By Prahlad Agarwal, HKUST Exchange Student
As George R.R. Martin once said, “Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle”, about 100 MBA students from across the world have descended to Chicago b-schools this fall-quarter to pursue exchange semesters and experience the Chicago life. Chicago has the privilege to house two of the top MBA programs in the world (Booth being number 1 and Kellogg being number 2, per the Economist rankings). The exchange cohorts at both schools set-up a mixer at Hopleaf (a trendy gastro-bar in North Clark street) to meet and learn about each other. Turned out many b-schools had classmates sent to both Booth and Kellogg and it culminated in a fun evening, sharing our diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Over past few weeks when I asked 2Y Boothies on their MBA exchange plans (or not), I received some intriguing responses. Diving deep, I realized that there were few myths surrounding an MBA exchange experience and I should (as an exchange candidate) take the opportunity to provide some clarity it deserves.
Myth no. 1 – Booth has one of the highest tuition fees and it makes no sense to spend a semester at a different school with lower tuition fees – This was a low-hanging fruit to grasp, having studied at Booth (the home for free markets) one will appreciate the fact that tuition paid at Booth is a sunk cost and should not be considered for any future decisions!
Myth no. 2 – It is unsafe outside America and the quality of life is poor too – This may have been true earlier but over past few years several Asian and European cities have become much safer and convenient than many of the American cities and is worth exploring a different vibe.
Myth no. 3 (not exactly a myth but more of a limitation) – There is so much to be learnt at Booth and two years is not enough – Of course Booth is a great school and time can never be enough here. However, an international experience only complements learnings at Booth – a carefully planned 2-year MBA can always fit in a variety of experiences.
Myth no. 4 – I’d love to study abroad but only if my internship translates into a full-time job or I have an offer from somewhere – Exchange semester abroad requires preparation and a last moment decision might not be the optimal experience one would desire. Chasing that ‘dream job’ should be and is top priority for most MBA students but preparation (or consideration) for exchange should go together and should not be left for last minute.
Three key considerations for a glorious MBA exchange experience – location, location and location. Choose a location which provides diversity, ability to travel nearby and access to international network.
It is also worth deliberating if studying abroad is a right decision for all:
Individuals focused on domestic careers – might want to stick around for strengthening local network and grabbing opportunities if it arises at that time.
Couples/Families – A 2-year MBA is a difficult but enriching journey and it is very reasonable to trade-off the exchange experience with staying close to partners, families or pets.
Globalization may not be the hottest thing right now – Given the rise of populism in the world, some professionals have been re-thinking if globalization can be sustained or it needs to be re-modelled. Consequently, international experience may not be as value-additive to them as much it will be for someone who value diversity and globalization very highly.
In the zest of pursuing that ‘dream career’ in the Booth MBA program, it is sometimes a higher gratifying decision to pause and reflect on other aspects of the MBA program and making a wise consideration. Feel free to Slack me, if any one wish to grab coffee/beer and learn more about MBA exchange experience!