My Experience Abroad: Learning in Sri Lanka

Maurice Nick, a current student in our Part Time MBA program had the chance to go to Sri Lanka for a four week program through CIBER. Here are some highlights from his recent interview with about his experience:

How did you prepare to go abroad? Did your school help you prepare?
All of my programs were associated with a class. This will be true for the vast majority of programs offered by a school. When I went to Sri Lanka we had three meetings prior to going abroad. I was working on behalf of the International Executive Service Corp., so they held an executive meeting with all of the student consultants, and personnel from USAID. These sessions were used to jump start the groups on their projects. I was on a team of two, and we had two clients in two very different industries that needed similar services provided.

We were funded by USAID; they had subbed their program to IESC, who then contracted with the MBA program at my University. Therefore, IESC paid and made all of our hotel accommodations. We worked throughout the entire island; the official travel was made for each team from the capital city where we all landed, and to the cities we would be stationed. If we chose to travel between cities or to meet each other at various sites, then that was an out-of-pocket expense. The flight to the island was also an out-of-pocket expense and that reservation was made by each individual student consultant.

The first thing I did was submit an application for a visa. This step can be burdensome if the instructions for the country are not followed closely. In addition to submitting my applications and passport for a visa, I prepared by learning about the people who called Sri Lanka home. I purchased a travel guide book about a month from my departure date to learn what I could about the culture and cities I was to travel to. These books always have tips on having a great time, signs to watch out for, and things to avoid to prevent offending locals.

The CDC website provided me with the list of shots I needed and additional ways to ensure I stayed healthy while abroad. The last thing I did was call my bank and have a travel note placed on my credit cards to ensure they’d remain functional during my trip.

Did you speak a language other than your native tongue while you were away?
I tried to soak in as much of the language as I could. Natives love to teach you their words and help with your pronunciation and enunciation. (Note: The major languages spoken in Sri Lanka are Sinhalese, Tamil and Sri Lankan Creole Malay.)

Maurice Nick - 1

What was it like to attend classes?
Instead of taking classes, I had daily meetings with clients. One of my clients was a pretty established national dairy farm, the other was a fast-growing furniture store. Depending on the task at hand, we would do a number of things: meet with one in the morning, the other in the evening; or consecutive whole-day working meetings if we were on the cusp of a deliverable deadline. My partner and I never split time between the two clients. We stayed together as a team the entire time.

What’s your favorite memory of your experience?
My favorite memory was after a draining, whimsical seven-hour car ride from the capital city of Colombo to the capital of the North Central Province, Anuradhapura. We finally reached our motel. (This is how I tell the story.) Of course, I packed too much, and now have to face the task of carrying two of the largest suitcases ever allowed on a plane up the three flights of stairs to my motel room.

I walk in my room and, instantly, all is forgiven once I see my view over the Kandalama Reservoir. I walk to the huge, sliding glass door and open it for a breeze. I grab my suitcases that are now keeping my main door ajar and bring them inside. I dig in for a snack and ponder a nap before getting to work. I walk back to my door to ensure its fastened shut and then I notice a sign. It’s the rules of the motel, so I give it a quick skim. No. 4 on the list was “DO NOT OPEN SLIDING GLASS DOOR, AND WATCH OUT FOR ROAMING MONKEYS.” I turned so quick to run back and shut the door before the aroma of my snacks hit the trees and attracted a monkey. Thankfully, I had no intruders.

Maurice Nick - 2

Would you recommend studying abroad to others?
I think studying abroad is an essential part to one’s matriculation. The lessons learned while studying in another country are invaluable and cannot be replicated in your own country.

If you’d like to read the full interview, you can find it here. You can learn more about CIBER consulting projects here.