience. The MBA admissions committee needs to make sure that you will be able to survive living in the US for the duration of your MBA program. International work experience will show the admissions committee that you are able to adjust to other cultures and work with a diverse group of classmates -- skills you'll need in order to attend business school in another country.
The first step in demonstrating your international experience is to take inventory of your experiences travelling abroad and working with people in other countries. Even if you've never worked outside of your home country, you may still have international work experience. Have you ever trained an employee who works overseas or collaborated with co-workers in another country? That counts as international experience. Look back on your work and personal experience to see how you have interacted with people from other countries.
If you find that you do not have any international experience, don't worry. Lack of international experience won't necessarily bar you from getting into an MBA program. You also have some options: using the MBA essay to explain your lack of international experience or travelling to get international experience. If you choose to go the essay route, explain how an MBA will help you gain the international experience you need to achieve your goals.
If you are interested in gaining more international experience through travelling abroad, try to go on a trip that involves volunteering or education instead of just sightseeing. This will make a stronger case to the admissions committee that you are globally-minded and able to work with people from other cultures. Here are some ways to gain more international experience:
- Continuting education study abroad programs. Just because you earned your undergradute degree doesn't mean that you still can't study abroad. Several universities, such as Berkeley and Cornell offer study abroad opportunities as part of their continuing education program or summer programs.
- International volunteering. International volunteer trips are a great way to gain experience working with people from other cultures, especially if you are paired with people from other countries. That way, you get to work with people from multiple cultures.
- Volunteering with a cross-cultural organization. If you don't have the time or money to volunteer abroad, you can choose a volunteer opportunity that allows you to work with people from another culture. Youth hostels (such as Hostelling International) and immigrant organizations are examples of cross-cultural organizations that take volunteers.
- International work opportunities in your home country. Although working in another country would be ideal, there may be a project at your company that would require you to learn about a foreign market. If you are considering switching jobs, you could also consider working at a company based outside of your home country, since it increases the likelihood of working with people from another country.
Once you have international experience, it's time to decide how to incorporate that experience into your MBA essays. The best place to start is to decide what message you want your essay to convey. Identify three or four accomplishments that convey your uniqueness and experience working with other cultures. Then, narrow that list down to the ones that will help you get into business school (for example, the most impressive and the one that makes the most sense for that particular school). Once you choose the one best international experience for your essay, focus on what the experience says about you instead of just listing all the things you did. Make sure you are able to show how that experience relates to your long-term goals. It will take a lot of brainstorming, but a more focused essay is more likely to get the attention of the MBA admissions committee.