University students wanting to start an international career face several hurdles that often feel insurmountable. There are few positions, international networking is much harder than domestic, not all universities have international business classes, and recruiters want new hires that already have some kind of international experience. Fortunately, there are ways to get the upper hand. Dr. Vasyl Taras, professor of international business at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, founded an innovative international learning system called X-Culture to give students the exact kind of experience recruiters are looking for in applicants for international positions.
What is X-Culture?
Essentially, X-Culture is a consulting project disguised as a university course. Students are placed in teams of 6 to 7 members and given a project to work on for a semester. It doesn’t sound too complicated, right? Well, every student on a given team is from a different country. In the first semester of 2020, there were over 6,000 students from 187 universities in 43 countries participating, so there is little chance that a student could be placed on a team with anyone he or she knows. This gives every participant maximum exposure to new cultures and gives the most realistic experience possible. As Dr. Taras says, “Until students get in the water, they won’t be able to swim.”
X-Culture is an actual course that participating universities give credit for, so students can’t slack off. They must learn to navigate cultural differences, deal with time zone discrepancies (when there is a team member on every continent, it gets dicey), learn to communicate effectively, and leverage technology skills to produce a high-quality final project.
X-Culture partners with many large companies—recently Mercedes-Benz and Home Depot—to give students real-world consulting experience. Projects range from e-commerce integration to international expansion. Participants use their skills on these projects to develop and implement meaningful insights. Many X-Culture group suggestions have been applied by partnering companies, and many of the students who generated those ideas have been hired because of these projects.
If you need proof, look at the experience of Matt, a former X-Culture participant. After the completion of a very successful project, Matt scored an internship at the European headquarters of VF Corp (the company behind brands like Vans, the North Face, and SmartWool). He reported that his experience with X-Culture is what ultimately landed him the position. It also provided the experience that he needed to thrive when he was tasked with optimizing logistics throughout Eastern Europe.
X-Culture for Professionals
All of this is well and good for students seeking to start out in international business, but what about established professionals who are looking to make a career pivot? In the last few years, X-Culture has started to accept working professionals as participants. They are placed on teams of other professionals, just like the students, so that their nationalities are dispersed across the globe. If they aren’t recruited for a new international job based off of their final project, X-Culture at least provides a powerful resume point.
X-Culture for Kids
X-Culture now also allows school children from ages 10 to 17 to participate. This gives youth the ability to gain valuable cultural exposure and learn useful skills. Companies are also often surprised by how inventive their projects can be.
X-Culture for Researchers
Finally, X-Culture also hosts a yearly research symposium for international business professors. Those who participate spend a week going full bore on research projects. Much of this research has been published in journals and is used in the international business community. In addition to the research symposium, X-Culture also collects an impressive amount of data from students each semester. This data is made available to researchers and PhD students working on dissertations.
X-Culture is an incredible educational platform that fills a vital need for anyone interested in an international career and any student or professional that is trying to go overseas should check it out. The kind of experience offered by X-Culture just might be your key to a job oversees—just like it did for Matt. Afterall, the program was designed for one purpose: to get people where they want to go.