This post was written by Jenya Batratskaya (’16)
I always knew that I wanted to do a semester abroad as a part of my Booth experience, but when the time came to choose, I was torn between all the options – Chile, Japan, South Africa, UK, Singapore – you name it! And all are among the best business schools in the world. I ended up choosing IE Business School in my favorite European city, Madrid! Using a very business-school approach, I will divide my experience so far into three main buckets: Academic Experience, Social Life, and Travelling.
If, for example, you haven’t had the opportunity to take a particular class at Booth (due to scheduling or otherwise) you can take it at IE. For example, I missed out on Digital Marketing in the fall, so I am taking it here. In this class, we are working with an existing small business and will actually generate some revenue for it by marketing its goods and services through digital channels. But a major element behind the idea of going on an exchange is to take classes that are not available at Booth. Since IE has dozens and dozens of electives, it is easy to do! Marketing of Luxury Goods, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Family Venturing, How to Expand a Company Internationally and many more to choose from. I am taking 7 classes and also learning Spanish which is offered on all levels from beginner to advanced.
I know that many of my classmates are reluctant to go on exchange because of their FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on some of the Booth MBA experience. For me, it is not missing out on experience, but diversifying it. For example, last year I went to the Booth Winter Formal in Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. This year I will go to IE’s Winter Ball in Ritz Madrid. Last year I went skiing in the Rocky Mountains with Booth’s Ski and Snowboard club. This year I will go to the Pyrenees with IE Ski & Snowboard Club.
Including myself, there are 3 Boothies doing their exchange at IE, but the entire exchange community is comprised of about 30 students from business schools in North America, Europe, and Asia. We go out together a few times a week for dinner or just drinks. I also met some amazing people among IE’s full-time students who are incredibly welcoming towards us! Fun fact – I was once walking around Madrid and I ran into Boothies who were visiting Madrid from their exchange in Barcelona. Of course we went out for dinner after that! The Booth network in action.
The most fun part and (let’s face it) often the main reason why people go on exchange is getting to live in a new country and travel! Discount travel is very well developed in Europe, and for 60 euros ($66.24 as of today) you can travel for a weekend to a city you’ve always dreamt of visiting and still come back on time for your Monday classes. Companies like Iberia Express, EasyJet and RyanAir (a special pleasure to fly on this airline after doing a case on them in Booth’s Competitive Strategy class last winter,[they also have amazing lasagna sold on board for 6 euros!]) connect Madrid with cities all over Europe. Ever since my arrival in late December, I’ve travelled every weekend and so far I have been to Southern France (spent New Year’s eve with friends in Cannes), Sevilla and Granada (for all the Game of Thrones fans out there: Sevilla = Dorne), Copenhagen (where I travelled from Denmark to Sweden via the famous Øresund bridge that dives under the water before entering Denmark), Lisbon (visited Cabo da Roca, the most Western point of Europe) and the heart and brain of the European Union – Brussels.
In fact there is also fourth bucket – recruiting. I am not planning to land a job in Europe, but my fellow exchange students who are, are actively engaging in their job search and communicating with recruiters. For IE’s class of 2016 this is the time to focus on recruiting, so winter exchange is perfect for a Europe-focused job search.
To sum up – I have not regretted my decision to go on exchange for a single second, but I miss my Booth friends and can’t wait to see everybody in March!