The Importance of International Experience in a European MBA Application

MBA: Your LaunchPad to a Global Career

Are you eyeing for a global career? Do you want to ride the wave of and lead in a global business world? Do you have a mindset that is global, curious and ambitious? If that sounds like you, then you are the stuff that international business schools love to have as their prospective students.


International Experience: Importance in a European MBA Application  

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                          Picture Credit: Carlson News; Carlson School of Management, University of Nebraska

However, getting into a top-class international business school requires lots of planning, preparation, strategising and execution. Most of these Schools have distinct criteria for admission. However, one common refrain that these schools are increasingly looking for in their applicants’ profile is an international experience. While top Business Schools around the world are increasingly making such experience a requirement, leading business schools in Europe such as INSEAD, ESCP Business School, London Business School (LBS), Imperial College Business School, HEC Paris, the University of Oxford Said Business School and the University of Cambridge Judge Business School have emphasised the importance of international experience, background in multicultural environments and global mindset as prerequisites for a place in their MBA programs. 

So why do Business schools look for international experience among its MBA applications? The primary reasons for MBA Schools to look for international experience among its applications are several.

  • Ensure that the class has diverse perspectives

Today any MBA program at any international business school is a mixture of students from different backgrounds, cultures and languages. Since the business has increasingly become global, having an international experience can help MBA students to bring diverse perspectives into classroom discussions and activities. Also, international experience gives you the advantage of cultivating an international professional network.

  • Applicants have diverse skill sets

International engagement helps you to diversify your skill sets. At the same time, it gives the insight that business dynamics and behaviour are widely different in various markets. This broadening of perspectives is reflected through the exchange of ideas in the classroom.

  • Ensure applicants have developed vital transverse skills

Have you worked in an unfamiliar environment? Do you have experience working outside your home country? Have you with people whose language is other than yours? Have you been able to transcend the language barrier? Do you have an overseas education? Have you encountered business practices in an unfamiliar setting? If the answer to all or some of these questions is a ‘Yes’, then you already have some of the vital skills that Business Schools expect from their applicants. 

Working or living outside your home country helps you to develop vital transverse skills and competencies such as maturity, adaptability, independence, initiative, communication skills, empathy, and resilience that are vital to function across domains, industries, organizations, locales and cultures. 


International Experience: The Case of Three Leading European Business Schools 

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Picture Credit: Tom Merton/Getty Images; Picture Source: US News and World Report


INSEAD Admission: International Motivation 

INSEAD in France is considered to be one of the top Business Schools in the world.  If you have set yourself the goal to crack the gate of MBA admission of INSEAD, you should justly be wondering how important international experience for getting admission into INSEAD is.

For their top 1-year MBA program, INSEAD aims at building a “dynamic and diverse student body”. In doing so, INSEAD has traditionally looked for candidates who are/have

  • Intellectually curious
  • Have personal qualities to contribute to the INSEAD ethos
  • Committed to negotiate a rigorous international program of this nature and scope

So how does INSEAD select such learners who can work with them to achieve such robust goals? INSEAD ensures this by setting their admission goals that are built on the following four critical criteria.

  • The ability to contribute to the INSEAD experience with their personal and professional experience
  • Academic credentials, including GMAT/GRE test scores
  • Demonstrated professional leadership experience of outstanding quality, with an average of five years of average working experience
  • Have very strong international motivation having the insights and perceptions of doing business in a complex international setting  

So what does it mean for you to have a strong international motivation for selection at INSEAD

Being a European Business School where 62% of the 2020 MBA class are learners coming outside of Europe (and 98% of the students are international), INSEAD wants to know if you 

  • Have either worked or studied abroad
  • If you do not have such international experience, you should have other proof of international exposure such as working in a multinational setting, skill in a foreign language, taking part in an international exchange program, international travel experience, taking part in international sports, etc
  • Are open-minded and sensitive to other cultures
  • Are comfortable in an immersive experience in a diverse, multicultural, cosmopolitan international community of 80+ different nationalities that have a common goal of pursuing a global career
  • Have fluency in English and a serviceable knowledge in another international language
  • Are ready to acquire “basic knowledge of a third language before graduating”
   Infographic Credit: INSEAD MBA Programme Class Profile 2020


International motivation is not necessarily about how many countries you have lived in. It is about your willingness to adapt your communication style around different cultures, your motivation to want to explore them, and your desire to effectively collaborate with people, who may be very different from you.


Imperial College Business School Admission: Global Perspective/International Experience

Like INSEAD, the Imperial College Business School lists Global Perspective or International Experience as a trait that “make your application” for the MSc.Program in International Management “stand out” from the crowd. Since international collaboration is at the heart of the program, the School emphasises that students coming from different backgrounds work together that broadens their international outlook and adds a global dimension to their capacities. Even volunteering abroad with a citizenship and community focus is something ICBS would love to see in your application.


IESE Business School Admission: International Outlook

The IESE Business School of the University of Navarra, Barcelona, list the following traits in candidates that they look for their flagship MBA program.

  • Leadership
  • Work Experience
  • International Outlook
  • Good Communication Skills
  • Team Player Mentality
  • Strong Values

In a similar vein, ESCP Business School and Mannheim Business School also list international experience as a definite plus for selection in their MBA programs. 

International Experience: What Should I Highlight?

If you are applying to an MBA program in a European Business School, what can you highlight as international experience?


  • Highlight in your application
  • Experience of studying or working abroad—from weeks to years
  • International experience matrix including the total length of time spent outside your home country
  • The range and diversity of your international experience
  • As an Indian student, an international engagement for three months in Russia or South Korea will attract more interest from the Admission Committee than six months of engagement in Nepal or Bangladesh or Bhutan 
  • Your takeaway from these engagements
  • Growing up abroad
  • Business trips or training abroad
  • Travelling abroad
  • Working in a multicultural team
  • Experience in dealing with international clients
  • Your ability to negotiate cultural diversity
  • Your resilience in face of culture shock and your capacity to evolve through it
  • Your skill in an international language
  • Your fluency in English


  • Pass off international exposure such as pleasure, vacation, or personal trip as international experience unless this involves a learning experience, a challenge, or community work

What If I…

Reading this far, if you are someone who is mumbling under your breath, “I don’t have much international experience. I don’t stand a chance,” then we would say, “Don’t lose heart. You still have ways to get yourself noticed. Here is what you should do.

  • Tell about your experience of working with a diverse group within your organisation, especially if you work virtually with clients or colleagues abroad
  • Convey the depth/breadth of such experience. Even a brief international experience can give you a unique perspective of another culture or country
  • Highlight your transverse skills that are highly valued by organisations across industries 
  • Showcase your international ambition

To close, if you still have questions that you want to have answered more pointedly, you can always reach out to us. Our expert overseas study consultants will try to answer those in the best possible manner that we could.


Author Bio:

Daisan brings on the table, more than 10 years’ experience in the overseas education domain. He has a proven track record of guiding and mentoring students from the beginning of the college application process, to graduation and beyond. He has mentored and guided 800+ students to their dream universities abroad.

Daisen possesses expertise for multiple destinations such as Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc., for different levels of programs (PhD, Master’s, PG Diploma and Bachelor’s).

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