New Year, New Language

When I interviewed other Global Management Program (GMP) students for Humans of Haas, I asked “Why do you think the ‘global’ part of the Global Management Program is important?” The two interviewees, Mei Qi and Monique, talked about how crucial it is to learn about other people’s cultures and mindsets, in a social sense as well as in business. Our world has become so much more interconnected with new technologies and social medias, and I think one of the reasons why the students in GMP chose GMP was because they wanted to develop a more globalized mindset and understand how the rest of the world works. 

One aspect of our program is the language requirement. Along with other global management-focused courses or global studies courses, GMP students are required to take six semesters worth of a language course (or already know six semesters-worth of another language besides English). I asked the other students of the GMP class of 2023 about their language backgrounds and interests, because I wanted to know their perspectives on learning new languages. Here is what I found:

For a lot of us, foreign languages have been a significant part of our lives and will continue to be a significant part of our lives. Many students of GMP c’o 2023 are already fluent in other languages besides English, and many of them are eager to use their second (and third or fourth) languages beyond college and into their future careers and relationships. International business is a really broad term and we’ll learn a lot in the classroom, but there’s a lot more we will be able to learn by having another language under our belts. 

One student talked about how learning a new language “allows you to speak with other business leaders and better understand the culture of that country, which is important in business as it gives you a sense of what marketing strategy to use or who the buyers would be.” Another student discussed how “it’ll allow me to get to know different people and understand their perspectives and stories, [and] relate to people across national/ethnic borders.” Especially after studying abroad and traveling around Europe, I think a lot of us have become more excited to study a new language and potentially work abroad in the future, because we have come to see more value in knowing other cultures besides our own. 

The GMP Class of 2023 with Professor Dan Himelstein during GMP London Week 2019!

For me, studying abroad, learning a new language, and many other aspects of GMP are things that were and are daunting. I’m someone who likes to have everything under my control and plan out every detail or every scenario possible so I know what to expect and how to react. Trying something new is scary for me because I don’t like to make mistakes or ask for help. But in starting in a program that’s only one-year old and living in a foreign country, I’ve been trying to push myself outside of my comfort zone and do things that challenge the part of me that wants to hold back. 

In the Spring of 2020, I plan to start at square one and take French 1, knowing no French at all. And after spending time in Europe and putting myself in these new situations, I hope to come back and work in Europe sometime in the future. If I didn’t initially push myself outside of my comfort zone by studying abroad, I wouldn’t have found this new interest to work abroad. In starting a new language, I hope to continue learning from uncomfortable situations and embrace the new chances and opportunities I come by. 

Though I didn’t expect to develop new goals that would be full of the unexpected, I also didn’t envision myself living in London, or going to Berkeley, or even studying business. Now that I look back on it I know that these choices were the right decisions. So knowing this now, I am nervous, excited, and ready to start 2020 in a somewhat new place, surrounded by students I have yet to meet, learning a new language, and participating in a new(ish) program. We’ll see what happens. 

By Sara Cheung and the GMP Class of 2023

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