By Sydney Hucal. Photo Credit: Aaron Bowbyes.

For Bo van Muijlwijk, applying to the University of Victoria’s Master of Global Business (MGB) was an easy decision.

An island local, van Muijlwijk started his undergraduate journey at UVic in general sciences, eventually shifting his focus to major in sociology. With his minor still undecided, he took the chance to explore other faculties.

“Ultimately, I took a business class and fell in love with it,” van Muijlwijk says. “It can be pretty similar to sociology sometimes – two sides of the same coin.”

It was in that first business class that he learned about the MGB program. “It just sounded so amazing. To be able to travel, and study business – I was sold.”

The UVic MGB is structured to give students an immersive experience on three different continents (depending on the path they choose, students can study in Asia, Europe or South America; all groups start in Canada at UVic). With students from around the world, the cohort spends their first semester in Victoria, BC, before traveling abroad for the two other thirds of the program. Van Muijlwijk selected Path One, which takes students from the University of Victoria in Canada to the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, and ultimately on to Johannes Kepler University in Austria.

Starting in his home base of Victoria, van Muijlwijk describes being the local expert for students new to Victoria. In the first few weeks, he organized hikes, beach days and road trips – all of which provided a much-needed reprieve from the intensity of the first semester. “I remember in the first few weeks some of us already became friends for life,” he says.

As the first semester wrapped up, the tail end of the pandemic restrictions were at play, and the Taiwanese semester moved online. However, van Muijlwijk and his seven closest friends from the program weren’t swayed.

“We actually went to Thailand together instead and we rented a villa there for around a month where we took online classes.” This allowed the group to stay together, live in a similar time zone to Taiwan, and complete their studies online while still exploring Asia.

Moving on to his final semester in Austria, van Muijlwijk highlighted the bonds he had built in the program. “Honestly, I think that’s the incredible part about MGB: the people you do it with.” The cohort structure allows students to experience each country and new challenges together as they learn how to work collaboratively each semester in a newly assigned team. With students coming from each of the three partner universities, plus countries all over the world, each cohort has a wide range of student backgrounds.

“The diversity of the cohort was a really big learning experience for us. We came from 11 different countries,” says van Muijlwijk. “There were some struggles at first…but I feel like that initial adversity gave us an opportunity to improve and grow.” Leaning into his sociological perspective, van Muijlwijk noticed that, “It was really unique to get into the minds of people – how they study, how they organize things, what their expectations are and what their comfort with different degrees of confrontation is. Working in these different teams each module gave great insight into how people work together, communicate and how our expectations differed.”

Reaching the final term of the program, van Muijlwijk embraced the MGB’s Global Business Experience module to put his learnings into practice in an international internship which led him to Barcelona, Spain.

Van Muijlwijk recalls the moment he got the call. “It was pretty funny, I was on the tram in Linz, and I got a phone call from a Dutch number. I thought it might be a relative, but it turned out to be the recruiter!” The number in question was from a transnational startup that had set up shop in Spain, called bsport. The company provides an all-in-one boutique software solution, providing next-generation software for yoga studios and boutique gyms.

Van Muijlwijk landed a position with the sales team – a new experience for him. “It was really tough at first. I had never worked in sales before…but the only way to improve is through repetition. It’s through experience that you become more confident as you call and increase your repertoire of counter arguments.”

Leaning on the support of his colleagues, van Muijlwijk experienced tremendous professional growth during his internship. “Those are skills you can take anywhere,” he says. “That ability to strike up a conversation, to figure out what is preventing them from saying yes, and overcoming rejection are skills that I would never have learned while working inside of my comfort zone.”

While he is glad to have tried sales, he does not see it as his future career. So what is next for van Muijlwijk?

“I’m leaning towards consulting,” he says. “I did a variety of real consulting projects with multinational clients as part of the MGB.” He elaborated on the complexity and diversity of consulting projects during the program. “I loved the challenges, networking and research that these projects required.”

“I think that some of the best things about MGB are the diversity of the cohort, the global networking opportunities, the consulting projects, the internship at the end to round it all together. This program really tries to give you an amazing experience, connections around the world, and it sets you up for your future.”

Having traveled the world, earned his master’s degree, made lifelong friends and worked at a startup, van Muijlwijk left with one final reflection on his experience. “I really grew as a person. You learn a lot about yourself – what motivates you, who you want to be, who you are in a team setting, and what you expect from people.”

“My parents always said that university is the best time of your life. After MGB…I finally understand what they meant.”