Return to UMSL opens world of opportunity for international MBA student

by | Jan 29, 2018

Engaging classes and a welcoming environment brought Kristina Medvedeva back to UMSL after a year-long exchange program.
Kristina Medvedeva

Kristina Medvedeva’s positive experience in a year-long international exchange program at UMSL motivated her return to the MBA program. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Kristina Medvedeva was ready for her solo intercontinental move to St. Louis well before booking a plane ticket in 2014.

She had done her homework. A master’s degree in North American studies, fluency in English and an independent spirit – one cultivated after leaving home at the age of 16 to pursue a bachelor’s degree – primed her for the transition.

But even with a resume full of preparatory experiences, the Russia native says no amount of time or research could have fully readied her for life as an international student in America.

“When you are in a different country, you are out of your comfort zone constantly,” Medvedeva said. “All the time – every single moment – you are out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter how comfortable you get, at points there will be situations that will be unusual for you.”

Though by now, the University of Missouri–St. Louis MBA candidate thrives in new and occasionally uncomfortable situations.

A lifelong learner of languages and business practices, Medvedeva traded her professional job and life in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in 2012 for a graduate program at the University of Bonn in Germany – the first of a series of international moves.

“I have always wanted to live abroad because I think that is how you can broaden your horizons,” she said. “I have traveled a lot in my life as well, but traveling and living in a different country are completely different things.

“That is why I always tell students I work with to go abroad not just to visit a country for a week or so, but try to spend a little more time there because this is how you see how people live from a completely different perspective.”

As she learned about international relations, economic policies in North American countries and many other topics while centered in Germany, Medvedeva seized an opportunity to apply that research in the U.S.

The University of Bonn offered a one-year exchange program at UMSL, and although she previously had never heard of the university, Medvedeva applied after researching UMSL’s College of Business Administration.

The year allowed her to integrate into American culture while developing relationships with several faculty members and students. Two semesters went by quickly, but the people she met and experiences she had left a lasting impression – one that would prompt her return to UMSL upon completing her master’s thesis in Bonn.

“I met really great mentors at UMSL,” Medvedeva said. “I took some business classes while here on exchange, and I really enjoyed how the business school operates and how the classes are taught. The system is really different from Germany and Russia, but I like the environment. From my point of view, it’s really diverse. I am foreign here, but I have never considered myself an outsider.”

Since returning for the MBA program in 2016, Medvedeva has fully embraced life in St. Louis, particularly on campus. She holds graduate assistantships with the business college and the College of Education while also teaching English to native Russian speakers through online platforms.

These responsibilities keep her schedule unpredictable, but she believes the varying experiences will have long-term benefits.

“I think being at UMSL in such a diverse workplace, I have become a more mature person, and I have broadened my outlooks so much,” she said. “I will never be the same person again.”

One of these key changes includes a newfound interest in digital and social media marketing. Medvedeva has professional marketing experience from working for an IKEA-owned shopping center in Russia and for DHL while she studied in Germany. However, she hadn’t considered this area of marketing as a potential career path until taking a few UMSL classes and then serving as a teaching assistant for Perry Drake, an assistant teaching professor of digital and social media marketing.

“When I came here and started learning a completely new aspect of marketing, I started to think that it was interesting, and I realized that this is where the world is going right now,” she said. “We are all on digital. We are all on social media. A lot of funds are placed into social media and digital marketing, so I will most likely continue that path or something related to that.”

On track to complete the MBA program in May, Medvedeva is ready to trade her textbooks for a full-time marketing position. While she is unsure where geographically this career will lead her, she continues to live by a belief that “the world is open.”

The UMSL Experience

Sara Bell

Sara Bell