Internationality at the SBE

Our international nature is one of the factors that differentiate SBE. It is also often cited as a key factor in choosing to study here. At the last count, 66 different nationalities were represented at SBE, and no less than 40% of all bachelor and master students had a foreign background.

All SBE students are required to spend an exchange period during their studies at one of our partner universities abroad. SBE’s executive education activities also attract a growing number of people from outside the Netherlands. But there are more ways in which we are international. Our programmes are all taught in English, the course content is international and 44% of our faculty is international.

In this new series for Talkin’ Business, we highlight all the aspects which make SBE truly international.

For the first edition, Annemarie Kraan, SBE Master student, tells us about her cross-border experience.

Annemarie Kraan

Annemarie Kraan is currently following SBE’s Master of Science in International Business programme. She was the obvious choice for the first student for us to profile for this new series, as she has ‘international’ in her genes. She has a Dutch father, and her American mother has her origins in China and Indonesia.

Although she came to Maastricht in May 2009 from Babson College near Boston, where she had just earned her first degree, she was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. “I attended the Jakarta International School, so was fully taught in English, but the languages we spoke at home were a mix of Indonesian, English and a little bit of Mandarin,” she says. “After graduating high school I went to Babson College to study business, and I’ve spent about four years in the U.S. in total.” While at Babson she also took the opportunity to study at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and did a summer consulting internship in Sydney, Australia.

A great complement

Maastricht is not completely new to Annemarie however. During her bachelor’s years in the States she also spent her official semester abroad in Spring 2008 here in her third year, attending one block at SBE and another at UCM. She started her MSc in International Business in September 2009 and is following the Strategy and Innovation track. “I chose this programme as I’m interested in the field of strategy and innovation, coupled with the international twist that it’s given at MUSBE, which made it especially appealing to me. It makes a great complement to my bachelor studies at Babson, which were in business management with a concentration in marketing and quite a focus on entrepreneurship.”

Annemarie tells us that she is enjoying the Master’s programme so far. “It’s certainly a lot of work, but given that it’s a topic I chose to extend my studies in, I find most of it quite interesting. Even though I’d been here for an exchange semester, it still took some time to get used to the way the tutorials were run and the whole PBL approach. While challenging at first, I think it has made me more involved with the material, as opposed to the ‘normal’ way of learning. Another element that has stood out so far is the backgrounds of the students in my tutorials. While other nationalities have been outnumbered by the Dutch and German students, everyone still has such different backgrounds, through travel, internships, exchange and so on, that something different is always brought to the table, which is awesome.”

Intense business vibe

So how does she think SBE compares with Babson? “That’s a tough question,” she says, “they are very different in so many ways! I had a great experience at Babson, and I obviously had a great exchange experience here as well, or I wouldn’t have come back for more! In terms of the study, the obvious difference is with the whole PBL approach versus having classes led by professors. Compared to other US schools, classes were also relatively small in Babson however, so there was often plenty of discussion as well. Both SBE and Babson are very intensely business-driven – both at Babson and here, you get that same intense business vibe that is hard to put into words.”

Annemarie explains that the student bodies of both schools are very international. “I’ve found that there’s more integration going on here compared to Babson however, despite the large number of Germans and Dutch students here versus the rest of the student body. At Babson, there was less overlap between students from different nationalities, and many stuck to their own kind. From my previous and current experience at SBE I find that many of the students I come across are more open. The overwhelming majority of students I’ve met and friends I’ve made at SBE have extensive stories of travel, internships, study abroad programmes and so forth. These have added an additional international element that I didn’t find as often in my bachelor studies.”

Getting that ‘at home’ feeling

Babson College is officially located in Wellesley, a wealthy suburb about ten miles from Boston, but unlike Maastricht University, with its various components spread around the city, Babson is set in a campus in large private grounds, so the students there tend to spend their time on campus or in Boston itself. “Maastricht often feels like one rather large university campus,” says Annemarie. “Students are everywhere, and I find it hard to walk or bike down a street without seeing someone I know or recognize – and that’s great! I had the same experience at Babson’s campus. I love it; it made moving here and getting that ‘at home’ feeling much easier and smoother. The difference with Maastricht and Babson is that here you have all the bars, pubs, shopping, and restaurants you need, basically on your doorstep. At Babson, we had to go to Boston to get that experience, so you really needed a car if you wanted to leave campus! I must say, I sometimes miss the big city, with its skyscrapers, bright lights and driving-in-a-car lifestyle of Boston – and Jakarta – but I’m loving the change of pace right now, so I’m not ready to go back to it just yet.”

Annemarie thinks that the key advantage of studying business in different countries and cultures are the different perspectives that are brought into discussion. “Having studied in Asia, then the US and now here in Holland, I’ve come to realize that I look at my business studies from all kinds of angles. When I first started at Babson, for example, I took my understandings largely from my experiences from living in Indonesia. By the end of the four years, I could see things not just from my Asian background, but also realize and understand the studies from a more ‘American’ and eventually an international perspective. Another major advantage is simply the interaction with different students and people in general. Experiencing culture shock and acquainting myself with different countries and cultures not just in a business context, but also in daily life has made me more open and has taught me how to speak and relate to a wide variety of people – something I’ve been taught time and time again that is getting more important in business.”

Loving the international lifestyle

It’s no surprise that Annemarie’s future plans continue to have an international flavour. “After Maastricht,” she says, “I plan to look for a job, somewhere in the world! I have a few places in mind, but no boundaries, so I’m rather excited to see where I end up. A little later down the line after gaining some work experience, I’m thinking of going back to Indonesia or Singapore to work in my mother’s company. I’d also like to get my MBA in the US however, so as you can see there’s a lot I’d like to do. I’ve lived quite internationally so far, and it’s a lifestyle I’ve absolutely come to love. Even though it means that at any one time I can never be with all my friends, I’d like to continue it for more years to come.”

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