My Experience Coming to the Sauder MBA From Chile

New country, new language, new friends, new home. And the best is yet to come ...

I am one of five Chilean students who are studying in an exchange program between Sauder and the University of Chile. We belong to a singular MBA whose selection is based on diversity, meritocracy and excellence, where the focus is centred on globalization and the opportunities and challenges that this phenomenon has brought both the economy and society in general. Not only do we see it in the classroom, we also live it. Each student chooses a country and a university to spend half of the program, about 8 months, including USA, England, Australia, South Korea, China (Hong Kong) and, of course, Canada.

In my case, the decision was not easy. All countries represented an opportunity to experience another culture and learn from it; however, Canada represented a multicultural country, strong environmental awareness and a high quality of life.

While the final decision date neared, the University of British Columbia was closing an agreement with the University of Chile to make the first generation of students participate in the Full Time MBA at Sauder. There was nothing else to consider ... to Vancouver we go!

I remember the nervousness when the day to leave came. Say goodbye to my host family and close friends and go out of my comfort zone. I had a job that I loved with smart and kind co-workers and good job prospects. In fact, all of my life was going well and maybe I could have had a great life back home but I was looking for an experience to shake things up and something to inspire me to do more and challenge myself so I decided to venture to another country very different from my own where it would be a new country, new people, new language and new home. My last day in Chile was a mixture of fear and anxiety of what was to come. In the airport, all of those close to me were saying “Good luck!” and the last hug was from my mother who told me "I just hope you bring what you were looking for." And when I get tired or overwhelmed that sentence makes me echo ... what did I come for?

I got to Vancouver in early January and the first thing I saw was a beautiful view of the city below and amazing mountains that made me remember the mountains in Santiago. I thought “this is a good sign”. My first day was really difficult and I got a headache in the afternoon because my 5 senses were paying attention to classes, new faces and names (with their pronunciations), new surroundings and classrooms, the time difference in Chile and other countries where my family and friends are. Even now I have to deal with issues in ordering and sometimes receive something different because the employee didn't understand me. But I am not alone in this, all my Chilean classmates who have also come to Sauder have to deal with these things and we have been here to support each other. Not only the people in Vancouver, also the other chilean classmates around the world and I are continuously  talking about the new realities in our corresponding countries.

When you make the decision to undertake this kind of challenge you usually try to cover the maximum of variables: a stable country, interesting city to explore, an excellent university and a challenging school of business. But my experience here has been more than just being in a great country, listening to great teachers, enjoying excellent facilities and high demand learning, it has been a gift for me. It has been the opportunity to meet amazing and very diverse people who have shown me another reality, people who have shown me how to see the world differently, in a more inclusive and open manner that recognizes not only the value of the place where I was born but universal values. I can recognize the tolerance and respect when one partner takes the time to listen to me waiting until I find the words in English. The fellowship when a friend is worried because I have not found a place to live and help me find it. Empathy when someone invites you to share a beer only to know how life is going for you.

A brunch with some of the Sauder MBA ladies at Chambar restaurant

A brunch with some of the Sauder MBA ladies at Chambar restaurant

Undoubtedly, the level of classes and quality of the teachers are great but where I have learned the most is from my classmates. In each class I am glad to listen to the people from different areas or industries that share their perspectives about many subjects. Off campus, I have observed and learned many opinions and concerns from people in my class and it is very heartwarming to realize that they are all varied and similar at the same time. We already have a lot of stories of sharing beers, playing soccer or just laughing in the study rooms and the best is to come!

And when I eventually return to Chile, I'll tell my Mother "I bring a lot more than I imagined"

                                                                     A typical Sauder classroom

                                                                     A typical Sauder classroom

                               Exploring the campus

                               Exploring the campus

By Valentina Suárez Ortega