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Becoming culturally empowered

Inter-continental track in colleges is being designed for students to experience diverse customs within a stipulated time preparing them for a future in multiple countries

Nilesh Gaikwad | New Delhi |

With the advent of globalisation, colleges across the globe have emphasised on making their students culturally adept. Internet, films, books and travel have added to the idea and possibilities of exploring other cultures. Language being a key catalyst in expanding one’s expertise, many developed countries stress on the need to make their students bilingual. This helps the students realise their dreams of creating a global profile. Unlike monoculture countries, which make up for most of the developed world, I prefer to call our country as the United States of India. Here, an average student would know at least three languages i.e. the national language Hindi, their mother tongue and the professional language English. We are a region with a dense diversity of cultures. No wonder, Indian students are better equipped to gel with their counterparts from around the globe. Multi-campus or inter-continental track is designed to alleviate this very mixture.

The opportunities for students to experience two to three different cultures within a stipulated time period is quite eye-catchy. These programmes empower them with cultural nuances, food habits, a deeper understanding of the major industries within the regions thus preparing them for a career within multiple countries. Students have to be quick in grasping the cultural differences, exhibiting the flexibility of a seasoned professional working on multiple projects at the same time. Even post-work experience programme like an MBA, which in itself has a short duration, is being held out of multiple campuses. Interactions with professionals from different regions increase the potential of becoming a “global” manager.

For colleges, to have multiple campuses teaching the same programmes is not always cost-effective. It is an expensive proposition to invest in real estate along with sharing of key resources like faculty members across the campuses. But let’s face it — students always want to go to the “best” campus! Some colleges have found a way around this problem. Like-minded colleges have set-up partnerships for specific programmes that are accepted in both countries. Students enrolling into such a programme, get to study in multiple colleges where they can also choose the electives relevant to their main subjects. It is a win-win situation for the colleges as they can concentrate on their strengths i.e. to provide excellent education experience to the students.

We have recently started a similar programme under the master in management degree. The track called “Global economic transformation and technology” (MIM-GETT) allows students to spend one semester each our France campus and SKK Graduate School of Business Seoul before flying to UC Berkeley to finish the final two semesters at Haas School of Business.

By the end of the course, students (average age 25) have lived on three very different continents; most of them developed an interest to pick up a second or third language, learnt a lot about themselves, embraced the best of all regions and are on course to a bright future.

Every college has a string of student associations. These form an essential part of the non-academic learning. Through them, students work and interact with each other. They organise festival celebrations, short tours and sports activities among other things. These activities are a vital aspect of the coming of age for every student. Now imagine being able to do all of it across multiple regions each semester! The amount of concentrated learning experiences is abundant. Students become aware of the subtle differences between different regions. These learnings can be used as piggyback while finding jobs.

They are a medium through which one can prove their motivations for choosing a specific field of work. Additionally, such programmes allow colleges to increase their alumni network across regions. An expansive alumni network helps to keep the college abreast with happenings within different industries. Corporate partnerships get developed across regions in order to cater to the upcoming challenges to be faced by the tomorrow’s students.

Living like a frog in the well can no longer feed the growing ambitions of new-age students. Colleges are racing to provide a flexible environment for studying, one that can keep up with the flurry of changes happening across the horizon, bracing themselves for more paradigm shifting events.

(The author is country manager, EDHEC Business School)