Benefits of Experiential Learning
9 months later, it is really hard to draw a conclusion on my Hult Experience. I’ve gone through all of the phases, from euphoria and enthusiasm to criticism and disappointment. I guess it is a standard path for someone who moves from the comfort zone and tries something new. It was a giant leap, which is something I knew and was prepared for but, back in Serbia, it was hard to anticipate how giant it would be.
50 shades of different
Weeks later you realize that the US is not always what you see in the movies. Apart from the scenery, everything else is different. Language, culture, climate and, of course, education. In my particular case, undergraduate studies meant lots of studying. I had 14 math related courses, lots of computer science courses and no actual knowledge I could use. I was studying but I wasn’t learning. The learning part happened in extracurricular activities such as AIESEC, or my freelance work. However, a good thing about this approach is that you learn how to distinguish important from less important. Not many people are able to memorize 500+ pages, but still many of them are passing exams. It’s a skill that takes a while to develop but proves to be handy till the rest of our lives.
Hult provided a completely opposite experience. You do study, but you don’t have to memorize huge amounts of information. What you need is to recognize patterns and apply them in real life through projects such as business and marketing plans. The focus is not on remembering but on using the information to solve the problem. Seems logical? Not at the first sight…
The problem with this type of learning lies in the fact students don’t feel any progress is being made. They read, write, present, and don’t feel any smarter than before they came at Hult and spent all the money they didn’t have. This is the part where you start criticizing school and being truly disappointed. I won’t lie to you, it happened to me. But, as usual, it gets better over time.
Meet experiential learning
Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience, i.e., “learning from experience”.
Wikipedia might not be the most relevant resource to look for a definition of Experiential learning, but it gives you a picture of what is it all about. Turns out this is pretty similar to what I was referring to while explaining my experience at Hult. Instead of trying to remember what to do, I was simply doing it. Progress happened, but it wasn’t as fast and obvious as I expected. I started as this guy and moved to something that is closer to proper English. My writing improved, and I gained lots of confidence when it comes to presenting in a foreign language. I figured out Chinese people do not like to hug until they get used to it. This list can go on forever and no it would not include the rules of baseball.
What is Hult actually doing, is putting each and every student in a specific, highly international, environment. Students are able to learn from working with people from all around the world. Hence, they are able to experience what it is like to work in a similar environment and what are the challenges they might face in the future. Instead of remembering hundreds of pages of information, they learn to think critically and tackle any business problem with ease.
Breaking the barriers
Last month, I was doing a talk on Tvitomanija conference in Croatia about the ways the future can be anticipated. With a simple premise – everything that happens today already happened in the past – I tried to explain some basic business patterns. For example – the very same thing that happened in the US when mobile penetration surpassed 50% could be expected in Nigeria a couple years later. If you analyze the situation from the first market and invest in the second one, you will become a first mover and get an unfair advantage your competition won’t be able to meet. People wondered why Nigeria, and how come I was talking about all these countries when just 9 monts ago you’d been talking only about the region? Just by changing my environment for a couple of months I’ve changed the way I think about business. Barriers were broken, I’ve met people from all around the world and realized there is no much difference. I am a friend with them and will be happy to work with them. I am not anymore just a guy from Serbia, but a globetrotter looking forward to conquer the world. Check this video and it will be more clear to you.
The funniest of all, I took this fact as granted. I didn’t see anything strange in mentioning Nigeria. But others did. The change happened, and as it couldn’t be valued in number of pages I ignored it. Luckily, others didn’t. A smile came back to my face. I realized I made a good move.
So, is it good?
It is. But as I said you have to accept it is different. Changes are never easy. Once you move from your home country you feel insecure, you feel alone and want to get back home. “Imperfect school” is not helping. Yup, it is not perfect. Some courses are not challenging, some professors too lazy to grade and some students not qualified to be there… But, it is good enough. And, as always, it is all on you. If you want to get the most out of it, you’ll get even more. If you are waiting for a miracle to happen, it probably won’t.
I have been disappointed but from this perspective I don’t regret it. It was an amazingly transformational experience for me and people around me. It changed me for the better and brought me lots of friends. A network for life. Everything I need to succeed. I guess it is my turn now to really do it.