Pavadee Burapapong came from Thailand to Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) in the UK to study for her MBA. Hans Koenig came from the US to study for his MBA at ESSEC in Paris. What do their unique professional and personal backgrounds bring to their studies in Europe and how have they found the cultural differences? We asked both students about their international journeys toward business leadership.
Unimy: Hi Pavadee and Hans! To start with, we wanted to know more about where you are each from and what your home culture is like. What values do you cherish and carry with you always in your work and studies?
Pavadee: I’m from Bangkok, Thailand. My home culture is typically Asian where people respect seniority and are not overly competitive. We value manners and friendliness.
I believe that everyone should be responsible within work and do things with integrity and politeness. I also believe that it is important to respect colleagues, clients, and others especially when you manage various parties simultaneously. Furthermore, you need to enjoy the challenges, connect with people, and learn to relax so that you can recharge your energy and be ready to fulfill your goals.
I also think that if you have earned enough, you should share with others or contribute to society.
Hans: I was born and raised in Yuma, Arizona. My family had lived in the US Midwest for generations before moving to Arizona. Like many Americans, past generations had immigrated to the US from Europe, particularly Germany, and Ireland.
Growing up in a border town, I was constantly exposed to a mixture of cultures and languages, particularly the Mexican culture and Spanish language. This exposure was the first step in my desire to see the world and experience different cultures.
My family raised us to be respectful, friendly, independent, and critical thinkers. We were taught to work hard and cooperatively, making sure to be inclusive to others and help out along the way. This translated to many areas of my life.
And what made you choose the business schools that you did? You both traveled a long way to find the right MBAs for you.
Pavadee: I chose AMBS because of the reputation of its MBA in the UK, its learning-by-doing approach, and an elective focusing on FinTech. The region itself, in addition to London, is strong in FinTech. For example, there is the annual Manchester conference organized by FinTech North - where everyone welcomed me.
A worldwide network of alumni is also important as it will assist you even after graduation. I also considered the duration of the MBA, as I prefer a program longer than one year because I wanted to make the most of my MBA and constantly improve myself to achieve my post-MBA goal.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like and how much I would regret it if I had not chosen to study for an MBA. I am already starting to miss my friends from the 12-month program and 15-month program as my MBA journey is about to end soon!
Pavadee attended a FinTech, Digital Banking, and Blockchain elective workshop, together with Full-time MBA and Global MBA students at the Singapore centre in November 2022.
Hans: For many years I had dreams both of moving to Europe and of completing my MBA. With COVID making big changes to the world and giving me extra time to do my research and study for the GMAT, I began looking for a program that fit my needs.
I liked the ESSEC Global MBA program structure, offerings, and location. I initially appreciated ESSEC's reputation, being well-ranked on multiple global rankings and having a strong reputation in Europe, particularly in France. When looking further into the program, I was excited about the variety of courses with concentrations on the digital future of business and the importance of sustainability. It offered several career services I did not see elsewhere, such as company visits, mixers, and international business trips. It was also in a city I felt I truly wanted to spend a portion of my life in - allowing me to live in the center of Paris.
From your individual perspectives, what is different about European business education compared to the other parts of the world you are familiar with?
Pavadee: Class discussion and group interaction are critical at AMBS and those drive creativity and knowledge sharing. It is important to learn from others - not only the professors but also your classmates and peers from more than 30 countries. We were taught to embrace diversity and give feedback so that we could grow through our team together.
In Asian culture, it’s totally different as you are not expected to be as proactive and confident. At AMBS, extracurricular activities are consistent throughout the year while lectures and internship applications are also demanding.
Pavadee and other MBA students at AMBS participated in a sports event among European MBA Schools called the MBA Tournament (MBAT) at HEC Paris campus in May 2022.
Hans: One of the biggest differences between my business school experience in France compared to what I see in the US is the structure and speed with which the programs are done. In the US, many full-time MBA programs are two years whereas in Europe, many are only one. This really increases the speed and sometimes the pressure felt as you work from class to class and project to project.
My classmates and I also had a bit more of an international focus during my MBA in Europe compared to my past experiences in the US. We all come from different parts of the world and shared a similar interest in learning about each other's cultures.
You both mentioned diversity and internationalism as being an instrumental part of your MBA education. Can you tell us more about those?
Pavadee: I wanted to explore a culture that is different from mine so that I can learn more from the cohort, especially in the MBA program where there are many people with a wide range of expertise and experience. I have literally gone out of my comfort zone and have grown a lot since I came to study and started expanding my network by attending industry conferences and events. I even participated in Venture Capital Investment Competition in 2022 and our team was selected to be one of the finalists.
Each person has their own background and culture but what makes it all possible is teamwork. The most important things are communication, open-mindedness, and inclusion because each of us has different motivations and our own priorities. Everyone should feel they are respected and comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. Sometimes we intended the same meaning and ended up discussing it for a while because of different wording.
Another challenge is working with people across different time zones. The toughest one was when I joined Singapore FinTech Festival 2022 and had to manage 3 projects at the same time while other teammates connect from different time zone. You need understanding and support to make progress and our hard work did pay off.
Hans: I feel after the MBA at ESSEC, I am more knowledgeable about both business and the world than I was before. ESSEC taught me the foundational items that one learns in business school, like strategy and finance, but it also taught me a lot about working across teams, industries, cultures, and languages. It helped me to polish many of my business skills, all while exposing me to industries and people I would never have had the chance to meet before the MBA.
As part of the ESSEC Global MBA program, Hans completed a 5-month internship with AFI KLM E&M's Innovation team. He supported the collaboration between the innovation teams along with multiple strategy and analytics projects.