Thursday, October 16, 2014

Attending an International School

One of the things that attracted me to Hult was its international nature. This type of diversity is hard to find elsewhere. And yet, it's hard sometimes to remember that - are differences and issues a result of different cultures or just different personality types? But maybe that's just a result of living among habasha for 27 months.

Anyway, there are issues with a international schools - and being an American in an international school's American campus - that I hadn't considered. So I bring you the pros and cons of that. And be very aware that readjusting to America plays a part.


  • English, English, English. I always knew it was the international language, but I've never really seen the advantage of it like this before. In Ethiopia, it was a skill that people wanted me to teach them. Here, it's a skill that helps me read and understand course chapters faster than classmates. It means I spend less time on essays and don't get points off for grammar - a huge benefit when classes are graded on a curve. It means in English taught classes I don't have a think delay.
  • I'm suddenly super active in class, because of the English advantage, and that helps me stick out in the minds of both my professors and fellow students. I don't speak up more than I did during under grad, but it's just harder for my classmates to do it.
  • Meeting new, interesting people. I'm learning about different cultures and building a bigger, international network that will only help me in the long run.
    My Toolbox and Mod A team.
  • Teamwork. Complicated teamwork because we have such different experiences and different outlooks on life and situations. I doubt I'll ever work on such diverse teams again once I have my degree. I mean, right now each of us if from a different country and while I'm positive I'll work on international teams in the future I'm pretty sure there'll be at least another American.
  • As the sudden smart kid, I'm getting requests to help understand assignments and to proof read work. A little bit, I don't mind. But if I've never had a conversation with a person that's an issue. And sending me things late at night for an essay due the next morning? Also an issue. 11pm is my bed time. 
  • Being American, I'm supposed to be the expert on American culture, slang, definitions, tech and a bunch of other stuff. Most people know I spent the last two years under a rock, but they don't understand the readjustment I have to go through. Classmates expect me to know things, like up and coming startups or news events. But I only rejoined this world two months ago. I don't know these things. Heck, I walked by an IHOP the other day and thought I forgot those existed. Being asked if something is an American standard half then time throws me for a loop, cuz I honestly don't know. But people expect me to.
  • Like attracts like. I saw this very often in Ethiopia when all the ferengis hung out together. You are naturally drawn to those who have similar backgrounds and struggles. Here at Hult, you'll see people bond over similar cultures and noting aspects of theses reflected here. A bar has a German beer that reminds you of home, or a tapas bar does things right. People bond over similar languages and cultural activities. (Not to mention visa issues) Latin people hang together. Scandinavian people hang together. Americans? I've meet two other ones. And neither of them have a shared issue of readjusting to America. After all, I might have been away for a while but I'm still American and am not visually having an issue. Finding my tribe is really, really hard.
  • Clashes between cultures. I thought it was interesting we have students from Ukraine and Russia, as well as Palestine and Israel, but that's not where clashes really happen. It's between cultures that view time differently, or different work ethics, or view actions as having different motivations. From my perspective, such things are odd more than a real issue (so far anyway), like how my Chinese roommate is very particular about arranging beds. They can't face the doorway or a mirror, a bit hard when one wall is a mirrored door closet. But having experience with other cultures is a huge help here.

That being said, I'm super happy I'm here right now. Classes are interesting and practical, and of course a bit intimidating but I think that will all make me comfortable in my future job. If I had to do this over again, I'd still choose Hult, but I might have not gone so quickly from Peace Corps to grad school. Maybe travel a bit before heading back to the states, work at Target for a few months, and start at school a year after returning to America. I think I needed a bit more time to settle.