Studying Business Abroad: The International Option

Students at Oxford University in the United Kingdom

Students at Oxford University in the United Kingdom

Levy Forchheimer took an unconventional route when he decided to go 5,000 miles from his home in New York to study at IDC Herzliya’s Arison School of Business in Israel. Unlike many students who go abroad, his journey wasn’t for a semester or even for a year. It was for the long haul.

He received a BA in business administration when he graduated in 2010, and decided to continue living in Israel. A business degree from an Israeli school gave him a ticket into the country’s vibrant startup community, where he took a sales job for a small website eventually bought by Groupon. He’s now working in business development for another startup in the food service industry. For Forchheimer, who now lives in Tel Aviv, the gamble has more than paid off.

“I have learned a new language, studied with people from all over the world and live in a sunny, beautiful beach city,” he said. “All in all, it has been an extremely rewarding experience for me.”


Forchheimer’s decision to get his undergraduate business degree abroad is a path that is becoming increasingly common as a growing number of students are choosing to invest in an international education, realizing the dividends it can pay off in the labor market. It is easier than ever before for students to get their degree abroad, as more and more universities are catering to English-speaking students, offering English-taught degrees in countries where English is not the primary language (Israel’s Arison School of Business being just one of many examples).

There were 46,500 American students who pursued full degrees abroad in 2011-12, up five percent from the previous year, according to “New Frontiers,” a report released in May of 2013 by the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit that collects data on international university and high school students in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, business is among the top five fields of study that U.S. students in overseas degree programs choose to pursue, the report said.


“In a global economy, professional, financial, and academic incentives continue to motivate Americans to pursue degrees abroad,” the study’s authors wrote in the report.

Getting a degree abroad, especially one in business, may sound appealing, but the application process can seem daunting. For one thing, it is not as easy a process as filling out The Common Application or applying to your local state university.  Poets&Quants’ Alison Damast spoke to three experts on international education to get their advice on how aspiring business students should approach the international college hunt and how to thrive once they start their degree program abroad. Here are a few of their tips:

Do your homework: 

There are hundreds of program abroad that offer a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, but no obvious way to ascertain the quality or reputation of the program. Graduate business students can turn to the Financial Times’ Global MBA rankings, but no such thing exists for undergraduate business programs, said Norean Sharpe, the senior associate dean for undergraduate programs at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and an expert on undergraduate programs and global education. “Applying to BBA programs abroad is tricky,” Sharpe said. “It involves quite a bit of research on the part of students because the ranking for the MBA program does not necessarily translate to the same reputation for the BBA program.”

So where should one start? Brian Whalen, the president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, a nonprofit that advises students and universities on study abroad programs, recommends that students look for schools that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a U.S.-based accrediting agency which is seen by many in the management education world as the gold standard for B-school approval. From there, students should make every attempt to pay a visit to the campus they’re targeting, even if it means a plane ride to the U.K. or China.

“Just as students here in the U.S. visit colleges before they apply to them, I think the same basic advice would hold true for students considering colleges or universities overseas,” Whalen said. “I wouldn’t recommend that they go cold without having visited ahead of time to really make sure it is a good fit.”