When most university students are asked what they wish to do after graduation, for some, travel is usually at the top of the list. However, in a world of student loans, tuition payments, career goals and the simple need to make a living, the dream of travel can remain as just that, a dream. For those itching to explore distant cultures in far flung places, the easiest way to get to see the world is to study abroad. For Kyla Humphreys, an MBA graduate hailing from Maple Ridge, a sleepy suburb of Vancouver, the process allowed her the ability to sharpen her tools and skillset in a way that, as she states, beneficially granted her an edge among her peers. Even though the experience took the former student in an entirely new direction, eventually setting up an unrelated business venture in the process. As she logged in hours at SFU’s advertising program, for Kyla, the dream to travel was always in the back of her mind.
Kyla initially studied advertising at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby B.C. (a different sleepy suburb of Vancouver). Upon graduation, the goal-oriented student was determined to further her career through an MBA. As any business student trying to find the right master’s program would tell you, the process of finding the right school is a crucial marriage between the school’s pedigree, the student’s drive and ability, and an acceptance quota. At the chance of enrolling in an international business program in Tokyo, Kyla jumped at the opportunity.
More than just sightseeing, through the immersive process of a cultural exchange, Kyla was able to visit industrial manufacturing plants for Nissan and Toyota, as well as the beer glass-shaped head office of the Asahi Corporation, and finally, advertising power house agencies like Dentsu. According to Kyla, to immerse yourself in a different culture, through inter-cultural communication skills, also becomes vital to a broader dialogue.
“Gaining an international perspective, combining disciplines, [a master’s abroad] can add a lot of colour to a resume. It demonstrates that you’re a risk taker, willing to step out of your comfort zone and willing to take initiative.”
For Kyla, cracking the hard-nosed, ultra-competitive and exclusively Japanese world of advertising proved more than something a girl could do in just three semesters. Even as a business student, Kyla had to work part-time in order to support her studies and travel. Until recently, international students were limited to study-only visa situations that prevented them from becoming functioning and contributing members to their host countries. More recently, a mutual agreement between visa exempt participating nations (including Canada, the UK, Japan, etc.), allows for part-time work of up to 28 hours a week.
Although her idea, at first, was to supplement her income by tutoring/teaching young kids; the demand for English speakers in Asian countries like South Korea, China and Japan has been steadily on the rise. By teaming up with other English speaking students, Kyla supplemented part of her income by starting a weekend English school for Japanese kids aged 3-9. A few months into her stay and demand for her business increased tenfold. Unintentionally, the international student created a business that allowed a flexible model for individuals only able to work 28 hours a week. Upon graduation this past June, Kyla’s business allowed her the opportunity to continue traveling while putting her business/advertising career on the back-burner. Although leaving Japan will mean leaving her business behind, her fellow students are determined to continue the business on her behalf. For this student turned teacher, being flexible, innovative, entrepreneurial as well as analyzing what skillset she already possessed, allowed her the quick-witted edge that resulted in an entirely new business to materialize. Her attitude allowed her to shift into something she never thought she wanted to do; finding out what she was innately good at in the process.
“Above all it’s a learning process, where you learn how many skills you actually have; simply having English as a primary language and interacting with people was a skill I didn’t really know I could tap into […]. All the opportunities that studying abroad can offer are unbelievable, they’re endless!”
Thanks to her enterprising spirit Kyla is off to Peru to continue her adventure, finally making her dream to visit Machu Picchu come true, in the mean-time, business can wait.