As requested…a rundown on the GER. Every MBA student has to have some sort of global experience in order to graduate. On the one hand this is nice, because it means that by graduation everyone has left the US at least once and learned about another country and culture. On the other hand, I think I’ve yet to come across a classmate who hasn’t spent significant time outside of the States which makes this a little silly, especially given the expense.
There are a few ways to fulfill the global requirement. You can go on a 10-day trip (these are divided into Global Study Trips and Social Innovation Study Trips), you can do a 4-week summer Global Management Immersion Experience (GMIX), or you can do the Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP). There are some limitations, mostly that you can’t do your global requirement in a country you have spent more than a couple of months in.
The 10-day trips are by far the most popular option. They’re also the most expensive. They cost $2,500 – $5,000 for a 10-day trip. The financial aid is pretty good—if you’re careful about your airfare and are on a Fellowship you can end up getting a grant (aka free money) to cover over 50% of your trip. But it’s still expensive. These trips are during either winter or spring break. In October there are a couple days of lunch presentations when all of the trip leaders (about 4 MBA2s per trip) do a quick presentation on the theme(s) of each trip. There is also a lunch fair in case you miss the presentations. Then you rank the trips you’re interested in, submit it, and later in the week you are assigned a trip. Each trip also has a few extra slots, so if you want to do an additional trip or don’t get assigned a trip you can write an application and the trip leaders select people to fill the extra spots based on the applications.
Winter trips seemed to be popular because you go on your trip and then still have two weeks of Christmas break left to relax and get ready for winter quarter. If you go in the Spring, you leave right after winter final exams and get back to campus only a day or so before spring quarter, giving you no real break between quarters. Throw in some jetlag and it’s sure to mess up the start of your spring quarter. However, those going on winter trips only get about two months to buy plane tickets and arrange visas…spring trip people can buy tickets far in advance making them much more economical and have more time to figure out visas. However, from what I saw most MBA1s picked trips based more on the destination than the time frame. This year, winter trips went to Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, New Zealand, Russia, Finland, Argentina, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Some countries, such as Brazil, had multiple trips with different focuses. Spring trips will go to China, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Peru, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa, Spain, Kenya, and Nepal. The list of trips came out in the middle of the summer (and is different each year), so you can use your last few weeks of freedom to read about them and figure out which ones interest you.
These trips are both the GST and Social Innovation trips. There doesn’t seem to be much difference yet. The SI trips are smaller (about 20 MBA1s as opposed to 30) and also qualify for the Public Management Program (a certificate you can get…more info is online here) and are more focused on social innovation as opposed to big business. Otherwise I haven’t heard of any major differences.
A small percentage of students choose to skip the trips (or mess up the ranking system and don’t get into a trip) and instead do a GMIX. For this option, organizations post month-long projects they want MBAs to come help them with. You apply, and if chosen you take a month of your summer, fly to wherever the organization is, and do the project. This is a more economical option, since usually it is cost neutral (the organization you are working with covers flights and cost of living the for the month). However, it also takes longer and might limit your summer internship options since you have to fit this four-week internship in somewhere.
The last option is STEP. Students from Tsinghua University in China come to campus for a week and the GSB students head to China for a week.
You have to do at least one of these global experiences and can do two or three or more if you want. In addition, there are constant alternative international trips going on…over Thanksgiving unofficial, student-organized groups went to Cuba, Belize, and Japan. Over Christmas break groups went to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and probably a few others I didn’t keep up with. The student-organized options are usually less expensive and more about relaxing, with fewer meetings with high-powered business and government leaders.