Monthly archive for December 2015

TOP 5 skills you need to learn when you are in university

china educational tours

Remember when you got to the end of your degree and thought, “if only I had known that at the beginning of my degree”. Yes, that could be true of life in general too but at Uni, there are infinite guidebooks but little guidance.

Here are the top 5 skills you need to consider. So toss out those guidebooks and reflect on these:


  1. Consider the end at the beginning


It can be a pretty daunting place when you first get to university after leaving high school. From rooster to feather duster in 3 months. Where do you go? How does it work? Will you make friends? And so on…


So the real trick to this is to get ahead of the game. Most universities have Orientation Week (O Week) and are completely overrun with newbie students that week. How about instead of starting in O Week, you start the week before. While there are absolutely no students on campus, every other human being is there. Your lecturers, your administrators, your student representatives/union….all on campus. And no students.


This is your chance to plan the entire course – all 3, 4 or 5 years of it – right from the beginning. Go and meet the prof’s, question the admin staff and seek out your rights with your student reps.


In short, it’s all about planning. What if you could get your whole first year planned out before things even began? An understanding of where all of the amenities are, your timetable unveiled early, your classrooms familiar to you and most importantly of all – finding that tricky secret parking spot on a campus of thousands.


china educational tours

  1. Remember it is your principal social environment


This second tip is one I give with a little nervousness. Perhaps the number one reason for students dropping out of school in the 1st year is the balance between work/life. Too much life, not enough work.


Remember you are only on-campus for a little more than 6 months of the year and during those 6 months and depending on which courses you take, you may be in class for no more than 20 hours a week or so. In fact, many students have even less time in class than that.


So try and get the work/life balance correct. Just as it is important to be attending classes and handing in term papers it is also important to immerse yourself in the school social scene. Just remember, most others were just like you on the first day of school – alone.


Join clubs and only clubs whose activity you love. The choice of club doesn’t have to be something that marries up to your final choice of career but that would be useful if possible. Perhaps a better outcome is to go for clubs and societies that really excite you and excite you enough for you to reach a leadership position. Future employers love to read this on a CV.

china educational tours

  1. Have a study regime


Universities are very bad for giving you long periods of little work and then short bursts of too much work. Students tend not to study during the first type and drink too much coffee and ‘pull all-nighters’ during the second type. In short – universities destroy your time management skills.


From Week One, you have to spread the study load across the whole semester. I know that no-one reads much more in a course outline other than what the assessment is and when it is due but honestly – this needs to be read properly from Day 1.


If you can lay out your study efforts across a semester and allocate a little piece each week, you will be surprised at just how little you have to do at the end of semester.


Think about doing the reading for each week in the week in which it is required. This is perhaps the most fundamental mistake a student makes. As part of this reading, do a little due diligence around both the exam and the assignment – all in Week One.


With the assignment, underline all of the key elements and be sure to listen out for these comments in the forthcoming week’s lectures. There is no doubt that most good lecturers link their material to the assignment and no doubt give some pretty good tips along the way.


As for the exam – this one is easy. If it is the same examiner over a number of years, he/she is unlikely to change the exam much more than 20 or 30%. If that’s the case, then you can be preparing for the exam from the first week by reading the previous 3 year’s exam papers, which you can find in the library.



  1. It doesn’t have to be all about study


We already covered the work/life balance but there is another dimension to consider. If a prospective employer sees just university life over your time at uni – no matter how good the grades – he/she won’t rate you. It is as simple as that.


The toughest thing as an employer is not hiring the staff member with 2 or 5 years’ experience. It is hiring the the student who has no experience on their CV. Don’t think for a minute that the 2 weeks’ internship you did in a clothing salon counts for anything either. It is all about relevant experience. It is about experience you choose and not internships that are forced on your through the school curriculum.

This could be the summer job each year or a repetitive theme around your internships (eg. Internships always at ad agencies). Whatever it is, it needs to show the employer what kind of worker and leader you are – not what kind of student you are.


  1. Stay in touch


The workforce – whether it is medicine, engineering, business or another – is all about the network.


Many students reflect on what kind of network they are going to build once they graduate. Most forget that the network starts straight away.


We are inclined to be very social in a university environment and then let these social bonds we formed at uni slowly break apart over time. Don’t be one of these graduates. Be the kind of graduate who remembers how much fun it was to kick around with friends at uni and understands the same people can be a rich source of friendship and social network as you get older.


The best networks are the ones you don’t work at – the ones that come naturally. Nothing comes more naturally than networks formed under pressure. Like the pressure of all those years of struggle and fun at uni.




In- class Education or Internship

So many issues in business education are drawn to an either/or outcome.  Should I finish on time and go into the workforce or should I pursue an honors year?  Should I do a double degree or a single degree? Should I go onto my Masters/MBA immediately after my undergrad or should I go into the workforce first?

educational school trips

Some can be resolved with a simple yes or no but most are complex issues not resolved so simply.

‘Should I stay in the class room or should I do an internship’ is such a question being asked by undergraduates all over the world.  In some countries (eg. France) there is no option as it is built into the curriculum.  In other countries, like Australia, the choices are wide open.




Here are five tips you should consider when making such a decision:

educational school trips


  1. What can you possibly gain from staying in the classroom any longer?

Don’t assume from the nature of the question that I am suggesting that you should leave the classroom as soon as possible.  There are many skills and concepts that are better conveyed or at least equally well conveyed in the classroom as in the real world.


Think carefully about what you want to do when you finally leave university or business school.  What are some of the things you could craft in a classroom that might help you towards that ultimate goal?  If you are a negotiation major, could it be more practice in role playing?  If you are an engineer, more practicums to test your knowledge first?  If you are an industrial designer, could entering that university competition help you on your path to success?



  1. What can you possibly gain from doing an internship?


Internships offer many things that classrooms don’t.  Access to real world thinking.  Access to the latest industry practice.  A chance to put into practice many of the things you have learned in the classroom and elsewhere.


One word of warning – be sure to choose an internship that offers practical outcomes that align with your own career choices.  About half of the internships out there offer a good result for interns while the other half offer cheap labour to employers or repetitive, useless jobs like making the coffee or doing the filing.



  1. What would an internship offer you by way of skills that are attractive to future employers?


Most students think that employers are mostly interested in grades.  Well, perhaps the Big 4 accounting firms are.  Maybe the big consulting firms too.  After that, most are just happy to see that you have a degree from a great institution.


If they look at your CV and see nothing but grades and sporting awards, how are they to judge potential?  OK, so you are a great student but will that make you a great worker?


What you need to do is to fill up your CV with real work experience that matches the the type of job you ultimately go for.  There’s no point in showing the HR director from a large ad agency that you have worked in a supermarket, sold clothes in a clothing store and worked in a management consulting firm if they are looking for someone in account services for their ad agency

  1. Are you in a position to shape either of these paths – classroom or internship?


Your best way to shape your path in the classroom is quite simple – choose your electives wisely.  While you might see a long list of very interesting courses that might be fun, be honest with yourself.  Will they actually help you learn more about the career you are choosing for yourself?  Can they help develop skills you are currently lacking and a future employer would be looking for?


In an internship, the best way to be ‘Master/Mistress’ of your own destiny is to ensure there is structure in the internship program.  If you can see what it is you will be doing before you even start, then you are in a better position to judge if you can shape the internship to suit your overall needs.

educational school trips

  1. Which one allows you to better connect the dots directly to your dream career job?

At the end of the day, one of these is going to be better suited to meeting your outcomes at a given point in time.  If you have a strong sense of what you want from your career, can you judge what the classroom has to offer that aligns with this?  Has the company offering the internship shown you exactly what you will be doing during the internship


The business school balloon slowly deflates

educational school tours

educational school tours

I can’t help but feel that there is a dulling of education as universities and business schools push more and more students in front of fewer and fewer teachers and treat PowerPoint as some kind of baby sitting tool. “If I show them enough ppts and entertain them with stories…my student evals will go through the roof….and my job will be safe”.

But will the system be safe? Is there learning going on and if not, how soon before the customers realise and then choose to spend their money elsewhere?

It’s not so much ‘death by PowerPoint’ as much as it is a slow water torture while awaiting graduation in 3, 4 or 5 years.

Has learning become secondary to accreditation and P&L statements and if so, then what is it really worth?

Is it too late to change it or is Peter Thiel right and it is simply the next asset bubble waiting to burst?


What are study tours and what makes a great one?

Study tours are essentially a form of active based learning.  Rather than the classroom being your world, the world becomes your classroom.
Between Facebook distractions and ‘death by powerpoint’, the allure of classroom interaction with teachers – either ‘chalkin’ and talkin’ or via the whiteboard – just doesn’t hold for most students anymore.  Academic staff no doubt do mix things up a little – case study discussion, youtube clips, student presentations but classroom fatigue has definitely set in. Teachers would claim that attention spans are getting smaller while students counterclaim that teachers are becoming more verbose.  Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Whatever the case, it’s clear to most students that spending your entire degree in the classroom simply doesn’t cut it anymore.  Both undergraduate and postgraduate students alike are demanding a more real experience than what the classroom offers.  This is not to say that they don’t expect such experience to be couched in conceptual frameworks explained by their teachers just that they need to have the opportunity to combine such conceptual discussion with real world context.
china tours for students
So what are the 6 key things make a great and relevant study tour?  Consider these:

1. Linking the study tour to learning objectives

The better academics don’t simply ‘set and forget’ – setting assignments but then letting students meander through the new countryside.  Creating a clear structure for your program that includes specific expert and cultural visits that meet particular learning outcomes is critical.  For instance, if it is a group of engineers you are taking to a far away country and cross cultural HR management is a topic you are trying to convey, you might consider having a presenter present that country’s approach to project management.  You might follow this up with a break out discussion over breakfast the next morning.  Such an element might be included in the assignment the students are doing.  In short – everything links up.

2. Balancing contextual expert visits with cultural visits

Study tours usually err either on too much expert or too much culture/free time.  Striking a balance is important.  There is also the opportunity to combine the two and host an expert presentation in a particularly important part of the country.  Discussing the historic significance of the Great Wall of China in the Subway cafe located at the entrance to this national park might give the opportunity to discuss the cultural sensitivity of running such a retail establishment in such a culturally significant location.

3. Time for reflection/time for break-out

As most of these study tours are quite short (2-3 weeks) you really need to make every post a winner.  Notwithstanding the need to rest occasionally, do consider breakfast time (or immediately before); lunch time (the group are usually traveling together between expert/cultural visits most days); and on the coach/bus between cities or expert/cultural visits.  Don’t do it too much as you will tire the group out and do remember that postgrads are more used to such a relentless pace than undergrads.

4. Student participation

Ban the iPad/tablet.  Students say they are taking notes in meetings but most are checking facebook and emails and of those who are trying to take notes, many simply can’t keep up. Strange as it sounds in this digital age, make them writie it down.  You will be surprised how it focuses them – just encourage them not to lose their notes as there is simply no digitial back up 🙂
Have them prepare their questions before the visits but instruct them to be flexible enough to drop questions if they have already been answered. Instruct them to try and ask questions that occur to them based on the expert’s presentation.

5. Understand the needs of undergrad students are different to those of postgrads

Most postgrads have work/real world experience.  Most undergrads are under 21 years old.  It is a dichotomy.
Undergrads need concepts and models and then to have context explained via the models.  Post Grads have their own context and need to have the models introduced to them to help explain this context.  Undergrads: from abstract to concrete. Post Grads: from concrete to abstract.
Either way, such context is no doubt challenged by what they are seeing and hearing in the new country and the academic needs to act as moderator and facilitator around such discussion.

6. 2-3 weeks is enough

Most study tours don’t require more than two or three weeks.  You are in the classroom 168 hours a week when on tour.  Aside from sleeping, this leaves a lot of hours to learn.  Try to maximise these hours where possible – too many cities, for instance, means too much travel time and not enough learning time.  Also consider the academic’s energy levels.  Even if there is a team of 2 (or more) it is still a pretty tiring experience as availabilty to students is nearly 24/7.

Latest Posts

The Study Tour App

As part of your tailored study tour with The Study Tour Experts we have developed an accompanying app for your convenience. Read More >>

> Download on App Store
> Download on Google Play
> Download APK file

The Study Tour Experts

1st Floor, 181 Bay Street, Brighton, Melbourne, VIC, 3185
Phone: +61 3 9005 7883

Privacy Policy

Important: The Study Tour Experts (herein after referred to as TSTE) is committed to provide you with a high level of customer service and this includes protecting your privacy. TSTE is bound by the Commonwealth of Australia Privacy Act 1988, which set out the principles concerning the protection of your personal information.