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Student Features

Nour Alard, MIB’22

  • Undergrad: Bachelor of Management and Organizational Studies, Western University, Canada
  • MIB program: Double degree with ESSEC Business School, France
  • Exchange option: Four months at Bocconi University in Milan
  • His MIB experience, in a word: “Unique”
“I understood pretty quickly that there’s not just one way of doing things.”

Nour Alard, MIB’22

Nour Alard arrived in Milan for a four-month exchange at Bocconi University expecting some culture shock: he knew almost no one in the city, he didn’t speak Italian, and while he’d travelled plenty, he’d never studied abroad. Even still, he found himself amazed by the flashy motorists on the autostrada, the languorous diners at the local trattoria, even the layout of the local supermarcato. His weekends were filled with jaunts to European capitals to see MIB classmates and playing tour guide to the same as they visited his temporary home (Milan, with its rich fashion, art and food cultures, makes for a popular minibreak destination). In every way, his daily routine in the Italian hub was different than the Kingston student life he’d just left. “It was a very eye-opening experience,” Nour says. “I gained an immediate understanding of the country I was living in relative to where I came from. It definitely expanded my worldview.”

Nour is a person who craves cross-pollination, the energizing alchemy that happens when different ideas come together. In fact, it’s what ultimately sold him on the MIB program. He’d enrolled a year after completing his bachelor’s degree, hoping to top up his skills with a flexible curriculum and a bit of practical international experience. Within days of arriving in Kingston to start coursework in the Fall of 2021, he realized he’d also found the kind of iterative educational experience he’d been missing. “In my undergrad, I felt courses were way too structured,” he reflects. “But at Smith, right away we were having discussions in classes—real discussions. People had very different points of view, and we’d debate and argue them. It helped me think—and then believe—that there’s never one concrete answer or path for any problem.” The invigorating spirit of these sessions quickly forged deep, formative friendships, he says: “It felt like we were a family not even a month in.”

As he prepares to move to France for the back half of his two-year program—a master’s in management at ESSEC Business School—Nour is hoping for a three-peat of his experiences in Kingston and Milan. He’s planning a career in tech, possibly in a consulting capacity, and he feels the more perspectives he can understand, the better his prospects will be.

“The MIB has really fostered a dynamic approach to my thinking,” he says. “It’s given me a global mindset, that understanding that—like the butterfly effect—everything is connected and affected by everything else. And I think that will make me prosper in my career.”

Mackenzie Arnold, MIB’20

  • Undergrad: Bachelor of Management (minor in International Development), Dalhousie University, Canada
  • MIB program: Double degree with WU Vienna University of Business & Economics, Austria
  • Her MIB experience, in a word: “Introspective”
“I created experiences for myself that were very different than what I’d do otherwise.”

Mackenzie Arnold, MIB’20

Most of the year Mackenzie Arnold spent studying at WU Vienna University, Austria was in some sort of lockdown. She arrived in the Fall of 2020 to pursue a Master of Science in Strategy, Innovation and Management Control—the second chapter of her double-degree MIB program—and within weeks, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country hard. As museums and venues and restaurants closed, and as classes moved virtual, Mackenzie bid Auf Wiedersehen to a preconceived dream of what her year abroad would be.

In its place, Mackenzie experienced a different—but no less remarkable—sort of international education. She spent hours walking around the history-laden city, discovering nooks and crannies usually overshadowed by flashier tourist attractions. She spent days hiking in the central Alps. And she forged intense friendships with her classmates as they collectively worked to navigate a surreal situation. “I really made the most of it,” she reflects. “It was so incredibly weird and challenging and unique, and I think it will be something I remember much more clearly for all of that.”

It might not have been exactly what Mackenzie expected, but there’s no doubt it was an immersive cross-cultural experience—which was what she was seeking when she opted to pursue her MIB experience two years earlier. Having ventured out of her home province of Ontario for undergrad, she was eager to further expand her worldview.

She got a taste of that—literally and figuratively—a month or so after arriving in Kingston in 2019 for the first leg of her MIB program, when Smith hosted a social night in which new students had the opportunity to share food, stories, and traditions that reflected their cultures. “It was very special to not only realize that we had a truly diverse mix of people in the room, but to understand a little more about why,” Mackenzie recalls. That understanding intensified as the year progressed—especially during group projects. “There’s something about bringing people together from different walks of life and backgrounds. You start to learn more about yourself; you realize ‘oh, wow, I have been living in such a bubble. The world is so much larger than the space I’ve been living in.’”

This self-awareness has fed Mackenzie’s professional ambitions. She now works as a consultant for a global firm, advising organizations on how to adapt to the changing needs of and challenges facing their workforces. Every day, she must balance the diverse needs and goals of different people, each with different outlooks and different experiences—a muscle she can confidently flex after two years in Kingston, in Vienna and on screens in between.

“It's not just about going abroad. It's also about getting exposure to people from other places, wherever you may be, and understanding how things can be different for them,” Mackenzie says. “As the world becomes more global and connected, there is such value in that.”

Simera Negeri, MIB’19

  • Undergrad: Bachelor of International Business, Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, Canada
  • MIB program: Double degree with University of Queensland, Australia
  • Her MIB experience, in a word: “Diverse”
“When you arrive somewhere with no family or friends or networks, you get really close, really fast.”

Simera Negeri, MIB’19

Like many international students, Simera Negeri knew no one when she arrived at the University of Queensland. She arrived in Australia in 2019—where she was completing a Master of Global Management program, the second stage of a double degree path she’d started with the MIB at Smith a year earlier—eager to connect with her fellow students. Thankfully, she wasn’t the only one. “Something I love about studying abroad is that everybody’s so open to new experiences,” reflects Simera, who had previously studied for a year in Spain as part of her undergrad. “Everybody wants to meet people and go on adventures and really experience everything the country has to offer.”

Not long after arriving in Australia, she took a week-long sailing trip with fellow exchange students, where she snorkelled through the teeming marine life of the famed coral reefs. She watched the incomparable vistas of the outback whirl by as she and a carful of classmates drove west for a camping trip. And in one especially memorable instance, she and a school friend decided to have an impromptu beach picnic, where they encountered an adorable—but peckish—joey. “This kangaroo was not here for it. He wanted our lunch, and he really chased us around in circles for it,” Simera laughs. “I remember thinking ‘wow, this is a trip.’”

If friendships were kindled in the classroom, they were forged outside of it. And learning to navigate these new relationships in new settings was every bit as instructive as anything in the curriculum. “I’ll always be the first person to recommend international experience to everybody, in as many ways as it can be done,” Simera says. “Knowing more about the world is always a good thing. Understanding different types of people is always a good thing. It only benefits you.”

Simera started her MIB at Smith, the first part of her two-degree program, just a few months after undergrad. She had finished the fourth year of her Bachelor of International Business with a sense of unfinished business; she felt she was just starting to hit her stride, educationally, and wanted to absorb more before starting her career. She liked the idea of two degrees in two years, and she loved the idea of studying with other recent grads: “It removed any sense of imposter syndrome.”

Through two years of working with classmates in every context—from developing case studies in Goodes Hall, to debating management strategy in a Brisbane classroom, to the decidedly more ad-hoc problem-solving of outrunning a hangry marsupial—Simera became a confident collaborator. In her current profession helping clients assess and manage risk for a global consultancy, this skill has proven indispensable.

“I feel like I am prepared to work with just about any type of personality, because I’ve worked with someone like that in some way,” Simera says. “I’ve seen so many business issues from different perspectives and had the chance to apply what I’ve learned in so many contexts. It prepared me so well for what I do today.”

Chris Mbangala, MIB’18

  • Undergrad: Bachelor of International Business, Maastricht School of Business & Economics, Netherlands
  • MIB program: Double degree with Maastricht School of Business & Economics
  • His MIB experience, in a word: “Game-changing”
“I thought to myself: I am seeing the world in a different way. This is the context in which I want to evolve.”

Chris Mbangala, MIB’18

Chris Mbangala could not believe the diversity he found in the classrooms of Goodes Hall. It wasn’t the variety of nationalities, ethnicities and backgrounds represented in his MIB class that stood out—though, with students from “literally every place in the world you can think of” (including, in his own case, Belgium), it was certainly a heterogeneous cohort. Rather, what really floored Chris as he began his term abroad in Canada was the diversity of brainpower that came to light in every project and discussion.

Some of his classmates were quick to offer opinions; others waited to be asked for their thoughts. Some approached problems analytically; others leaned more on intuition. Each drew from a deep, unique tapestry of personal experiences, cultural conditioning, and societal norms. While he’d been exposed to some different perspectives during his undergrad at the Maastricht School of Business & Economics in the Netherlands, this was a whole new level. Combining it all in one classroom—and, more intensively, in small group projects with international scopes—made for a powerful crash course in diplomacy, empathy and productivity.

Chris admits that learning to accommodate different personalities, styles and points of view was, at times, frustrating. “There were a lot of moments when I thought ‘Wow, OK, we are really thinking differently about this,” he recalls. But in a program that offered no shortage of dazzling developmental milestones—including chatting with a guest-lecturing global finance executive about business sustainability (“I remember thinking, ‘I am so lucky to be here’”) and successfully delivering a year-long consulting project to a client (“They actually used our input, which was very satisfying”)—Chris insists that learning how to factor in the diverse views and experiences remains the most valuable skill learned during his MIB.

Chris is now working as a consultant in his hometown of Brussels, where considering varied points of view is a crucial—perhaps the most crucial—asset in his professional life. “I understand differences—what they are and how to work with them—and I never would have had the chance to become knowledgeable about that if I did not do the MIB program,” he says. “It taught me to avoid the groupthink that can make you assume everyone needs to be like us and do things the way we do. And that’s so important because the world doesn’t work like that.”

Amina Saigol, MIB’16

  • Undergrad: Bachelor of Arts & International Relations, Brown University, USA
  • MIB program: Single degree
  • Exchange option: Three-week Innovation Management program at WU Vienna University of Business & Economics, Austria
  • Her MIB experience, in a word: “Purposeful”
“I realized I could make my MIB experience what I really wanted it to be.”

Amina Saigol, MIB’16

Amina Saigol was standing on a stage in Montreal, accepting first prize in a major consulting case competition, when she realized she’d chosen the right Master’s program. It wasn’t so much what she had just achieved (helping to prepare a detailed proposal for how to use technology to build community engagement); rather, it was how she got there.

A few weeks earlier, near the start of Amina’s MIB experience, program manager Jennifer McNeely approached her and a few of her classmates with an extracurricular opportunity: would they consider forming a team to represent Smith in an international case study competition? Amina and her soon-to-be teammates were keen, but they were also a bit nervous: they were each new to business studies, having completed undergraduate degrees in other disciplines, and the learning curve for a contest like this was steep. Almost immediately, their schedules filled with training, meetings, and prep sessions—all supported by Smith staff. “It wasn’t a standard part of the curriculum,” Amina explains. “But once we decided we wanted to do it, staff and faculty helped us find the right competition, got us an invite and gave us all this extra attention to prepare us.”

For Amina, receiving such individualized attention to educational experience was equal parts refreshing and invigorating. “I had never had the experience of everyone knowing who I was and what I wanted,” she says. “Faculty and staff were genuinely willing to get to know each of us as individuals and find ways to get us what we needed out of the program. I really appreciated that.”

Case in point: Amina had an inkling that she wanted to work in tech consulting. So, when it came time to choose an exchange program, she found little in the way of conventional business curricula at foreign schools that fired her up. That changed when her Smith advisors shared details about a condensed three-week program on innovation management at WU Vienna University. It was hands-on, involving—among other things—a consulting project for a real client. It was short, as preferred; having studied in the U.S. in undergrad, Amina wanted to spend most of her year in Kingston, to gain Canadian experience. It was at the cutting edge of where she saw the industry going. It might not have been the expected route, but it was perfect for her.

Amina’s time in Austria was intense: between classes, case studies and socializing with her temporary classmates (most of whom were international MBA students), there wasn’t time for much else—though she did tack a few weeks of travel to the beginning and end of the course. “My international exchange was just right,” she says, adding that the WU Vienna course’s focus on innovation was a key differentiator in landing her first post-grad job. “But the exchange was just the cherry on the top, really. It means more that I was given the support to create a Master’s program that really worked for me.”