“When Am I Ever Going to Use This?”: Applying Your Studies Beyond the Classroom

A personal reflection on global management studies outside the classroom, from guest writer Aileen Karl

A couple weeks back, I was lucky enough to score a seat on the ever so crowded sixth floor of the RSLC. Win! Since opening, finding space to study on The Beach has been more difficult than passing FIN 401. Just as I was getting in the zone, I was disturbed by an obnoxiously loud group of students. Judging by the mountains of lecture notes, they were obviously trying to tackle some exam review. As I sat trying to understand the fundamentals of French verbs, one sentence caught my attention. One student exclaimed, “What’s the point of learning this? I’m never going to use it in real life! “

I was instantly transported back to high school math class. During the trigonometry unit, this question was a near daily occurrence. In fact, it’s a wonder that my teacher was actually able to instruct us at all! However, it was a valid point. When were we ever going to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle in real life? Quickly ditching my attempt to study, I began to reflect: how much of what I’ve learned during my five years at Ryerson will actually be applicable once I graduate? Are the time and effort really worth it?


In case you were wondering, I’m specializing in global management studies. Offered through the Ted Rogers School of Business Management, it’s one of the newer majors, created in 2010 as the successor of the management major. I suspect this newness is why I have spent countless hours explaining the program to friends, family, co-workers and potential employers. (If I had a dollar for every time I was asked, “What’s global management?” I would be waving goodbye to student debt right now.)

Despite this little hiccup, I would argue that global management is one of, if not the most relevant majors to students. It focuses on business but from a global perspective. Not only have I gained knowledge in a variety of topics ranging from project management to finance to law but I have also had the opportunity to develop the soft skills necessary to succeed out in the real world. For example, many of the assignments are group projects. Although many students, myself included, groan about group work, the reality is that work places are becoming more collaborative. Employers are searching for students that can work successfully both independently and in a group.

That’s one check in the usefulness column.

Cross-Cultural Understanding

The second comes from the single most important thing that I have learned from global management: cross-cultural understanding. Yes, the ability to communicate across cultures is a major advantage, especially in a globally evolving business sector. But, on a smaller scale, it applies directly to all Ryerson students. Currently, undergraduate students at Ryerson represent over 146 countries around the world. It’s also arguably one of the most ethnically diverse schools in all of Canada. For this reason, now more than ever, we, as students need to have an understanding of diverse cultures.

I have seen first hand the impact that a lack of cross-cultural understanding can have on an individual’s self-esteem. During the summer between third and fourth year, I worked an internship in San Antonio, Texas. One day, my roommate dropped by my work to see me. She is Canadian, of Vietnamese descent. After she left, my co-workers had a difficult time reconciling her nationality with her features. When I spoke to her later on, she revealed to me how awkward she had felt about the whole situation. It was at that point that I came to realize the importance of global management studies. The ability to communicate with one another regardless of culture is an essential component in our daily social interactions.

Applying Your Studies

Returning to my original reflection, I can honestly say that the theories that I have been taught have been useful outside of the classroom. As a whole, they have made me more sensitive to global issues and the people that they impact. I would also like to think that they have made me a better person and a more empathetic team player. I find that it’s much easier to collaborate with others when you have a more in-depth understanding of their cultural dimensions (thank you Hofstede!).

Think of your experiences in your courses and how they’ve contributed to your skills and who you are – even if you don’t think you’ll use that equation or you can’t see how the right verb tense will help you in your career. How has each group project affected the way you think of collaboration? Is there a theory that blew your mind? Taking courses isn’t always just about what you read in your textbook, but it’s about how you apply that knowledge to your everyday interactions, like looking at cross-cultural understandings beyond just the business side of things.

As globalization continues to grow and our campus’ multiculturalism increases, I urge all students to take at least one class related to global management. I guarantee it will offer an eye-opening experience on the realities of the world.

And no doubt, if ever you find yourself asking, “when will I ever use this?” you’ll be able to answer with confidence “everyday”.

Hear more from Aileen about her experiences at Ryerson as she shares her road leading to graduation in #RoadFromRyerson.