International CPT for MBA Students in Los Angeles, Ca

By Jesse Fagerhaugh, Sept 2018


California is the number one state in the USA for international students with over 150,000 students statewide.  That number has doubled between 2006 and 2016 and continues to grow. California draws a lot of international students due to the quality of its schools, great weather, and tolerable political climate and this is especially true of Los Angeles. Los Angeles is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, sprawling neighborhoods, and is the de facto entertainment capital of the world.  The Los Angeles metropolitan area has a population of 10.1 million residents making it the second largest in the USA to New York City. The economy of Los Angeles is driven by international trade, entertainment, aerospace, technology, oil, fashion, apparel, and tourism and was ranked the 19th most competitive financial center in the world.

While students enrolled in California might feel comfortable at first, these familiarities have their disadvantages as well.  Students can isolate themselves amongst the large international student and immigrant population of Los Angeles, California, thus depriving themselves of the cultural experience that is always associated with studying abroad.  Learning about another culture can teach you more about your own culture as you are forced to compare and contrast the two.


The Challenges of Studying in California as an International Student

Living abroad highlights the differences between your host country and your own and this can lead to valuable insights.   However, in the Los Angeles area, Koreans can live in Koreatown where the number one language is Korean; all the signs are written in Korean and most restaurants are Korean, even including popular chain Korean restaurants.  This is also true for Chinese students in the San Gabriel Valley and other parts of Southern California including Orange Country.  These familiar opportunities in a faraway land detract from one’s ability to assimilate to the local culture and this can have an adverse effect on their professional life, including fewer opportunities to improve their English, network outside of their narrow social circle, and understand business and cultural norms.  This leaves international students at a disadvantage when applying for jobs in the USA or returning home with the expected learned local knowledge.  This is even more true when it comes to becoming a manager and receiving your MBA.  It is paramount that one understands the local culture and norms if one expects to thrive as a manager.  CPT offers  MBA students in California a valuable way to help immerse themselves in the local business culture.


How CPT Helps Provide Relevant Work Experience

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. CPT must be an integral part of an established curriculum.  Students can start CPT from the start of their studies if it is required by their university. Students can either work full-time or part-time on CPT. CPT requires a signed cooperative agreement or letter from your employer.  If you have 12 months or more of full-time CPT, you are ineligible for OPT, but part-time CPT is fine and will not stop you from doing OPT when you graduate.  Therefore, CPT is a great way to gain work experience while studying for a degree.

CPT affords students the opportunity to break out of their shell and learn more about the local work culture while gaining invaluable experience.  CPT is an essential aspect of the international student experience, especially in California and even more so for MBA students where managerial and cultural norms are the foundation of their value in the workforce.

CPT helps MBA students improve their written and spoken English, presentation skills, US business etiquette, the size of their network, and of course earn money.  Work experience is the perfect supplement to their business education degree.  International students often understandably lack US soft skills when starting work in the US.  Resume building, interviewing, and networking can be foreign concepts to most international students.  It is impossible to teach the daily routine and culture of a workplace in the classroom. Work experience will give students the confidence and ability to interview well and ultimately outperform their peers in the future.


The Gap between Course Lecture and Real-World Application

There is no substitute for real-world experience that can propel a student at the start of their career in the competitive business world.   Learning how to read people and understand both bosses and colleagues’ expectations are key to thriving in the social workplace.  These are traits that cannot be taught in the classroom.  At CiAM, students can gain real-world experience with the various consulting projects done throughout the 24-month program including numerous presentations with a focus on business level writing.  The Master’s Degree program prepares students with the necessary skills and knowledge to understand, manage or create financial, business, and leadership careers in executive management and entrepreneurship.  The program provides the tools for business and leadership professionals to develop knowledge, attitudes, and skill sets that will equip them to perform effectively, ethically and creatively in the corporate or entrepreneurial environment.

CPT Provides True Culture Immersion

International students can often feel isolated and alienated as a foreigner living in the USA. They are generally left out of the largest social experiences of everyday life in the US: employment, work, and the culture surrounding the business world. US culture is work and business focused and of course, it is very difficult for international students to enter this part of US society. Ask anyone who has ever hired anyone; there is a HUGE difference between no experience, some experience, and many years of experience in the workforce.

CPT bridges this gap by allowing international students the opportunity to obtain work experience juxtaposed against their daily studies. This allows international students to compare their studies with their work experience, better preparing them for their future careers.  For example, understanding management relationships are paramount to excelling in the workforce.  For example, in some cultures, it is not normal for employees to make suggestions to their managers as it may be misinterpreted for criticism or questioning authority.  However, good managers are always looking for good and new ideas regardless of where they come from.  Another example is about how much one should share about themselves and their families with coworkers. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to this.  Some cultures like you to inquire about their family to show you care about them and others consider it an invasion of privacy.   Therefore, CPT both increases the depth of experience for the student and adds to the richness of the MBA experience that is inherently experiential in nature. 


International students only have a short time in the USA.  School, friends, homesickness, a new culture, isolation, new experiences, and new friends all combine to contribute to an overwhelming experience that burns a mosaic of memories that will last a lifetime. It is easy to miss out on some things and before you know it realize that you are back home forever. Therefore, it is paramount that students, especially MBA students that are serious about their careers, participate in CPT while they are in the USA. 



About the Author

Jesse Fagerhaugh has over 10 years of education experience including teaching, student services, marketing and recruitment, visa applications, admissions, and volunteering. He has traveled to over 100 countries and is a huge proponent of life experiences abroad and understanding different cultures.

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