BY MASAYUKI MATSUMURA, CONTRIBUTOR
One year has passed since I started my journey here at UCLA Anderson. Looking back over the past 12 months, I can conclude that it has been one of the most fulfilling years of my life. But I’d be lying if there weren’t some difficult moments. Transitioning to life at Anderson as an international student can be challenging. The school does a good job of providing resources for international students to adapting to life in Los Angeles through obvious channels, such as forming good relationships with classmates and getting involved in school life. However, there are two additional ways that helped me transition to life at business school that I would like to share in this article.
1. Join a trip
Group travel is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of your classmates and to make new friends early on. These shared experiences act as icebreakers, and spending several days off campus with classmates enables you to discover sides of these new acquaintances that you may never see on campus.
Discovering cultural differences through these shared experiences helps to shape your impressions of these differences, usually in a positive way. In the past year, I’ve joined both the pre-orientation Canoe Trip up the Colorado River and the Israel Spring Break trip. At the pre-orientation trip, my best memories were simply sitting around a campfire and playing a game through which we revealed our past heroic and foolish stories. Carlos Noriega Belausteguigoitia (Class of 2015 from Mexico) probably wins the award for the most outlandish stories that night. Jumping from the cliff into the Colorado River is another memory from that trip that I will never forget.
Attending that pre-orientation trip gave me a chance to know more than ten classmates before school even started, which was very helpful when classes and extracurricular activities began to pick up. It is always encouraging when you are in a new environment and you have someone that you can talk with and rely on.
The Israel trip also provided several simple, but lasting memories. While staying in the desert, we spent time watching the stars and catching sunrise at a Bedouin camp. Visiting Jerusalem and experiencing religious culture and tense relations between different religions was also an eye-opening and memorable experience.
But the best part about the spring trip was that I was able to expand and deepen my relationship with the classmates I had gradually come to know over the year. By winter quarter, it’s easy to fall into a group of fixed relationships – learning team, section mates, “secondary learning teams” an so on. However, on the Israel trip I was able to broaden my horizons again and get to know classmates that I had rarely interacted with before, including second years. Throughjust these two trips, which accounted for just two weeks’ time, the relationshipsI had with my classmates were dramatically enriched.
2. Learn a new sport
Learning to surf has enhanced my life at business school in several ways. Surfing enabled me to be mentally and physically sound, which in turn helped me to focus on my academic and socia activities. I started surfing in November of last year for two reasons: 1) I was curious about the experience, and 2) I needed exercise.
Surfing has given me more than I could have expected. In addition to the physical exercise, you can relax simply by going to an awesome beach and floating on the water.The waves wash away my daily pressures and concerns. Riding on a wave is so smooth and relaxing that it is easy to get hooked on surfing (though as a beginner sometimes I could only catch waves once or twice a day). Similar to the Anderson sponsored trips to the Colorado River and Israel, surfing allowed me to get outside of my comfort zone and meet new people. There are a number of other classmates that are interested in surfing and it is not difficult to find a group to go with you. Surfing provided me with yet another opportunity to hang out with my classmates, share the same experiences, and build my network beyond my circle of friends.
To conclude, two powerful ways to form lasting connections with classmates as an international student are to join those well-organized MBA trips and to get involved in a sport in the area or through the university. By doing these two things in my first year, it greatly helped my transition to business school.
While I recommend these two methods, you don’t necessarily have to join all the trips or become a pro surfer –what you choose to do should depend on you own interests. But be sure to find ways to quickly and deeply connect with your new peers.
My own personal recommendation to those who are considering
joining a trip during spring break: the Japan America Business Association (JABA) is already planning a legendary Japan Trip for Spring Break!