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A management student’s approach to finding the right university in Canada


Having just completed his MBA at the prestigious Schulich School of Business at York University, Ashish Bhatnagar is perfectly positioned to advise others who wish to come to Canada for higher studies.

This includes tips on persuading parents to let them come to Canada!

The software engineer from Dehradun, India, was 26 when he landed at Pearson International Airport in June 2009.

He had had to convince his parents to let him go halfway across the world for his MBA.

“They found it difficult to fathom why I couldn’t just do it at one of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) like everyone else,” he says with a fond laugh.

Bhatnagar explained to his parents that the IIMs were premier institutes, but the chances of getting into one were remote even for someone with above-average grades. The competition for the seats is unbelievable, he says. Also, Bhatnagar’s research revealed that the CEOs of all top companies had done their MBAs from global institutes.

“I didn’t just get up one morning and say I was going. I did extensive research and knew why I wanted to come to Canada and the reasons for picking Schulich.”

He weighed the pros and cons of studying in Europe, US, Canada or Australia. The universities and management schools in the US were good, but expensive, he found. As were those in Europe. That left Australia and Canada.

“But I was looking for North American experience – this economy drives the world – and so Canada it was!”

The fact that students who enrol in two-year courses are given a three-year work permit was also attractive.

“After this one is eligible for permanent residency. In the US, after graduation, you have just three months in which to find a job and the employer gets you a visa. So there was no question in my mind about which was the better option.”

Bhatnagar applied the same eye for detail to his search for a university. He was accepted at both Queen’s and Schulich. Since he was hoping to make a switch from engineering to marketing, his friends advised him to go for the two-year course that Schulich offers.

“Schulich has a great name and the faculty is amazing,” enthuses Bhatnagar, obviously happy with his choice.

“My parents were pleased that with 40 or 50 students from India in my batch alone, I’d not be homesick!”
Bhatnagar says he felt welcomed by everyone at campus. “Canadians welcome everyone! They are interested in others. I had people ask me detailed questions about India.”

Indian students are familiar with everything that is available here, he continues. iPods, the latest gadgets, they have them all in India. So the awe factor is missing.

In res he could converse with other Indian students in Hindi and cook Indian meals.

The course doesn’t come cheap, though. International students can pay close to $15,000 per term for the four-term course, as against Canadians who pay $43,000 in total.

“International students have to be prepared to spend a sizeable sum,” says Bhatnagar, who financed his studies with a combination of bank loans and his own funds. “Of course, one can drop a term, do internships, go part-time, etc. The flexibility is one of the best advantages in managing finances,” says Bhatnagar.

Bhatnagar collected all his information before leaving India from friends and contacts he made on social networking sites, exchanging e-mail and phone numbers. On arrival at the campus, he connected with the South Asian Business Club (SABC) that helps students network.

“One of the biggest issues that international students face is the lack of a network. An organization that introduces them to others is a great help in job search, too.”

York University also has staff dedicated to the needs of international students.

Bhatnagar has only positive things to say about his student experience.

“I love the way professors teach here – very different from the way I was taught engineering! Also, it was great that professors would often discuss India’s growing economy. It felt good to sit in class in Canada and listen to good things about India. The extensive curriculum offers students a wide choice of courses. I wanted to major in marketing, but was able to pick other courses I was also interested in.”

The biggest difference he noted was that had he done his MBA in India, a majority of his classmates would have been engineers like him. At Schulich, he studied with doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, people from advertising and design backgrounds. He gained a whole different perspective from talking to people from other disciplines, says Bhatnagar.

The only thing he thinks that needs a bit of tweaking is the career counselling aspect of the business course.

“They are doing some work there, but if they were to ask students for feedback, every student would say that’s an area they can make more efficient.”

Bhatnagar now works as a marketing specialist for Philo Auto and plans on staying in Canada to gain more experience in international markets.

He is in touch with students wanting to come to Canada, and tells them to focus on their research, to get their facts in place.

And speaking from an MBA’s point of view, that the current economy demands specialists.
“Don’t be vague about your goals. You can’t just want to be a ‘manager’. You have to specify in which area.”

He also advises people to develop a network and gather as much information as possible.
“I may say all positive things, someone else’s experience may have been different. I tell them to listen to everyone.

“And then follow their instinct.”

Posted: Aug 6, 2010

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