Coming to The MM Program

Congratulations on choosing to study in the beautiful city of Vancouver! It’s a very clever choice especially if you’re from countries like South Africa, Dubai, India or the south part of China. You don’t have to worry about not being able to survive the winter, like you will have to in most Canadian cities. With its scenic views, mild climate and friendly people, Vancouver is known around the world as one of the best places to live. And you’ll be studying with some pretty awesome people in one of the best and most beautiful universities in the world. However, all these advantages will be too good to be true if you don’t prepare yourself for an intense program like the MM.

So, what can you prepare to make the best out of this program? The first thing and probably the most important thing is to think about your future. Where do you want to be in a year and what steps can you take in the program to get closer to this goal? With these values in mind you’ll be able to use the precious 9-months more effectively.

The next steps may sound easy but absolutely crucial for your study:

  • Make practical preparations, such as ensuring that your passport and visa will not expire while you’re in Canada and the information on your documents are accurate. You’ll be in big trouble if you don’t pay proper attention to these details.
  • Obtain necessary medical or dental check-ups before you leave for Canada. If you can, prepare enough medication for your period abroad or take a prescription from your doctor. You can’t study well if you aren’t healthy.
  • Have a realistic budget. Ensure you bring enough money to Vancouver for initial expenses!
  • I would also strongly recommend that all students go through the course outlines before the start of the program. And ensure you sign up for MM Prep! The prep courses will prepare you for the intense and demanding nature of the program.
  • Finding a good place to live might be really painful for international students. Luckily UBC has  resources for students to search for both on campus and off campus housing. Tips? Be aware of the time difference and the fact that you can’t meet the landlord in person. And never hesitate to ask for additional pictures of the place, or to request for a Skype house tour.
  • Be prepared for culture shock upon arrival (especially if you come from an Eastern culture). Don’t be surprised if you don’t know what the heck a “toque” is, and be open to different kinds of food even if you don’t fully understand the menu. Learn about the new culture you’re going to embrace before arrival and pack mementos from home that will comfort you when you’re feeling homesick.

Preparing for your studies is a small part of your experience studying abroad but it’s a lot of work. You’ll also have to deal with all kinds of logistical preparations before arrival like getting a credit card, signing up for a phone number, getting your UBCcard, updating your driver’s license, enrolling in Health Service, extending your study permit, getting a post graduate work permit…I can keep going and write a manual for all the items international students have to deal with.

But don’t worry as you have staff, faculty, alumni and your awesome classmates that will be ready to help. Never hesitate to ask questions, you’ll be surprised by how supportive everyone is.


An Engaging Classroom

It didn’t take me a long time to realize the huge difference between North American and Chinese classrooms.  Active learning is one of the most exciting features that can be both challenging and refreshing for international students.

Our marketing professor in the first period was excellent at creating an atmosphere of active engagement in the classroom. I remember back to the very first class when we were asked to speak a little bit about where we came from and what our first language was. I was shocked by the cultural and lingual diversity in the classroom (one of my classmate’s spoke 5 languages!).

The first case of active learning was the observation of consumer behavior at a local Starbucks store. The project required my team to observe how customers make their ordering decisions. Observations we made included:

  • As customers came into the store, what was their first reaction?
  • What did they order?
  • Who were they with?
  • What was the service and layout of the store?

Instead of telling us why Starbucks was so successful, the professor let us figure it all out by ourselves. Two surprising observations we made was how feminine the decoration in the store was and how many people came into the store to use the bathroom.  The key concept our instructor introduced in class was how to brand ourselves and how to position a product which provided us a new way of thinking about marketing and ourselves.

Of course, not all the instructors are this enthusiastic in class. To clarify, our professor for Business Strategy had great class engagement in a low-key way. I enjoyed his class because of the broad examples he used and the excellent analysis he illustrated. Further, comments from my classmates in his lectures were very well organized, clearly communicated and rich in content. An example was how he used case analysis to help us digest what we had learned in class. Further, he created a blog with different topics for students who were not comfortable expressing their opinions in class.

It has always been so enjoyable to listen to different comments and opinions in class (the creative and hilarious presentations don’t hurt either!). To close, the student-faculty interaction and active engagement in the MM program has truly enriched my academic experience.

Fun and Social

I still can’t believe I have been in this amazing city for almost half a year. It feels unreal! The past five months of the MM program have been super busy and we might need to push ourselves even harder for the remainder of the program. But, if you think the heavy work load or final exam pressure can stop us from having fun, you’re absolutely wrong!

Hanging out with my classmates is one of the biggest reasons why I like this program so much! The program gathers like-minded people with diverse backgrounds which makes the social life in Vancouver so incredible and diverse. For example, last week a group of us went to try some of the spiciest chicken wings on earth – so spicy that you need to sign a waiver before you’re allowed to eat them. What’s more, for someone who’s born and raised in a completely different culture, I never thought watching a hockey game in a bar with a bunch of friends would be so much fun!

We also participate in a wide range of special events outside of class. The faculty and my classmates strive to provide many networking opportunities to make friends and connections. For example, at our alumni mixer in November I received precious advice on careers, job hunting, interviewing and even tips for new-comers to Vancouver. Another special event was Trek Vancouver. Trek Vancouver was very useful for the class, especially for international students to get acquainted to local companies as well as Vancouver’s business culture.

Almost every Master of Management student likes a good quality social life to enhance the value of their learning experience. I don’t think many of my classmates would sit in a class think “Geez! this capitalization table is the coolest thing I’ve ever learned!”. However personally, my classmates are my greatest support in this program and I have learned just as much from them as what I’ve learned in class.

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