I grew up in the Basque Country, a beautiful region in northern Spain where, since very little, I was in contact with different languages and cultures, Spanish and Basque. That is probably why I always had a strong desire to become international.
I traveled abroad for the first time in 1997 on a high school exchange to Australia with a government scholarship. Things were different in Spain and Australia but not necessarily better or worse. For example, Australians valued friendship while family links were by far more important in Spain. In Australia, I learnt that being international is about open-mindedness.
I used to live with my parents until I went on an exchange to Germany in 2002, as part of the telecommunication engineering program I studied in Spain. In Germany, I started living on my own, sharing my apartment with international students, managing my own money… Being international made me become an adult.
In 2004, my passion for new challenges took me to France, a culturally appealing but completely unknown country for me. In France, I worked for France Telecom, launched a Research & Development project that was funded by the European Union, and was recognized as an engineer. On the other hand, being one of the first non-French citizens to obtain a sponsorship from the French Government, which allowed me to work in Hong Kong, was an important accomplishment for me because it represented my success at becoming truly integrated in France. Being integrated is just another side of being international.
In Hong Kong (2006-2008), I defined the first global Information Technology strategic plan for around sixty subsidiaries of a French tap water multinational company in Asia-Pacific. I convinced senior managers from different countries and cultures to resolve Asian region-wide issues. I learnt to understand their ways of thinking, agendas and feelings and guided them gently, with no formal authority, so that they found their own reasons to work together. Being international is about leadership but not about authority.
Learning Mandarin is an important personal project for me. I spent three holidays in Beijing taking a 3-week intensive Mandarin training each time. But my chances of practicing Mandarin back in Hong Kong were limited because Hong Kong people speak Cantonese. I was discouraged but did not give up. When I moved to Shenzhen (China) in 2008, I finally was able to talk in Mandarin with everybody in the office. Learning mandarin, I have found may obstacles but I have learnt that being international is also about making efforts.
I am currently an MBA student at Chicago Booth (2009-11). With its six Nobel prizes (82 in total at the University of Chicago), Chicago Booth is probably the most intellectual school in the world and this is something I feel in the classroom. At Chicago Booth, being international is about generating ideas that change the world.
Finally, as someone who has greatly benefited from receiving a number of scholarships in different countries, I hope to contribute to others. Being international is about giving back…and this blog helps me to organize my ideas about applying my international know-how to business and society.