IESE Partners Club: All Part of the Family

Gioia Bonso, Rosana Portela and Cédric Devivier are active members of the IESE community, not as MBA students but as partners. How was their move to Barcelona and did it match their expectations? In this post, they reflect on their journey so far.

We have always been sharing, caring, playing, dancing with and supporting our partners especially since we moved to Barcelona. For us it has been an amazing experience and we hope that this post might clarify a few doubts that incoming families might have about life here in Spain and give you some insight into the great journey we have been in for the past 10 months.

Q: What has been your experience as a partner at IESE?

Gioia: I am so impressed, I never imagined this MBA life to be such a “couple experience” and not simply because our dinner conversation revolves around the content of the MBA courses. It feels that I am not just accompanying my husband on his MBA adventure, but that these 2 years belong to both of us.

For example, after some initial hesitation I joined the IESE volleyball team and started attending the Business Spanish classes and thus made many new friendships. Within the partners community, I have also felt very welcomed after the first ice was broken and have met many inspiring people. Since January, I have volunteered as Vice-President of the Partners Club with the aim of strengthening the presence and positive contribution of the club within the IESE community.

Cédric: If I had to choose one word to describe my experience, I would choose inclusive. I am a male partner and I was afraid of being the “minority”. I actually never felt left aside or treated differently. IESE really has a human feel and from the very beginning the community has been welcoming. The partners can come and go on campus as freely as the students. You can meet with the academics and support staff if you have a question or need help. I really like the fact that I have been considered part of the IESE family and not the fifth wheel of a car.

The first year is insane because of the courses, the amount of work that the students have to do, and all the social events. Barcelona is such a great city: extremely active, dynamic, good food, nice nature, the sea. I start to have the feeling that these 19 months of the MBA will be a small break in paradise.

Q: What does the Partners Club do? Can you please let us know some of your activities?

Gioia: We are a social club and our main objective is to help partners get acquainted to their new life in Barcelona. We are all in the same situation – away from home and following our student partners in their career choice. We organize several activities during the week, which partners can attend.

We coordinate “skills swapping” workshops, which range from international cooking demos to paint parties and walking tours with partners who are architects and taught us all about Modernism in Barcelona, for example. We also try to meet up regularly at our COW (Café of the Week), but also work together for different social causes in collaboration with the IESE Social Action Club. Also, the Partners Club has its own Academic Program, with single lectures on Communication, Leadership, Marketing, Negotiations, etc.

The Partners Club has a busy schedule throughout the year!

Although kids are always welcome to join all the social activities we organize, there are specific groups and events for parents with kids. The Club organized a Kids Multiculti Event, an Easter egg hunt event, play dates and many more.

The most interesting thing is that activities vary depending on who is coming into the club and on what they are willing to share or create! I am so curious to learn how the partners of the Class of 2020 will inspire us!

Some of the kid friendly activities organized by the Partners Club – the kids love them!

Q: What were some of the doubts or concerns you had before you came to Barcelona? Did you manage to resolve them after moving here?

Rosana: While my documents were being processed, I was concerned about not being able to work. I had just finished an academic course a few months before coming to Barcelona, so studying wasn’t an option for me in the short term. Although I struggled with it at the beginning, I soon found ways to occupy my time and started Catalan lessons, attended the lectures of the Partners Academic Program, volunteered to the Marketing team of TEDx IESEBarcelona, and joined the leadership of the Partners Club as Business Officer. I am in the process of looking for jobs now that I have my official documents, but it’s more than OK if I don’t find anything. I know I’ll always have something to do while here, and I’m already looking for some different courses to take for the next year.

Gioia: My main concern was the first jump from student life into a job market where I couldn’t even speak the language properly. As I was writing my master thesis in the first three months, I spent a lot of time in the IESE library. Meanwhile, I attended the Business Spanish Program and every single event of the IESE Career Services (eg. LinkedIn and CV workshop), that were open to partners. I also went to the classes of the Partners Academic Program.  That helped me to gain a lot of confidence. At the end, I had a job offer aligned to my studies and started working the Monday after my graduation day. I am really grateful for all the support I received from the IESE community.

Q: What preparation did you do before moving to Barcelona?

Gioia: I read the Survival Guide I received once I registered to the Partners Club. It helped me to have an idea about the cost of living and the different neighborhoods. In general, I didn’t prepare myself too much and regret that. I should have used the Partners Club Facebook page or asked for a Buddy to gather more information about Barcelona’s everyday life. Nothing dramatic, but it could have saved me a lot of search in the first chaotic days here. Speaking about Buddies, from this year we systematically attribute a buddy (a volunteer second year partner) to every incoming partner!

Rosana: Other than making sure we had all the necessary documents, my husband and I attended the Admitted Weekend and during those days, visited some neighborhoods to check which would fit us. I had a Buddy, and she helped me a lot. I highly recommend people to apply for one when signing up to the club.

Many of the activities involve sharing good food!

Q: Any advice for incoming partners?

Cédric: Yes, many! First of all, read the Survival Guide. It is packed with good tips and helpful information. Join the intensive two weeks of the Business Spanish Program in August. It was a very good way to meet partners and make new friendships. Don’t hesitate to go with your partner to the socials organized in the evenings to meet new people. Attend as many IESE events as possible, you will be able to follow the Partners Academic Program and listen to inspiring professionals or broaden your horizon with talks on different subjects. The last advice would be to never hesitate to ask for help from the club or other partners; you would be surprised by how well people know Barcelona and are willing to help any difficulty you could face.

Rosana: Not being able to work due to visa requirements should not stop you from having a lot to tell your grandchildren about! The sky is the limit if you take advantage of the opportunities that come on your way.

Having a 19 months sabbatical in Barcelona is not that bad if you think of it… Maybe you always wanted to take cooking or dance lessons, so why not doing it here? Why don’t you pursue an MBA or different Masters degree yourself? And, of course, what better way to learn Spanish than living in Spain?

Embrace this moment as a life-changing experience for you as well, not only for your partner.  I can say without a doubt that I am having the time of my life! We keep hearing that the second year will be even better, and I cannot wait to find it out!

Join our Facebook page to know more about the activities and don’t hesitate to send us an email in case you have any questions!

Thank you Rosana, Gioia and Cédric for writing this post!

Rosana Portela is Brazilian and prior to coming to Barcelona worked in Advertising as an Account Manager. Her partner is Fernando Milanese (Class of 2019) and they’ve been together for almost 11 years.  



Gioia Bonso is from Italy, 25 years old and married to Philip Schultheiss (Class of 2019). Before coming to Barcelona, she was studying in Munich and is now working as an International Recruiter for a consulting company.



Cédric Devivier is French-born and European-grown. He is the founder of ModExpEng ltd, a mechanical engineering consulting firm. His partner is Carla Tagliaferri (Class of 2019).




The current leadership of the Partners Club is (from top left corner):
Hila Tzadok (Israel) – Cultural Officer
Ina den Outer (The Netherlands) – President
Catalina Hurtado (Chile) – Kids Officer
Brie Fritsch (USA) – Doing Good Business Officer
Rosana Portela (Brazil) – Business Officer
Carmen Maria Rojo (México) – Secretary
Gioia Bonso (Italy) – Vice-President

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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