The journey of an Indian MBA student from Amritsar, England
When he wanted to move from a technical role to a consulting role, Harsh Pal Singh knew that the next “obvious step” was an MBA. In 2020, the Indian MBA student joined the tens of thousands who travel to the UK every year in search of a better career through education.
Singh is currently a full-time MBA student at Durham University Business School. Although he studies at a distance, he is still able to connect with classmates.
Although COVID-19 has made it nearly impossible to enjoy the full hands-on experience that international students seek, Singh believes he still benefits from his grounding in the local culture. He views each challenge as a valuable learning experience and has a mission to develop his leadership skills.
Below, Study International is chatting with this Indian MBA student via email about his degree and life in the UK:
As an Indian MBA Abroad student, what made you want to study in UK and Durham University?
Several reasons contributed to my decision to study abroad. On the one hand, getting a top quality management education through which I could develop a global perspective on various issues was my priority. Also, knowing that it would expose me to different cultures, new friends and languages was an exciting aspect. I was ready to take on the challenges that would arise.
I have had an inherent interest in management since the very beginning of my career. This slowly led me to gain managerial experience after spending six years working in technical roles. The MBA was the obvious next step in advancing my career goals.
I chose to study at Durham University Business School because I felt it had the program that best matched my aspirations and goals. I knew I wanted to get into consulting and their MBA offered a dedicated consulting path to follow.
It also allowed me to develop specific skills and has an excellent worldwide reputation with excellent value for money. I feel that my experience brings out the best in me. Watching my skills evolve over time is a very interesting personal development.
What do you like most about the UK?
The cultural diversity in the UK is incredible. The university system – especially the business school – invites people from different cultures and brings them together in programs. This makes my MBA course a very unique learning experience.
Living in Durham and the UK has given me the chance to see so many sites that remind me of its long history – everything is so well preserved! The people I have met are very friendly and will often give you a friendly smile. Also, I really like the variety of dogs that I see on a walk with their owners every day.
Do you think it would have made a difference if you had studied your MBA at a local institution?
Yes, the difference would have been there in terms of receiving more limited experience and opportunities for value creation. With around 13 years of work and career experience, it made sense for me to pursue an MBA internationally so that I could better achieve my professional and personal goals. As an Indian MBA abroad student, it is a truly life changing adventure that can change your future career trajectory and enhance your personal development.
Can you share your most memorable, non-academic experiences in the UK so far?
I came to the UK with my wife and neither of us had experienced snow in their lifetime. Watching the first snowfall was such a treat for us that it made us wait (and hope) for snow every day after that.
Durham University has extremely scenic walking routes. The Riverwalk area, in particular, is a great experience as you can appreciate the beauty of the local nature while marveling at the sights of the castle. It reminds you of a great story.
You realize the present moment, then your mind wanders back into the past. Then, before I was brought back to the present moment, I came to appreciate how life has evolved over the years.
Where is the house? Tell me about your hometown.
My hometown is Amritsar which is located in a state of Punjab which is in the northern part of India. Amritsar is a very popular tourist destination known for its Golden Temple – the main place of worship for Sikhs.
This place is made of gold and welcomes people of all religions and faiths. It is visited by 100,000 people every day and has been certified as the world’s most visited religious place by the UK-based Book of World Records.
Many heads of state and dignitaries also visited the temple, including the UN secretary general. The Golden Temple has been proposed to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So this would be the first place you should visit.
In addition to this, you must also visit the popular museum and historic forts. To add further, Amritsar is also popular for food. I would recommend Kesar Da Dhaba restaurant, one of our most famous old restaurants (since our independence) for local cuisine. Fun fact: it was also visited and appreciated by the late American chef Anthony Bourdain.
From there, I also advise you to go to the Indo-Pakistan border – the Wagah border. It is only 28 kilometers away and each evening hosts a “border ceremony” which takes place daily before sunset.
What the local food is like compared to UK. Tell us your favorite plus and minus?
As you can imagine my hometown food is very spicy compared to UK food. My favorite local dishes are chilli mushroom and ‘tandoori’ (spicy) chicken. My least favorite are the fish specialties. In the UK, although I have only visited a few restaurants so far, the fried chicken I tried at Revolution Durham has become my favorite. My least favorite are the beef dishes.
Is it difficult for a stranger to order food or strike up a conversation with the locals?
While there is no problem when ordering food or drink, there is quite a challenge in engaging in more general conversations with the locals – it has been a learning experience! Sometimes you think it’s easy to approach and talk to people and sometimes you can find it awkward.
All in all, it’s a good experience to gain as it helps you discover yourself in a new environment. As you gain self-awareness, your own personal inhibitions will slowly subside.
What cultural sites have you explored in Durham? Tell us something you got out of it.
The most important cultural site is Durham Cathedral which I have visited several times. It is beautiful and located on high ground, which makes it visible from many places in the city. Norman architecture immediately catches your attention!
I was curious to visit before I even left India because I heard a lot that it was a filming location for the Harry Potter movies. The architecture is not only impressive but also an important point of historical appreciation for me. The essential learning is how things of historical significance are still so beautiful, attractive and relevant. The influence they exert on the current generation is enormous.
What’s the one thing from the UK you plan to bring home?
I plan to stay in UK after graduation and start the next chapter of my career progression here. My wife is also enjoying our new life here. The returning family is of course missed by all, but they will be visiting soon as the circumstances caused by COVID-19 normalize over time.
What advice would you give to international students wishing to study in the UK?
The world is changing and becoming more dynamic, so you need to constantly adapt to be successful. When you start your new chapter in the UK, do it with an open mind. Show a willingness to learn, make connections, network, participate in events, and interact in classroom activities.
By reaching these small goals every day, you can continue to achieve bigger things. Remember the words: “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm is terrible, but they have never found in these dangers a sufficient reason to stay ashore”, by Vincent van Gogh, one of the most famous figures in the history of Western art.
What is one thing you miss in your home and how do you replace it?
With my wife, we had many friends at home that we used to go out for dinner – something that we miss here. However, we made some new friends in the UK who are visiting us for dinners when the lockdown restrictions were lifted a bit.
We miss the spicy food from the Amritsar restaurant but we try to replace it in our kitchen by using a lot of spices available here. Finally, I’m a guy who lives for sunlight and the UK is generally known for its weather fluctuations. So when the sun comes up, even for a while, it reminds me of home.