The foreign MBA stereotypes

happiest road

Until yesterday, I always cringed and vehemently argued with people who stereotyped Indians pursuing an MBA outside of India as “Foreign MBA a**holes. Here in Jakarta, I travel to work in an air-conditioned Avanza with a private chauffeur on a road (highly overstating here) with some pukka and kuccha houses on either side interspersed with piles of garbage and sewage. Although such sights are not as much of a surprise for me as it is for my French colleagues, some part of me seemed to want to disassociate with such familiarity. I think it is this denial to associate with the realities of emerging countries such as my own, that makes for a “foreign” MBA stereotype.

I was travelling alone to work yesterday morning and had nothing better to do but stare outside my window as the car rode bumpily along this road (see picture above). I saw a kid in tiny red underpants dancing so joyfully with his arms stretched out, completely in sync to the music I was listening to inside my car. Neither a broken road nor the dreary drain next door seemed to dampen his spirit. A few metres down, I saw a duck hanging out with a lazy tail-less cat and a perky hen in the middle of the road refusing to make way for us like we were intruding on their private early morning party. Then appeared a chained monkey out of nowhere surrounded by a gang of little kids. All of this just one tiny but overcrowded road. It was probably the happiest street I have ever been on.

It was at this very moment that I realised that I was in love with my city, my country, my people, etc. despite all its imperfections simply because I’d grown with them and unconditionally let them grown on me. But the one year I spent away from everything that was mine made me gain new perspectives while losing some. Last year, when my capital markets professor asked us in every class about what’s the most important thing in the world that day, he’d shoot down anyone sharing their local country headlines by saying that it was irrelevant and a reflection of our regional biases. So, all we ever cared about was what Obama would do with interest rates or if Draghi would hold out his hand for Greece. When you spend a year with people who want to gain this “global” perspective, you are desperately trying to leave your local baggage at the cost of looking at India from a scandinavian’s perspective in a class about economic development.



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