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Lessons From Dubai: What I Learned During My MBA Exchange Program

Anu Sanya wanted an international MBA that would take her cross-cultural negotiation skills to the next level. Edinburgh Business School’s MBA program at Heriot-Watt University delivered just that

Anu Sanya has always enjoyed a career that has an international flare to it.

As general VP of strategic partnerships with Terragon Group, a global marketing and data tech firm based in Africa, she worked out of Nairobi, Lagos, and Johannesburg, negotiating with clients across the world.

Still, Anu was keen to further extend her skills as a cross-cultural negotiator. She wanted to be able to walk into a meeting with any client, confident that she could understand their management style and walk out with a deal. “And of course, there’s only one way to achieve that,” she says, “which is doing the MBA that offers truly international exposure.”

More specifically, an MBA with an international cohort and a global outlook, which she says is why she chose the full-time MBA at Edinburgh Business School (EBS) at Heriot-Watt University.

“I wanted to share a class with people from all over the world,” Anu explains, “because that way I could understand [their] cultures and see from their perspective.”

The MBA at EBS certainly delivered on this score. According to Anu, despite applying for the full-time program in Edinburgh, the UK, there was only a 10% chance that she would have a British person in her class.

Students enrolled on to the full-time MBA program on the school’s Edinburgh and Dubai campuses, have the opportunity to be part of an eight-week exchange program in the second term of their studies. During this exchange, students learn about organizational behavior and economics, and pursue elective of their choosing.

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For Anu, the exchange program at Edinburgh Business School meant another cohort of international students to connect with—including students from France, India, even Jordan—and company visits that showed them how business was conducted in the Middle East.

“We had the opportunity to gain a unique insight,” she recalls, “especially when we went to the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. The lady from the intelligence unit took time explaining where business in the Middle East is going and the economics of it.”

Even downtime in Dubai was filled with learning opportunities. The trip gave Anu a greater idea of the reality of international development, introducing her to the Dubai Department of Tourism’s Vision 2020. The initiative aims to build sustainable infrastructure and tourist attractions to entice more international visitors, serving as a springboard for business activity in the city.

For Anu, the future looks bright. She hopes to use what she learned on the exchange, to be more successful at networking and connect with the businesspeople she meets, and to better understand their various perspectives and cultural differences.

The experience and knowledge gained during her MBA will be useful, especially over the next 12 months, as she grows her wedding listing site, Our Nuptial Chest, which enables a cash gift registry.

Anu’s business is based in Edinburgh Business School’s newly opened Incubator and she is planning to stay in Edinburgh in the short-term to build her career as an entrepreneur. However, she has global ambitions and says Edinburgh Business School has put her on track to realize them.