Which MBA Global Study Option Should You Choose?

Which MBA Global Study Option Should You Choose?

By Matthew Snider, MBA '16 | August 10, 2015

One thing that separates LMU from other MBA programs is offering students two unique opportunities to travel abroad and gain real-world business experience. At LMU, every MBA student is required to complete at least one of two international study options - either Bonn or CMS. I was fortunate enough to participate in both programs during my time at LMU and they are drastically different. Here are some tips on how to best prepare for whichever adventure you opt to take.

Bonn Program

The Bonn Program takes students on a two-week trip every August to beautiful Bonn, Germany to study business in the European Union. Aside from an intensive learning experience with Prof. Bill Semos in the classroom, the excursion gives you a firsthand look inside multinational corporations like Deutsche Bank and Bayer Pharmaceuticals. MBA students also enjoy city tours around Bonn, Cologne, Maastricht and Brussels. Two weeks may not seem very long, but there is little downtime so be prepared for it to go by in a flash.

Some tricks of the trade as you are immersed in a history-intensive European experience with a dozen, or so, of your MBA colleagues.

  • Prof. Semos assigns two books to read over the summer before the program begins. Take my advice: READ THEM. In fact, don’t just read them, underline and take notes in the margins. You’ll be thankful you put the extra work in when faced with the challenging final at the end of the trip.
  • While there is plenty of time to have fun, students need to make sure they stay healthy and engaged while on this adventure. The syllabus is very clear that if students miss a classroom lecture, city tour, or company visit their grades are adversely affected. Feel free to enjoy the nightlife when you’re abroad - just remember to be in class by 8am the next morning.

Comparative Management Systems (CMS) Program

CMS is an entirely different experience. Over the course of a year, you and about 6-7 fellow students will work together as a team with support from a faculty advisor to develop a thesis centered on a given topic. The course concludes with a three-week overseas trip to various countries in a specific region of the world. In order to successfully complete this thesis, you are required to do a myriad of things, most important of which is arranging interviews with corporate executives both here in the U.S. and overseas. These interviews help your team gather information in support of your project and provide valuable connections. My team interviewed a number of senior level executives from companies like Disney, Sony, Ford & Lincoln Motor Company, Intel, Cisco, Google Play and a variety of others.

The international trip takes place in late May and early June and should be less intensive than Bonn if you plan accordingly. Our team visited Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Kyoto and Tokyo. MBA students participating in CMS 2016 will travel to Barcelona, Athens, Rome, the Greek Islands and Istanbul.

When your group returns to the U.S., it’s time to get down to business and put the paper together based on your findings. A final presentation is held at the end of August with all student teams and faculty advisors in attendance.

These tips should help ensure your group thrives rather than merely survives.

  • Reach out to your network earlier rather than later for interview support. Even if the person you reach out to isn’t your target, they can be invaluable when it comes to getting you connected higher up in an organization. 
  • Be flexible. Things will go wrong, interviews will get added or cancelled, and the travel will be rigorous. The more you accept there might be unexpected chaos, the more time you’ll spend enjoying what a great travel experience it really is.
  • Some aspects of your thesis paper can be written before the trip. To make things easier upon your return, try to have as much of these miscellaneous bits done early on.

Both the Bonn and CMS Programs are amazing experiences. Most students opt to do one of the two because the travel and work loads can be considerable - especially for full-time employees; only one program is required. Given my emphasis in International Management coupled with a rather flexible work schedule, I was fortunate enough to participate in both programs in the same year. Whichever you choose, it will no doubt be a highlight of your LMU MBA experience.