Every year, we are pleased to welcome exchange students from our partner business schools around the world to our Barcelona campus. This allows IESE MBAs to expand their network and learn alongside students from other top business schools and for other international MBAs to experience life at IESE. In this post, Isabella Zhang an exchange student from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) MBA Class of 2020 reminisces about her term at IESE in the fall of 2019 and shares some highlights.
“I want to go on exchange at IESE Business School” – a thought that I pondered since day one of my MBA at HKUST. Like many others, I thought going on exchange could be a perfect excuse to expand my international exposure and travel for a few months before returning to the full-time workforce. In my mind, an exchange semester at IESE would be an enriching experience and I am so glad that I ended up doing it. It became one of the best memories of my MBA journey.
One thing I was excited about IESE beforehand were the extensive class offerings in strategy and digital transformation. Despite a complicated class bidding process, I was able to enroll in the classes that I was interested in. From Crisis Management, Omnichannel and Retailing to Design Thinking and Innovation, the classes covered a wide spectrum of topics and discussions that were significant in preparing for and tackling industry changes prompted by technological development. On top of the case analysis and real life projects, I really enjoyed interacting with industry leaders across the region who shared their insights with us in classes. Besides the elective classes, going to the Business Spanish class during lunch every day was another highlight at IESE. Knowing some Spanish basics, I was placed in the M4 level (it runs from M0 to M12). The small class size, diverse group of classmates, in combination with an amazing teacher created such an engaging learning experience for us. We were all able to advance to M5 at the end of the semester. Our Business Spanish class experience wrapped up with a pot luck holiday lunch with an incredible view of Barcelona.
Among different kind of events I joined outside of classroom, there were two awesome events that I will never forget:
IESE Sports, Entertainment, and Media (SME) Career Trek in London
Out of more than eight different career treks, I chose to join the Sports, Entertainment and Media (SME) Career Trek in London because of my previous industry experience in the US. Over the course of the 3-day career trek, we visited nine companies including Amazon Prime Video, Google, DAZN, Chelsea Football Club, The Times, Dow Jones, NBA, Formula One, and HKS (an architecture firm for sports and entertainment venues). Though the SME trek was not as popular as others, I was impressed by the quality of the career trek. Not only did the club committee do a fantastic job in organizing a balanced mix of companies from each sector for us to visit, but the strong IESE alumni network was also key to a successful trip. On top of learning valuable insights from industry leaders, another highlight of the trek was that we also got to enjoy some exclusive experiences such as touring the Chelsea Football stadium and the NBA Play Zone. This was amazing considering a lot of us were huge sport fans! Despite a hectic schedule, I absolutely enjoyed every bit of the career trek.
IESE Ski and Snowboard Club pre-season trip
I was hesitant at first about the idea of going on a ski trip right before the finals with a group of people who I barely knew. In addition, I did not bring any of my winter gear with me to Barcelona. The question then became – did I want to experience snowboarding for the very first time in Europe or did I want to care too much about finals and the rental cost of winter gear? The answer was (if you can guess) #YOLO! It was my first time going snowboarding in Europe so why not? Plus, I did not have to worry about getting lost as I could tag along with a group of welcoming new friends who were also wonderful tour guides. What a perfect deal! With just a 2-hour drive to Andorra, we spent the entire weekend shredding fresh powder on the mountains. It was indeed an awesome weekend that was filled with energy, excitement, fun, and close-knit bonding time with amazing people. I am so glad that I went as I always believe that being spontaneous is essential in crafting unique memories.
It was a bummer that I could not extend my exchange experience through the Spring term as well. But I definitely had a very eventful four months living in Barcelona and exploring other parts of Europe. After wrapping up the fall semester, I stayed an extra month to travel, extending my footprints from Barcelona to various Christmas markets, the Austrian alps, the most Western point of Europe, and so on. Looking back to my exchange, I am very grateful for all the learning opportunities and amazing friendships that IESE gave me. I was lucky to be able to go for my exchange right before the pandemic hit. I hope things will return to normal soon so that we can all travel again and visit places that we love!
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