IESE has many partner schools all over the world, including more than a dozen in the United States alone. Once you have decided that you want to go on an exchange, the question becomes “Where to?” If you are thinking about spending an exchange term abroad, read on and discover five reasons for choosing Wharton.
#1: Reputation and Academics
Consistently ranked among the world’s top MBA programs, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) enjoys an excellent reputation. This is the result of many years of delivering a high-quality education – Wharton was established 1881 as the first business school in the U.S. – which means demanding courses for its students. Studying here is not an easy ride, but I am certainly learning a lot, especially in the fields of entrepreneurship and finance.
Compared to IESE, the teaching relies less on the case study method. Most of the courses use traditional lectures, with only a few case discussions in between. Depending on your course selection, you may have a lot of team-based project work, which is a great way of applying the concepts learned from lectures in a realistic setting.
Philadelphia, or “Philly” as they call it, has a lot to offer. With 1.6 million residents, it is the fifth largest city in the United States. In addition to various sports teams—the Eagles (American football), the Phillies (baseball) and the 76ers (basketball), just to name a few—Philadelphia also features historical sites, such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Besides real historical heroes, Philadelphia also has fictional ones. The best known is probably Rocky Balboa, who is still present in many places in the city. Just like Rocky, I ran up the stairs to the Museum of Art and ate a traditional Philly cheese steak at Pat’s King of Steaks.
Even the weather has been better than expected. After living in Barcelona for a year, I must admit that I got a bit spoiled in this regard. But in fact, on some days the weather here has been even better than in Barcelona. It starts to get a little colder in mid-November, but the view of the fall foliage makes up for the cooler temperatures.
#3: Student Life
Like IESE, Wharton has many student clubs. The difference is that the Wharton MBA program has 860 students per year, which is much bigger than the IESE MBA program. This has two main consequences. First, there are simply more clubs. More than 100 student-led clubs ensure that every topic of interest you can think of is represented. Second, when a club organizes an event, it tends to be fully booked within minutes. As a result, one of the first things I had to learn was to be fast with sign-ups. I’m glad that the first year of the MBA taught me how to prioritize so well, because with multiple options to choose from every day, this is definitely an essential skill here. The clubs are also a great way to connect with other students who share your interests. Just like at IESE, student life extends beyond the clubs, e.g. independently organized treks and activities, like the “Escape the Room” game.
In addition to having many clubs to choose from, exchange students are assigned a “Wharton buddy” who helps them navigate the school and offers helpful advice about academics and student life. This makes integration much easier.
Due to its convenient location, Center City is where most MBA students (like me) live. It’s a 25-minute walk or a 10-minute bus ride away from the business school.
#4: American Experience
Conveniently located between Washington D.C. and New York City, Philadelphia enables you to easily explore other places on the weekend and thus experience not only one city, but also a larger part of the country. There are usually no classes on Fridays, so you can plan a few long weekend trips. Since this is my first time in the U.S., I tried to see as much of the country as possible. So far I’ve visited New York City, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., Ithaca, Niagara Falls, Toronto and San Francisco. I had to take a plane to San Francisco but the other cities are easily reachable by bus or car.
#5: Events and Guest Speakers
Another great reason to come to Wharton is the number and quality of guest speakers in classes and at events. This is one of the advantages at Wharton, as a relatively big business school with a large network. As an example, in a finance class I was able to listen to and learn from some of the world’s top venture capital firms. Another special highlight for me was the visit by German President Joachim Gauck at UPenn on October 6, German-American Day. It had been 15 years since a German president had officially visited the U.S. He delivered a speech titled “Freedom: Our Shared Bond.” After his presentation, I had the honor of joining him, along with some other German students, for a short meet-and-greet before his meeting with President Obama. As a German, this event was especially memorable for me, but these types of events take place here almost every week.
In summary, I am really enjoying my stay at Wharton and in Philly so far, even though I miss Barcelona and my “IESE family.” Nevertheless, I can say that the exchange term has definitely expanded my horizons, since it has allowed me to meet new people, experience a new country, and enjoy a high-quality education at the same time. If you’re thinking about going on an exchange, I hope this blog post was helpful in understanding what you can expect at Wharton. Of course, everyone has numerous options and different criteria for determining the best fit. Now it’s your time to choose.