What’s So Special About Thunderbird?

By Bryce Bower, Co-Editor

Let me tell you.

During the first week of Foundations, one of my classmates from South Sudan said something I will never forget. He likened our campus to a small UN. People from dozens of countries all around the world come together in one place. We work together, study together, eat together, and some of us spend our free time together. So many different experiences and perceptions are represented here, and we are able to learn from our classmates the nuances that make each culture special.

During the Campus Tribute weekend, I met some amazing alumni. They were very friendly (with one or two exceptions) and had traveled and worked all over the world. Seeing people who attended Thunderbird over the last seven decades (my friend met a woman who studied here in the early 50s!) all come together was something special.

No matter our age or nationality, we all share a similarity in our hearts. When I first arrived at Thunderbird, I thought the “global mindset” and “Thunderbird mystique” were just marketing slogans. But there really is something different about us. The desire to travel, to meet new people from other places, to explore, to solve problems that no one else can, these things bind us together and make it so easy for us to interact with each other.

The alumni/current student soccer match during Campus Tribute Weekend.

Last Thursday, I played soccer with a group of 12 people consisting of T-birds, some local alumni, and friends of T-birds that live in the area. We had guys from Ghana, Kenya, the Philippines, Canada, Iran, Vietnam, and Chile. As far as I could tell, I was the only one on the pitch that day who was born in America. These experiences are why I came to Thunderbird. People with different traditions, religions, beliefs, and backgrounds banding together to achieve a common “goal.”

Thunderbird offers so many opportunities to interact with other people. We are required to do group projects for class, which give us the experience we will need for the “real world” of international business. There are dozens of clubs and groups where T-birds can hang out with people who share their interests: Global Sounds, the rugby team, the finance club, the soccer team, the Rotary club, and so many more.

This is where half of our education comes from. We “learn” cross cultural negotiation in the Pub. We build multinational teams in nearly everything we do.

First year MAGAM students stick around to chat after eating.

On certain days when our schedules align, 20ish first year MAGAM students will occupy one of the long tables in the Commons. We talk about food, movies, play the quiz game HQ together on our phones, and share whatever is currently stressing us out. Outsiders have a hard time believing that students in a graduate program spend so much time together. I’ve never been to another graduate school, but I imagine they must be dreary and lonely places.

When I arrived at Thunderbird, I was disappointed to learn that the language program had been done away with. We, the students, created our own language exchange program (for some reason there was no preexisting framework for it this year, like there had been in past years).

A friend of mine teaches Portuguese weekly to those who already know Spanish. I practice and improve my Russian with my Ukrainian friend (who is fluent in both Russian and Ukrainian) every other Friday afternoon. The other Fridays I teach Spanish to some of my classmates. I learned Mandarin Chinese on Thursday nights from a Taiwanese friend and can now construct phrases like “please give me chopsticks,” “what is your name,” and “I am an idiot.” These phrases vary in degree of difficulty, but I have found them to be equally useful.

Useful phrases for my upcoming Summerim in Shanghai and Singapore. (Thanks Jenny!)

Languages are obviously not the only thing I have been learning. My favorite feature of the faculty and staff here is their cross-disciplinary knowledge. Some faculty are able to share with us current trends they are seeing among executives who come in for the executive education program. Other professors have experience working in dozens of different countries, and are able to give us a great snapshot of what to be mindful of when doing business in a certain country.

In class, we covered the international community’s response (or lack thereof) to the Rwandan genocide. We got to hear our classmate share her experiences of working for the Rwandan Department of Justice, and the frustration the Rwandan people feel that some war criminals are given asylum in other countries. Where else would you get this kind of insight?

So many things come together to make Thunderbird special. We are truly greater than the sum of our parts.

Some people chose Thunderbird because of the classes, the professors, or by the doors that will be opened for them by a master’s degree. For me, the reason studying at Thunderbird and living on campus is a special is the people I get to do it with.

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