5 Tips for International Students

I have contemplated writing a blog to document my experiences in the 10 month MS Analytics program. However, when it came time to choose a topic to write about, I was more confused than a SAS programmer using R for the first time.

I wanted to write about a multitude of topics: a project that I worked on, my super human ability to write code (just kidding), or even some real world applications in the field of analytics. In the end though, I realized that being an international student allowed me to share my unique experiences in the program so far. I also realize that being one of the most prestigious analytics programs in the U.S, many of my international comrades would like to know some tips and tricks to help guide them through this arduous but amazing 10 month journey.

So without further ado, here are my top tips for international students coming to the program.

TOP TIP #1: There is no I in Team

I can’t stress enough about this tip. Coming from a very competitive and often cut throat business school in South Asia, I had become accustomed to working by myself and often neglecting other people’s opinions. Remember that the goal of the MSA program is to prepare you for a professional career, and trying to do everything by yourself will only result in problems later on. So work well with your teams and try to learn as much as you can from them.


TOP TIP #2: Don’t try to do everything at once

This is closely related to the first tip, but it is just as important. The condensed nature of the program means that you will always be learning new tools and techniques and will be kept busy with multiple homeworks, assignments, and the odd assessment thrown in. However, it will not be possible to work on everything at once unless you are powered by Duracell or something similar. Remember that your team is there for a reason and if you miss something, you can learn it from them.

TOP TIP #3: Don’t be afraid you don’t have a programming background

This is a big one. When you think of analytics, words like SAS, R, and Python are often used in tandem. Although you may be at a slight disadvantage initially, given some time you’ll be writing macros and do loops like they were nobody’s business. You will have your professors, peers, and don’t forget GOOGLE to help you out. I personally, had never even looked at a computer program before coming to the program, and I am still amazed when I think of some of the stuff I have worked on so far.

TOP TIP #4: Communication is key

My favorite part of the program is that it strikes an awesome balance between the technical and communication aspects of analytics. Many of us don’t realize that even though we may be the best programmer in the world, if we can’t communicate our findings, they will be of no use to the person we work for. However, be not alarmed my international friends. You will go through an extensive communication training process during your first semester and will also be given feedback by your peers and professors to improve your communication skills. By the time you get to the fall semester, communicating your results will become a lot easier and possibly even more enjoyable.

TOP TIP #5: Network like you mean it

Let’s be honest with each other. Most probably, you are not going to move half way around the world and give up a year of income just for fun. The Institute prides itself on its proven track record of placing both domestic and international students by graduation. However as you will hear Dr. Rappa say again and again, “Do your part and I’ll do mine.” Remember to network with every employer that comes to the Institute–whether you are interested in working for them or not. If you don’t feel confident enough, ask a friend to introduce you, or ask a question that you are really interested in asking. Although it could be a bit troublesome in the beginning, by the end of the program you will be a “Networking Machine” ready to land the best job possible.


Columnist: Hamza Qureshi