An Amazing Dream: My Experiences at IESE and Yale

A month has passed since I left Barcelona to start my exchange term at Yale’s School of Management (SOM). Anyone who knows me will tell you that leaving Barcelona and IESE to start a new adventure in New Haven has been a real challenge. Perhaps this is what MBA students describe as “moving out of your comfort zone.” I believe that we should enrich our lives with new experiences as much as possible. Hopefully, the beautiful red maple leaves in New England will be as memorable as the splendid life I have left behind at IESE.

My story begins in the city of Barcelona. Anyone who has ever seen Barcelona by air never forgets the scene from the sky: the aerial view of a chessboard-like city layout between Tibidabo and the Mediterranean Sea. Words fail to express the feeling of seeing a view like this, although perhaps it could be best described as “amor a primera vista.” Barcelona is not a big city, but nonetheless has numerous UNESCO World Heritage monuments.


Gaudí, Picasso and Dalí have all left their mark on the city. Thanks to my MBA experience, I have been able to live under the same sky as these illustrious people. As I write these words from the Yale University library, I remember the breathtaking views from the upper terrace of IESE’s North Campus, and the days and nights in Barcelona during the first year of my MBA.


IESE is a renowned business school with a wide-reaching exchange program. I am glad that I have had the chance to experience student life at two such acclaimed schools. IESE selects students for its MBA exchange program through a bidding process based on our GPAs over the first two semesters. I wanted to experience an Ivy League university, which is why I chose Yale.

Life at Yale

Located in the city center, Yale is the soul of New Haven. The city is located between Boston and New York City, which is convenient for weekend trips. New Haven is tiny compared to Barcelona or Beijing. Yale University provides a 24-hour shuttle bus service. During the day, shuttle buses follow a fixed route, while at night they provide free door-to-door service. Luckily, my house is a short 5-minute walk from Yale SOM.

One difference between Yale and IESE is that here you can choose courses offered by other schools. For instance, I am participating in a clinic led by three professors from Yale Law School and providing financial and legal consulting to some local non-profit healthcare organizations. Even as a licensed U.S. CPA (Certified Public Accountant), I found this opportunity to be really challenging and interesting. Likewise, SOM courses include students from other Yale schools, so team discussions usually generate new insights.

Like in other U.S. schools, Yale classes are conducted in a very relaxed atmosphere. At first I was shocked to see people arriving late to class and holding hamburgers. My first culture shock at Yale was the first week of school, when I tried to stop a girl from eating next to me during class. However, I soon realized that people eat in class because sometimes they simply don’t have time to have lunch with so many exciting events going on every day on campus.

In any IESE class you might hear voices from 30 countries or more, so everyone brings different perspectives into the classroom

The biggest difference is the way professors organize their classes. In most of its MBA courses, Yale uses methodologies other than the case method. I am not going to compare methodologies, since different students will all have their own particular favorite. In my case, I only had four years of work experience before starting my MBA, so the case method really broadened my vision and allowed me to re-examine issues that I had been taking for granted. Also, in any IESE class you might hear voices from 30 countries or more, so everyone brings different perspectives into the classroom. That said, both IESE and Yale have offered me the chance to learn, not only from professors but from classmates, which has been one of the most valuable experiences.


At Yale SOM, exchange students also have access to the school’s Career Service department, which offers events nearly every day. Companies sometimes come to campus at lunchtime and offer free lunch, which is one reason why some students arrive to class late with food.

Last but not least, I am sincerely thankful for the multicultural environment at IESE. The rich international exposure has changed the way I perceive things. At this point, I would like to express my sincere thanks to my teammates who I spent the first year of my MBA with: Gemma, Nils, Sangeetha, Rafa, Erik, Chris and Marco. Thanks to their help, I was able to easily adapt to the busy MBA life, starting from the first week when we won the teambuilding competition until the last week of Year 1, when we won the Capstone Competition. I have really missed our team discussions in F-305.


Yale is about an 8-hour flight away from IESE. This distance has made my memories of IESE and my life in Barcelona more vivid. Once again I see Barcelona, with its squares full of people from the world over, and the statue of Christ with outstretched arms on top of Tibidabo, blessing this city of dreams. It is a city built by generations of Catalan people, a city that emerged from the colorful dreams of Gaudí. Barcelona, I am looking forward to seeing you again, under the bright Mediterranean sun.

Jiaxu Li View more

MBA Class of 2016

One comment

  1. Great post, Jiaxu, Your post reminded me with my trip in Barcelona. I have seen many many places around the world, but Barcelona is the most beautiful city that I have visited. With its wonderful architecture, colorful work of Gaudí, and very kind Catalan people, Barcelona is the most wonderful city that I have seen in all Europe. Thank you for sharing your post.

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