From the US to the UK: Studying an MBA overseas helped me to change location, industry and role |

From the US to the UK: Studying an MBA overseas helped me to change location, industry and role

By Laura L

Updated Updated

Leah Petr studied an MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School, travelling to the UK from New York City where she was working in the TV industry.  

We spoke to Leah to find out how studying an MBA abroad enabled her to explore a career beyond her experience and provided better return on investment than a local programme.  

Before her MBA, Leah worked at Discovery Inc. (now Warner Bros. Discovery) in roles across corporate communications, B2C marketing and creative production.  

Her reason for choosing an MBA was simple: “People around me were starting to specialise, but I wanted to try something new and look beyond my niche to figure out what really interested me,” she said. “I wanted to progress my career without narrowing my focus just yet.” 

What factors did you consider when choosing to study abroad? 

“I chose an international MBA programme for a number of reasons. The return on investment was better in Europe as similarly ranked programmes had lower tuition costs,” Leah said. “I was a self-funded student and didn’t have a clear post-MBA path, so I had to be smart about my finances.  

“I also saw much higher diversity in the student cohorts around the world. I really wanted to be part of a global network and hoped to remain in the UK after my course. The main reason I chose to study outside of the US, though, was that I wanted a different life experience. It was about more than just an academic exercise or career box to tick. I was ready for a new adventure, and this seemed like a great way to do that.” 

How have you benefited from studying an MBA abroad? 

Now a graduate, Leah can confidently say that her overseas experience has given her a “much broader global perspective.” Beyond the diversity of her classmates and the high-profile professors from around the world, the module content, case studies, industry insights and news that she was exposed to were all globally focused.  

The biggest highlight of Leah’s programme in the UK was engaging with a network of friends and industry contacts all over the world. She said: “We had 33 countries represented across a cohort of 113 people. I was one of only two American students. I got to meet even more people at MBA events like the MBAT (European MBA “Olympics” hosted in France each year). 

“If you want to work outside of your home country, this network is invaluable alongside your demonstrated experience abroad. It helped me secure a role in the UK at the height of the pandemic. I ultimately made a triple jump by changing country, industry and role. I know I couldn’t have done that without an international MBA. 

“I can’t stress enough how healthy and educational it was for me to reframe my perspective outside of my home country. As part of my programme at Alliance Manchester, I travelled to China, Brazil, Germany and Japan. I even managed to stop in several other places just for fun.”   

What challenges did you face as an MBA student and how did you overcome them? 

The first term of any MBA programme is notoriously intense but having moved over 3,000 miles to relocate to the UK, Leah had the added challenge of arranging new bank accounts, setting up a UK phone number, finding a place to live, understanding the healthcare system and generally trying to navigate life in a new country.  

“We really banded together as a cohort in that first semester and helped each other through our Class of 2020 WhatsApp group. I think those challenges created an even stronger bond between us,” she said.  

Preparing for graduation with a desire to stay in the UK for work, Leah found that visa applications brought up further challenges. “When you apply for a role, you find out that you need to talk to your potential employer about sponsorship very early on in the process. Though it’s become easier for Americans in the UK with new visa rules (from 2021), it can be a disappointing non-starter for some employers or roles,” she said.  

That said, many employers value the hard and soft skills that an MBA helps to build. “Through the hands-on consulting projects and internships at Alliance Manchester, I was able to gain experience in four different industries and just as many functions. This gave me the basis I needed to land roles well beyond my former niche. 

“My MBA experience also taught me how to get to the real root of problems and execute as part of a diverse group. These softer skills have been crucial as I’ve moved into more strategic roles with a need to coordinate and influence a larger sphere of people.”  

How has studying your MBA abroad played a role in your career since? 

Leah said: “I use the global perspective I gained on my MBA every day in my career. I think it has made me not only more empathetic and conscientious but more employable. 

“By broadening my experience during the MBA, I was able to identify what kind of work I really enjoyed, how I could apply my transferable skills in different roles, and what industry appealed to me most. This gave me the confidence to move my career forward in new and exciting ways.” 

On completion of her MBA programme, Leah scored a role in product marketing at a fintech company and was able to continue her life on the other side of the pond. Two years post-MBA, she has built a life in London and leads product planning and operations for the lodging line of business at Expedia Group.  

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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