Willamette MBA

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Hop on a Plane

Jungsu Kim (South Korea) and Tayseer Gherfal (Libya)

Hop on a plane.  Fly over 8000 miles.  Land in the US.

Hitch a ride to a city called Salem.  Enroll in a top ranked MBA program.

Now, call it life for the next 2 years.

This is the journey made by over 37% of the incoming class of 2012 at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University.  With over 20 countries other than the US represented, this year’s group of first-year students has the highest percentage of international students in program history.  As international business continues to grow rapidly, this multicultural and diverse mix of students has furthered opportunities in the program for networking, collaboration and global communications.

Adjusting to American culture, international students are discovering that Salem, Oregon, the location of Willamette’s MBA program, has a unique lifestyle and culture of its own.

Jenny Mai, a student from Vietnam, explains her initial surprise of Salem as a place where “there is no one on the streets after 8 o’clock at night…. It’s so quiet.”

Indeed, the small city vibe can throw off many out-of-towners; especially international students coming from heavily populated areas.  However, even with the less active scene in Salem, many international students describe their arrival in a positive light.

All the way from Afghanistan, Hamid Parwani says he was “surprised by how clean and green the environment was.”

The Northwest forests of Oregon present a foreign surrounding for other international students like  Bishrut Thapa, a first year student from Nepal. Describing his expectations of America, Thapa exclaims: “I thought it was all like New York City… with skyscrapers everywhere. I really didn’t expect there to be this much space.”

Manasi Gandhi (India)

Even with major cultural differences, most international students feel it has been easy to blend in with Americans on a social level.

As a new student from Bangladesh, Mohammid Anisur Rahman insists that there are “no cultural barriers – except the food.”

Other students have echoed this feeling of acceptance, including Manasi Gandhi, who says her biggest surprise was “that people are so friendly here” and getting along with people is simply “easy.”

Jungsu Kim from South Korea adds, “It’s so cool in America… when you meet an older person, you can say ‘what’s up’ to them… it’s less formal here.”

Even with the option to attend MBA programs in other countries, many international students prefer a degree from the United States. Shpatar Morina from Kosovo explains, “it’s generally thought that most of the top schools are in the U.S.” Given the reputation of high level accreditation and ranking amongst MBA programs, the Atkinson program is a popular choice for many international students.

The contrast between the easy living vibe of Salem and the hustle and bustle pace of a graduate level program provides international students with a unique experience.

Creating a true melting pot, the student body of the Willamette MBA program presents an environment where cultural learning and collaboration extends beyond U.S. borders.  Manasi of India encourages potential international students to apply to next year’s class with the assuring claim: “don’t be too anxious… people here are nice and accommodating.”  All you have to do is hop on a plane!

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