With a passion for travel and adventure, Chris Chang was the perfect candidate for the Joint Master of Global Entrepreneurship and Management Program (JMGEM) at the University of San Francisco. He was studying Business Administration as an undergraduate and could not decide which areas he wanted to specialize in.
The JMGEM program was the perfect solution for him. Through this program he would be able to further his studies while also having the chance to explore other countries. He was not only excited about the global setting in which he would further his academics, but also the two “totally unique and shockingly different cultures” this would allow him to encounter. He was aware of the fact that globalization was increasing and would continue to do so. This opportunity to explore global business was not one that he could pass up.
What is JMGEM?
Students spend four months each in Barcelona, Taipei, and San Francisco
Courses taught in English
Students learn skills in cross-cultural management with insight into the latest science and tech developments, gain a firm grasp of supply chain management and operations, and speak in person with venture capitalists
Offers access to three alumni networks
Program is accredited in three separate countries
Adjusting to Different Cultures in Business and Lifestyle
In each country, the students in the program studied region-specific material focused on business development and management. In Barcelona they learned business plan development and cross-cultural management. In Taipei they learned supply chain management and entrepreneurial financing. When they returned to the States and continued on at USF, they turned their focus more towards venture funding and action plans. “The opportunity to experience these subjects in the three totally different environments really gave me an edge in understanding the way culture directly affects business practices, globally.”
The lifestyle differences were not as straightforward as the academic subject material. Both were challenging in their own ways and adjusting to the different living styles in two foreign countries for four months at a time was definitely not a walk in the park.
From the teaching styles to language barriers, Chris experienced some pretty intense culture shock. In Barcelona, the classroom was very interactive. “We focused mainly on group work and presentations.” Then, after a short spurt back home in Hawaii, he flew off to Taiwan. The classroom culture was completely different from what he had experienced in Barcelona. It consisted mostly of lectures and individual testing. Switching so dramatically between classroom cultures required some hectic adjustments on the parts of the students, but they were all able to find their place in the new setting.
The switch in languages was difficult as well. “Unable to speak Spanish, Catalan, or Mandarin, I was often subdued to hand gestures and grunts. Over time, my cavemanesque attempts at communication improved and made life a little easier.” He found that he could get by in Spain by pointing to words on menus and signs. But upon arriving in Asia, he found himself surrounded by strange characters whose meanings were impossible to even guess. “At restaurants, I would be forced to walk around and point and gesture to other guests’ dishes which I thought looked appealing; this was my best form of communication with waiters and waitresses.”
How did he cope? Connections with people. While in those restaurants in Taipei, the other guests were always friendly and willing to help. They would try to lend a hand to the foreign parties who struggled with their food orders. “In each location, my key success factors always boiled down to the friendships I made with the locals along my journeys; these relationships clued me in on many unique happenings and events that I otherwise probably would have missed. I guess putting myself out there, with an open mind, made it easier to adapt and assimilate to the more extreme situations in each of the locations.”
Benefits of JMGEM
Chris feels that the program will leave him with a toolset filled with useful skills with which to navigate the working world. In regards to his personal interests, he is especially happy with the entrepreneurial focus of the program. “Mastering the nitty-gritty aspects of business foundation, such as entrepreneurial finance and business plan creation, has given me insight into the operational model of a functioning business.” Wanting to one day start his own business, he has found this incredibly helpful for setting the foundation he needs.
He is also expecting to be aligned with some exciting opportunities. Although he has no concrete plans for when the program finishes, he is already researching, applying, and getting ready for the interview process.
And there’s no way he could discount the traveling itself as one of the best aspects of the program. Having missed the opportunity to study abroad as an undergraduate, Chris felt nervous about entering the workforce without having traveled.
The JMGEM program planted him in Spain and Taipei. This meant that the opportunity to travel through Europe and Southeast Asia was open to him. He was not afraid to take advantage of that opportunity. Over the past eight months he has been to eight different countries. Each country lay its own unique cultural tapestry across his lap. “My palate has been challenged by hundreds of different foods and my ears have become exhausted with the multitude of languages I have heard.”
Advice for Students Interested in Global Business or Similar Programs
“Just do it!” is Nike’s motto for a reason. “The reservations you have will undoubtedly be trumped by the infinite amazing experiences and opportunities on the horizon.” Don’t let the fear of homesickness hold you back. “Culture-shock is a wonderful feeling. Just get lost and make friends.” With globalization increasing, the world is getting smaller and smaller. Experience abroad is a relevant and useful attribute to have.
Chris not only has advice for fellow global business students, but also a challenge: “I challenge those with doubts to step outside their comfort zones and to unleash that inner insatiable curiosity.”
He feels that travelling and studying abroad provided him with a unique point of view and a handful of extremely close friends, both of which will last him a lifetime.
Homework time! Still unsure whether you want to study abroad? Take some time to read Mary M. Dwyer, Ph.D and Courtney K. Peters’ article “The Benefits of Study Abroad.” Study abroad has always been a recommended part of a student’s career, but now the beneficial long-term effects are laid out in this study.
P.S. Have you participated in this program or a similar one? Tell us about your experiences. How did the program benefit you? What were its challenges?