Boothies at IESE Barcelona Enjoy the Warmest Winter through IBEP

Gina Biernack, Class of 2019

Gina Biernack, Class of 2019

A few Boothies and I managed to escape the polar vortex in Chicago this winter in exchange for sunshine and endless tapas in Barcelona. We are one month into our IBEP exchange program at IESE Business School, and it has been nothing short of a blast.

Exchange students Olya Vasilenko(‘19) and Gina Biernacki (‘19) enjoy frosty beverages in Barcelon

Exchange students Olya Vasilenko(‘19) and Gina Biernacki (‘19) enjoy frosty beverages in Barcelon

The students and faculty at IESE gave us a warm welcome from day one. From meeting up with former exchange students that studied abroad at Booth, checking out the Spanish version of TNDC (called Bar of the Week) and even joining IESE’s annual ski trip, SKIESE, we have been building new friendships and creating memories every day.

Curriculum at IESE is predominately case-based. With no country representing more than 15% of the student population, it has been an enriching experience to engage in class discussion with a truly global perspective.

I enrolled in a unique class my first week called Executive Simulation (ExSim). The class is a week-long intensive course that meets every day at 8am and lasts until after midnight. Students compete against each other on teams of five, running a company as members of the C-Suite in a simulation. The class allowed me to gain insight on how business functions directly impact each other when running a company. It also gave me the opportunity to meet more IESE students and develop deeper relationships with them. The teachers make the simulation as real as possible – holding us accountable to a real board of directors, negotiating with the leaders of labor unions in Barcelona, and working out contracts with local bankers. 

We are lucky to be here with a great group of 35 exchange students from business schools all around the world. We live in neighborhoods within a mile or so of each other and are always making the most of our time here. We have explored the Picasso museum, danced through the night at Bachata classes, strolled through Park Guell, and woke up with sunrise yoga on the beach. Jad Houry, another Boothie in the exchange program, has been key in securing tickets for us to FC Barcelona games as well as keeping us up-to-date on all of the team happenings. Barcelona is a vibrant city that is full of endless energy, beautiful architecture, and great food. The only struggle we have is finding time to rest!

And of course, a quarter abroad comes with plenty of travel opportunities. In true MBA fashion, we have a google spreadsheet with all of the upcoming trips we’re organizing. One of my favorite trips so far was a road trip through northern Spain - where we drank wine in Rioja, explored the Game of Thrones Dragonstone filming location, did a pinxtos crawl in San Sebastián, and visited the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

My experience abroad has been remarkable in adding to the diverse experiences of my MBA. I am excited for what the remainder of the quarter will bring and the memories that I will return back home with. I hope my friends back in Chicago are staying warm, and I’m looking forward to wrapping up my MBA in the spring back in Chicago!