What Has Impressed Us? Let’s Hear From International Students!

On the morning of August 4, 2018, I jumped into a host’s car to start my journey in Columbus. With jazz music playing on the radio, I was attracted to what I call “new antique-style” buildings—those with a rusty, red-brick color. A short time later I asked my host, “When will we arrive at the Ohio State campus?” She responded, “Oh, we’re already here.” We had already been driving around campus for a number of minutes! I was impressed by the expansive campus, specifically because university campuses in my country are much, much smaller. I could not believe that I was joining a campus 238 times larger than my former one!

My name is Ting Fan Chang, and I am from Taiwan. I previously studied Public Health at Taipei Medical University, and I am currently pursuing an MBA degree at the Fisher College of Business. Fisher definitely delivers when it comes to resource availability. Specifically, I have only been here for six weeks and I have already attended several key events, such as the Fisher Fall Career Fair, the Fisher Graduate Student Career Fair, a variety of company information sessions, and many others. Fisher students have many opportunities to build connections with company recruiters and gain detailed information on full-time job and internship opportunities. More importantly, at Fisher, students are able to utilize the Office of Career Management for insightful, one-on-one sessions with the Office’s many career consultants. The OCM team gives customized advice corresponding to each student’s particular background and interests.

To gain some other perspectives, I interviewed other first-year international students at Fisher to learn about their stories, and what they’ve experienced in the last couple months at Fisher, OSU, and throughout Columbus. Here is what they had to say:

Sai Chandra Pujita Vazrala — Guntur, India

Q: What is your impression of the Fisher MBA classroom setting?

A: Fisher MBA classrooms are interactive and relaxed – different from the more formal setting back in my home country. Students are encouraged to contribute to discussions and meaningfully challenge each other’s viewpoints. Overall, an engaging and dynamic classroom environment!

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being a part of the Fisher MBA program?

A: I truly believe that the biggest advantage of being a part of the Fisher MBA program is its diversity! We are exposed to a great blend of not only cultural diversity, but also professional diversity, in an intimate setting. I hope to learn more about the intricacies of what makes us the professionals and individuals that we are, while building a lasting network for years to come!


Fahd Jehangir Lahore, Pakistan

Q: What do you think is the biggest advantage of the Fisher MBA program?

A: The faculty and Office of Career Management staff are extremely approachable, helpful and dedicated. You feel lucky to be part of the FTMBA batch by the sheer level of resources dedicated to your success.

Q: What do people do for fun in Columbus?

A: It all depends on what you want to do. If you’re a sports lover, it takes almost no time to plan a pickup game of soccer, basketball, volleyball, what have you, within the class. If you’re interested in nightlife, there are tons of domestic students who will not only guide you to the best spots in town, but also invite you to join in!

Q: What is your most impressive experience since arriving at OSU?

A: Within one month of arriving at OSU, I was hosted by more than five domestic students, and many more international students. I’ve made many new friends and gotten to know almost everyone in my MBA class. Yet everyday someone’s new experiences are shared in class. The level of diversity and intellect accumulated within the MBA group is fascinating!


Chih Chien (Jeff) Chiu Tainan, Taiwan

Q: What is your most impressive experience since arriving at OSU?

A: Comprehensive career services at Fisher amaze me because they personalize their support and allow us to leverage the power of such a large university. Compared to business schools in my home country, Fisher provides more customized career consultants, broad alumni networking, recruiting events, and career workshops. All of these resources along with solid technical training help us effectively stand out among others.


Rattaporn Puikaew Bangkok, Thailand

Q: What do you like to do for fun in Columbus?

A: Classes are wonderful, but we know, spending time outside with super cool, new friends is way more enjoyable! There are copious interesting places to explore near OSU’s campus: cool bars in Short North, the vintage-style book loft in German Village, and many more fun activities always going on. Most importantly, the Buckeye football games are huge! To be honest, the first game of the season was my ‘Football 101’ experience. I’m not a big sports fan, but time will be well spent cheering on the team and watching with friends! (Warning: remember to buy tickets for the whole season – it’s a must!) If you’re not a big sports fan like me, Friday nights with friends are another way to get together and let loose! To me, hanging out with friends is the fastest and easiest way to get to know each other. (Hint: the best moments are ones we all share!)

 

 

Getting Oriented

Meeting new people can be intimidating. Even for folks who have committed their careers to working directly with people every day as Human Resource professionals.

So how do you help 40+ strangers get acquainted with each other and become comfortable working together?

You bus them out to the woods and facilitate as they solve a series of challenges and push themselves out of their comfort zones. That’s right…

My group rocking our safety gear!

We did a ROPES COURSE!!

Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of a good ropes courses. I was part of a scholarship program in undergrad and we did one every year to welcome in the new scholarship recipients while reestablishing communication and teamwork amongst the older members. It was something I looked forward to every year!

Shannon Hynes and I REALLY                 leaning into the challenge!

 

Likewise, this time around with Fisher did not disappoint. Not only did the ropes course help us get to know a few things about each other (from our names to a sneak peek at our leadership styles), it also gave us the chance to begin creating bonds based on a shared experience that was both mentality and physically challenging. 

We also had the opportunity to debrief with the course facilitators to gain their “behind the scenes” perspective on the course and how it can be utilized to mitigate some of the difficult issues that arise in a workplace environment. From an HR perspective, it was exciting to see how something as unconventional as a ropes course could be the key to solving problems such as a lack of effective communication and conflict within a team.

I won’t spoil the all of the lessons for you should you end up completing a course yourself, but I will say that I left this experience with an even greater respect for—and trust in—my MHRM cohort.

It also reminded me how important it is to accept assistance from each other, be vulnerable, and lean into feeling uncomfortable at times. We are in this together and I can not wait to see what the future holds!

 

Reaching Outside the Comfort Zone

First, let me share some background on myself to give you some context for this post: I am originally from Upper Arlington, Ohio—less than 5 minutes from OSU campus. I attended The Ohio State University alongside 50% of my high school graduating class. During undergrad, while most of my high school friends could pinpoint exactly where they wanted to be 5, even 10 years from then, I always felt unclear about what I wanted out of life and unsure of how to figure it out.

In my junior year of undergrad, while many of my friends were securing study abroad opportunities, I knew I wanted to do something different, something that would challenge me and hopefully reveal to what I didn’t already know about myself—strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities. I wanted to know it all! I found National Outdoor Leadership School through a friend of a friend, and I embarked on what was to become one of the most rewarding and bizarre experiences of my life…

I slept in a sleeping bag for 85 consecutive nights next to 16 strangers who would soon become my closest friends. We backpacked through remote sections of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico and the Galiuro Mountains in Arizona, carrying everything on our backs that we needed to survive for 3 weeks at a time. We climbed the incredible granite domes of Joshua Tree National Park– powered by bacon, coffee, and laughter. We navigated class-3 rapids in whitewater canoes on the Rio Grande, paddled past Mexican military clad with automatic weapons, and didn’t see another human being for 18 days. The vastness of the wilderness was exhilarating, humbling, inspiring, and terrifying all at the same time, and I came to learn more about myself than I ever expected.

When I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to marry my education in psychology with my passion for the outdoors to facilitate meaningful experiences for others who might benefit. I took a job as a Field Instructor for Evoke Therapy Programs helping struggling adolescents and young adults work through depression, drug addiction, trauma, and motivational/behavioral problems. In this job, I worked a non-traditional schedule of 8 days in the field, followed by 6 days off. I saw recovering drug addicts celebrate 30 days of sobriety in the field over no-bake pies. I saw teenage boys with autism begin to challenge rigid patterns of thinking and to develop their first real friendships. And I saw adolescent girls with a history of self-harm come to believe that they mattered in the world. I count myself lucky to have been a part of the transformation process for the clients I worked with, whose stories continue to inspire me and put my own struggles into perspective.

Me and my best friend Taylor when we worked in the field. This was the equivalent "business casual" in the industry.
Me and my best friend Taylor when we worked in the field. This was the equivalent of “business casual” in the industry.

It’s clear that the program I attended and the wilderness therapy program I worked for are very different. The takeaway that I hope becomes obvious here is that there is a certain inherent healing effect of being outside. I also think there is a deeper level of learning that comes from challenging experiences with real consequences—learning what is in and out of your control and how to adapt to adversity. I believe my experiences in the outdoors have shaped me into someone who can find hope and happiness in just about any situation, and I’m grateful for that.

If there is any piece of advice I would give someone who is uncertain about their path in life (and trust me, you’re not alone), I encourage immersing yourself in an experience that you’re afraid of. I’m talking the thing that you always wished you could do but could never actually imagine yourself doing. There is deep self-discovery and self-awareness that comes from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone.

backpacking, Ohio State, High Sierras
The OSU Outdoor Adventure Center traveled to the High Sierras last summer. Seriously awe-inspring stuff.

The great part about OSU is that we have access to so many different experiences– so many that I hear people talk about how they struggle to fit in everything they want to do. Well, here is one more for you: the OSU Outdoor Adventure Center. Of course there is the famed indoor rock climbing wall, but what a lot of people don’t know is that as students we also have access to adventure trips. From rock climbing, to sea kayaking, to dog sledding—there is really something for all seasons and to suit all tastes. The best part is that there is no experience required for most and all are welcome.

rock climbing, OSU
Indoor rock climbing wall at OSU during the Valentine’s day climbing competition. Participants were held together by a paper chain and had to complete the climb together. They also do other silly stuff, like zombie themed climbing hours for the premier of the Walking Dead.

I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of pushing yourself to challenge fears, insecurities, an preconceived notions of your own limitations. From my own trips, I’ve learned to work with diverse teams, lead others in high pressure situations, and accomplish stretch goals with limited resources. These are all skills that translate remarkably well to “real life,” and that I plan to leverage in work and life in the future. Get out there!

“Undergraduate Buckeye” vs. “Graduate Buckeye” So Far….

I am about one month into the MHRM program. It is crazy how fast it has gone by! We are already almost at the halfway point of the first semester. That means 1/8th of grad school is almost done and we are finishing two of our half-semester core courses. It’s exciting!

After reflecting on the past few weeks, there have been a few ways that being a graduate student at Ohio State has been different from being an undergraduate Ohio State student.

Here are the comparisons that I came up with:

1. My MHRM classmates vs. Psychology classmates: Even just knowing these people for a few weeks, I already have gotten to know more people at a faster rate than some of the people I took classes with as an undergraduate. Though I still have a few close friends in my Psychology program, it’s cool to have this type of community in the graduate-school classroom environment.

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2. Group projects. Group Projects. Group Projects: Classes in undergrad are very much lecture-based. It worked for large Psychology classes. In my MHRM classes so far, we have done a lot of group work already. It’s beneficial because it’s allowed me to work with a variety of people in many different capacities.

3. The importance and joy of reading for class: I am looking at reading for classes a bit differently now. It has been awesome to “go deep” into such a specialized topic and to know that I am gaining knowledge in a field to equip me for my future. At the same time, I loved my Psychology classes because of their broad scope; they helped me get a “big picture” and gave me enough knowledge to apply much of what I learned to graduate school now. In my MHRM classes, it is important to come to class prepared and the reading has actually be quite enjoyable!

4. The Internship Search: Psychology was pretty broad and internships needed to be actively sought out. Here at Fisher, there are a multitude of opportunities and support to help us find our summer internship (a large part of our curriculum!). It has been a bit overwhelming with job applications, information sessions, and networking but hopefully it will soon pay off.

5. Buckeye Spirit: If one thing is the same, it’s the Buckeye spirit! What I love about Ohio State is the intense school pride that we all possess. I’m happy to share that with all my graduate school classmates, too. 🙂

With even just a few weeks done in the program, I have already learned so much. I am excited for all that is yet to come!

Go Bucks,
Nikki Villoria